Do your kids ever just break your heart into pieces without even noticing?
LM was asked to draw a picture of his family this week. He drew his mom, his mom's boyfriend, his mom's boyfriend's daughter, and his dad. He captioned it "Dad me Mom [pseudo-step-sister] and Dad," Notice who's missing? Yep, that would be me. And notice that he's calling his mom's boyfriend "Dad" when he's never called me anything but "Rachel." Yeah, I felt like I'd been punched in the chest as I sat at the table trying not to cry or puke, the two things that my body seemed to think were an appropriate response. I didn't want to make him feel any worse, but damn was I feeling blasted into a thousand pieces.
I've been in love with that little boy since I first met him with his long dark eyelashes and his adorable stripey pajamas. I loved rocking and singing him to sleep at night. I changed diapers as if they were nothing to be bothered about. I watched him grow and develop, learning to walk and talk at the exact same time. Watching that talking move from words to sentences at lightning speed. Watching walking turn to running just like that ::snap::. We worked together (and when I say we I certainly include his dad and mom in the mix) to do the potty training thing, high-fiving his achievements and reassuring him when he didn't make it. Started school together, taking pride in every step he made in reading and writing and math. Beaming as everything seemed to come as easy to him as it had to all of his parents. I love watching him grow, coming up with crafts we can do during lazy afternoons, making Halloween costumes, decorating the house for Christmas together. I love being his step-mom. I love that I've been in his life from the beginning, from before he could remember anything else, but with this one picture, I felt as if I didn't exist. It was like all of the effort I'd put into shaping this little man into a great big man was invisible to him. Like I was invisible to him.
His dad followed him into the living room and had a had a talk with LM about how he'd hurt my feelings by leaving me out of his family picture. LM said he'd just forgotten and miscounted at the time that he drew it and that he was really sorry. I felt awful for him for being in that position. He didn't mean to leave me out - he's only six, he just forgot. He wasn't being malicious, trying to hurt me. It's not his fault that at his mom's house they stress the whole concept of family, and what everyone is to everyone else, and all of that, while at our house things are more relaxed. We don't say "Our family trip for today is..." or tell LM that I'm his stepmom and he should call me mom or something else to symbolize that. It's up to him here, and I feel like over there, at his mom's, his very impressionable mind is filled with ideas like "call X your sister, call X Dad, that way we're more of a family" And I'm not saying it as direct or blunt as all of that, but up until as recently as right before our court case in August, LM was calling these people "my mom's boyfriend" and "my mom's boyfriend's kid" and I can't imagine him just coming up with new titles for them out of the blue like that, especially since he was still at the same school in the same class with the same kids he'd been in class with for two and a half years. Anyway, somehow he seems to think that they're more of a family than we are, whether that's because of the names they call each other, or the fact that they have two kids and we only have one, or just because the word "family" is stressed throughout their everyday life, I don't know, but I do know that it hurts to feel like our family is secondary in his mind, or not even a family at all. And that hurt was just amplified when he symbolized his family as all of them plus his dad.
So while they were in the living room talking about how the picture had hurt my feelings, BF did something that I'm really not sure was a good idea or made anything better; but was clearly done with the best intentions. He told LM that he should apologize to me and redraw the picture with me in it. He apologized ever so sweetly, gave me a big hug and kiss, and told me he didn't mean to leave me out, that he'd just lost count. Despite the sweet, loving way it was delivered, I was unable to really take it to heart because he was doing something that his dad told him to, not something that had just come to him, it was forced, he felt like he had to apologize and fix it. But I smiled anyway, gave him a big hug and said thank you. Then LM started on his new picture of his family, this time with two moms, two dads, and one pseudo-step-sister. He didn't label this one, so I had no chance to see if he'd call me "Mom" like the Ex's BF is called "Dad," but it was a nice picture and he even asked me if I'd like "fancy" or "regular" hair - the difference, "fancy" hair has a flip on the bottom, "regular" hair is straight. I smiled and chose "regular," realizing that this might hurt for a little while, but children hurt their parents, often inadvertently, and it happens to every mom at some point in their children's lives.
I love our sweet LM and while he might frustrate or annoy me or break my heart, he's as stuck with me as I'm stuck with him and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love him more than the world itself.