One thing that I try to keep in mind with blogging is that 5 or more years from now, should any of the kids come across this on the web, I want to be able to sit next to them while they read it. I debated about actually typing this blog out. Would it be something the kids would want to read and if they did, how would it make them feel? My hope is that by the end of this that they will understand what I mean.
I do not love my step-kids as my own. I just do not.
I love them in an entirely different way that I never knew was possible. I was a step-mama prior to being a mama. This meant that these kids had to endure a young 20 something trying to figure out how to “parent” two kids that she did not give birth to. Most of us are so young during these growing pains that we do not remember the mistakes our parents made in those early years. Yes, there are some that have lasting impressions. It is usually something that tends to shape us, for better or worse, into who we are today. My step-kids were old enough to remember some of those mistakes.
There were so many growing pains they had to go through with us. The usual newlywed phase that slowly transitions into that inevitable rough patch phase because marriage is hard. Then the phase of finally getting a grasp on marriage. Plus, having to deal with an ex-wife, overbearing mother in law, and figuring out our family dynamic. It was rough to say the least. These kids were troopers though. Does that mean that they were perfect? Nope. My step-sons relationship with his mom is strained to say the least and it used to bleed over into how he treated me. My feelings were hurt a lot in those early years because I always felt pushed to the back. Here are some things I learned though:
It Gets Better with Time
Those early years. are. hard. Harder than what we all think. Everyone is watching your every move. Let me tell you a little secret. You do what you think you need to do. You are not taking the place of the biological parent because that will never happen. You are an extra support person for your spouse and your new step-kids. This does not mean you have to go on every single field trip or go to every parent-teacher conference or try to mesh together in that first year. It will not happen. The less you try to force it the better everyone will feel. Your step-kids will not think any less of you. Trust me on this.
Be Ok with the Mistakes
We’re human. You will make mistakes. You will undoubtedly say or do something that will step on someones toes. Learn from it and move on. Looking back now, I can see where I messed up. It wouldn’t change anything today but there are some things I see a little more clearly. You know what? That is ok. It took me many years to be ok with the mistakes. I now have pretty good relationships with both of my stepkids because I finally was ok with the mistakes.
Find Your Own Activities
I wanted to have my own thing with each kid. No one forced me to do it. It was something I wanted to do on my own. My step-son and I have a favorite cheap teriyaki take-out place. No one else in our house likes it that much but we love it. Anytime it is just he and I, that is usually what we eat for dinner. My step-daughter and I used to have a girls night when she was younger. We would go to Target and Moe’s. That was our thing. Moe’s is still the one place she and I usually go eat at by ourselves. You may not have this opportunity because the biological parent does not allow it. That is OK. You do not have to go out and do something. If they are at your house for a weekend, day, whatever the time may be, then try to do something with them one on one. Bake cookies, find a craft, play a game, or whatever they may be into. Mold it into something that makes it unique for your family.
Find Your Own Family Activities
We try to take a family vacation at least once a year. With just us. No grandparents, cousins, aunts, or uncles. We always take snacks for each road trip that they love. Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips and mini-pigs in a blanket are our staples. I started fixing them from the very first trip and we have them every time. It’s our family thing. We also get a family ornament every year. We have 8 years worth of ornaments that in years down the road we will be able to give to the kids for sentimental purposes. Was it easy when they were younger on our family vacations? Nope. They still wanted to call their mom on our family trip. It was not because they were trying to stir up anything. They were kids. They wanted to share the new exciting things they were doing like kids do. Do not get upset if they want to call their other parent. It is nothing against you. Yes, the other parent may seem like they are intruding. The trick is, you control when they call. If they are too young to have a cell phone, then when they ask to call suggest they call after dinner or before bed. If they have a cell phone, that can be trickier. While you may not be able to control everything, make a family pact that you will have phone free hours during the day where everyone puts their phones together. Then you go out and do something. You will survive without your phone and if you feel like you need a phone, then you or your spouse takes their phone but only use it in emergencies, etc.
Date Your Spouse
We all hear this one all the time right? I cannot tell you how true this is though. The kids need to see you both making time for each other. For most divorced kids, they may have not seen their parents making time for each other. Be the example for them. We have always tried to take a short trip with just the two of us once a year. It helped us reconnect as a couple and come back ready to face the challenges. Even just a night alone can do wonders for you. If you have family you can trust with the kids, then drop them off for the night and enjoy yourselves! Do not worry about what your spouse’s ex will think. This is not their marriage. It is between you and your spouse. She/He may think you need to spend more time with the kids. This is usually coming from a place of jealousy though. Stay focused on your spouse. One day these kids will be all grown and you don’t want to be living with a stranger.
Being a step-parent is hard. There is just no way around it. I was blessed to have two step-kids who are amazing kids. They hold a special place in my heart that no one else ever will.
Leave me a comment below on anything you learned from being a step-parent or what you may have learned from your step-parent.