That Thing


This one makes me feel sad. Remembering when I used to be a stepmother. Knowing I’m not anymore. Such is life.

My stepsons are en-route. They are making their sticky fingered way back to me from the holidays, and a gang of cousins. Soon I will see them and marvel at their tallness. They will tell me about the diamonds they have collected on Minecraft and I will ohh and ahh and make their favourite dinner. And then it will be normal again; we will blend in to each other’s lives and the noise will seem as epic as it ever was.

Stepfamilies are weird like that. People go and all of a sudden silence reigns. Abandoned lunch boxes get used for leftovers, scooters lie unclaimed and dust collects on twisted Lego men. But then they come back, and the station lights go on again. Menus are planned, schedules are written and the shed is cleared for time out. All of us held together again, by walls and good intentions.

And yet despite the coming and going, each time they return I realise that the thing we have, it has never left, the chemical thing that happens in the space between stepparent and child. It happens when one of them reaches up to hold my hand and I feel I am their protector. It happens when I notice them repeating something I have said, or using a skill I have taught them and it happens when I see them sleeping.

To me, sleeping stepsons are about the most delicious thing on earth. Little chests going up and down, birdcage ribs so delicate under soft skin. They are innocent, un-protesting and submissive; all traces of will erased from their small foreheads and the smell, of kiddy toothpaste permeating the air.

So… biological glue, none. Tolerance – some, but love? Always.

I can’t help myself; it’s a chemical thing.


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Emma Harrison Clark

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