This is the first of hopefully several posts regarding a large portion of adults and parents – the Step Parents.
Up until recently, I gave no thought to where the prefix “step” came from. Reading up on it, it actually means “orphan”. I started thinking about it when my sister went through a divorce. She met someone new and they have been discussing marriage and blending their families together. Her new boyfriend is a much better description of “man” than her ex-husband really could ever hope to be. He is kind and gentle, but also firm and a strong figure in his daughters’ lives, with hopes of behind the same strong figure in my niece and nephew’s lives as well.
I am a step-parent. I met my wife when her daughters were 8 and 5. We married when they were nearly 10 and 7. My wife and her daughters have been a part of my life for 13 years and myself as much a part of theirs. When I met them, they were going through some very hard times. The divorce was final about half a year before. I don’t think there are many divorces that are “pretty”, and this one fell in line with that thinking. Out of respect for all of them I will not go into too many details, but the girls’ father showed and has continued to show that they are not first (or second for that matter). Not a pot-shot…just an honest observation of events.
There aren’t many positive examples of step-parents in movies, TV shows, media – printed or digital. This is upsetting. I’m no where near the perfect parent and readily accept that. However; the promise I made to myself and my new family is that I would try to use the examples my own parents provided and help raise the girls in the most positive and supportive way.
This isn’t to say that all step-parents are good for the children whose family they marry into. There are several examples of those that aren’t interested in supporting their new children. Unfortunately those examples heavily outweigh the examples we have of positive step-parents, but that is a topic for another time.
I made several mistakes in the early years. As much as I tried, it was hard not to fall into the rut of making sure I was different than “him”. For the most part, I didn’t get into that frame of mind, but it was difficult to stay away. As I have said on the DoD Podcast, I am a “fix-it” type of person. If I see those that I love, hurting or in danger, my mind goes into overdrive on how to make it better. In my younger years I mistook that for doing what he wouldn’t do. Instead of just being a dad – a strong figure to these two girls who had been through a lot of pain and failed-trust – I tried at times to be “Super Dad”. I wanted them to be happy so much that I found myself trying to overdo it. I wanted the girls to see that men can be loving, caring, strong, and supportive. What I didn’t understand is that it would be an uphill battle, regardless of how much “separation” I tried to inject into the relationship. Trust can’t be bought and it is very rarely given when not earned.
Earning a child’s trust when you are not in blood-relation has to be organic. I realize that now. It has to be something that is fostered, cared for, and built. Unfortunately, throughout that process, you have to tear down some walls that were built from whatever the biological parent did or did not do. But…you can’t force the issue. This is certainly a situation where you have to be persistent and diligent, but not pushy or forceful. It is a fine line but very much worth it in the end.
He is a co-host on the DoD Podcast airing live every Friday Night at 9pm CST at www.twitch.tv/dadsofdestiny .