In the life of a new stepmum there are huge milestones that nobody ever talks about. Nobody ever warned me that I would get a flutter of butterflies in my stomach the first time I heard ‘love you’ from the boys; that the most responsible I would ever feel was when entrusted to spend the night with them and get them to school on time. And nobody told me that attending a primary school leavers assembly play would make my mascara run like the Niagara Falls.
That Monday night as I walked into the school hall, I felt I had entered into the sanctuary of parenthood. There were parents, siblings and grandparents chatting away, discussing the ‘big’ schools their little darlings would go to, checking the cameras, and excitedly waiting for the play to start.
The performance began. And when my little Romeo appeared on the stage, I got that flutter again and out of the blue my eyes started welling up.
His performance was outstanding, he hit every single note and he sang like an angel. My eyes were on him, I didn’t see any other kids. I kept catching his eye, smiling, giving him the thumbs up – anything I could do to let him know I was there.
My heart was swelling up with pride. The tears were stinging my eyes but I felt I had no right to shed them. I wasn’t there to send him to school for the first time, I hadn’t spent long hours doing homework with him. And seeing him on stage felt almost unfair, someone else should’ve been here. This wasn’t my place.
As I looked around at all the mums openly wiping their eyes and loudly blowing their noses, I suddenly had a strange feeling I was living someone else’s life. I felt out of place in the hall full of ‘real’ parents whilst I wasn’t a ‘real’ mum; I hadn’t given birth to him and I wasn’t there for him through the school years. I stepped in when his real mummy was ripped away from him by a horrible illness.
I couldn’t help but wonder, if all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, was I given the right role to play? Did somebody mix up the addresses and send me the wrong script?After the play all the kids went to get changed and I stayed mingling with the parents. Even that felt wrong. Talking to mums about ‘how quickly they grow up’ I felt a lump in my throat. Because I didn’t know how quickly they grew up, I wasn’t there. I wasn’t a real mum.
Suddenly I wanted to leave, jump on the train and go far and fast. I could no longer bear the sight of ‘real’ parents, I felt like a fraud.
As I started saying my goodbyes I suddenly saw him. He was now changed into a pair of shorts that I’d hemmed for him and a t-shirt that we’d picked out together.
He beamed as he saw me, I could no longer hold my tears. I knelt in front of him and hugged him, freely shedding my happy tears and telling him how proud I was. I held him tight - for every tear he cried, for every big moment his mummy wasn’t there, for everything I couldn’t say to him. And he hugged me back.
As I finally broke the embrace and looked at him I realised that I got the right script after all, I was born to play that part. I was where I should be – holding the little boy who needed me. For the first time the prefix ‘step’ in the world ‘stepmother’ got blurred.