The Stepmom Chronicles: How I Became a Self-proclaimed Mother of 4
I’ve always thought good single dads were sexy. You know, the dads who don’t have to be taken to court to financially support their kids. The dads who spend time with their kids & teach them really important things in life. The dads who try to see their kids as much as possible. The dads who really make a difference in their children’s lives solely because they want to see them grow up to be great people. Those kinds of dads have always been my prey in the dating scene, but it comes to no surprise that those kind of men are sparse. Let’s be honest, you hear more about women taking on the full responsibility of their kids than you do dads. So imagine my surprise when I found a man who takes care of his 4 kids, all under the age of 16, by himself.
I met Daniel when I was working at Papa Johns as a manager. He was the underappreciated, underpaid, hard working insider with an attitude & I was the loud, obnoxious, infamous bitch manager who was more than rough around the edges. As you may suspect, we didn’t get off on the right foot. He’d try to tell me how to run my shift & I’d tell him to shut the hell up & get back on the makeline. But eventually we found a way to work together in harmony. A couple of conversations later, I discovered he was the father of 4 kids whose mother completely dipped out on them almost 8 years ago. Obviously, I was skeptical. Is this some kind of sick joke? How often does that really happen? What kind of mother leaves her kids behind? I couldn’t & still can’t make sense of it. But it was true. After hanging out with him a couple of times back in January, I found myself head over heels in love with him & his kids.
Of course I asked questions. I mean, he had to have done something wrong at some point to drive a woman to the brink of leaving not just him, but her kids, too. But he told me she was mentally sick. He told me how she had left them multiple times & how each time before, he had taken her back. But the last time she tried to come back, after she had left as soon as he stepped foot in their house after work, he shooed her away, saying he wasn’t going to let her break his or his kids’ hearts anymore. He told me how he explained all of this to the kids & for the most part, they understood & accepted it. But I couldn’t. I can’t. I’m the type of person who’d want to see their kids, even if I was tied up in a “I love me” jacket (she’s not in an institution, but still). So I took the opportunity to step in, step up, & become a stepmom.
Let’s get one thing straight; I never once said I knew what I was doing. Yeah, I’ve taken care of kids before. Hell, I’m Mexican & Puerto Rican. Most people in my family know how to change a diaper before they know how to tie their shoes. But to take on 4 kids, to call them my own, to NOT birth them but to mother them? Yeah, that doesn’t exactly come with a manual. Not to mention Daniel was tired of being the bad guy &, in turn, tried to balance the art of being a friend AND a father. So here I was, in a relationship with this man whose kids were hurt, angry, confused, & well equipped with a smart mouth. Oh boy.
His oldest is Zachary. As if handling 4 kids alone wasn’t enough, Zach is severely autistic. He’s 15, non-verbal, around 250lbs, & very stubborn. He pinches, scratches, bites, & hits. He has bathroom accidents left & right, is on enough medication to put down a horse, & will constantly yell until he either gets what he wants or gets in trouble. He stomps, bangs on the wall, & has even broken a few windows. In short, he’s a handful. But he’s also very intelligent. He’s a master of distraction, quick, & very sneaky. He’ll give you kisses while snatching the remote off the table. He’ll wrap your arms around him when you’re trying to set him straight. He’ll grab the food left over on the stove the moment you turn your head. He laughs at the most inappropriate times & every once in a while, he’ll cry for no reason (breaks my heart). He loves to watch movies, go for car rides, make sure the bathroom door is shut, & play with plastic bottles. I’m in the process of teaching him sign language, but he communicates with us in his own way every day.
Destiny is the second oldest. She’s 13, epileptic, & stuck in La-la Land most of the time. She’s a little over dramatic, she lies a lot about things she thinks she can remember (if that makes any sense), but overall she’s a well adjusted teenager. She’s a great example for kindness & is always willing to help us out, whether it’s with house chores or with taking care of Zach. I think since her mom left she’s taken on a lot of motherly responsibilities. She’s constantly looking out for the well being of her younger siblings (especially her little siser) & is very courteous of them (unless it’s enchilada night). It takes a while to read between the lines & understand her, but her book isn’t for light reading. I’m only a few chapters in, but I haven’t been around for very long, either. Little does she know, I’m permanent, dammit.
Matthew needs his own friggin’ category. There are some days I can’t decide whether I should congratulate him or punish him for some of the stuff that falls out his mouth. He’s 12 & has ADD, but according to his behavioral doctor, he’s intelligent enough to hold a conversation with adults, no problem. He’s addicted to video games (GTA 5, to be exact) & usually getting him to help out is like pulling teeth. But when me & Daniel get into our fights (as couples do) he’s the first one in the room with me, making me laugh by saying something stupid or trying to put on his glasses without using his hands. He’s quick witted & has no problem lighting up a room. Even though he’s one of the kids who give me the hardest of times, I feel like he’s the one who’s accepted me fastest & strongest. & on days when I feel like the other three would be happier if I was gone, he’s the one who reminds me why I’m still here.
Even though she’s the youngest, the most complex of all of them is Trinity. She’s 10, but she affects me more than the others, mostly emotionally. She’s very angry, very spoiled, & very much full of attitude. She makes it abundantly clear that I’m not her mom & if she’s asked to do something she doesn’t want to do, she makes sure to give you grief about doing it. But in all reality, I think she’s the most hurt. I think her anger & her bluntness about my position in her life is because she doesn’t want to believe what Daniel has told her concerning her mom. She’s very smart, very resourceful, & has a thirst for knowledge unlike any adult I’ve ever known. She’s admitted to being lazy a couple of times, but once she gets on a roll, nothing can stop her. Out of all of them, though, I think she’ll be the most grateful of me when she gets older. I think one day, when she understands the difference between giving birth & being a mom, she’ll thank me for stepping up to the plate & mentoring her through life. I don’t think she believes me when I tell her I love her, but she doesn’t have to. My actions will prove it.
In no way, shape, or form is this the way I envisioned becoming a mother. I wasn’t ready for all of this. I mean, what single 23 year old really wants to hitch their wagon to a man who’s got 4 kids? But there was something about this particular family that sucked me in. I can’t put my finger on it, but whatever it is, I can’t find it anywhere else. Zach gives me unconditional love, Destiny uses me as a “How to be a Girl” information well, I think Matt’s just happy to have someone help bail him out when he gets in trouble, & Trinity only likes me when I give her stuff. But somehow I know God put me in this family because He knew they needed a strong woman in their life. He knew they needed a mother who wouldn’t give up on them & who would trade her life just to save theirs. Never in my life have I ever felt like I belonged anywhere until I met Daniel & my kids. That’s right. MY kids.