When is a mother a mother?

[ UPDATE: This is really cool. Early Friday morning, Stacey came upon an apartment building in flames near the Naval shipyard where she works, and helped save the occupants. The writers at her local paper tell it best.]

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. ~Oprah Winfrey

Mother’s Day has come and gone. But we’re keeping our promise On Fatherhood to devote the whole month to Mom.

This week, I wanted to explore the idea of parenting children who are not one’s own biological children.

DSC_0104So I reached out to my good friend Stacey in Washington state.

Stacey married Brandon in December 2007.

Brandon had three boys from a previous marriage. The boys live with him, and rightly so – he is without a doubt a pure champion of a guy.

Stacey, madly in love but with no experience as a parent, took on the all-consuming role of raising them as her own.

She’s a fellow writer, and when I asked her if she’d be interested in doing something for the blog, she whole-heartedly agreed.

Here is the tail end of her e-mail when she sent me the draft. [ … Thank you for asking me to do this.  It’s a very introspective assignment. It’s kind of what I imagine therapy might be like … ]

How true it is. Writing sets us free.

And that is the goal of On Fatherhood: To experience, to share, to heal and to grow as parents.

As Stacey admits below, it’s been a hard road to a happy place. From the beginning, she’s struggled, and through the power of love, she’s overcome.

In her own words, this is her story.



Two big brown eyes, on a little round face, stared directly into my soul.  Looking past my smile, they pierced through my physical being.  It was as if they could see deep into every secret, truth and falsehood, causing me to look away.

The other two sets of eyes seemed to painstakingly exert themselves to look at everything but me. They wander in every direction but mine.  Through the window, tracing the trim around the doors, the floor, left and right, never once setting a gaze, and never once settling on me. Their busy eyes resembled what you might see on shifty suspects in an interrogation room.

I wanted so badly for them to see and feel my warmth, my kind energy and all my goodness.

How could they if they don’t, if they won’t even look at me?

008_8As colossal of a decision as it may seem, taking on the joint task of raising three boys, the decision itself was one of the easiest I’ve ever made.  I’ve always felt like I had a lot of love to give, and who better to receive it, I thought.

Though I must admit, when I met my now-husband’s two, four and six-year-old son for the first time, it was not what I expected.

He made me laugh when the world wanted me to cry.  He made all the clouds clear from the sky.  There were times when no one else existed – just he and I and the music. We would sing and dance with our souls free.  Together, we felt happiness.
The powerful friendship and deep-rooted romance I shared with their dad, I soon found evolving into a new parenting partnership.

For months I studied them, like zoologist study their animals.  Their ever-changing little faces, morphing with each emotion.  Their protruding bellies, warts, skinny little arms and legs.  There were scary, interesting, shocking, and appalling observations.

Every day was exciting and brought new challenges.


I evaluated their moods and temperaments, and learned.

I came to notice the right moments to open my arms for a hug, to be met by a warm reciprocating embrace.

Physically caring for them came naturally.  But the dynamics of both families combined into a powerful spinning mass that any wrong move had the potential to cause devastating effects.

It created a tremendous amount of pressure.

I was crushed by whirlwind moments of family discord.  Often, I tried to wear a smile, but my heart ached.

This brought many questions in the beginning. Will the children ever look at me with eyes of love?  Will I be the kind of parent they need?  Will our families ever accept the situation?

Never had I been more insecure. I had never put myself into a situation that made me feel as completely vulnerable as I did then.

I arrived at a point where I realized the only way to find truth was to live my way into the answers.

I knew I had to let go of the fear, and embrace the unknown.

I could give the world my very best and nothing more.

I had to believe I would never live up to everyone’s expectations, only my own.

Realizing this has allowed my love for the boys to grow freely without the restraints of fear.

Love so strong draws on emotions, and feelings I’ve never known possible – feelings only a mother can know.

DSC_0317I remember one of my first “momma-bear” moments when Elijah, the oldest of the three, was riding his bike down the street. A car came speeding down the road, and blew through a stop sign.

It was hands-down one of the most terrifying near misses I have ever experienced in my life.

Or when he was attacked by an angry swarm of yellow jackets. I found myself scraping bees off his body with my hands and feet as he helplessly dropped to his knees in front of me.

Then there was blubbering cry-fest in my car, after dropping Jonah off at his classroom on his first day of Kindergarten.

DSC_0086He gave me a kiss and walked right in, turned around with a huge smile and simply said “Bye.”  He was so brave.

You’d think he was the one who would be crying.  But it was me who sat in the car with a tear soaked lap. I waited 20 minutes before I could see well enough to drive home.

I’ll never, ever forget the day Aidan proclaimed, “Today was the best day ever – I beat Chris today!”

Chris was the best second-grade tetherball player in the whole school.  Aidan was among the kids who had felt the sting of Chris’s defeat.

I watched him practice every day in hopes of claiming victory.

034_34And when he finally did, he radiated a sense of accomplishment. Seeing his wide-eyed, tooth-filled smile, I remember feeling proud in a way I had never before known. Stout-chested, I thought, “that’s my boy.”

I’m fortunate to be the parent of such amazing kids.

It’s been more than four-years and we’ve lived our way into the answers to the questions we started with.

As a family, we are forever learning, growing and looking outward in the same direction together.

Persistence and patience have paid off.

I’m ecstatic to finally say that my children now look at me with the eyes of love I’ve longed for.

DSC_0139I feel purposeful and successful in my role.

The boy’s don’t call me “mother”, but they are very much my children.

And that’s what matters most.



3 Responses to “When is a mother a mother?”

  1. May 20, 2009 « Luke Pinneo Says:

    […] Luke Pinneo On Fatherhood « When is a mother a mother? […]

  2. Jen's mom Says:

    Well I did not get to dance at your wedding, but my heart dances with you that you have found your heart and your loving family is your heart indeed. God Bless you and yours. It is very nice to meet your family thru the pc, and hello to all. Still have a pic of you and Jen with the Ronda and Chelsea at Pittsburgh zoo in frame as a flashback.

    Flashforward, you and Jen were always good souls, then and now.

    Love, Mrs. Perkins

  3. That “eggstra” touch « Says:

    […] well known at On Fatherhood for her other acts of might and courage, sent us the link: How to Make Silk Tie Easter […]

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