A Letter to Myself, Before Stepmotherhood.

Dear Grady,

Ohhhhh, get ready, girlfriend.

Get ready for the biggest change you've ever experienced in your life.

Get ready to be thrown into a deep, beautiful, complicated, difficult, wonderful, wild relationship with a person who can't even tie her shoes yet.

Oh, and by the way?  Get ready to teach her how.

Yes, your life is about to change - utterly and absolutely and permanately.

The logistical things, like what TV you can watch before 10pm and the fact that your home will now be covered in plastic figurines and broken crayons?  Well, that you know.  That you're prepared for.

But that's not the hard stuff, lady.

No matter how much information I pack into this letter, I can never prepare you for the feeling of helplessness on a hot summer night when all you can hear through the wall is a tiny voice, breathless through tears, crying to her dad about how much she misses her mother.

I can never prepare you for the conflicts that will arise - seemingly out of nowhere - about cookies or laundry or room-cleaning, that suddenly become about fear and belonging and lonliness.

I can never prepare you for the countless times when your well thought out plans will have to change on a dime because of sick days and dentist appointments and unexpected nightmares.

I can't prepare you for all that. I'm sorry, it's just not possible.

And, you know what?  That stuff is hard.  It's stupidly hard.  And it's harder still because 90% of the time, you're the one without a say in the matter.  And, probably even more relevant, you're the one without a concrete connection to everyone.  If an "odd man out" has to be chosen?  Well, get ready, my friend, because it's you.

But hang tight for a second, okay?  Because I'm not done.

It's true that I can't prepare you for how impossibly, incomprehensibly hard this is going to be sometimes, sure.

But there is so much more to it.

I can never prepare you for how it feels to be the one to teach a child something.  To tie their shoes or bake brownies or learn a musical.

I can never prepare you for how much you'll relish the simple days of spending time together.  How easy it will begin to feel after awhile.  How excited all of you will be to watch "your" show, or go on a walk, or take a road trip.

I can never prepare you for the late-night giggles when she should be sleeping, or the honor of being asked to chaperone a field trip, or how much damn pride you'll feel when you look at her drawings.

I can never prepare you for the insane amounts of love and joy you are going to experience with this person who was once a completely terrifying little stranger.

Stepmotherhood, for you, will encompass all of this and more.

It's scary.  It's awful.  It's amazing.

But you know what?  You've got this.

I promise.

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