I’m the dad.
But a few years ago I got Mother’s Day gifts, like this one from my (then) four year old son:
I was a single dad with three kids. Recently divorced. I went into my bathroom that day and found the gift on the sink. He made it for me and snuck it into my bathroom as a surprise.
I don’t get Mother’s Day gifts anymore. As their stepmom, now Melinda does. At least one of my kids has made her a special gift every year that she’s been in our lives, even before she was my lawfully wedded wife. I’ve never had to coach them. They always come up with the idea themselves. Usually the gifts are handmade, like the baby blanket my daughter sewed all by herself a couple years ago. She was so excited to give it to Melinda. When Melinda opened the gift, she cried.
Tears of happiness, love and gratefulness.
Tears of pain, bitterness and jealousy.
A blanket for a baby that hadn’t arrived yet and might never come.
A reminder of infertility and empty dreams.
A pain intensified by the reminder in their faces that I had conceived three children with someone else.
I’m the only one who sees her tears for what they really are. (The kids just see her joy.) I’ve tried to empathize, but her pain is something I can’t fully understand no matter how hard I try. Because I’m a man and because I already have three kids.
Usually, that means that I royally screw things up on Mother’s Day.
But I’ve learned a few things over the years.
If you’re in a situation like me, celebrate your wife/partner/person on Mother’s Day.
DON’T try to make sappy comparisons and attempt to persuade her that even though she’s never birthed a child, she’s more a mother to yours.
DON’T wax philosophical or get all metaphorical and say something like this: “You don’t have to have your own kids to be a mother to all the kids in your life. You’re amazing. You’re a mother to my kids and to every kid you take under your wing.”
DON’T try to make things sound better with titles like “bonus mom.” That can makes things worse, especially if your kids have a bio mom who’s in their life half the time and who is aggressively jealous and mean to your wife/partner/person.
INSTEAD, just love her and hold her and celebrate all the ways she brings vibrant color to your life — a life that would otherwise still be gray and bleak.
She needs to hear how much she means to all of you. Especially on Mother’s Day. So, take lots of pictures. Look at them together as a family. Talk about the memories. Laugh out loud. Share the love. And keep capturing those moments. She’ll need you to remind her of the good times … over and over again. That’s how you can make your favorite stepmom cry — all the good tears.
To get you started, here’s a tiny sample of colors that Melinda has brought into our lives:
Socks. No, she doesn’t mind wearing mismatched pairs.
Inside-out laundry. I’d never heard of an adult doing this before. She folds her clean laundry inside-out and even hangs them up that way (if they make it off the floor, ha). As a result, I had to change the way I taught my kids to wash and fold their clothes. At first it was strange. Now it makes me smile. By the way, if you balance a book on your head, it makes folding clothes more fun.
Supper outside. Sitting on the table? Having a table that’s not really a table? No big deal.
Raising chickens. I tried to resist. That didn’t work when she brought chicks home for the kids one Easter.
Double ear piercing for a birthday. Until I met Melinda, I didn’t even know that the best place to take a kid is a tattoo parlor.
Spa night. Yes, those are my toes.
Digging in the soil. My farmer friend became my wife and infected my kids with a love for gardening.
Crocheting on the couch. Yes, yarn is for boys, too. She inspired them.
Hikes in state parks. They used to protest when it was just me taking them into the woods. But with her, they get to hug trees!
Train to Hunt. Pure awesomeness.
Mountain tops. None of us would have seen this kind of spectacular beauty without her.
Performing at talent shows. Definitely not my thing. But she loves it. So do they now.
Making special treats. All the colors are organic!
Bob Ross night. I would never have come up with an idea like this. Watching him on YouTube while making masterpieces. “What the heck? Let’s get crazy.”
We love you, Melinda! You fill our lives with beauty and song. We celebrate YOU this Mother’s Day.