The dreaded “STEP” parent. I’m sure that before the Disney classic created the iconic “Evil Step Monster”, there were plenty of references to a step parent that may have not been the kindest heart to live with. This stigma can create havoc on any mixed household regardless of the actual relationship.
Dealing with a child who has my son’s diagnosis has been difficult on my family. He absolutely has his own perception of the world and how it should be working and I have raised him to be headstrong and confident in all aspects of life. I have raised all of my children to be proud of their voice and of their opinion on the basis that they have done plenty of research to back up whatever opinion they have. What was I thinking right? Makes me laugh as well but I wouldn’t change one thing. There is however a hitch to this particular situation. There was no imprinting by either parent on any of the 3 step children and in this case, there was no imprinting of automatic respect. No imprinting of automatic fear that is etched into a child at the earliest ages as they quickly learn their boundaries within their environment. My son never had automatic respect for my husband and his requirements of gaining this respect have all too often been a bit extensive and unrealistic. The Love/Hate relationship these two have developed can at times be extremely terrifying and at other times, can melt my heart as I have seen my husband take steps that I honestly don’t believe many would.
There was of course a lot of spiteful arguing at the beginning between “the adults” of the house regarding how each child should be raised and since both families came from two completely different worlds, it was very rare that our opinions were even similar. I know how much I love and adore each and every one of my children – biological or not and I hope that when I am spoke of, the words will be kind and endearing as I am about to do for the man who took hold of this family with strength, admiration and possibly a bit of underestimation.
He has always had a choice to be the outsider who could just sit back and say “This is not my problem and I don’t have to deal with it!” BUT HE DOESN’T! I know that he takes an active role because he loves me and he chooses to support me, but it WILL be known that he also chooses to love all of our children the same for their sake! He works hard every single day to make sure that these kids know they are loved by going out of his way at times to prove it. He swallows his pride when required. He goes against his desire to be in control at times when he knows (through education) that control is honestly not going to happen in the immediate future. Each and every time tempers flare and our son finds it so easy to take the victim stance who believes in the moment that he has a horrible step father, my husband has yet to back down. He chooses to always remember that my sons words will fade to gratefulness and appreciation when the storm is over and he makes changes when change is required. As adults, this has proven to be one of the most difficult areas of self-improvement. Not many can conquer this accomplishment even when we strive – let alone considering the odds of “The Step Parent” who is willing! He is an example who should be followed and my children are benefiting from his participation!!
There is a defining moment that I often speak of which involved a lot of “F-Bombs” on both sides, an unbelievable amount of disrespect on my son’s side and in the form of “Father-Son” respect, there was also much disrespect here. Unfortunately, this event took place in our front yard, in our street, around neighbors and involved nearly every member of our family – of which no-one held on to their heads. Inevitably, the police were called and if anyone has ever tried to discipline or “control” a child who is the size of an adult, you can imagine that things got physical. To my astonishment, possibly because none of the 6 officers at my home knew our situation, my husband was cuffed and taken away. This was a devastating situation for everyone involved but to my husband, it could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back but it didn’t. It took a while but all charges were dropped after a full investigation and instead of letting any of this get the best of him, this “Step Dad” chose to get he and I some professional help with how to handle this type of situation since it was clear that it could possibly become the “norm” for all of us.
He took every word that was offered to heart and made changes that even I didn’t think were possible. It will always be a continuous battle considering what we face but the fact that he chooses to face it as a family for not only me but for a “son” that he has chosen to love unconditionally should be an example to step parents everywhere.
There are many debates throughout the scientific field as to one’s ability to give unconditional love. The misconception that unconditional love is an automatic response given to our own biological offspring is argued as much as one having the ability to learn unconditional love through passion and empathy towards not just those living underneath our wings, but of those flying side by side as a partner. I chose to believe that unconditional love is a choice and for some of us, not the easiest one to make but once made, can become just as easy as breathing….. keeping in mind that there could always be something out there such as pneumonia that can hinder our ability to breath, but the fight becomes somewhat automatic.
My husband and I learned through professional counseling that you CANNOT discipline each and every child the same as not one child is ever the same. When it comes to a child whose brain is not wired in a way that is easily understood, having a professional step in (as we learned the hard way) is MANDATORY! We both see similar situations all around us where some parents, mixed with step parents and non mixed where both biological parents are still living under the same roof are going down a difficult road that could be so much easier.
We still have continual issues as I believe every home with teenagers will, but sometimes our issues are a bit uncommon. Tempers flare and love overflows like a rollercoaster on an endless loop but there is confidence within the confusion. I believe that is so helpful to the battle.
For any family out there who may be going through a similar situation, take a step back and take a deep breath. Allow someone to step in and help you out. I promise it will be worth it!!!
One of the books we were asked to read: The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal