Lizard is an integral part of my life.
By “Lizard,” I mean Elizabeth, the girl formerly known as my stepdaughter. I met her when she was three years-old, shivering in a beach towel at her cousin’s swimming party. I’ve found her to be undeniably adorable ever since. I had the pleasure of spending more time with her and mentoring her when I was her stepmom for almost six years. Since then, thanks to the cooperation of her parents, we’ve been able to maintain a close relationship that’s grown and evolved over the years.
When I started dating, I decided that anyone who wanted to even consider being with me must make the decision to accept Liz as well. This decision was met with mixed reviews–some friends and family lauded my choice to include her so wholly in my life, and some people suggested that I needed to cut ties with her and let her go.
That’s easy to say if you’ve never loved someone completely for several years, helped raise them, watched them grow, and created an inseparable bond with them. So I pooh-poohed those people and continued pursuing time with Liz. When one guy I dated told me he thought it was “weird” that I still had a relationship with my former stepdaughter, I immediately crossed him off the list. I was serious about loving Liz, and I knew that anyone who chose me had to also open his heart to her.
One of the most selfless ways I’ve seen James express his love for me is through accepting Liz. He has not only been “okay” with us spending time together, but he’s gone along for the ride and has gone out of his way to ensure her inclusion in our lives. The first time he met her was at her high school homecoming football game last year. I was impressed by his ability to be at ease around her entire family and support me in my support of her. Since then, he’s been nothing but loving, generous, and welcoming toward her. Every time we see her, I watch them develop their own rapport and respect for each other.
On my way home from work Friday, I called him to check on what time we’d be leaving to pick up Liz for the weekend.
“I’m heading home right now,” he said. “I had to pick up a few things.”
When his truck pulled in the driveway, he smiled and waved, and my heart leaped, the same way it always does when I see him coming home. He stepped out, grocery bags in hand, and hugged me.
“I thought Liz might want some cheese dip because she liked it so much last time, and I bought some fishing hooks so we can take her trout fishing tomorrow.”
Tears came by my eyes as I saw, in action, how he’d opened his own heart and home to someone else’s child, all because he knows that she’s so much more than that to me.