Welcome to 2012. The age where unfortunately, divorce is seen in almost every household nationwide, and blended families are more common than not. Being previously divorced after 7 ½ years of marriage, I can promise you that I do not take marriage lightly, nor did I not have every intention to stay married to my ex-husband. Lord knows I tried, but there are some things you just have no control over, no matter how badly you want to make it work. If I learned anything in that marriage, it’s that the only person’s actions I have control over are my own. It also showed me what I DON’T want in a marriage. So, when I met my husband of almost 5 years now, I knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want in a marriage. And because he was previously married as well, he knew the same. But, that’s another story entirely. Today, I want to focus on something I have learned a lot about... step-parenting.
When I met my husband, I had an almost 7 year old little girl and he had a 3 year old little girl. Very quickly, the girls bonded and became instant sisters. And I was lucky enough to witness what a wonderful father this man really was. He would move heaven and earth to see his daughter. Still does. I’m talking, drive 3 hours to go watch a one hour soccer game, and then turn around and come home. He never misses a child support payment. He calls her several times a week. He is such an amazing father, which was a big reason as to why I fell so deeply in love with him. My ex-husband never saw my daughter. He never paid child support. He always tried to make me feel guilty for wanting child support. He would forget to call. Of course, I never thought it would come to that with my ex-husband, but hey… it turns out I had no idea who he was to begin with…. Yes, that’s another story too. So for today, I’ll stick to my chosen topic.
In 2007, my husband and I married and created our instant family of four. In 2009, my ex-husband signed away his rights to my daughter and my husband adopted her. He treats her as his own. He practices softball with her every single day, takes her to every practice, attends every game. He loves her as his own and I couldn’t ask for a better daddy for my 12 year old girl. He introduces her as his daughter. Everyone that sees him with her says “She must look like her mother”, and he just says “Yes, she does!” because it’s obvious her tanned skin, brown hair, brown eyed self looks nothing like him! But he would never say that she wasn’t his daughter, because in every way that counts, she is.
My step-daughter on the other hand looks VERY much like him. She has got the funniest personality I have ever seen in a child. She is 8 going on 21 for sure. She is very inquisitive, very attentive, super smart and won’t let you forget ANYTHING! My step-daughter and I have had our issues in the past, but since giving birth to OUR daughter (that’s right, three girls… his, mine and ours) my step-daughter has been the sweetest, most polite and caring little girl you could ever meet. But it wasn’t always like that.
There has been times when my step-daughter would say things to me that I KNEW she didn’t come up with on her own… I am trying EXTREMELY hard to keep from speaking negatively about my husband’s ex-wife, so I will keep the comments on that to a minimum. So, I’ll just say that my step-daughter at times, tried very hard to push my buttons, with some obvious coaching. My point is there have been times that being an active step-mom to a little girl that also has a very active mom has been difficult. But I can’t let her get a rise out of me, because it’s obvious that is the intention of the button pushing coach. The only thing I can do is be the bigger person. To rise above the very adult comments coming out of a very little girl’s mouth. I keep telling myself that one day my step-daughter will decide for herself what kind of person I am. And the only way I know to approach that, is to keep being the person that I am. To keep loving her… to keep being there for her no matter what.
Since our 11 month old daughter was born, my step-daughter has made amazing progress towards building a relationship with me. She waits at the door for me to come home if she gets there before I do, she runs to my car to give me a hug as soon as I pull in. She asks if I need help cleaning, or doing dishes. She volunteers to help with the baby. She hugs me and tells me she loves me before she goes to bed. She has completely opened up to me. She tells me things that are going on at school with the other kids that she doesn’t even tell her dad. I’m not sure why the change took place once the baby was born, but I am just grateful that it did. I am so happy that we are building a meaningful relationship. And it’s not just because I’m her dad’s wife. It’s because she honestly trusts me and respects me. I like to think the reason for this change is from me continuing to be the person that I am, and not getting wrapped up in the “baby mama drama”. She has also gotten a little older, and like I have always told myself she would do, she has forged her own opinion about me based on what she has seen and how she has been treated by me, regardless of what the button pushing coach says. I know as she gets older, it won’t always be easy. There will be times when she is a teenager, that she will hate me. There will be times that she hates her mother. But, we just have to keep going, and keep loving our children regardless.
Parenting is hard… Step-parenting can be downright difficult. But all of it is worth it. Being a step-parent can and should be very rewarding. If you are faced with a situation where you aren’t sure how to handle the step-parenting aspects of a new marriage and the blended family, my advice is this: treat the child as your own. Love them. Listen. Be there for them. Make sure they know that you won’t tolerate disrespect in your home, but also make sure they know that they don’t HAVE to love you. I had to explain that to my step-daughter a few years ago when she told my oldest daughter that she didn’t love me anymore. The only reason she said it was because I was in the same room, and she was trying to get a reaction. I bent down to her at eye level and I told her that she didn’t have to love me, but she did need to be nice to me when she was at my house. And that even if she doesn’t love me, I will always love her just as much as I love my own daughter. So now when she tells me she loves me, I know it’s because she truly does. After all, I told her she didn’t HAVE to love me… yet she does anyway.
And one last bit of advice: Never talk bad about the child’s “other parent” to the child or even around the child. Chances are, when they are older, they will decide for themselves who is worthy of sharing the details of their lives with. And if you always hold your head up high and don’t stoop to the level of name calling and childish antics, chances are that person will be you. I love being a mom. And I feel blessed to have been given the challenge of being a step-parent. I only hope to be the step-parent to my step-daughter that my step-dad was to me… yes, that’s also another story. You’ll just have to stay tuned!
If you are interested in giveaways or having me review your products, please visit my other blog This Girl's No Expert.