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I didn’t give birth to her, but Julie has become a daughter in my heart

When I married my husband 28 years ago, I walked not just into a marriage but a family. Julie, Phil’s 11 year-old daughter, immediately became an integral part of my life. While attempting to adjust to a new role of step-mother at the age of 26, Julie had to adjust not only to someone new in her life, but in her father’s life as well. Sharing, on both our parts, had to be a conscious effort.
At first, Julie lived in Kansas with her mother. Although infrequent, visits were fun and full of things to do. The summer that Julie was about to enter high school, she came to Virginia to be with us and attend summer school. Julie announced to us one day that she wanted to stay with us and not return to Kansas. With the recent birth of our first son, in a blink of an eye we went from just the two of us living in our home to a family of four. Juggling a newborn and a 14 year-old teenage girl was not an easy feat.
Raising a girl is very different than raising boys. Phil and I have three sons. While boys are typically more active, noisy and can tear a room apart in 30 seconds, girls are far more emotional. I know this sounds strange coming from a woman, but it’s true. It wasn’t long before I realized, through arguments, crying and pulling my hair in frustration sometimes, that although I was Julie’s step-mother, that role wasn’t working. There were only 15 years between us, and being a parental figure to her just wasn’t what she needed. While I disagreed with him at the time and loudly professed my feelings, Phil took a step back and let Julie and I work it out.
It took awhile, but slowly, sometimes ever so slowly, our roles changed. It became more of sisters and of friends. Julie would confide in me and I in her. It wasn’t a sudden huge change, but silent and slow, something that snuck up on me before I realized it. When someone asked how many children we had, I answered, “Well, Phil has a daughter and we have three sons together.” Phil smiled at me and said “Oh no, you were there. She is your daughter.” He is right. Although I didn’t give birth to her and raise her from infancy, she has become a daughter of my heart.
Phil and I are excitedly preparing for a trip to Kansas. Julie and her husband, Fernando, recently had their second child, a little boy. With retirement comes benefits, and we are ready to enjoy a leisurely trip to spend time with our family in Kansas. I can hardly wait to hold our grandchildren in my arms.
A few years ago, Julie told me that she considers me one of her best friends. It was a very emotional moment for me.  It’s something neither one of us ever imagined way back when I was 26 and she was 11, but it has happened. Not only is she my daughter, but she is my friend. I can’t ask for more than that.