Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Things I Found Out Weren't True About Stepparenting

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In stepparenting, as in just about anything there are myths that become standard beliefs over time based on other people's stories and experiences. I never once before I met my husband imagined that I would be a steppparent. I never considered it, thought about what I would do in that situation or even opened my mind up to the possibility.

So when my new boyfriend, years ago, told me there was something he needed to share with me and told me he had a small daughter, I'll be honest, it broke my heart. Not so much because there was a child in the picture as I knew it meant there was an EX in the picture. Children I was good with, an EX affecting every part of our future I was not so happy with. I also knew this news would affect us financially for years to come. Little did I know it would be 100 times worse than what I imagined on that score.

I ended up taking a long walk by myself after learning this news and hours later when we regrouped I told him I wasn't sure I could handle all these people in his life. It was too complicated for me. Weeks later I met his young daughter, hit it off immediately and now years later I would not trade my relationship with her for almost anything. It has been a huge blessing in my life.

Looking back I had mythical expectations about what life as a stepparent would be like. Here are five I found to be untrue in my relationship with my husband, my stepdaughter and in my life.

1) That a stepchild would consider me a second class citizen in her life. I know everyone's situation is different and age has a huge, huge, huge affect on how stepchildren accept a new stepparent. But I find that if a child feels you are sincerely trying to bless their life by your involvement, they will be friendly and appreciate you. I know this is not the case for everyone, but I do believe that in most cases, this can be true.

2) That my husband would consider me an outsider when it came to parenting his child. My husband grew up with almost no experience with children. I grew up an oldest child with lots of younger cousins and neighbors. I did a ton of babysitting, teaching and mentoring of kids from birth to college age in my life. Kids are very familiar to me. So I was thrilled to realize that my husband is a phenomenal father, I think it's what he does best of anything in the world. He is incredibly intuitive, an amazing teacher, fun and loving. I appreciate that he has allowed me to use all my love and all my experience in parenting his daughter with him. He has only encouraged me to participate as a parent in her life and has shown great gratitude for my loving her and blessing her life.

3) That maturity and wisdom would make dealing with an EX a mature and simple experience. I am sure it's made it easier, but it has not made it easy. What I hoped would be a situation of mutual respect, after being lied to and falsely accused so many times just cannot be that. It requires a huge amount of maturity not to act out, speak my mind and let her have it. There is a reason why this woman has nothing but broken relationships in her past and no amount of generosity and maturity from others is going to change that. Lessons for me to learn.

4) That parents emotions are immune to being hurt by things their children or stepchildren say or do. As kids go, we have one of the sweetest, but one lesson I have learned is that I can get my feelings hurt by things she says, even unintentionally, sometimes even jokingly. I wish I'd been a little more thoughtful to my parents growing up. I cringe to think I've hurt their feelings with stupid things I have said.

5) That you ever get used to having kids in your home only part of the time. After years, I still have moments where I think I've lost or forgotten my stepdaughter somewhere only to remember that she's with her mom. The disruption to our household on each of the weekends she leaves to visit her other parent are painful and don't get easier. Her total personality change when we pick her up two days later is still completely stressful. Gladly she becomes more herself after a few minutes, but to see her face look empty, lifeless and soulless those first few minutes is deeply unsettling. Having to plan our lives around these visits, miss so many school and other activities because of visitation is a continual frustration and sadness.

These are just a few things I've learned and changed my mind about a bit over the years. How about you? Are there things you expected that turned out to be nothing like you expected? Please share them in the comments!

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