by guest blogger Kimberly F.
As we prepared to send J off to college for the first time, I started thinking about the past 11 years I have spent with him as his step-mom. (I’m currently the mom of a 2 ½ year old as well and yes, that’s a big jump.) I wondered about what it would be like if I was ever in the situation of being divorced and someone else was to be my child’s step-mom. I don’t know how I could possibly handle such a situation. Fortunately, I don’t foresee that being an issue for me because my husband and I seem to be made for each other – for better or worse! I never intended to be anyone’s step-mom, but these things happen when you fall in love with someone who just happens to be divorced and a dad.
The past 11 years have certainly not been a cakewalk step-mom-wise. We started out a bit rough because J was always very quiet and reserved in my presence, and frankly, rarely acknowledged my existence for the first 3 years. That didn’t stop me from trying. I tried to come up with special projects or fun things for us to do and I tried to let him know that I wasn’t there to be his mom – he had one already. But I wanted him to know that he could trust me and depend on me, and that I’d take care of him. It’s a very hard role to play: you aren’t the parent, but you are a parent. It’s hard to be the adult in that situation, and I know it was equally hard (or harder) to be the kid. We managed through it and while it wasn’t easy, I know I had it way easier than a lot of "steps" out there. I tried to take the little joys and victories and make them last as long as possible.
Of course, since there was a divorce, there is also a "real" mom (and step-dad) in the picture. I started thinking about her as well, and I guess we’ve both been quite lucky (I’m making assumptions on the “we” here) in that we’re both reasonable people, we get along and we have some of the same ideas about parenting. As I said, I can’t imagine being in the situation of someone else raising my child, even though I helped raise someone else’s child, and was raised myself by someone who wasn’t my biological parent. You initially get to choose who your child’s parents will be, but when divorce rears its ugly head, that choice is no longer solely in your hands. When you are the child of divorced parents you rarely ever have a say in who you are going to have to tolerate being in your life.
As someone who has been the child of divorce and raised a child of divorce, I can tell you it takes a lot of patience from all parties involved. If you are involved in raising a step-child, remember to see it from his perspective. You are the intruder. Don’t barge in and take over, but take the time to see how things function before you impose your rules and decisions. I believe that children should be respectful to adults, but that should be a two-way street.
I’d like to thank J’s mom for trusting me with her child, and to thank J for accepting me as his family. And I’d like to thank my Dad for making the choice to raise me as his daughter.