Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Don't STEP on me!

A biological child grows in a mother's womb;
an adopted child grows in a mother's heart.

I've started writing this a few times and am having trouble getting all my thoughts out. I originally wanted to say, "I HATE 'step'-parents" but decided that may come across a bit rough? However, that statement still holds mostly true for me. I hate that the word "step" is too often accurate for the way the new parent/child treat one another. We see it all the time in books, movies, and on TV. You have the new step-mother and step-child both vying for the husband/dad’s attention, stepping all over one another to make themselves #1 in his eyes. Now this is somewhat understandable for a child. After all, their whole world has been turned upside down and this new person has taken a permanent spot in their lives. But the new step-parent is an ADULT. An adult should never wage war with a child, rather they should try to consider the child’s feelings and understand the difficult change in said child’s life. If you’re going to make the decision to marry someone who has a child, you need to prepare yourself to be a parent. Instead, I see many who think that they just have to “put up” with this child when they’re at their house and until they turn 18. Open your eyes people! This child, this PERSON, is going to be in your life for the rest of your life (assuming you hold your wedding vows to be true.) You should be equipping yourself with all the information you can find regarding raising a child, particularly a step-child. You should be reaching out to others who have made this change successfully and even joining support groups, if you can find a trustworthy one. You need to be discussing the way your potential spouse raises and disciplines his child/ren, and make sure that you are on board with their efforts. Assuming the ex-spouse is still in the picture, you need to be able to at least respect them in the fact that they gave birth/fathered this new child you’re about to be co-raising and make a conscious effort in never using derogatory statements about them in front of the child/ren. If you’re not willing and able to accept this change, and I will admit it is a big change, and make the appropriate adjustments, then perhaps this is not the person you should be marrying.  

I’m going to take it one step further and say that becoming a step-parent should be no different than becoming an adoptive parent. Think about it, really think about it. When a person adopts a child, they bring them into their lives, and their hearts, and love them just as much as if they were their own biological child. They don’t resent this child for the love and attention they receive from the other parent. They don’t, or at least they shouldn’t, see them or love them any different than they would a biological child. Instead, they love and cherish every moment they spend with that child. They revel in every milestone they reach, and they’re present for every important event in that child’s life. Not because they’re required to be, but because they truly want to be a part of every moment, be they good or bad. Step-parents should be no different.

Make the change before your marriage and you will have a much better chance of making a smoother transition. You need to take the time to know the child whose life you’re going to be a part of. Spend time with them; get to know who they are and what makes them happy, mad, sad, etc. Spend time with them not only with your potential spouse, but alone as well. Introduce them to your family. After all they are going to be a part of this child’s life as well. Make sure your family knows that this child is to be welcomed with as much love as a child you were to give birth to and make sure they know you expect them to treat them no differently than they would any biological children. After all, most families have no problem accepting a new daughter/son-in-law, aunts/uncles, mother/father-in-laws, etc. If they have no problem accepting a new adult into their lives, they should have no problem accepting a new child.

Most importantly, love this new child. After all, they are a part of your future spouse and therefore worthy of love.

Blessings to all who have successfully made this transition and prayers for those embarking on a new journey.

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