My stepchildren were teens and pre-teens when I met them. Certainly old enough to have seen the ravages of a marriage gone wrong between their parents. Whether it was the incessant fighting, the damning words or the fiery threats, they had seen the worst of marriages and I dared to think that they might believe that marriage was less than an ideal choice for them in the future.
And certainly not a situation that they ever wanted to see their dad enter into again.
Still, the inevitable happened. The man who was once only my boss, worked his way into my heart. The man who swore he would never again marry, rescinded those words. And we found ourselves at the altar two and a half years later.
I suspect at first the three little Lacys were skeptical of any relationship in which their dad was involved. After all, they hadn’t had the good fortune of witnessing their dad experience anything other than conflict and strife.
Having been the product of divorced parents myself, I knew that the effects of divorce could manifest themselves in children long after the demise of the marriage. I also knew that children were resilient, as I was. By the time I married my husband, my mom had built a stable, loving relationship with my stepdad over the course of nearly 25 years. Though I had seen divorce firsthand, I had also experienced the side effects of that long-lived marriage… security, perseverance, love.
Given that I was tasked with being a custodial stepmom, I spent a great deal of time reading books, blogs, magazines, etc., before I married and in the early days of my marriage. To be honest, I still do. Parenting really never ends no matter the age of the child. The desire to be the best role model I can be is the impetus behind many, if not most, of the choices I make on a day-to-day basis. However, through the past 10 years, perhaps the best lesson I have learned is this: what I have to offer is maybe all they really need.
Kids learn what they live. They watch. They listen. They sense tension. They recognize sadness and pain. They also feel love and understanding and patience. I see that my own parents — all of them — were testaments to things I wanted to be, or in the alternative, knew that I could do better. It was sometimes a conscious decision, but perhaps more often a gentle nudge foreshadowing my own future choices. Despite my own experience, I didn’t realize that mine and my husband’s marital relationship was becoming the example that the little Lacys would look to in their own lives. I suspect they didn’t realize it either. Fortunately, what they did realize were the kind gestures, the date nights, the kissing, the talking, the desire to be with one another through thick and thin.
While I’ve been working on creating a healthy marriage and a solid family life, I’ve also been creating a legacy for my stepchildren. I was loving their dad and allowing them to take a front row seat. I was sharing my life and showing them how to share theirs.
Our middle child is engaged to be married in the spring. Our youngest has been in a relationship since high school. Our oldest is ready to make babies immediately if only her Prince Charming would show up! Turns out, my fears were unfounded. They’ve had the benefit of seeing the breakdown of a marriage and the accompanying ugliness. Yet, they have also had the experience of seeing great love. As it turns out, that was the greatest gift I could have given them.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”—Robert Fulghum
What has your role as stepparent brought to your family’s lives?
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