From 2 to 8!
I have a step daughter. Gabriella. She is beautiful, sensitive, giving, loving, thoughtful, neurotic at times, funny, a bit of a chicken, silly, brilliant at pairs and terrible at losing. She has stunning almond eyes, she completes my life… and she’s not mine.
My buddy and step daughter
I haven’t written much about Gabby (only this post after Mother’s Day 2012) and what it’s like to have a step daughter because I’ve never really known how much is ok to say about someone else’s child. But Gabby was 2 and half when I met her, 4 and half when we got married, almost 6 when I had my son, Reuben, and now she’s 8 and half! So, I’m ready talk about her. I guess I hope one day she might read this and whatever happens during her teenage years (Not. Looking. Forward. To. That.) or when she starts to question why her parents aren’t together, she will see how, despite this not being ideal, I love her very much.
The day I first met Gabby was the day I also first met Mike’s parents and it was quite frankly terrifying. I didn’t really know how to behave. As a rule I am great with kids but Gabby isn’t just any kid. Firstly, she was the kid of my gorgeous new boyfriend so the pressure was on to be accepted and secondly, she’s just not keen on people she doesn’t know and takes time to warm to people (she still struggles to say hello to my parents!). So there I am trying to look like the dutiful potential daughter-in-law, playing with Gabby but she of course was having none of it, looking at me with suspicion from behind her dad.
I felt like this carried on for some time, she wouldn’t make much eye contact with me (remember she’s 2 and a half!) and at times I was sure she would would give me evils if I cuddled Mike. Mike thought it was in my head, of course. And maybe it was. Maybe I was so desperate to get her approval I would look for signs of distain. In order to try and piece together a bit of those early days, because I’ve forgotten, I’ve done what every modern woman does, looked back through my iphone photos and actually I think by the time of her 3rd Birthday, we had the beginnings of a beautiful relationship forming!
This is the first photo I have of Gabby taken just after her 3rd Birthday – not the clearest shot but she’s having fun with her dad
Of course, when I saw Mike with Gabby, carrying this little version of him, my ovaries would literally explode! There is definitely something incredible brood inducing about seeing your gorgeous fella with a small child.
There was also something incredibly sad about it. The first time I met Gabriella’s mum, that night I cried for Gabriella and for Mike and for the sad loss of not being together every day and seeing and sharing every little thing that was going to happen to Gabby as she grew. I felt guilty, like I had played a part in finishing what chance they had of being a whole family.
But some things just aren’t meant to be. And we all learnt how to work together to provide Gabby the best, most stable up bringing we can. She copes really well. There used to be the occasional question about her parents but more often than not, I think she struggles to remember not having me in her life.
Around a year later, June 2010, I finally felt like I really bonded with her. I looked after her for the weekend while Mike was away and took her to my parents house. It was a big breakthrough for me that she felt happy and comfortable and at home enough to just be with me. It was the most beautiful weekend in the sun. Playing with my younger brother, Isaac, in the water, blowing bubbles, picking berries in my parents’ huge garden. A year later she became my step daughter when Mike and I were married and celebrated in that same garden just before my parents had to move with my dad’s job.
And now she is my buddy. I’m almost always the first person she calls out for in our house. Hannah this and Hannah that. She very rarely isn’t trying to tell me something. Sometimes a bit annoying but mostly I take it as a massive compliment that she wants to talk to me so much! Even when watching the telly she’s forever calling my name so I can come through and share whatever funny moment is about to happen with her.
She’s not keen on her own company, she’ll bring toys down so she can play her game while other people are around. But that’s what makes her such a wonderful big sister. Reuben completely dotes on her and she on him. Every morning, as soon as she sees him, she cries out his name and cuddles him to within an inch of his life. They are almost inseparable. Although she does get annoyed (and he with her!) when he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to (for example, go in and thoroughly enjoy the den she’s just made for him! No, he would rather destroy it).
So that’s kind of where we are with it. It’s not the ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’ situation for either of us. Her for having separated parents and someone else to tell her what to do, and me for being a newly wed with a new step daughter, learning how to bring up someone else’s 4 year old before even having my own child. And I haven’t even touched on discipline! But I can honestly say that I believe both of our lives are richer for having each other in them.
I have absolutely no doubt that in the years to come we will continue to drive each other crazy. More crazy. But I couldn’t imagine life without my funny, little buddy and Reuben is the luckiest little boy for having Gabby as his big sister.
You might not be mine but you are more than a step daughter – I love you and I hope we can always be buddies and goof around together xxxx
My step daughter, my buddy and me (with Reuben in my tummy!)