We Don’t Count the Steps

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.

Steps ChildrenOnce 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.

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  1. M Martinez says:

    I personally believe that the current trend of calling EVERYONE by their first name, including strangers, is a form of disrespect, and has led to the problems of disrespect for others we are having as a society. In our home, our children have been taught to speak and refer to adults using a title. For example, while young cousins are “Sam” or “Timmy”, adult cousins are “Cousin Sam”; neighbors who INSIST on being called by their first name are “Ms Anne” or “Mr. Frank”. Following this line of thought, I believe a step-parent will receive more respect over time from a step-child if they are refered to with a title before their first name. For example, “Mama-Joan” or “Daddy-Ben” if their first name is to be used at all.

    • Kit Singleton says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I understand what you mean! As a child who was raised in the South, I was taught the same things you mentioned. Some people considered it to be old-fashioned. We just thought it was a way of being polite and respectful (and you were always to be polite!)

      As an adult, I still use Ms. or Mr. when I speak to someone who is older. The only exception to what you taught your children and what my parents taught was concerning the “cousin” title. We didn’t do that.

      Actually, Mama-Kit was the name at the top of my suggestion list. We tried out several names before we found one that worked for all of us. That stage was quite interesting and funny. There was a time in there when I would answer to almost anything because I couldn’t remember what name I was “trying on”! lol

      Many thanks for your input and the fond memories,

  2. My Grandmother had a step-mother after her own mother died. She called her mother Mother and her step-mother Mum. She had a great love and respect for her step-mother. My niece calls her mother Mum and her step-mother Mummy, some people were upset by this but we all know what she means and she considers them both to be her mother.

    • Kit Singleton says:

      A child’s sense of “self” is often tied to their parents. That’s why it’s important for kids to feel connected to them, whether the parents are biological, adoptive, or step-parents. The grownups often feel a bit jealous when a child calls someone else mom or dad. The point that the adults often miss is that sometimes, kids just want to show their respect and love for the people who care for them.

      Our kids were old enough to understand the differences between step and biological parents. We never used the term “real” parents because we were all real people who really parented and loved the kids. In fact, one of the most important things we taught the children was that they didn’t have to choose who to love because they had enough love for everyone and so did we.

      Once the adults accepted that the kids had enough love for everyone in their lives, working together as a family became much easier. We could also see wonderful changes in the kids. They were more at ease, confident, accepting, and well behaved, among many other things.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.