Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal to me. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts…in fact, we usually just use it as an excuse to splurge on a fancy dinner! We love each other every day of the year, and to me, Valentine’s Day just isn’t important.
This past one though, was a day I’ll never forget. We were childless on this particular day, and had just enjoyed a lovely surf and turf dinner. Wanting to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day, my husband called his little girl. During these calls, I usually happily sit beside him just to hear her little voice for a minute and then go about whatever I was doing at the time to give him some virtual Daddy/Daughter time.
This time however, we were sitting in our car waiting for the ice to melt off the windshield. There was nowhere for me to go. I smiled when I heard them exchange Valentines wishes, and quietly stifled a laugh when they blew kisses through the phone.
“Dad…are you with Colleen? …Can I talk to her?”
Like our windshield, time froze still. My husband’s jaw dropped even further than mine did. You see, as many Stepmoms experience, the biological Mom is not my biggest fan. She does not know me, and I haven’t spoken to her in years, so her illogical disapproval of me doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But it bothers Stepdaughter. When she was a toddler, she was forbidden from speaking my name in her Mother’s presence. She has expressed to us the pressure she feels to “love me less,” and she is grateful I wait until we are in the safety of our home to shower her in hugs and kisses. Given the anxiety she feels around this topic, she has never, ever had the courage to use her phone time between Mom’s house and Dad’s house to talk to me.
I quickly cleared my throat and said, “Um yes. I’m here Stepdaughter. Happy Valentine’s Day…”
“Happy Valentine’s Day Colleen! Can we play 3, 2, 1?”
My heart just about melted. 3, 2, 1 is a game I invented to help us pull a better conversation out of our first grader. Many times parents ask their kids “How was school?” And in return all they get is a “fine.” Well that’s not very intriguing! So I came up with 3, 2, 1, and Stepdaughter loves it. Everyday she hops into our car she tells us three things she did that day, two things she learned, and one person she helped. It’s been a wonderful talking tool, and it melted my heart she wanted to tell me about her day.
She told me her 3, 2, 1 and then she asked to hear mine. She blew me kisses and told me she’d see me on Tuesday. It was a quick conversation but spoke volumes. She didn’t care who heard her ask to speak to me. She wanted to, so she went for it. I was so extremely impressed and proud of her bravery to chat with me…I couldn’t contain myself.
As soon as we hung out, I burst into tears. And not some cute little dainty teardrops falling down my cheeks. I’m talking about full out, Kim Kardashian ugly cry style. My husband pulled me into his lap, and smooshed up against the steering wheel, I bawled my eyes out. Stepmoms do so much that goes unrecognized and unappreciated. I am lucky to have a husband that looks at me like I wear a superhero cape every day, but getting validation from this tiny little seven-year-old…validation that I was doing something right enough to make her think of me on Valentine’s Day, a day revolved around love…it was an incredible gift better than any roses and chocolates.
This Valentine’s Day Cupid, shot an arrow through the sky for me, and it landed on the rainbow of love that exists between Stepdaughter and I. I hope all stepparents out there felt loved on this holiday, and know that even though DNA is missing between you and the kids, your role in your family is a positive one. It may take months or even years for your kids to acknowledge your place in their family tree…and for some, it may never happen. But whether the kids ever admit to it or not, if you try your best to love them, you are giving them the gift of acceptance and showing them the beauty of family.