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Happy Parents' Day

Photograph by Getty Images

My 7-year-old stepdaughter, Chloe, leaned her body into my legs and looked up with a smile. “You’re my parent,” she said, showing off the gap that her two front teeth had left.

I smiled back at her. “I am. You have a lot of us, huh? Do you think you need more parents to keep you in line?”

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Chloe rolled her eyes and stood back up, swinging her little purse from hand to hand. “Hey,” she said. “How come there’s no such thing as Parents’ Day?”

My heart skipped a beat. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.

“What do you mean?” I asked her. “There’s Mother’s Day, right? And Father’s Day?”

“Yeah, but why don’t they have one that’s for ALL parents? Not just moms and dads?” She asked me, “How am I supposed to celebrate my stepmama if they don’t have a Parents’ Day?”

And then? My heart burst completely open.

I’ve written plenty on being a stepmom, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write enough to adequately explain what it feels like to be a parent in this sense. It is rewarding, it is a journey and, in moments like this, it is a part of my life that no one else will ever understand. Sure, I can tell them how important my stepchildren are to me and I can tell them how much they love me, but when my stepdaughter comes right out to ask me why there’s no special day celebrating all of us parents, I don’t know how to explain the love I can feel.

I’m still a mama in her eyes, and she wants a day to celebrate that.

It’s a love that everyone told me not to expect. All of the “experts” will tell you that stepfamilies are not “traditional” families. “They will require counseling,” was one Web site’s encouraging words. I’ve read that it can take a long time for stepchildren to recognize their stepparents as parents. I was told that children will favor their mother and father, that their minds may not be able to wrap around what it means to love a stepparent.

And then I realized that everyone interprets the word stepparent differently. Most people focus on the word step instead of the word parent.

Obviously, Chloe is in the minority.

To her? I’m a second mama. She knows who her mama is and she knows that I am second best, the next in line when it comes to mama love. But she also knows that her heart can hold enough love for all four of us parents. She knows that, regardless of what society may think of me, I’m still her parent. I’m still a mama in her eyes and she wants a day to celebrate that.

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“Well, baby,” I told Chloe after her declaration, “I guess they assume that no one needs an extra day. I guess they assume that mothers are celebrated on Mother’s Day and dads are celebrated on Father’s Day. It’s not a big deal, although it means the world to me that you think it is.”

I’ve always said Mother’s Day isn’t about me, that I don’t need a holiday to make me feel secure about my role in these kids’ lives, but the fact that this sweet girl wants a day to make me a macaroni sculpture without worrying about what others would think? Hey, Hallmark? I can get behind that. My 7-year-old thinks you need to get on this, already.

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