Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Theme: So many parents

Stephanie J. Blake

Writing about my parents for this month's theme will be tough. See, I have two moms--a biological mother and a stepmother. From age five until I left home at 18, I lived with my dad and stepmom. Growing up without my mother around was weird and confusing.

My stepmom was a special education teacher--a devoted teacher, but not a great mother figure--not very nurturing. Because of a nasty divorce, a custody battle, and because of my biological mother's absence in my life, our blended family was not without many issues. We moved a lot. I was a loner. I was a skinny dork. I was also a big reader. My stepmom always made sure I was surrounded by books. She encouraged me to read. Still, I resented her presence in my life.

My real mom who had me when she was 17 seemed to live her life like it was a book--a steamy romance novel. She seemed so glamorous, (she was very beautiful), but I didn't really know her very well. We only had visitation a few times a year. She lived all over the U.S., getting married and divorced, traveling, always having adventures with new men (we call it "drama," these days).

I became somewhat of a (ahem) difficult teenager. I was always breaking the rules, testing my parental units. I rebelled at every turn. I made horrible choices in boyfriends. I neglected my studies. I wrote poetry. I had a lot of angst. My dad was my high school principal for crying out loud! I ran away for four days when I was sixteen--in search of my mother who was living in Florida at the time.
I hated my parents--all of them! I couldn't wait to get out of there.

Fast my 20's, my mother and I finally lived in the same state, and I got to know her better. In my 30's, we became best friends. Now, she's in her 60's, and she's got both mental and health problems. She has tremendous guilt over leaving. It will affect her for the rest of her life.

I forgive her. Now that I'm a wise 40-something, I have realized I am really a motherless child. And it's OKAY. Not everyone grew up with the perfect mother.

So why am I telling you all of this?

My childhood has affected me as a writer.

In my book, THE MARBLE QUEEN, my main character has a very difficult mother. In early versions of the story, the mother was borderline abusive, but of course that wasn't going to work.

In my work in progress, my main character's mother is dead and she gets a new stepmother who is also her 5th grade teacher. (These experiences come from my real life as my stepmom was my 2nd grade teacher).

In a YA verse novel that I've written (and really hope gets out into the world), the main character's mother abandoned her to become a waitress in Vegas. The MC deals with the abandonment by attaching herself to the wrong guy and getting pregnant.

Seems I can't write about sunshine-y moms.

The other day, my stepmother and I were chatting about my difficulties growing up. We laughed about some of the things I put them through. She said she was proud of me. That meant the whole world.

You know what? She's been my "real" mother for some 37 years, and I never realized it.


  1. I love how "I wrote poetry" was stuck in between your other wild teenage activities. :) Poor poetry...
    Thanks for sharing this. It's wonderful how your experiences, through your writing, will be able to reach other children/teens who need someone to relate to.

  2. Stepmothers. Now there's a complicated relationship. I hope you'll keep writing about them.

    You might enjoy this poem I wrote about John James Audubon's stepmother:

  3. Thank you, Irene!

    Your poem is beautiful.

  4. Sounds like you're getting to a peaceful place regarding your two mothers...And I betcha your fictional mothers just might get more sunshine-y as a result. We are all works-in-progress...

  5. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Our experinces shapes us so much and definitely play a role in what we write.

  6. Very touching post. Thank you for sharing.