Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stepparenting - Why Didn't I See that Coming

I handed over the Cheez-It box to my toddler without really thinking it through and when this happened I was left with one simple question - Why didn't I see that coming?

When I tell people my life story they frequently ask how it is that I avoided the pitfalls that so many of my family and others fell into (wait for the Lifetime movie 'cause I'm only going to mention bits and pieces here!). The answer is simple really. I wanted to live an uncomplicated life so that I had as few problems as this boring soul could handle.

So I went to college (where I didn't party), got a job, paid my bills, dated mostly boring guys and tried to be a "good" girl. At the end of the day, I ended up married to a former bad boy who has a lesbian ex-wife and three daughters. You'd would think that I would have taken one look at his situation and run like h**** especially since my oldest sister who has lived a very "exciting" life warned me too, but alas I didn't. I married the guy and took on enough baggage to fill a 747. When problems arose immediately I asked myself over and over again - why didn't I see that coming?

How is it we can so often see that a situation is going to be difficult but not truly understand how difficult it is until we are in it?

In the first few months we were married, my stepdaughters arrived to stay with us for their 10 week summer vacation. They were't at our non-existent wedding (we didn't have a "proper" one with a reception or anything) and only found out their father remarried because their mother heard a rumor. My oldest stepdaughter who was 10 at the time was naturally very upset. But instead of voicing her feelings - she acted out and took every ounce of insecurity and frustration out on me. If I came home to give my husband of two months a hug or a kiss then she physically inserted herself between us. She refused to hang out with friends and insisted on waiting for "her" daddy. When he came home she jumped up and wrapped her legs around him like a long lost lover.  So in summary, she acted like a very jealous girlfriend and not a 10-year-old daughter. This was not something I ever saw coming.

I encouraged my husband to take her to a therapist and deal with it but he said it was "my" problem and we needed to work it out. I think he actually liked the idea of two women fighting over him. But having seen therapists to deal with my own childhood issues, I knew this little girl was suffering because she felt unloved by her father. That was the real issue. She wasn't included in the wedding and she felt like her dad didn't care about her. I couldn't get my husband to deal with it so I did the next best thing - I gave her twice as much love as I gave her sisters. I also did my best to explain that I was not taking her father away from her. I'm not sure if that was the right way to deal with it. In retrospect, I should have insisted they be included in the informal ceremony we had and pushed my husband to communicate more with his daughters about his life.

Being a stepparent is a much harder task than I ever imagined. I knew there would be pitfalls and challenges but they have far surpassed what I expected. At the end of every day, I try to do my best and follow the advice that my hairstylist gave me as she did my hair on my wedding day - "Love them like they are your own."

Whatever happens, I'm going to be able to look back and say I did my best with these kids. I hope that's what really matters.

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