On the way home from church several months back, Isabelle initiated an interesting conversation with me.
Isabelle: Do you think it’s strange when a kid calls his parent by their first name?
Me: Kind of, yes. I think it’s more respectful to call a parent Mom or Dad usually. Though if I’m in a room with a bunch of women, including my mom, I’m likely to call her “Judy” to get her attention rather than “Mom” when 9 other ladies might also be moms in the room.
Isabelle: Do you think it’s weird that I call you Laura?
Me: *giant pause to consider my answer to this out of nowhere question*
I went on to explain that in our situation I didn’t think it was strange at all. Because she already has a mom, and I am her stepmom, it’s perfectly normal for her to call me by my first name. I explained that I would never demand that she call me by any particular name and that she could pretty much call me whatever she wanted as long as it was nice. 😆
It was a relatively short conversation that took me by surprise. I got the impression that it was something she had been stewing on for a while. It never really occurred to me that she should or would call me by anything other than “Laura,” so I was truly caught off guard.
Just as we were nearing the house she announced, “I think I’ll call you ‘Mom 2’”.
I’m not exactly sure what I said to that except that she was welcome to call me whatever she wanted. I was pretty much stunned by the whole conversation. Later when Matt and I discussed it privately we wondered if she was thinking “Mom Two” or “Mom Too”. I didn’t really care either way, but we were curious.
She referred to me as “Mom 2” later on that day, but then I didn’t hear it again for a while. In fact, from the beginning I sort of assumed she wouldn’t keep it going, and I wasn’t particularly concerned about it. We have gotten to such a sweet place in our relationship that it wasn’t something that I needed, and if she forgot about it, it wasn’t a big deal. I mean, one name is as good as another right? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, according to Juliet.
But she didn’t forget. When my brother from Portland and his family were in town for Thanksgiving, I overheard Isabelle talking to her cousin in the other room about me. “Her name isn’t Laura to me” she said. “I call her Mom 2.”
I have to admit that hearing her little declaration warmed my heart. This is the same cousin who had teased Matt and I a couple of years ago for kissing, and when she did, Isabelle told her to leave me and her daddy alone, “they can kiss if they want to”.
While they were in town, I ended up hearing this new name a couple of times. Matt asked her more than once how she spelled it, and her answer wasn’t consistent. So we still weren’t quite sure what she was thinking.
“Mom 2” continued to come up periodically, and I began to wonder if it might stick.
On Friday, December 2nd, the three of us went out for dinner and to look at Christmas lights. While we waited on our order, we began a round of the Animal Guessing Game. Matt and Isabelle have played this game forever. They both excel at coming up with the most ridiculous and obscure animals that I can never guess.
Isabelle was keeping score on her kid menu, but I wasn’t paying much attention to it as I was losing per usual. It caught Matt’s eye though, and he pointed it out to me. It seems the much debated question had finally been answered.
I got a little choked up about the whole thing. It still didn’t matter what she called me, but I had to admit to myself, that I sort of preferred “mom also” over “mom number two”.
I was truly touched. And when she and Matt headed to the restroom before leaving the restaurant, I pocketed her abandoned score sheet. It is a treasure.
Last week before we got out for the Christmas break, we had her with us for a regular Thursday night visit, and she and her daddy spent the better part of the evening being very secretive behind closed doors. I assumed they were up to some Christmas present shenanigans.
I found this precious card in our tree later that evening. I’m no Grinch, but I’m fairly sure my heart grew three sizes that night. She grinned from ear to ear as she put that card in our tree and watched me notice it. And in the week since its arrival, it has been the one present I’ve most anticipated opening.
Matt picked Isabelle up at 10 AM this morning to begin our time with her this holiday. After settling in with our eggnog coffee and bread pudding, we began opening gifts. Isabelle picked and delivered our gifts to open and the order in which we went. The very first gift delivered was my “Momtoo” card. With the perfect gift inside.
What’s in a name? Sometimes nothing. But sometimes everything.
As I sit here thinking about this precious girl, I feel such gratitude to have her in my life. Perhaps because I don’t have children of my own, this name she has started occasionally using for me feels all the more sacred.
She asks me deep and insightful questions all the time. We have incredible conversations. She talks to me about her life. Her friends. Her parents. Her frustrations. Her fears. And I listen. I soak it all in and count my blessings that she wants to share with me. It is a precious gift.
And I know it may not always be this way. She will become a teenager. Hormonal. Influenced by friends. An adult. And things may change.
But they may not.
Either way, I am going to savor every single moment of this time. Every hug. Every offer to be my helper. Every request for my opinion. Every tough question. Every moment.
Because life is just a series of moments.
I often use my voice and my experiences to help people understand the difficulties of blended family life. But I think it’s equally important to honor the beauty that can be born from the ashes of brokenness as well.
Our journey as a blended family is frequently marked with pot holes and breakdowns, but it is also filled with adventure. And love. And purpose. And hope.