It Takes a Village
by Kimila Kay
July 19, 2022
In today’s confusing world, I wonder how hard it might be for children to understand the parental roles of the human’s raising them. Some children live in a traditional home with a mother and father. Or, like me, some children are being nurtured by a mom and stepdad.
But what is it like for kids with a single parent or maybe one parent has died? And what about the tikes with two adoptive parents, two moms, or two dads?
When I create my characters, I struggle with fleshing out their backstory. What type of parents contributed to their upbringing. How much do the parents need to be represented in my characters story. Of course, I mine my own personal experiences and recent trip down memory lane answered a few of the questions above.
My mother remarried when my sister and I were four and five, instantly making us a family complete with a stepdad. Our biological dad wasn’t in the picture so having a dad was a new experience for us, made even better by his large family who welcomed us into the fold.
Looking back on my childhood, I know how blessed I was to not only have two loving parents, but two little brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins … a village helping to raise myself and my sister.
As life will do, it provided me the opportunity to know the struggle of a single mom. During the nine years I raised my two boys alone, I often worked more than one job to make ends meet, and wore both hats, managing to be a fairly good dad. Dating is a difficult task because deep down a single mother worries no stepdad could ever love her kids and much as she does. Still, I held out hope that someday I would meet a man as good as my stepdad.
When my husband and I married after three years of dating, I knew he would be a good dad to my boys, twelve and eleven at the time, and felt confident I would love his five-year old son as much as I loved my sons. But I knew some people, specifically my stepson’s biological mother, would challenge my maternal love for Sean, a rambunctious bundle of energy.
From the moment he asked if he could call me mom, I was all in. Since I’d been more tomboy, than princess, growing up, raising boys fit nicely into my lifestyle. I loved attending every sporting event, doctoring every cut and scrape, teaching them how to be young gentlemen.
So when six-year old Sean returned two hours late from a weekend visit with his mom, and in a surly mood, I counted to ten, and asked him to hurry upstairs to take his shower. Sean responded with and emphatic, “No!” Stunned I took a deep breath and gently guided him toward the staircase. My stepson, whirled around, glared at me, and shouted, “You’re not my mom! I don’t have to do what you say!”
I’ve always thought of myself as a patient person, quick to diffuse another person’s anger, but found myself at a loss when my usually jovial stepson stood before me boiling with rage. “Sean,” I said, hoping my impending bribe would work. “If you hurry, you’ll have time for dessert and a quick story.”
Sean scrunched his face into a red scowl and added, “And my mom says you’re not twenty-nine either.”
Sean’s dad stepped in and handled things from there as I stood slack jawed, tears streaming down my face. Logic told me Sean had been subjected to verbal badgering from his mom, and that, combined with exhaustion had caused him to act out. Still, my feelings were hurt, despite the fact that he was right. I wasn’t twenty-nine, but had jokingly been telling everyone that was my age after entering my thirties. What to me had become a fun, little white lie, was now a niggling wound struck by Sean’s biological mother.
Unfortunately, there would be more antagonism and hate directed at me by a woman who abandoned her child. Her attempts to garner Sean’s favor by hurting me failed as I stayed true to my values and loved my stepson unconditionally. Over the years, he’s called me for advice instead of his mom, sometimes even asking how he should handle a volatile situation she’s caused.
Sean now lives in San Diego and is a successful real estate agent. He recently turned thirty-six and called to thank me for his birthday gift. After we caught up on our lives, he ended the call with, “By the way, I get it now. I get why you told people you were twenty-nine after you turned thirty. I can’t believe how old I am!”
How fabulous it is to share a once difficult memory with a laugh punctuated by an, “I love you, mom.”
No matter who is raising a child, we as inhabitants of The Village need to offer support and understanding, provide patience and kindness … and above all love unconditionally.
Kimila Kay lives in Donald, Oregon with her husband, Randy, adorable Boston Terrier, Maggie, and feisty black cat, Halle. Her professional accomplishments include three anthologized essays in the CUP OF COMFORT series. In three separate contests, Peril in Paradise, has won two first place awards, and a third-place award in the romantic suspense category. Malice in Mazatlan is scheduled for release in fall of 2022 and Redneck Ranch is tentatively scheduled for early 2023.