So, I've been asked by mamasource to be a response blogger on a new site they are putting together called mamapedia and link my question/answer on my blog as well as theirs.
I browsed the zillions of categories and found a recurring theme when it came to step families. I know the name of my blog, you don't have to remind me! But this subject is probably more touchy than any other I blog about. It's emotion filled, personal, heated, sensitive. But most of all, 100% biased. All the way around. There are never hard core facts that don't have a trace of opinion laced somewhere. Usually the scenarios are all pretty similar, but the dynamics are usually what either help or hurt the situation.
I feel the need to say that I'm only going to state the obvious once, so here it is. Remember it throughout the rest of the blog. THESE ARE ONLY MY OPINIONS.
1.One of the most important life lessons I can ever teach my children is to pick and choose your mate wisely. If you have a good foundation, your values and morals will be set in place to make your decision more constructive. As soon as that leaves my fingertips, I am fully aware that you cannot always see the future. People change and that isn't something you can control.
2.You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT expect your children to feel the same way about this new guy in your life as you do. Just because you were miserable with their dad, doesn't mean they were. And just because you think your new guy hung the moon, I promise you, the kids will think different. Pretending to be a family, won't cause it to happen no matter how long you pretend. And whatever time frame you think is appropriate for them to bond before it's okay for him to play any kind of authority figure, multiply that by about 5.
3. Will you ever have the same feelings for his children as you have for the children that came from your womb? Then why do you complain when he plays favorites every other weekend? Why do you get upset when he lets things slide that he would never let slide on a normal day with your kids? You know, the same kids that take every opportunity to back talk him because of the anger built up inside of them.
4. You compound the anxiety, fear, instability your children feel by not making a commitment to your significant other. By letting them stay your boyfriend or fiance, you are actively taking part in the barrier between your man and your children. Why should they bond with, love, or respect someone that has made no concrete commitment to their mother?
5. There is not enough time spent by women to put their selves into another woman's shoes. The sad reality is that we are almost always in the same shoes. We almost always have the same feelings as the ex-wife. (Hello, we are usually ex's also) We spend way to much time scrutinizing how the child support is used, the words she says, the times she goes out when the kids are with us, I could go on and on.....
These issues are pure toxins eating away at your current situation. Everyone has their own "but" to add into any equation I listed. The only way you can change the situation is to change your standards. And I'm not talking about the standards you have placed on everyone else. I'm talking about the standards you have placed for yourself. You chose to invite this new world into your childrens' lives. It is up to you as their parent AND step-parent, to now choose to rewrite their reality and their destiny. You have to decide that no matter what the situation, child support, alimony, visitation, nasty phone calls, disrespectful children, disrespectful ex's, disrespectful spouses, that YOU WILL NOT TAKE PART IN ANY OF IT. Sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world to not take things personally. Whether it is coming from the ex, your mate, or their children. You absolutely have to use the "Golden Rule" for the rest of your life, if you want to break the cycle of divorce for your children. All of your children. It is your responsibility to mend the hurt building up inside these babies. The only way to do that is to take your time. Take your time finding not your next husband, but your last husband. Take your time getting to know his children. Take your time developing a relationship between your children and your husband. If you have been in this relationship for years and are having problems, stop and regroup. Everyday is the past waiting to happen. You have a new opportunity to change the past with every breath you take, every word you say, every decision you make.
It doesn't matter if your step children have ADHD, it doesn't matter if their other parent is filling their head with garbage about your household, it doesn't matter if they scream and yell at you, it doesn't matter if they refuse to hug you, it doesn't matter how they are acting out. It is not their fault. They are craving stability. They are craving love that won't leave. They are craving a soft place to fall. When you yell at your husband, are you yelling because you truly hate him and don't care if the situation ever gets resolved? NO, you are yelling because you are trying the only way you know how, to get him to see your point. To agree with you. To validate your feelings of insecurity about the situation. Why would you think kids aren't doing the same thing? Why would you think the ex isn't doing the same thing? She is being that way out of guilt, frustration, and pride. These children are fearful, caught in the middle, full of guilt and frustration. You are filled with every single emotion I just listed. It is up to you to keep reading blogs like this. Keep asking questions about other situations. Most importantly, it is up to you to put your emotions aside and learn to communicate better. The times you want to scream because your 13 year old step daughter has just shut the bedroom door in your face, is the time you walk away, go in your room and write her a letter, then stick it under the door. The time your heart aches for your 9 year old son because he got in trouble for the 10th time just because his step brother is quieter, sneakier, knows how to play the parents better, is the time you hug BOTH of them. The time your husbands' ex calls to yell at him yet again, for not switching weekends with her is the time you keep your mouth shut except to offer your husband an alternative, but not to bad mouth her.
I know some of these things are so incredibly hard to do, but they will pay off in the long run. Give these children stability, give these ex's kindness, but most of all, give yourself credit for perserverance, because that's what it will take. Don't be offended if your step daughter tears up the note, or your step son pulls away when you try to hug him. Keep doing it. Keep being positive when speaking about their mother. Keep taking them to church and keep working on your relationship with your husband. Change the reality and legacy of what all of you are facing by being a blended family and stop the cycle.