Stepping in Love : She ain’t heavy. She’s my sister.

If I had to be anyone in our family, I would choose Savannah. She’s just so darn cute. But apart from her cuteness, I love her perspective on this whole stepfamily thing. She joined our family almost two years after Ivan, Jamila and I came together as the Raynor Family reboot. As far as she’s concerned, we’ve always been together. The only time she thought something was amiss was when she saw a picture of our wedding day that didn’t include her.

Savannah: “How come I’m not in the picture?”

Me: “You weren’t at our wedding.”

Savannah: Was I at grandma’s house?

Me: “No baby”

Savannah: “Was I in your tummy?”

Me: “No, you weren’t even a twinkle in your daddy’s eye yet”

I told her she could be the flower-girl at our next wedding on our 10th anniversary. That seemed to satisfy her. In her eyes, we’ve just always been her parents and Jamila has always been her sister. So when I described Savannah as my daugther and Jamila as my stepdaughter once, Savannah made sure to say, “Jamila’s not my stepsister, she’s MY SISTER!” Boy, did I feel like a jerk after that. The protocol and nuances of the stepfamily don’t matter to her. All that matters are the relationships that have formed among the people she loves.

In fact, they don’t matter to my other daughter either. Jamila has been calling me mommy since the first year of our marriage. Nobody prompted her to do it. She chose the title on her own. I am blessed to be part of this family because despite our challenges, they pale in comparison to the nightmares I’ve heard about from other families.

I now refer to Jamila as my daughter because it’s important to both of the girls, and probably my husband too.  My apprehension has always arisen from the fact that I wouldn’t want another woman claiming Savannah as her own. (Thankfully that is a non-issue because Ivan is stuck with me for a long, long time).  I try to empathize with her mother on this title thing because I know my heart would hurt if my daughter referred to another woman as her mommy. The amazing part of this is that people, especially children, have an enormous capacity to love.  It’s not limited by someone’s title or their role. Love never fails and it never ends and even though we often describe it as a verb, love must be expressed in our words. Embracing Jamila as a daughter speaks love to her and that is a language we all need to be speaking.

Other posts in this series:

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