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The Non-Traditional Parent (A Journey in Step-Parenting)

October 7, 2011

I have been told that “being a parent is more than just a notion”. That statement has been so true in parenting my biological child (theGirl). Since becoming engaged to a man who is the father of 3 (theBabyBoy, theMiddleChild, and theTeenager); I have amended that statement in the following manner:

“Being a parent is more than just a notion; being a step-parent is all about devotion”

So, I know you are scratching your head (what the heck does that mean???). Well here it is:

Parenting your biological child offers you a lot of room for experimentation and failure. Experimentation; because your child is a blank slate onto which you inscribe the morals, values, and other necessary life information (i.e. no instruction manual included!). Failures; because the only other person you may have to answer to is the father. When parenting a step-child experimentation and failure room is extremely limited. This child comes to you already instilled with these characteristics and philosophies (some of which you may or may not agree with!) AND you are accountable for your actions to both their father and their mother (the instruction manual comes with this child!).

So how do you parent a child, who comes into your life bringing a bag full of “we don’t do it this way at my mama’s house” and a side of “you ain’t my mama”? Through a firm devotion to patience (for the child and the mother) and consistency (with the child). We would all wish that step-parenting was as easy as Jada, Will and Sheree (Wife, Husband and Ex/Mother) make it look but the reality of the matter is, that MOST of us deal with the exact opposite situation (Wife, Husband and Ex/Baby Mama) And there is a difference between a “Mother” and “Baby Mama” (that is a whole other article!!!)

Over the past 2.5 years that I have been in the lives of my SO’s sons, my step parenting went something like this:

OK (initial meeting) to…

GOOD (honeymoon period; everybody getting to know each other) to…

BAD (the kids began testing their boundaries with me and me not wanting to discipline because I didn’t want to seem like a b#tch—Ex interjects personal issues into the parenting equation) to…

HORRIBLE (me and the kids are now consistently battling with the SO in the middle to choose sides—constant tension in the household) to…

WORST (me and SO debating whether this relationship will work because of the strained relationship with the boys—personal issues have now come to a head with myself, the SO and the Ex) to…

BETTER (me realizing that I need to stop trying to change/erase what they have already learned and had instilled in them; and instead start ADDING to that knowledge base) to…

CONTINUALLY IMPROVING (the tension between myself and the boys is pretty much non-existent and I make it my business to spend more time learning about THEM; I have completely disengaged myself from the Ex as I realize that any engagement with her will always be about personal issues and not the kids and I am about the KIDS)

I had to realize that:

  • I cannot expect my step-children to instantly adapt to me, my morals and values, and my expectations because they have not been with me since birth.
  • I should not judge or try to change the way they were raised—just appreciate that it is different from my parenting.
  • I cannot FORCE myself and my way of life on them (although I think my way is 99.99% the right way!!!). Although they are little and still developing, they have definite opinions about certain things and you must respect that if you want them to respect you and your opinions.

Step-parenting has been and continues to be a journey for me and there is no one way to navigate through it. However, one thing is for sure, if you are devoted to building a positive relationship with those kids; being consistent in your actions and words and being patient in waiting for results are the keys to smoothing out some of those rough patches of the journey!

Are you a step-parent…do you have any tips to share with us “newbies”? Share them in the comments section below!

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