Parenting

Stepping in Your Stepchild’s World

You never thought you’d find yourself attracted to someone who already had children. Not exactly the picture you grew up within your imagination as a little girl. You know the one, the prince rescuing you from the tower and riding off into the sunset with you on horseback. Nope. No extra horses in that picture with stepchildren riding behind you. But it happened and you traversed the minefield of dating and amazingly, a marriage ceremony.

Congratulations, you are now officially, legally or whatever” ly”, a Step-Mom. Your relationship with your stepchildren began the day you met, so it’s not like “Hi, my name is______” when you return from your honeymoon! You have established some sort of relationship up to this point but now it takes a sharp turn. So buckle up! It’s a hair-raising, gut-wrenching, “watch for the unexpected” kind of ride!

That’s where I found myself, marrying a wonderful man whose daughter was 2 years 3 months old. We dated for an entire year since both of us had baggage from previous relationships, some more obvious than others, say, for example, oh I don’t know… a daughter and some ex’s. And seemingly, just like that, I was her Stepmom. Whoa! Paradigm shift! She liked it when I was “Daddy’s best friend” but to have me move into “their” house was a momentous boundary challenge for her. Maybe with older children, they can grasp ahead of time the change of status, but a 2-year-old, not so much. It’s hard to explain that a marriage license and a ceremony will change our relationship.
So we began to swim through the murky waters, as maybe you did too. First, I was “allowed” to be in the house with them but mostly “busy” in another room. Second, I was able to share the same room with them, but not interact. During this stage, she would play with just me or just Daddy but rarely both of us together. Third was the breakthrough when she would willingly play with both of us together, in the same room, with the same toys. What joy and success many weeks and months of patience grew! It is a never-ending journey. Sharing space. Sharing time. Sharing love. Don’t let anyone kid you that it is easy. It’s NOT. It may well be the hardest task you undertake in your adult life. And I’m not exaggerating. But their future depends on the steps you are willing to take now.

Last to bloom is trust, the cornerstone of all relationships. At age 2, it takes trust to help with a car seat belt or getting dressed. At age 5, it takes trust to fix hair or decorate a room. At age 8, it takes trust to help with homework, talk out friend conflicts or choose movies. At age 11, it takes trust to open up about feelings, insecurities, and questions about life. At age 14, it takes trust to look at the cache on the family computer and openness to discuss growing up. Seeing life from your perspective is what makes you the adult, but looking at life from your stepchild’s perspective is what makes you the parent. Don’t be afraid to step into their shoes. Mark my words, they will hurt you and break that precious trust. Only time will tell if someday they will thank you, or not. But you won’t live with any regrets. That’s paramount for me.

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