By Joelle Yamada

Photo by Dreamstime

It was a two for one deal. The day I got married, I got a husband and a six-year-old daughter. Instant wife and mother. 

It was rocky at first. I had no clue what I was doing during her summer visits and I’d find myself counting the minutes until her dad would get home from work. I wasn’t sure how to discipline her or what to do for fun or what to expect from a first grader.

We had our share of hard-headed moments (on both of our parts) and we still do occasionally. But we’ve worked out a lot of the kinks over the years and I’ve come to not only love her, but to like her. She’s a fabulous big sister to her little punk siblings and she’s so fun to talk to and loves to cook with me and luckily, I love to talk about boys. So it’s pretty much a win-win these days.

High school is going to be interesting, because I know that her friendships will become more and more important and leaving them to fly cross country for vacations might make her feel like she’s missing out on her life. But I’m guessing like all the other issues, we’ll work that out as well.

I’m sure I am sometimes the Evil Stepmother, but I’m very proud of the relationship that she and I have built over the years. I can trace the start of that success to one bit of advice I received just before I got married. A friend of mine, who is a stepdaughter herself, recommended this simple thing:

“Never introduce her as your stepdaughter. Call her your daughter.”

And I’m embarrassed to admit that though I immediately saw the wisdom in those words, I reallllly struggled with the concept initially. I wanted to make sure that everyone knew the situation. I wanted to clarify my role in this thing. I didn’t want people to think I had a child when I was very young. And I found myself stumbling over the word. My Daughter. This is MY Daughter, Hannah. 

But as is so often true in life, when you say something out loud, it often becomes truth. I found that though I was initially trying to do something loving for her – by making it clear she was truly part of our family, the words ended up making a change in my own heart. It wasn’t long before “MY daughter” became true. 

As Hannah and I have discussed, this is not the way it was meant to be. God did not intend for the “step” relationship to be as common as it is. But this is our life. And we’ve chosen to love well and enjoy each other and be happy with the slightly quirky family we have.