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Do I Call My Stepkids 'Mine'?

Photograph by Getty Images/PhotoAlto

As a stepmom, I knew that I would have to venture into a lot of uncharted territory. I knew there would be moments when my mouth would instantly go dry and uncertainty would cloud my vision. I knew there would be moments of intense awkwardness at school functions, and I knew that I would sometimes feel out of place.

It’s part of the package, part of becoming a stepmother, and I knew all of that. I was as prepared as I could possibly be, because I reminded myself that the kids come first. Seriously, parents and stepparents: Chant that little line, and I promise all of your decisions will vanish because there’s only one way to go.

I was lucky. Those moments I was so worried about, moments that I would play over and over in my head as I imagined the worst possible scenario? Those moments did not last long, and now I don’t even feel like a stepmother!

I didn’t think grammar was going to be my biggest stepmama battle either, but it so is.

Except for the “pronoun” thing.

I know. I didn’t think grammar was going to be my biggest stepmama battle either, but it so is. It has been the source of many conversations with my husband, David, and has helped me to pen several thousand words on the topic.

Here’s the thing: I think of Chloe and Trey as “my” children. I do not think that they are mine and no one else’s, but I do call them “mine” when talking about them. I do call myself a parent, and every night I thank God for “our” children.

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But no matter how comfortable it feels and no matter how right I think it is, when we are out in public I’m quick to make the distinction. And I hate that it even crosses my mind to do so.

“Oh, are these your kids?” a friend of a friend will ask me at a party.

“Yes! Well … um, they’re not really mine. I mean, they ARE, but they’re my husband’s kids. So they’re my stepchildren, but, I mean, I feel like they’re mine, too!”

At this point, the person has usually walked off while I continue to spin a web of utter confusion and hope I can get out of it.

It’s not that I don’t want to claim them when we’re out or that I’m ashamed. I've told my friends before that I always hope Chloe doesn’t hear me have one of these conversations. I’m terrified that if I say, “Oh, she’s not mine!” when someone asks, she’ll be hurt and remember it in therapy 20 years later. On the flip side, there have been several times when I have said, “Yes, that’s my girl on the swings!” and she will bellow from across the playground, “BUT YOU’RE NOT REALLY MY MAMA, SAAAAAM!”

Those awkward moments I was talking about having? PRONOUNS, man. I feel as if I’m part of Schoolhouse Rock, waiting for a cartoon flourish to write "HERS" with an arrow pointing to Chloe and Trey. I feel as if I’m stuck between The Brady Bunch, where they all belonged to each other, and Yours, Mine & Ours, where nobody’s really sure what to say.

The best thing I can think of to say these days is that I am theirs. Deep in my heart, I call Chloe and Trey mine. They are my first babies and when we add more children, they will not be discounted. But in public or around people who vaguely know the situation? I feel that it’s best to just say I am theirs.

Do they belong to me? No, I belong to them.

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