But how could anyone NOT love these kids?!
Photo taken in 2009, courtesy of Moments In Time Photography
The reason this has been on my mind is because, while recently chatting with a new friend and telling her about our story, her comment in response was "I don't know how you do it". I'm certain that she didn't mean anything offensive by saying that - it just was her honest response. It made me think, however, about how frequently I get that response - or the very similar one of people asking "How do you do it?". The funny thing about that question or comment is the fact that, for me, "doing it" was never an option. It was something I just knew I was going to do. I fell in love with the entire package that is Monte + four kids. It wasn't a thought of "I love Monte so I have to deal with these kids". It has always been about loving all five of them and wanting to be there for them and to help them through the grief of losing their wife/mom.
I know that, to them, I will never be "mom". I know that when I say "I love you" to one of my sons and his response is "yep", that's his own way of saying "I love you, too". I fully understand the fact that the unconditional love I extend to them may not be returned 100%, and I know and understand that it's okay. My role as a step-mom (and as a mom) is to love my children unconditionally and to guide them and raise them to the best of my ability. It isn't about what I get back from them - it's about showing them God's love in every single situation and circumstance.
I've learned to cherish the little things. I've learned to appreciate, when golfing with my boys on Mother's Day (and, for the record, golfing is NOT something that I'm good at doing!), that my boys encourage me with phrases like, "it's okay Kami, try it again" and "that was a really good shot, Kami, especially for someone who doesn't play" and even the occasional "I'll pretend I didn't see you just throw the ball". I've learned to cherish their acts of service, like when they want to help me weed the garden so I don't have to do it by myself.
I've learned to see love in other ways. While I may not ever hear the words "mom" or "I love you" from them, I'm confident and secure enough in my role of step-mom to know that we're doing a good job. We're working as a team, we're moving forward in life together and enjoying the stops along the way - and I wouldn't ask for anything more!