In the shower (where it seems my clearest thoughts prevail) I was thinking about how many people lose out when they simply don’t allow, encourage or welcome a relationship with their step-children. Many times I overhear that they don’t accept them due to manners, dislike for the other parents, their behaviors etc. When your family includes either your own children and a new spouse, or the children between you only, that is not a family and you are not only hurting the children you are hurting yourself.
I have a friend that I adore, she and her husband were granted full custody of a boy about 10 or so, due to a mother that just left him one day. My friend was less than pleased, this boy dressed scroungy, he had different manners, picked on her kids, and she felt he was more of a hassle than a blessing. Her husband worked nights, and she would complain and feel that she was raising “his” child, and it wasn’t her responsibility.
She would come to me and ask how come it was so easy for me, with my prior stepson, and how did I do it without getting upset – her biggest question was “How can you love him?” My answer to her was that for me, it was easy to love him – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have hard times. We all come around to things differently. Now in my current relationship, I went from raising a one year old to a nine year old. HUGE difference, difference in parenting, difference in attitudes, lifestyle and to be honest he isn’t used to have a mother type figure – let alone a steady one. We have our days of where it is real work, and there are days I am sure he doesn’t like me. But, tomorrow is a new day and I am not giving in. One day, one step at a time.
While being able to understand her frustration, I never could see how she could dislike this boy, because she had such a wonderful heart. After awhile I noticed she complained about him less, and he appeared in more photos, and the stories she shared were about him and the great things he was doing.
Fast forward a couple of years, and she and her spouse are now divorcing. Something that needed to happen a few years back, but when I say she has a great heart, I meant an extremely forgiving heart. Of course, I asked about her stepson and her response warmed my heart ” He goes with me of course, he is my son — it is written in our agreement that when the kids are with me, they are ALL with me.”
She took on a situation that wasn’t hers, she often did it alone, however the resentment wasn’t put on the child, the discipline, the nurturing, the love and care that she at times wanted to withhold – she never did. In the end, this boy grew into a young man who gained a mother and a sense of worth because someone who he fully expected to let him down, instead lifted him up.
My point here I guess is not just to share how easy it was for me, or how difficult it can be these days in a new relationship or how she was able to come around. But, more in that you all stand to lose when you choose to divide your family, solely due to the differences in hygiene, clothing, manners, attitude, or because they are simply not your responsibility. The truth is, that any child inside your home is your responsibility – whether it be a friend of your child’s, or niece or nephew, or a stepchild. And, the real question is why would you choose to shut out a child in any manner any how? Simply because you don’t like him or her – a child is a product of their environment – show them a positive environment – and watch that child make positive changes.
If not, you and your spouse or significant other will have an endless battle on your hands, there will be underlying resentment around every corner, and hidden under every argument, every family discussion – because you are not truly a family. Being a family doesn’t mean that you will agree, or that everyone ends up happy – it means that all are considered an important viable interest in your choices.
If you get to the point where you don’t like her/his kids, and they never say thank you, they will never be as good as your kids, and your spouse will never be as good a parent as you are – Is it time to ask yourself a different question like what am I doing with this person, is this the relationship for me? Seriously sit back, and ask who it is that you are hurting, because no one wants to be with someone like that. If your complaint is constantly their kids, that is a problem that needs fixing instead of complaining.
Do you want to fix your relationship with a stepchild or maybe build one? If so, here are some great ways to do so:
Sit and talk – even observe – see what they have to offer, a talent they possess and get involved.
Listen – put yourself in their shoes, remember they are a child.
Go on a date together – you, your spouse and them. Just you – not your kids at first.
Then go on a date with them all together.
Then go on a date just you and them.
Eat dinner together as a family – sharing your day or something that happened that made it great.