I find myself in an interesting spot, getting ready to marry a guy named "Dad." I mean, that's one of his names, and since he's had it for almost 18 years he's pretty accustomed to it. The kids have never known him any other way. Most of his friends and family members probably take it for granted that a dad is what he "is."
So what will it mean to be a dad's wife? Of course it will make me a stepmother. As the experts say (and my own experience teaches me), that's the kind of role you have to grow into. The kids seem pretty much OK with me but it may well be years after the ceremony before they drop the mental note that "she's not really family." We'll see. I don't want to be maudlin or impatient about it; it's only fair.
I'm also thankful that they are well supplied when it comes to family relationships. They have a mother, grandmothers, an aunt or two, teachers, coaches, and more. So it's not like I have some big gap to fill. They don't need me for anything; whatever love or help or encouragement I have to offer may just be icing on the cake. That's kind of a relief. Plus I have the example of my own stepmother. Following in her footsteps, I think, will take me far.
One of my concerns since the beginning of this relationship has been how to deal with the knowledge that I don't really know what I'm doing. Marriage? Parenting? Sex? I haven't had the class; I don't have the years of training and experience under my belt. I have lots of other life skills, but am way behind most of my peers on these things! I'm never going to catch up.
I do find it helpful, however, to count my blessings in this matter. I've had decades to pursue other interests. I have a broad - if sometimes not too deep - network of friends and acquaintances to turn to for help and encouragement. And by the grace of God that includes many dear people who want to see me do well and who are now reaching the stage in life where their lives no longer revolve around all those young-family issues that I missed out on. They have more time and energy - and notably, more wisdom - to help out an old friend like me as I begin exploring what is to me, brand new territory.
Chris can't have any more children. I have always felt a bit ambiguous about the question, myself - certainly not so gung-ho as to pursue motherhood by any means and at any cost, as some feel led to do. Now it's pretty clear to me that even though I'm marrying a guy named Dad, I will never be a mommy.
As good as the mommy-life can be - as much as it can do to shape a woman's life and character and nurture the next generation - I think maybe it's God's mercy that this challenge is not mine. We'll be able to sleep through the night and pay the bills and have plenty of time and energy to serve each other and other people. Including his two mostly grown children. And while I'll never get to hold my baby in my arms, the grandmother thing? That could still happen and probably will.
For someone who's never been a mommy, what a gift.