I am that child. I admit it. Not the, “I will cut off your head and hack you into tiny bits,” kind of stepchild. But rather that “sassy, slamming doors, pretend that you aren’t part of my family” stepchild.
Perhaps some of the fault rested with my mother. (Who among us cannot cast blame?) You see, she didn’t have the benefit of stepparenting books, blended family guides and stepmom blogs. If she had, she would have known that first date to marriage in three months is not enough time for your children to get used to your new partner, much less a new marriage.
One fine September day my mom went on her first date to a church picnic with a gentleman we knew as a fellow church member. On December 5 of that same year, my sister and I stood outside our home in the freezing cold watching my mother pull into the driveway waving a wedding ring as her new husband unpacked a bag to spend his first night in our home as our new stepdad. (You are sympathizing with me about now, right?)
Keep in mind that there was nothing wrong with this particular fellow. He had been one of the leaders of our youth group. He was divorced with a son my sister’s age. He joked and played games with us. He interacted well with my dad. And even for a pre-teen, it was easy to see that my mom was happy.
I was determined to remove myself from my expanding family. I moped around, complained to my friends, failed to take part in family activities, ignored “her husband” and just generally filled my own life with angst. (Hey, it was the 80’s and I was nearly a teenager…it was called for.) However, the rest of my family was getting along fine. My sister eagerly played Atari with my stepbrother when he visited on weekends and even helped our new stepdad set up a woodshop where she stood along beside him learning about cherry wood and chair rail. My mom was giddy with newfound love. And my stepdad was fitting in just fine.
Insert slamming door here. Yes, that was my modus operandi. It only worked for about a minute. Soon, my mother was threatening to take the door off the hinges. I knew that she was serious. End of slamming doors.
It was almost picture perfect. Husband, wife and 2.2 kids. (My stepbrother lived with his mother and visited on weekends only.) If you saw our family at a picnic or sporting event you would not have guessed that we were anything other than the average (whatever the heck that means!) American family, with kids headed to college and parents headed for a well-earned retirement.
But I was the holdout, or perhaps I should say, my heart was the holdout. I huffed. I puffed. I ignored my stepdad’s overtures. I harassed my mom for marrying him. I mocked. I sassed. I locked myself in my bedroom alone. I threatened to move in with my dad. (My dad, that’s another story.)
Nonetheless, a twelve-year-old has only so much stamina to withstand fun. So, guess what? He won me over. Yes, he played water tag in the house with us. He relaxed curfews. He picked out cool gifts like an archery kit for my sister and a diamond bracelet for me.
More importantly, he endured. He abhorred my disrespectful comments but he coped. He coerced my mom not to take my bedroom door off the hinges. He encouraged free spiritedness and hard questions. He attended our sporting events, youth group presentations and awards ceremonies ad nauseum. He dealt with two daughters’ impending womanhood. He taught us how to drive. Yes, he endured.
Despite my misgivings over my mother’s quick nuptials, time told the real story. My stepfather was meant to be part of our family.
Twenty-eight years later, yes, we still look very much like that average American family. My parents are grandparents now. My sister and her husband have an eight-year-old daughter and through my own marriage I added three stepchildren to their brood.
The family that my husband and I created certainly has its ups and downs. I’ve encountered a few challenging moments with my own stepchildren. But it was the love, patience and that ever-important endurance of my own stepfather that provided an example of the parent that I knew I wanted to be and could be. (Of course there’s a mushy ending…)
And the moral of this story is that just because you too have a horrible stepchild doesn’t mean that they stay that way. Dare I say it, I’m reformed! Yes, my mom made mistakes initially. Any parent attempting to create a new family does. (Although reading my other articles may help you to make fewer. Shameless plug, I know.) But look what’s possible. Through the power of the pen, I am now able to show my appreciation for my stepdad’s perseverance, despite our woeful beginnings.