Nov. 30, 1986 changed the course of my life. Thirty years later I can honestly say I believe I am right where God planned for me to be., then and now. That fall night is when I met Larry. We talked about many things… his job in real estate, my job as concierge at Marriott Hotel, our parents and siblings, him being divorced, the usual stuff. None of those subjects caused Larry’s pretty blue eyes to light up. We were simply making nervous “getting to know each other conversation. Then I asked, “So, do you have any kids?” He smiled so big and he proudly said, “Yes, I do”… He told me all about Ryan, 9 and Jennifer, 7. His reaction warmed my heart. The rest of the night we danced and talked for hours.
As a young girl, I always dreamed of being a mother. I imagined myself having a son first then two years later a daughter. Coincidence you say, I think not. Little did we know, God’s plan was being set in motion the night Larry crashed the employee event at the La Jolla Marriott Hotel.
It was obvious Larry’s devotion to his children was his number one priority, as they should be. He fought hard to be in their lives. He shared legal and physical custody with Ryan and Jennifer’s mom, Lisa. Sadly, the divorce was not amicable which made things hard on everyone involved. Especially Ry and Jen.
I moved in with Larry just a few short weeks after meeting him. Not the ideal role model for them, as we were not married yet. We had fun… Baking cupcakes, doing homework, and shopping for school clothes, celebrating birthdays, etc. We did the typical things families with young kids do. Each week, when it was time for us to take them back to their Mom’s, you could feel the tension. There were no friendly greetings, no exchange of pleasantries, “how were things?” “Anything I should know about school?” They simply got out of the car, hugged and kissed us goodbye, and that was it. This was the norm week after week for many years.
Because our days off from were during the week, we had the kids on school days. Larry wasn’t just a “weekend Dad.” It wasn’t long before a comfortable routine took shape. The kids had chores and made a regular allowance. Ryan mowed the lawn and helped with other yard work. Jennifer cleaned up our dog Keri’s poop (ewww) and bathed her regularly. We did major homework assignments and projects with them as well as attended conferences, field trips and other school events. We swapped Christmas Day with Lisa. She had them Thanksgiving and Easter. We had them Halloween and 4th of July. We were truly a family.
Anyone who knows Larry knows he absolutely loves taking pictures. I kid you not; we have an entire wall in our garage filled floor to ceiling with boxes of pictures. We always had tons of photo albums and collage frames throughout the house to recall sweet memories at any time. Field trips with their classes, trips to the Del Mar Fair, sleepovers with friends, San Diego Zoo days, Mexico vacations and camping trips… The list goes on and on. All have been captured forever in pictures and lots of videos too.
Every now and then someone would ask me if Larry and I were going to have children together. I broached the issue with Larry a few times and he always said he would not have any more children. Jennifer used to tell me she wanted a little sister. I don’t remember how I would respond. But I was actually fine with the idea of not giving birth to children and being their stepmom. To this day, I’m still alright with not giving birth and being their stepmom. People still ask me if I regret not having kids of my own (that’s how they put it) and I tell them I do have kids of my own. I just share them with their mom. I can’t speak for other stepparents, but for me, I can’t imagine loving a child more than I love Ryan and Jennifer. They gave me their hearts. I gave them mine. We figured out how to make our family work. Were Larry and I perfect parents? Nope. Were there bumps along the way? Oh yes. I would not change a single thing about the last three decades with Larry, Ryan and Jennifer. Everything we went through makes us the family we are today. And I love our family more than I can explain.
I’ve even had someone hint about being a “stepmom” is just not the same as being a “real mom.” Who are they to say? How do they know my heart? They can’t feel what I feel. Nor can I feel what they feel. No one can experience things exactly like someone else does. We can have similar life circumstances but each of us is an individual who brings our own reactions, emotions and baggage as we experience this thing called life.
What I do know is; I still haven’t had any regrets about my stepmotherhood. Being a wife to Larry and stepmom to Ryan and Jennifer have been the most important roles in my life. Recently Jennifer told me she appreciated me coming into their Dad’s life when I did. She said their lives became more stable after I arrived. You see, after Larry’s divorce from Lisa, he moved around quite a bit. He even had a stint living in his RV. All the while having joint custody of the kids. Once I was there, we created routine and stability for Ryan and Jennifer. Don’t get me wrong. They were secure in their father’s love for them and the fact that he provided for them. But moving around, not having a permanent “home” or a bedroom to call their own while with Dad surely caused some insecurity in their little hearts and minds. Until Jennifer said what she did about being thankful I came into their lives, I wasn’t sure she and Ryan thought much about what influence I have had on their lives.
There you have it, one stepmom’s story. The lives and circumstances of families effected by divorce and remarriages varies widely. Each person bringing his or her “baggage” into the equation adds layer upon layer of confusion for everyone, especially the innocent children.