I love to hear stories about a stepdad coming into a child’s life and there is an instant bond. Those stories always warm my heart. But, if your family is anything like mine, there was no bond at first sight and the “blending” part of a blended family was more like oil and water. When I met my husband, my son thought he was a pretty cool friend of mine. But, when my friend started to become more than a friend, things started to change. My son was used to it being just him and I.
He was accustomed to my world revolving around him and only him. At one point it was just us against the world and now one of “them” in the world is infiltrating “Us”. When there was an addition to my world, things became uncomfortable. I could empathize with them both. My son wanted it to be Mommy and Son before anything or anyone else. My boyfriend wanted desperately for things to get serious and become my husband. As time progressed and our relationship developed, the role of my now fiancé in my son’s life became more disciplinarian. And our parenting styles are completely different. This caused even more of a strain on both of my relationships. I felt completely stuck in the middle. This was a change for us all! None of us had experienced this exact situation before. We all had to adjust and the adjustment didn’t happen overnight.
I tried everything! I tried to force them to go on outings, to talk, to support each other, to be nice, to enjoy each other’s company but nothing worked and the emotional toll on me was draining. Can you imagine being stuck in between two of the most important people in your life? I questioned many times if I would go through with marrying the most loving man I had ever known to preserve my son’s happiness and joy. Willing to forfeit my own happiness for the happiness of my child, I thought long and hard, but I prayed harder. I stopped all of my forcing and just prayed. The more I prayed, the more God showed up in their relationship. But through the struggle, my husband remained patient, positive, and hopeful.
I now give kudos to both my son and my husband. And I am forever grateful to God! They have really grown and developed a relationship independent of me. I see both of their efforts on a daily basis. It has been beautiful to see their relationship flourish. Things are nowhere near perfect and the oil and water dynamic sometimes rear its ugly head, but they have a loving father-son relationship and I couldn’t be happier.
I sometimes sit and wonder if he ever questioned marrying me because the lack of relationship between him and my son. My husband chose this role for himself. He experienced the struggle firsthand through the beginning of our relationship and ultimately decided to put in the work necessary to gain my son’s trust and be welcomed as a dad. He decided to become a dad all over again. But this time, to someone who had already lived 7 years without his influence and struggled developing a relationship with him. He chose to take on both the blissful and stressful moments of parenting. Not only has he accepted the challenge of parenting a child that is not biologically his, he has succeeded with flying colors.
My advice to anyone struggling to blend a family, is do not force it. Let the connection organically blossom. Once it starts to bloom, nurture it. Give positive reinforcement. When you see substantial efforts, celebrate and appreciate it. Trust each other. Trust that even though your parenting styles may differ, you both have the same goal. Give the new parent space and opportunity to parent. Pray about it!! And last but not least, don’t be afraid to seek counsel. There may be an underlying cause of conflict that you are unable to unfold. Therapy maybe the solution.
You are the real MVP! You have taken on a responsibility that you did not ask for. This responsibility has come with the territory of finding true love. You have flown in with your cape to liberate a single mom from raising a child on their own. I cannot imagine the struggle. To step in the middle of a parenting situation and manage the internal struggle of respecting boundaries while loving as your own.
How difficult is it to be a father without trying to replace an existing father? On a scale of 1-10, how difficult is it to build a relationship from scratch when the child wants nothing to do with you? How difficult is it to parent when “you are not my father!”? How difficult is it to live up to an expectation that is impossible to meet? I’m sure it is extremely difficult, but we would never know because you handle the circumstance with grace. Somehow you rise above the difficulties and create a friendship, a bond of trust and love with the child. From the outside looking in, no one could detect that you are in fact not the biological father.
Thank you for never forcing a relationship and on the contrary, letting it organically happen. You never tried to be a father figure. You just strive to be a great male role model which is inevitably becoming a great father figure. Thank you for showing up even when there is no one else in the crowd. You do not know how much that means to a child. Thank you for filling in the gaps. As a mother, when I am drained from motherhood, you step right in and provide relief. Thank you stepdad for not taking rejection personally. I know it is painful to be rejected by someone you love deeply and desperately want love in return, but you never take it personal and continue to try to build a mutual loving relationship. Thank you for making space and not trying to replace the father of my child. You consistently encourage a mutual loving relationship with the kid and their father because you know how important that relationship is. Thank you for sharing me, (your wife) with your “step”child. You understand the bond and dynamic that came before you and you support it 100%. Thank you for being stern by showing and teaching my child respect. Even though you understand the rejection, you will not accept disrespect and that in itself is teaching my child to respect you as their father. Thank you for making time, effort, and love in your heart. Thank you for never giving up as difficult as it may have gotten (or gets). There were many incidents that justified giving up, but you have never folded. Thank you for making a conscience choice to become a stepdad. You were able to experience the madness before committing, and you still committed to not only me but my child. Thank you for providing an example of how to love a woman. You love deeply and intensely, being an everyday image of how a man should treat a woman. Thank you for never forcing my child to call you dad. And Thank you for openly excepting when he does.
You don’t have to do any of this, but you do. And the choices you make everyday deserves to be recognized. Not just on Father’s Day, but every day. Thank you for not being an amazing stepdad, but being an amazing Dad.
To my husband and any other amazing Stepdads, whether you have mastered this parenting thing or struggle on a daily basis. I cannot say this enough, Thank you! Your decision to take on this role does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
A Grateful Mother & Wife, Mommi Mykal
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