Recently, several people I know have personally come to me and expressed to me their difficulties in raising or even entering into a relationship where a child already exists. How can you know that you can love that child the same as your own, especially if they are challenging?
I’ve never been a step-mother. I’ve never been a step-child. So when I divorced and my son was 5, my ex-husband took up almost immediately with the woman he is currently married to now. Whether the timeline on that fits is neither here nor there to me, my only focus was did she treat my child differently? When he told me during a car ride that she had a framed picture of just him in her house, the relief I felt was immense. She cared enough to put him on her wall- just him. She wasn’t me, but I felt like I could trust her then.
I remember another time on a car ride my son slipped and said he loved this woman, and I remember the fear he seemed to feel as he scrambled to assure me, his mother who was alone that he loved me more. I stopped him. I couldn’t let him feel torn apart by love. Love only enhances our lives, and I told him that. I told him to never be afraid to let someone love you or to love someone, because we need more love.
I have a friend, Sheri, who let’s just be honest I have a strongly bonded parasocial relationship to a media persona that I highly admire and respect, but because this is MY BLOG- SHERI LYNCH IS MY BEST FRIEND.
All kidding aside, I’ve listened to Sheri talk about her real life both on the radio and on social media. I’ve met her once, I believe and even though she punched a man in the face for scaring her grandmother (because Philly, ya know?) she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet.
I bring her up for this- when I first began listening she was dating her second husband at the time. This man would later father her two daughters, but he already had a child before they entered their union. What I always loved is that Sheri always referred to him as her “Bonus Son”. Think about that? Disney has vilified the “step-mother/step-child” concept but a BONUS? Everyone wants a bonus.
But what if that bonus feels more like a pain in the ass acting out all the time making you want to pull your hair out? What then?
I’ve been asked this many times and I’m not sure why as I claim to be no guru on parenting- but, I have the innate ability to look at another viewpoint just to see how something could occur.
Think about it. You’re maybe 6 or 7 years old, and for the sake of making things less complicated we’ll say a father has remarried and had more children with his new wife. How would you process that? Remember you don’t have the ability to process things like an adult, so- maybe you’d feel a little bit like this isn’t YOUR family. It’s Daddy’s new family. Maybe it’s Daddy’s new family he loves more. If I love this woman he loves is that betraying my own mother?
I know children don’t think conceptually like this, of course- they act out. They aggravate. They draw attention to themselves to remind you they are there. They make themselves difficult to love to see if you really do love them.
How does one get past that? Again, I admit I have no experience there, but I would imagine if it were me, and I knew the relationship was solid and permanent I would meet that child where they are in their relationship with me. I would ask myself would I be as irritated by this if it were my own child doing it? I would try to spend one on one time doing something fun with just them. I would do my best to bond the way you do in any relationship. Get to know one another one on one.
Turn that step into a bonus 🙂.