Chapter 30, april
“You’re always going to wonder if you’re doing things wrong, but that’s what it means to be a mom, to care so much about someone else that you just want to be as perfect as possible.”
My earliest childhood memory of the plans I made for my future self included being a mother. The expectations I set for the type of mom I wanted to be were extremely high. Like most things in my life, I needed to be perfect at it.
I took several ideas from the way my mother raised me, as well as a few different and creative concepts of my own. It was only natural, in my opinion, to wish the very best for my children. I wanted to make sure they had everything I did not have in my childhood.
Until the age of ten, I had what is best referred to as the All-American, traditional family. Our household consisted of one mother and one father. I remember very vividly the night my parents sat me down to reveal to me a secret. That secret changed my life forever! They confessed that the only dad I had ever known was in fact not my biological father. I was shocked.
I can recall the first time I met the man that claimed to be my father. I was unsure of how I should address him, so I called him by his name. He very quickly corrected me, explaining that I should call him ‘dad’ because he was my father. In my opinion, the titles of Mother and Father or Mom and Dad, they are earned appellations. You see, that man never earned the title or right to be my father, which is why he now only remains a distant memory.
Not long after that, my parents divorced and both remarried. While I loved and respected my stepparents, I never felt a strong connection with them to address them as anything other than their names.
For me, motherhood happened much different than I planned…
When I was a little girl, I decided that 24 was the magic age that I would begin having children. Imagine my surprise when motherhood began at 14 instead! As a child myself that still lived with my own mother, I did not necessarily have the choice of setting my own standards for how I would parent.
When my daughter began to talk, she often referred to me and my mother as ‘Mom’. From the time she was born, she was raised in a home where three children referred to her Nana as ‘Mom’, so it was only natural for her to follow suit. As she grew older, Hayli began to explain that she knew I was her mother, but she wanted to call Nana her mom as well. My mother played a vital role in the first few years of my daughter’s life; her and Hayli had and still have a very special connection. Therefore, I never had an issue with her being referred to as my daughter’s mom.
Fast forward a few years, add another daughter, and subtract a husband. My two daughters were introduced to their stepmother and stepfather. My girls were very young when their stepparents came into their lives. Their father was in the military and was deployed often. My oldest daughter developed a very strong bond with her stepfather, and that bond continues to this day. Hayli has called her stepfather ‘Dad’ since she was in the first grade. For my younger daughter, it took a little more time for her to refer to my new husband as ‘Dad’. Taylar also had, and still has, a very strong bond with her father.
My girls were never forced to call my new husband by anything other than his given name. That was a choice they made on their own. The decision was also discussed with their father, and his feelings were considered. He simply said that he did not have a problem with my husband being referred to as ‘Dad’ because he was a good man, and he treated the girls as if they were his own. The only stipulation I had from my ex-husband was that if or when my girls wanted to call his wife ‘mom’, that I should afford him that same respect.
I would be lying if I said that it did not sting a bit the first time my daughters referred to their stepmother as ‘Momma J’ or ‘Mom’. As I cried to my own mother about the heartache of feeling replaced, she offered me some of the best advice she has ever given me: You should be thankful that Jerry met someone so kind that loves your girls so much. It could be much worse.
That advice gave me a much different perspective on the situation. It made me happy to think that when I was not around, they had another woman that loved them just like I did and would protect them and keep them safe. To me, that justified sharing the title of Mom with Jessica. Not to mention, I was never made to feel disrespected by her or Jerry in my role as their mother.
When I met John, his children were extremely young. One was barely walking and still in diapers. We were friends before we developed a relationship, and I was introduced to his boys as Miss April. One thing I have always enforced in my home is manners. My children grew up referring to any adult as Mister or Misses, followed by their first name. That rule carried over to all children that resided in my house.
Once we were married, John’s youngest son was still developing his vocabulary. At his age, as with most young children, every male was dad and every female was mom. When Jett would refer to me as ‘Mom’, we quickly corrected him. Being a stepparent was foreign to me and given the difficult relationship that existed between John and his ex-wife, I had no intentions of ruffling any feathers. After all, I had still not located the stepparent handbook. I was lost as to what the rules were that I was required to follow.
One day while I was correcting Jett as he called me ‘Mom’, and while he was attempting to learn how to pronounce my name, he mumbled ‘Ro-Ro’. I thought it was so adorable! John and I decided that it would be a cute nickname for me. It was never my intent to take the place of his children’s mother. Not to mention, we never intended to force them to refer to me as anything that would make them or their mother uncomfortable.
A bond that a mother has for her child is unlike any other connection any one person will have with another. That bond normally occurs in the womb or once a mother gives birth to her baby. Since I was not the person that carried John’s children for nine months, I was not able to establish an immediate connection. However, I did my very best to develop a special bond with all three of his boys.
As ironic as it sounds, John’s children had similar personalities to my own. Jett was the youngest, so it was easy to bond with him – he loved anyone that fed him – he reminded me so much of Tanner. Jagger was the middle child and encompassed every quality that came with the title – much like my daughter Taylar. I had to work extremely hard on the relationship between Jagger and me. He was his mother’s biggest fan and was very quick to put me in my place. Jackson was the oldest, though still very young when John and I married, so he understood things a lot deeper than the others. His personality was a mirror image of my oldest daughter – Hayli.
Jack and I developed a very strong connection, extremely quick. He was warm and loving toward me, he felt safe to confide in me with anything and everything, and he grew to become especially attached to me. One night while I was preparing dinner, Jack began telling me a story that occurred earlier in the day at school. He became tongue tied while referencing me and his teacher. He started to huff and puff as frustration took over his little body. I asked what the issue was and why he was getting upset.
Without skipping a beat, Jack looked me right in the eyes and said, “I just wish I could call you Mom. You are just like my Mom. I know I did not grow in your belly, but God sent you here to be my Mom, too.”
With tears in my eyes I turned away to gather my composure. For a moment, I was speechless – I had no idea how I was supposed to respond to that statement. John noticed the perplexed look on my face and came to my rescue. He said, “Jack, you can call Miss April whatever you would like.” That was not at all what I had expected him to say, and my sharp eyes told him that he should meet me around the corner.
Once John and I were alone, I explained that I had no problem with his boys referring to me as ‘Mom’, but I did not think it was appropriate given the current situation. I wanted to discuss it with their mother, but I knew that would be impossible under the circumstances of our current relationship status – one step away from restraining order. We agreed to disagree, and the conversation was left with no solid solution, other than leaving it up to the children to decide.
During that period, the boys spent most of their time with John and me. There were other children in our home that did refer to me as their mom, because I was and still am. In addition, the boys were experiencing a lot of transition and being introduced to many new faces. I was also still learning my new role as a stepparent. On one hand, I did not want Loren to hate me any more than I felt she already did. On the other hand, I did not want it to seem like I was against blending our families by not allowing those precious boys to refer to me as ‘Mom’.
Mom, Mommy, Momma, Mother, Ma – they are all titles. They are merely words we use to describe the women that love us, feed us, taxi us around the town, bake cookies for the school fundraiser, and do endless loads of our laundry.
As long as my children respect me and know that I will love them to the ends of the earth, forever, for always, no matter what – they can call me Professor Poopy Pants for all I care. If they have a stepparent that loves and cares for them, and that they respect and love – I have no issue with my children having an additional Mom or Dad in their lives. The more people in my village that love my children and keep them safe, the happier I will be.
I may not do everything the right way, my house may not always be spotless, and sometimes my children may act like turds. At the end of the day I hope all of my children, both biological and God given, realize that I will give them my last breath, that I will be there for them no matter what, that I will always love them more than anything else in this world, and that…Momma Tried.