What writing a book with my step-son means to me.
My little patchwork family is made up of myself and my partner, my daughter from my first marriage, his son from his first marriage, and our tyrannical toddler who came along 9 months after my 30th birthday…
We’ve been a family for five years now. I’ve looked after my step-son for at least part of nearly every single day since he was a year old. I buy him clothes, cook him meals, take him to school, and put plasters on his knees when he falls. He’s every bit as much one of my children as the girls are, except he has a mother who loves him, and who he loves, and who isn’t me.
I say this without jealousy, but with awareness. My daughter’s father opted out, but my step-son’s mother is still very much involved, and we’re very lucky that she is a good person who we spend a lot of time with and count as a friend. My relationship with my step-son is a good one, I’ve comforted him in distress and celebrated with him in victory, but I also know there’s nothing I can give him that he can’t get from one of his biological parents, and that we can be very different people at times. I feel that over the years we have grown to understand one another better, but we still communicate in different ways and experience our feelings in different ways, and it can mean it’s not always as straight forward for me as it is for his parents. It requires work to figure each other out, and it’s work that’s worth doing, but it can be a challenge none the less.
My daughter and step-son are both six, they both have active imaginations, love stories, and have created their own characters to tell stories about. When my daughter asked if we could write the story of her character, Nature-Girl, I agreed and together we wrote a book. It’s going through editing now and it’s something she is very proud of, and it was a wonderful bonding experience for us to create it together. Now my step-son has requested we write a book about his character; Zebra-Boy.
I have a notebook full of his ideas, the characters and the concepts, and the story has started coming together, and he’s delighted with it. And this is something that is ours. The cover will have our names on, Zeke McKinney and JJ Barnes, and I get to know that even when he’s long grown he can look back and know that this is something he shares with his step-mother. That I took the time and respected his story as it deserved to be respected, and that together we created something that he can be proud of.
I spend a lot of time worrying about my parenting. I worry about what my mothering and my step-mothering is like, and whether my children feel as loved as they deserve to feel. But I hope that this work we’re doing together now will stick as a memory in his head. That he can hold solid in his mind that his step-mother loves him because, as a writer, my words are where I pour myself, and I’m pouring myself into his ideas.
I might not be the best step-mother in the world, but I am his, and I love him. And hopefully this book will help him to know that.