In my family we don’t count the steps. I never have and I never will. This may sound a bit odd until I explain. From an early age I knew my dad had been adopted. He spent his earliest years (and beyond) with these two loving parents who I knew as my grandparents, calling them by names as befitted their roles in my life.
When I was older, I began to ask my mom and dad questions about “families” – the different types, as well as how they worked. Not only was I told about adoption; but, I was also told about step-families (due to his aunt’s hubby & kids).
The way my parents explained step-families was wonderful. They described what step-parents, step-children, step-brothers, and step-sisters were. Then they gave me living examples from Dad’s family, naming each person and the “new” relationship title.
Once that was done, Dad pulled me into his lap and hugged me. With his heart in his eyes, he said, “That’s what other people call them. We don’t count the steps.” When I asked him to explain, he did it this way.
“Your mother and I do a lot of things because we love you. Each day we walk a lot, taking many steps to make sure you are cared for and have the things you need.” I nodded and he continued. “The steps we take are invisible so all you see and feel is the love. The number of steps doesn’t matter. What matters is the love.” Understanding began to grow and I started to smile.
He continued, “We don’t include the word “step” at the beginning of a name, either. It’s the second part of that name that matters. A son is a son, a daughter is a daughter, a mom is a mom, and a dad is a dad despite the circumstances that brought them all together.” By the end of that conversation we were both hugging each other tightly and I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.
As an adult, I married a man who already had very young children. (He was the non-custodial parent.) I carried my father’s philosophy with me. It was when I became a parent (not counting the step) that I understood first-hand and with great clarity what Dad meant. It was all a matter of the heart. When I looked at the children, the only word my heart knew was Love. My heart had no “relationship title” to complicate things.
At first, I decided to let the kids choose a name for me. We finally found a name that we all liked (and I felt comfortable answering to in public. 😉 ) Then we went on to find names for my parents that weren’t already in-use. Hey, we were on a roll!
The “name-relationship” issue that I thought I’d side-stepped early in the marriage, suddenly came up again when we were granted sole custody of one of the children. Oh, it didn’t come up right away but trust me – it came up!
After a year or so, the child wanted to change my name. I put it off as long as I could but this little angel obviously needed to call me “Mom”, at least in the home. After talking with several experts and making sure the child understood that I was NOT replacing the biological mother, who the child didn’t see, and that she would always be his mother because of the genetic link, I agreed to the name change.
Fast-forward to last week. The kids are grown now and I was talking to a friend. We got on the topic of what stepchildren should call their stepparents. To keep that story short, suffice it to say that my friend had the step-kids use the stepparent’s first name instead of anything else. Both ways worked out in the end but I was wondering…
What are your thoughts this name issue? Do you have a comment or a solution to share? Let us know below.