You can call me anything, as long as it’s nice

Autism is literal.  I found out how literal when my stepson moved in with us when he was almost 9.  It was a sudden thing.  We has just moved, and were still unpacking… and here he came.  (See my first post for more info.)

Josh was unsure of what to call me.  I could sense his struggle over this, as well as the greater struggle of what to name my role in his life.  I gently let him know that he could call me anything…  as long as it was nice.

See, when he first moved in, he cussed like a sailor!  Thus, the qualifier.

He tried out different names for me, all of them “nice.” For the first two weeks, he called me “sweetie pie.”  It was a start! Later, he tried out different names. Sometimes it was “honey bunches of oats.”  Once he copied my husband and said, “Come here, Wife.” (That didn’t happen again, LOL. We explained what “wife” meant and that I definitely was not his.) Other times it was simply “Elizabeth.”

Finally, he just settled on “step mom.”  It worked.

People were shocked that I was okay with this.  However, there are several ways to think about it.

First, it’s the truth.  I am indeed his stepmom. (Autism is literal, after all.)

Second, he wanted to acknowledge me as a mom without betraying his bio mom. (Great problem solving skills!)

Third, it’s a whole lot better than other things he’s called me when he’s angry.  Believe me.

Fourth, it makes perfect sense in the context of our family. I’ll explain:

When his dad married me almost 12 years ago, Josh was 3.  My husband explained to him that I was his “step mommy.”  Here’s the definition my wonderful, genius husband  taught him:

Step mommy = When Mommy’s not here, Elizabeth will “step in” for her and take care of you. See, I told you– Genius!

I remember the day that Josh learned this very clearly.   Suddenly, I was accepted by this literal little lad.  I was putting his things in my purse when he didn’t want to hold them, holding his coat, getting him a drink, and more importantly holding his hand and comforting him when he fell down at the playground.

When he moved in, and his mom wasn’t here, I stepped in.  I was, and am, his stepmom.

Now Josh is 15 and is looking forward to his first job. He just loves to flaunt the fact that he is taller than I am.  We still struggle to define our relationship as we adjust to the daily changes and challenges life brings.

My hope is that he will always remember that he can call me anything as long as it’s nice, and that I’m here for him.  My hope is also that I will remember how far he has come in his life, and to celebrate the milestones with abandon. Literally. 🙂

Epilogue: I don’t know if Josh read this or heard me talking about this or not, but the day I wrote this he started calling me “Mom.”  And the journey continues…

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6 responses to this post.

  1. 🙂 loved this story!

    Reply

  2. A Step mom who steps in. Truly, a genius definition.

    Reply

  3. Come here wife! LOL, love that!

    Reply

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