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In this week’s issue of Time, Susanna Schorbsdorff (@SusannaSchrobs) writes about the importance of graduation for her daughters and for all teenagers (and their parents) who have made it through those tough years.  I usually enjoy her essays and am sympathetic to her view of families and life, but I was particularly surprised to read this:

“Then there are the unexpected tragedies. For us, it was when the girls lost their beloved stepmother in a freak accident. At the time, my eldest had just finished a rocky entry into high school and her sister was in fifth grade navigating the maddening rules of tween cliques. The fragile bridge they were building to adulthood crumbled in a day.

Grief seemed to reshape my girls at a molecular level. One held tight to the tangible evidence of loss, cycling through photos and calling her stepmom’s cell phone just to hear her gentle voice until the account was shut down. The other turned inside herself, shutting out school, shielding herself from the outside pressures to counteract what was going on inside. It was a dark summer.”

Did you read that, stepmothers?  A biological mother not just admitting without being defensive or hurt, but highlighting, that a stepmother was beloved and important to their daughters.  Even more, she writes that just hearing her voice, her gentle voice, was important.

It is terrible that these girls lost a parent.  It is wonderful and awesome that they had such a wonderful relationship with their stepmother that they grieved deeply for her loss.  She clearly was an influential person in their lives.

Her loss, and the way Susanna Schrobsdorff writes about it, highlights one of the great gifts of stepparents.  Although the girls lost one of their mothers, they had another to help them through their grief and will still have a mother as they move beyond graduation to the rest of their lives.  I worry far less about my older (step)children because, no matter what happens to me, they will have a mother.  No matter what happens to their father, they will still have a father.  I hope their mother feels the same.  If I could get a stepmother for my younger children without having to go through divorce, I would wish the same for them.  Children today, and, I suspect, always, can never have enough adults that love them and are deeply invested in their happiness and well being.  I think, from what I have read of her work, Susanna Scrobsdorff would agree.

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