Photo by Kathryn Rodnick

Cody likes ketchup on one side of his sandwich, mayonnaise on the other.
AJ like barbecue sauce and he no longer likes a sandwich to be cut in half.
Alayna like ketchup or barbecue depending on the time a day-always ask what she wants on her sandwich.

I have found that one of my most significant assets as a stepmom has been my ability to store things to memory.

This was the first way I connected with my step-kids and began to show them that I cared.

Packing school lunches and taking the time to learn what they liked to eat for dinner let them know that their opinion was valuable to me. When I’d make their sandwiches just right, their faces lit up, and my heart became warm. They appreciated the fact that I knew exactly what they wanted and how they liked things. This simple act of intentionality made way for our relationship to grow and become stronger as the concern of their hearts went from food selection to life interests such as:

-Cody’s new interest in math. He was initially interested in being a psychologist but transitioning from middle to high school he realized that math was a strong suit. He now has his sights set on engineering.
-AJ’s passion for cooking. He absolutely loves cooking, so when I’m in the kitchen, I should try and remember to ask if he wants to help. The answer is not always yes, but he’s usually very disappointed if not given the opportunity.
-Alayna specific wardrobe preference. She always prefers dresses, always. To avoid a complete wardrobe meltdown specify whether or not a dress is appropriate. Make sure all knee-high socks and stockings are washed before she comes. She will go through all of them within two days.

I think the hardest part for me was recalling things they shared with me about their time away from us. Their mother’s family members’ names (as well as their pets’ names). Different activities they enjoyed while at their mothers’ house. What level they are on with different video games. And a big one- their favorite junk foods (I am a health nut… to put it lightly).

The more I could catalog away and pull out during our conversations, the more I could tell they were beginning to accept me. Showing my love for them wasn’t an extravagant display, it was in the details. Everything. It was seeing something in April and tucking away for the perfect moment in October. It was remembering their excitement at a specific camping spot and trying to make sure we got the same one the following year. It was noticing which pair of socks or underwear was washed the most so that next time they were on sale, I could stock up!

When I realize something as simple as remembering could make a big difference in my relationship with my stepchildren, I put all of my energy towards that one goal: it’s all in the details. Becoming a stepparent is kind of like studying a new culture. In order to fully understand and be accepted, you must immerse yourself. Sometimes immersion can be extremely uncomfortable, like becoming familiar with old memories, being able to talk about them, and not feel threatened as the new kid (or mom) on the block. This attention to detail has given me a special place in their hearts. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I go above and beyond to make the special things special. Not because of the money spent but because of every detail I’ve tucked away to make things feel special, unique and entirely personal for them. Just like how we make their birthday cakes.

So today I want to remind you that it’s in the details. The big details, the small details, the major details and the minor ones. If your trying to figure out how to begin connecting with your step or adopted kids, consider starting with the details.