|There's NO such thing as too much love...|
Years later, A, is now twelve years old and I met him when he was only seven.
K, his big sister was just barely nine. She's now thirteen going on twenty-five.
And me, I was only seventeen years old, a senior in high school.
I came at a very strange time in their lives.
Their mom was still living at the house, even though she and M had been broken up for a few months.
Things were not going well, and the kids didn't really know it at the time.
The first day I met their mother was during a Christmas dinner in 2011.
She had red hair, and blue eyes and wore all black. She had this look on her face like a teenager usually does when she's somewhere she doesn't want to be.
She was pretty. Really pretty. But she didn't strike up conversation with anyone.
She made me feel very uncomfortable.
That feeling of uneasiness didn't go away for years.
These kids were a trip. High energy, but serious demeanor. Like they knew shit you didn't know.
I liked them. A lot. And to me, that was weird because I usually was very awkward around kids. I never even wanted kids when I grew up!
But there was something different about them...
J, their mom, seemed to be eyeing me the whole night. Steam coming out of her ears.
How DARE I talk to HER children!
During dinner I sat next M and he sat next to her. And what's funny about this moment is this was THE moment both M and I sparked. We ignited the flame. Sitting there, eating Christmas dinner next to his ex.
We both got up from the couch and walked into his parents kitchen. I was watching him clean off his plate in the sink and he noticed.
I'm sure we both knew what had happened and what we were both thinking.
I wanted to grab his beautiful face right there and devour those perfect, heart-shaped lips.
A couple days later, I brought over my homemade toffee as a thank-you to him and his family.
J wasn't home yet and it was just me, him, and his kids in the kitchen. They thanked me for the toffee and put stickers all over me.
As he walked me outside, he told me he needed to talk to me about "something."
I knew what he was going to say, but I hoped to god he wouldn't.
That was when J walked up and said sarcastically, "Oh, look! It's Sage!"
She walked right past me and that was that.
That was the moment I KNEW I didn't like her. She was very disrespectful, very rude.
He apologized to me for her attitude and hugged me warily. But he looked in my eyes with sadness, as if he was saying goodbye to me forever. I felt my heart crack, right down the the middle, I did not have a good feeling about this "something," and I walked away, covered in stickers.
That next night was the first time he cupped my chin in his left hand, looked into my eyes the way I always wanted him to, pulled me closer to him, and sweetly kissed my hungry, eager mouth.
I saw shooting stars and fireworks behind my eyelids.
"So much for only being friends..." I told him.
"I don't know what it is about you, Sage..." He said quietly. "But there's something inside of me that NEEDS you. That always wants you to be right next to me. I don't ever want to be apart from you. Is that normal?" He told me, questioning.
I pondered. Stared at him with wonder. And then I told him:
"Sometimes, things just can't be explained. And no matter the circumstances, the conflicting thoughts in your head, those feelings linger. Always. And nothing can stop that."
We looked at each other. He still held me close.
What were we doing? What were we getting ourselves into?
Driving home that night, I thought about those things.
Was I ready to bring on what M carried with him?
I wasn't even graduated yet!
Would his kids like me?
What about his ex?
His mom and dad! His brother!
And then I remembered what I had told him. That no matter the circumstances and conflicting thoughts in your head, those feelings will always linger.
Honestly, I didn't know if I was ready or not.
I didn't know what was going to happen.
But something inside me told me that THAT feeling I felt, was stronger than anything else in the Universe. That no matter what, I, WE, would make it through. We were going to be okay.
And that was my gut feeling. My Realist.
I always thought that my Brain was the Pessimist; my Heart, the Optimist, and my Gut, the Realist.
I ALWAYS trust my Realist.
So......we went for it. All in.
We obviously had to keep it on the down-low. Everyone thought I was nineteen. His WHOLE family.
And MY family had absolutely NO idea about him for over a year.
We worked at the same casino, so that was also a huge no-no over there.
We would always travel together. I had never really been to anywhere in California besides Tahoe and San Francisco. So in order to spend time together where we weren't surrounded by these small-town people we both knew, we'd go out of town for a few hours. Drive two hours to Placerville, drive an hour to Reno. Drive an hour to Truckee, three hours to Jackson and Volcano.
All these years visiting Tahoe and now living there for over a year, I had never even seen the other side of the lake! So going to Tahoe City for the first time was a blast!
We had our special spots around South Shore that we knew no one would see us. It's not like we were doing naughty things, but we did want our privacy for sure!
We had SO MUCH FUN together. More fun that I'd ever had in my life.
We constantly laughed. There was never time where we weren't smiling.....well, except for when we kissed.
We kissed, a LOT! He held my hand a LOT! He was the sweetest thing to ever come into my life.
Of course, things were tough. I was still in high school and living with my psycho father.
I skipped prom because I thought prom was cliche and wanted to spend time with M and his kids.
Eventually, J was paid to move out and she wasn't really apart of the picture for a little while.
It wasn't until M took me in after my dad kicked me out, that things started to become....really, really hard. Things got tense.
I was having a blast with the kids. Him and his kids were my LIFE! I fell in love so fast with them, I didn't even think it was possible to love someone else's children that way. Oh, but it is, indeed...
They saw their mom on the weekends, while she wasted her money away on alcohol with her brother.
The kids would come back complaining about how there were beer cans all over the house and no food. M would buy food for them from then on, whenever they would go over there.
Eventually, they didn't want to go over there anymore.
It was just me, M, A, and K. We were a family!
Things were going smoother than I thought.
We had a good few months together. K adored me. She would ask when M and I were going to make a baby sister. "I really want a baby sister. I hate my brother!" She'd say. We'd laugh.
I never really thought about having a baby with M. I guess I just considered his kids my kids. What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine, right?
The Nasty, Green Monster took over J and things became an awkward competition. Except, for everyone else, nobody really cared. The more love for the kids, the better!
She met a guy and they both somehow weaseled their way into the kids' lives. And worse, their growing minds.
The kids were sleeping over there more often, and when they came back, they would act strange and off beat. They were more tired, they smiled less. Talked less. They were robots. Exhausted robots.
One day we invited J to come with us to the beach. She could hang out with her kids and us and it would be a good time. The whole time she sat on the sand, smoking cigarettes, watching us all play in the water.
"K is coming with us for the fourth of July." She told us.
"What? Why? I wanna go with Daddy and Sagey to North Shore!!!"
I wanna go with Daddy and Sagey.
I will always remember when she said that.
And I will always remember that THAT was the moment that set J off into her sabotaging world.
Our world was lit on fire.
There were people in our lives that we trusted when we really shouldn't have. Family members talked. About M and I. And that, who we were together, was "not right." We were "wrong." We were "bad people."
I was told that I was an empty waste of space, and an excuse for a human being who didn't deserve to live. I was also told that I was a horrible mother and that I should never have children.
If only people on the outside could really SEE the truth. Of course I KNEW what it looked like from the outside. I just hoped to god it would never be the kids who saw it that way. And for grown-ass adults to tell them so...
Eventually, A gave in and moved out and into his mom's who was now living with her boyfriend four miles away. The boyfriend, (let's call him Weasel), had a nice paying job. A great one actually. And he flaunted it. He was buying the kids expensive things, left and right. Weasel was buying their affection. And it worked!
Due to all the shit talking about M and I, and the nice expensive toys that were bought, now both the kids were Team J and Weasel! Since when were there teams?!
For all A and K knew, WE were demons. They officially hated us.
They didn't even talk to us. For a year.....they left us in the dark.
Sadly, this would not be the only time this would happen.
After awhile with both the kids living there, J sapped up to me and wanted to be my "best friend."
I felt really uncomfortable with the idea, so did M, but I thought that it would make the kids happy if they saw that we were all getting along with each other.
Cue the time J and I were "best friends!"
I was going over there almost every day. Since neither of us were working at the time, we literally just hung out together.
Except her being the alcoholic she was, all she wanted to do was drink. And I mean D-R-I-N-K.
I knew it made the kids uncomfortable, so I drank a substantial amount less than their mother.
Weasel would always be "around" somewhere. Not hanging out with any of us. It was a weird environment.
When J would get wasted, there would always be a point where I thought she was trying to hook up with me. She'd always try to kiss me and I'd turn my face away so she'd end up kissing my cheek or neck.
Don't get me wrong, I thought she was an attractive woman, but I was not attracted TO her.
After her "hitting-on-sage" stage is when she'd black out. I'd have to walk her back into the house and make sure she was okay.
All while her kids watched and made fun of her.
When K moved back into our house, she was a different person. She reminded me of, god forbid, her mother.
Eventually, my Realist told me that J was up to something else....and NOT trying to be my best friend.
And I knew that was the case when she found out a weakness of mine at the time, and used it against me. I was not "mentally stable enough" to take care of K. (mind you, J is the one who is not only an alcoholic, but a diagnosed bipolar type one). She also broke to K that M and I were engaged, when technically, it was just a Facebook status.
That was the second time K left us in the dark.
And that was the last I was J's Best Friend.
This period of time was our darkest. M became depressed. He was lost. And me, being the person I am, blamed all of this mess on myself. I told myself that if I had never come into the picture none of this would have happened. His kids would still be here where they belonged: in love with their father.
I ruined his life.
This type of thinking obviously didn't help M get through his depression.
And I realized that eventually.
I was in a funk and needed to snap out of it so that I could get M to see that eventually, everything was going to be okay. Things were going to get better. That we were stronger than that.
WE WERE NOT DEFEATED!!!
Time went on, we never saw the kids. They didn't ever want to talk to us.
And we got used to it. We waited. Patiently. Quietly. And focused on bettering ourselves and our lives.
We wanted to get out of South Lake.
I found a better job, and so did M! We were taking care of our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Everyday, we would do powerful meditations.
We went on juice fasts, we watched positive documentaries. Read lots of good books, and just focused on making our way out of here.
What we also ended up doing was creating a baby.
I fell pregnant mid-April. A week before my appointment with a fertility specialist, I saw two lines on the pregnancy test. It was definitely one of the happiest moments of my life.
I was stoked. WE were stoked.
The problem was, neither of us had talked to the kids in over a year.
What were we going to do?
We knew it wasn't going to go over well. At all. And we waited until we knew little David was in my tummy and here to stay to tell them.
Our plan was to take the kids on a walk, just us four (well, five), and tell them the good news.
But J refused to let them talk to us alone. Whatever we needed to tell them could be told in front of J.
So, that's what we did. And it was absolutely horrific.
Screaming, yelling, crying, profanities, and storming out and speeding away was the outcome.
I was done. I was over all the bullshit. I didn't deserve this. None of us did! Me, M, or David.
From the very beginning, all we did was love. Love the kids, love each other, love the family. And somewhere in the middle, people couldn't understand that there could never be too much love. That love was selfless, not selfish. They destroyed children's innocence. Took it right out of their souls. And rubbed it in our faces as if to teach us a lesson. (round of applause!)
Was this was being a step-mom was? Was this what being a parent was?
No. No! I thought.This was not going to be my life. Our life.
I looked down at my growing belly and said:
"I love you. No matter what. I will never give up on you, and I will never use you or make you feel like you're worthless. You are my child. And I will protect you always. You are apart of me and don't deserve this disrespect. I'm so sorry."
I cried. But it was a cry that told me I was ready. Ready to stand up for myself and to take charge. I shook the day off of me and that was that.
It isn't me they have problem with. It is themselves. They are unhappy with themselves, so they target the most vulnerable, the ones they envy.
No, it's not right. But it is what it is. You can't tell someone to tie their shoes if they don't want to.
My belly grew and grew, and with that, my love for this baby did too. M and I were fine. We expected this reaction from them all. And we moved on, and continued to better ourselves. Continued to stay strong. We got stronger than ever!
We got used to the idea of the kids not coming back. Yes, it was sad. But it was the ugly truth.
I got used to the idea that little David wasn't going to have the big brother and sister I thought he'd have. And eventually, I was okay with the idea. We would be fine. I knew we would.
I gave birth and life was glorious. Full. Magical. I was SO in love with David and I swore, the day I gave birth, I fell in love with M all over again.
I had never been so happy in my life.
This happiness lasted a good three months. And then, the next thing you know, J ditched her kids at Weasel's house and told us that we needed to pick them up because "they were going to be living with us now."
Boom. Just like that, the kids were back. And I was not okay. I didn't trust them anymore. Especially K.
I was constantly worried that they were going to hurt David. Or hurt me.
Not that they ever hurt me physically before, but I had been through enough emotional trauma with them already. And by this time, I wanted nothing to do with them. I felt like a horrible person.
What had happened to this deep love I had for these kids?
But in reality, they were used. Reused. Formed and re-formed into whatever these selfish people wanted them to be. They plucked their innocence out of their poor souls and put horrible thoughts into their brains. How could someone even think to do this to their own child?
So I very cautiously, let them back into my heart. Gave them what they had been needing all this time: Love.
I owned up to my lies about my age, and the "engagement." I apologized to K, especially.
I had long conversations with them. I explained to them that my purpose in their lives, was not to be their mom, but to be someone in their life that cares about them, that loves them, and that I can be someone they can always come to. For absolutely anything.
I tried my best to be there for them in any way they wanted me.
It felt like things were going good again.
After that long summer, when K moved back in with her mom, I felt immensely hurt. I felt used. I felt lied to. And I couldn't look at her the same way again. To me, she was just like her mom. And there was nothing left I could do to help her. She didn't want my love.
I was confused. I thought that I could be the step-parent my W was. How did he DO it?!
But our situation was so much different than theirs was. Even though their mother and my mother are almost the same. Their birthdays are even a few days apart! (gemini's!)
I started to feel like a let-down. Like I wasn't good enough for K. And I was in the middle of my depression and post-partum anxieties, among other things, and I was feeling lame. I loved my baby boy, I loved A, I loved M, but things seemed like they were slipping through my fingers. Time seemed like it was running out, and I was absolutely convinced I was going to die.
I stood strong. I had to! I was a mom now!
I made sure A was okay. I made sure he knew how amazing he was, every day. I made sure he had someone to talk to. That he knew he was normal. That we all loved him.
I am currently out of my funk. M and I are still standing stronger, always putting our heads together to figure out the next step and to help each other out every step of the way.
David and A have a special bond I really can't describe. Basically, they are completely obsessed with one another.
J eventually kicked her daughter out for K, supposedly, hitting her and stealing her money.
She said that if she even saw K's face, she was going to call the police or she was going to hurt her.
The next day, she called K apologizing and telling her she can "come back home now."
She's welcome any time.
Obviously, K is safe here with us and she is currently not talking to her mom.
I think that when J ditched her kids the first time at Weasel's, A had an epiphany. He finally saw through all the bullshit. And I hope to god that this is K's epiphany.
All I can do is BE. I am just me. I LOVE the world. I CARE about people and things! I am the kind of person who thinks that rocks have feelings. I talk to trees and hug them and thank them. When I swim in the water, I feel like the water is embracing me, cleansing me.
So for these kids, MY step-kids, I'm going to continue to love them and care for them as I would my own son. Those trees that I hug. The rocks I roll around in my palm and try to listen to their thoughts.
Eventually, they will grow up and see that I'm not such a bad person after all. I'm learning too ya know!
I may not have given birth to their bodies, but maybe I can be the one who gave birth to their souls. The person they are inside.
I'm learning every day. And part of that is feeling proud! Proud of who I am.
These past four and a half years has been one-tough cookie....
I have never felt so many emotions than during these years being with M and going through our seemingly, constant struggles. But I am thankful for every ounce of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The disturbing, the jealousy, the rage, the sorrow, the pain, the guilt. Because I know that those moments I experience with these two kids, when they come to me to tell me something about their day at school, or they joke around, or thank me for dinner; when David laughs at his big brother and puts his arms up at him to be held....these moments are what makes it all worth it. It's what makes me proud to be a step-mom. And I can only imagine what the future hold for all of us. What grand moments await...
I'm not going to be that person who cares for them "behind-the-scenes" anymore.
I'm going to be that woman I was when they were putting stickers on my sweater, the woman that KNEW we were going to be okay.
I am going to be.....Sagey.