illustration of woman's and child's handshake

Step one of stepparenting: meeting your soon-to-be child

My answer was always the same every time he asked.

“Does it make you nervous that I have a son?”

“Yes,” I said. Every time. He asked a lot.

We were both fine with the answer. The thought of maybe, someday being a stepmom was relatively new–I’m not sure anyone thinks, I want to be a stepmom when I grow up. And I didn’t say ‘yes’ to a first date because he had a son. I said yes because he didn’t seem creepy and I could see by his profile picture that he was bald. (My standards were unflinchingly high.)

But, yes, I always knew he had a son. And, yes, it made me nervous.

I assumed this was a natural feeling, but I had no real frame of reference. I had zero friends in my situation.

I’m not sure anyone thinks, I want to be a stepmom when I grow up.

So began my journey towards stepparenthood. A journey full of rocky and winding roads, a trek without a map that ventured into territory inaccessible by GPS. An adventure, so to speak. And it all officially started when I met his son.

Despite our plan to keep our first meeting brief (2 hours max, as recommended by the books my boyfriend had read) and light (mini-golf followed by ice cream), I was nervous. Like, changed-my-outfit-multiple-times and almost-got-into-a-car-accident-on-the-way-there-because-of-my-nerves nervous. Who knew meeting a 7-year-old could be so intimidating? Meeting the parents is nothing. Meeting the child who could soon be your child is something. Something just this side of terrifying.

If I thought actually meeting him would provide any relief (I didn’t), I would have been wrong. I basically questioned my every move for the next couple hours, and for hours after that. Did I shake his hand too strongly? Did I seem too eager? Did my questions convey my interest or seem like interrogation? Could he tell I was nervous?

Who knew meeting a 7-year-old could be so intimidating?

I did have fun despite my nerves. In many ways, it was sort of like a first date  it was awkward and intriguing and we got to know each other little by little. I learned that he liked sports (he was wearing a USA soccer t-shirt) and the color blue (he chose a blue golf ball for mini-golf). Like many kids his age, he liked to climb things he shouldn’t and asked if he could top his ice cream with three different kinds of candy.

I relaxed a bit when I realized (duh) that it wasn’t so much that he was intimidating, but that the situation was intimidating. I’ve always been told that feeling nervous means you care. And that all makes much more sense now. Caring is essential to building a happy family. Turns out, we were off to a great start.

My then-boyfriend (now-husband) never made me feel as though meeting his son was a test, but … it kind of was. Maybe one of those tests you can retake a bunch of times before you pass, but a test nonetheless. I don’t think I failed that first go-around, but probably because my now-stepson didn’t seem to expect much. “I really thought you’d have short hair,” he’s explained when we reminisce.

I told him I’m writing about when we first met.

“Were you nervous?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said, always one to play it cool.

“I was so nervous,” I admitted, never one to play it cool.

“And look at you now!” he said, smiling, “You’re like a mom. Well, you are a mom!”

And I smiled too.

Menzel's on their wedding day

About the author

Amy Menzel is a wife, stepmom, teacher, and writer happily living life in Wisconsin. She appreciates the opportunity to learn through writing. Her writing has appeared in the Wisconsin English Journal, at the Three Teachers Talk blog, and in Stepparent Magazine.

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