Tonight as I was standing at the sink washing twenty-something plastic Valentine’s Day cups, it took me back to when I was in grade school. I remember the days leading up to a class party, my mom would have plastic cups to fit the holiday, pencils, candy and other little things all spread out on the kitchen table. She would have the treat bags open and I’d help her put each bag together. We would double count to be sure each kid would get the same amount of everything.
I can’t remember every single class party growing up, but I know that my mom was present for many of them. I enjoyed her being there then, but it hasn’t been until I became a stepmom and started doing this myself that I realized she must have been having just as much fun if not more than me.
I am a stepmom to three children. I have two stepsons and one stepdaughter. I have a third grader, a fourth grader, and a sixth grader. When the youngest was in kindergarten, I expressed to my husband that I would really like to be a room parent for the upcoming Valentine’s Day party. This was four years ago. After discussing it together, I decided I wanted to ask my stepsons mom if volunteering to attend the party would be okay. I intended to ask her this myself. Circumstances didn’t go quite as planned and my husband asked her instead. I was given permission. From that day forward, I have been to a Valentine’s Day party, Spring Parties, Halloween parties, and Christmas parties.
As I plan this years Valentine’s Day party, I can’t help but think about how this was the very first holiday party I had been to. I was nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect. Will a stepmom be accepted as a room parent? Will I have to explain what a stepmom is to the class? How best can I even do that? All of these questions went through my head as I prepared for my role in the party. I had talked to his teacher and I knew there were going to be at least one or two other parents there. I worried that I would be looked at differently because I was a stepmom. I had quite a pleasant experience. So much so, that I took my camera with me and didn’t even use it! For those that know me well, I take my camera with me just about everywhere I go. I had no idea if I would be able to go to more parties and I was trying to take in every minute of being there. I was afraid to even take my camera out.
Since I have been volunteering for the kids over the past few years, many of the students they’ve had in their classes have carried on to the next year with them. There are always a handful that remember me. I always get the, “Are you his/her mom?”, to which I smile and say, “I am his/her stepmom.” Sometimes, I don’t even get a chance to answer because, they are answering for me. In the four years I’ve been volunteering, I have not shared the experience with another stepmom. Maybe someday I will.
I don’t worry so much anymore about what the kids will say when I say “stepmom” or how the staff or other room parents will look at me. I am looked at just like any of the other room parents, which is nice. When my nine-year-old stepson runs to me as soon as he sees me with open arms to give me a hug in front of his entire class and he says, “That’s my stepmom!” all of those butterflies fly away. This Valentine’s Day, I will break out my camera to capture the moments we’re making to turn into memories.
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