I’ve always been completely comfortable with my stepkids calling me “Katie.” It’s my name. And they have another woman they already call “mom.” I’ve had a few concerned parents ask me why they call me by my first name, to which I reply, “Because that’s my name and it’s better than ‘hey you.'”
|With two of my girls|
The way that my stepkids address me is source of entertainment at local parks, when complete strangers witness my kids calling out “Katie, watch this!” or “Katie, come take my picture!” I see expressions that range from confused to appalled. I don’t feel like I need to explain, so I don’t.
While I will never take issue with being called something other than “mom” by two of my kids, I’ve decided to drop a word from my own vocabulary when it comes to talking about or to them: “step.”
No Longer Stepkids, Just MY Kids
They are my kids. I didn’t carry them in my womb, and I haven’t filled the shoes of the woman who did. I’m an extra parent — a bonus parent — but they are my kids nonetheless. They aren’t my “wards,” or only half-mine, or my husband’s kids who live with us during the school week. I don’t half-care if they get healthy meals, or are happy at school, or aren’t feeling well. Every ounce of my maternal instinct cares greatly about these and thousands of other things. They are my kids — 100%.
They don’t deserve the “step” label. You can say that there is nothing inherently derogatory about the term “stepchild” but it implies (to them) that they are different in my eyes than my genetically-connected kids. I realized at some point that when making small talk with complete strangers, and sharing a similar story about life, there was no reason to qualify if the kid I was talking about was my REAL kid or my step kid. What do they care? The only person impacted by my terminology in those cases is my son, or daughter, who may be listening.
They are my bio-kids’ siblings. We encourage our kids to simply refer to each other as “brother” or “sister” — because that’s what they are to each other. How can I tell them to use these unified terms if I don’t use them myself? We are a family unit, with other units that branch off and make each of us unique. But we are our own entity just the same.
I’m allowed to claim them, too. My husband has adopted the only child in our house who is not genetically his — which means that I’m the only parent out of the four represented in the chemical makeup of our kids that is technically of the step parent variety. I don’t want to be that person. So I’m empowering myself to be on the same level as the other parents by taking away the term that separates me.
For those who are curious about the setup of our combined family, or the 10 people each week who ask me how I ended up with a 7, 6, and 5 year old — one of which with vastly different hair than the other two — I will be forthcoming. I’m not embarrassed of our family circumstances. In cases where we see the same people again and again (especially at school), it makes sense to explain our family dynamic.
But I’ve stopped using the word “step” to separate my kids from each other — and it feels really good.
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Tags: combined family