05 Dec Mama Genericana Dialogue 02: Mother vs. Stepmother
The way this title reads sounds as though the mom and stepmom are pitted against the other in this dialogue. Why is it that stereotypes of the word stepmother bring out negative feelings? Curse those fairy tales!
This dialogue is not rooted in negativity or any contention. It is to demonstrate the love for Kyle and to get authentic perspectives from his mother, Maurine, and stepmother, Traci. What makes these views even more relevant is that Kyle’s stepmother has been in his life almost as long as his mother. He has been loved by many during his 15 years.
So often we vilify stepparents prematurely, and we view their words with a lens that isn’t clear. Without judging, I might guess that many mothers and stepmothers would not participate in this sort of dialogue if things were not successful or perfect. Oh, how easy it is to take things personally, listen to gossip, or one-sided versions of life. This can happen in many familial or social relationships.
This dialogue was set up for success since I have known the two moms for at least 20 years. I also have known their husbands (Kyle’s dad and stepdad) for the same amount of time. It is unique—almost like a Lifetime movie—to have four parents to love you who came into your life already knowing each other.
This dynamic is unique because there is a history, a friendship, and an understanding. It can also cause distraction, insecurities, and confusion. After this dialogue, though, you will see the former has had more power in Kyle’s life. Not that one would expect or hope split parenting to create something else, however, like any family dynamic, the way in which love is presented and nurtured through early years is what affects the child.
Maurine, Kyle’s mother, describes her parenting style as a “nurturer, disciplinarian, and organizer.” She and Kyles’ stepdad, Jim, have two other sons (ages 5 and 3) and works part-time. Traci describes her mothering style as “loving, nurturing with routines and structures.” She and Kyle’s dad, Archie, have three other children (aged 5-8) and teaches pre-K. You can already see similarities in the mothers’ parenting styles. They both acknowledge the journey has not always been easy and they don’t and didn’t always get along. Everyone matures with age, not just children.
I chose to present their interviews as a poem to demonstrate how this love and support has helped rear Kyle into the teenager he is today. I created a found poem to display how the intentions of both of the mothers have led to prioritizing Kyle—not the adult relationships. In case you want clarity: a found poem pulls relevant words or phrases from longer text to highlight the deeper meaning (all of the words in the poem were written by Maurine or Traci).
I challenge you to figure out who said what. It will be no secret how much Kyle is loved through the words of his mothers. If only all split families could strive for this. If only all children could have at least one mother who spoke of fears, challenges, and goals to refocus on raising the next generation—Kyle has two.
Strong sense of family
Feels like we are not whole without him
We want the best for him
Excuse to hate, there is a battle, went downhill
Situation was horrible—early years
Don’t have to live like the other person
Get frustrated with each other, have to get along
Make things better, in each other’s lives FOREVER
Life is long, not rush anything—don’t dwell on it
Took time to get where we are today
Work together to make that happen
Can’t make up for the past, a lot of reflection
Different experiences and perspectives on life
We are all raising Kyle together
He will always have a place, torn between his parents
Shouldn’t feel like he has to pick—broke my heart
Four parents talking and laughing with each other
Let his guard down with all four of his parents
Special bond with all of us, unique role in his life
Different homes, different rules, rules similar
Lets us know where he wants to go
Amazing older brother, a connection with him
Explain to his younger siblings why he can’t be with us
Encourage them to interact
Never known what it is like
Learned to adapt to every situation
We are flexible
We adjust for family events
Be a kind person, go with the flow
Respectful of other people
Now, praise us for doing such a great job
Challenging for everyone involved
Love they need to grow
Cuddle and hug, will always be there—no matter what
Kyle is determined; he will persevere
Well-balanced young man
Responsible and respectful
Fun to be around, silly, funny
Very bright young man
Flexible and even-tempered
So easy to love
We love Kyle so much
Who would Kyle be without his four parents? Obstacles of any parenting dynamic can be overcome with the deliberate rearing of a child. Love through this shared parenting family has endured its own challenges throughout the years, but the concentration on Kyle has helped grow a mature, thoughtful young man.
So often parents become ego-centric and forget the goal is to spread love and help the child grow into a successful adult. Even when we fall off the path of mindful parenting, we can always return. Nobody is perfect, and most importantly it is necessary to show this vulnerability—not being perfect—to our children. Thank you, Maurine and Traci, for your willingness to participate in this dialogue and hopefully others can learn from your love and mothering of Kyle.
If you have any questions for Maurine or Traci, please add them in the comments.