Step families or rather "blended" as they are called. (Yeah right, blended in a blender on high speed!)
I have been on all sides of the fence. (how many sides are there to a fence, huh?) I have been a step monster to kids, I am a step child and my children have been step kids. None of the scenarios worked out very good. Except, I being a step daughter hasn't been a bad experience for me. Have you ever been part of a "blended" or pureed family?
I have noticed recently a lot of people around me becoming part of this small kitchen appliance family. I understand whole heartily how difficult the process can be. It's a role that requires complete honesty, trust, understanding and Prozac.
The idea came to me that I should blog about the trials and tribulations of these roles and offer my experiences so that people do not make the same mistakes that I made. I guess first I should share with you my step story. From the top.....
When I was 24, I fell in love with a man who was 35 and had 3 children from his previous marriage. Their ages were 6, 8 and 12 years old. Sweet little darlings, so I thought. We got married and had one of our own to add to the mixing bowl. That was 17 years ago. We've been divorced for 8 years. I still have a relationship with my step children who have now grown up and have children of their own. I now have 6 step-grandkids!
I'm going to break these experiences down into detailed accounts over a series of postings. Here's the first:
I was going to be the perfect little wife and perfect "mommy" to his sweet angels. (first mistake)
Rule #1 Never try to take the place of their biological parent. No matter how good you are to them, they will always love and defend that parent to the end. Even if the parent is a deadbeat.
No matter what, under no circumstances are you to "bad mouth" the biological parent.
I became Head room mother, co-leader brownie troop, baseball field mom, gymnastics mom and bent over backwards to make these kids feel loved and secure. I wore myself out trying to be what I thought they needed me to be. It was all for show. I wanted the outside looking in to think we were a perfect family. All of that "showy stuff" did not amount to a hill of beans to them. I never asked them what they really needed from me. I was just trying to give them what I "thought " they needed. So, in return I received zero gratitude for my strenuous efforts. What did I do? Turned in to STEP MONSTER. I was going to make those kids love and adore me if it killed them. However, I did nothing to actually make that happen. I just told them they were going to respect me and listen to me and follow my rules and clean their rooms and clean up their messes...and on...and on...
...like a broken record.
Chore Charts went up on the fridge. Allowance charts. Consequences Chart. Daily Routine Expectations with time limits. I became a control freak. If I saw a sock on the floor that was an automatic 10 cents deducted from their allowance. By the end of the week, they owed me money! I was horrible.
Rule#2 Don't become a tyrant over your step kids. Use good sound judgment when it comes to expectations. Yes, give them expectations, give them responsibility, make the consequences clear when rules are broken, but for God's sake, don't spend half your day making out list and just plain "looking" for things to punish them over.
I became consumed with "catching" them doing something wrong so I could run and tell their daddy. I would even try to set traps hoping they would take the bait. I know this sounds insane, but I was young and immature-give me a break-this was 3 kids. I had decided if they were not going to love me that I was not going to love them either. I had our baby and become so in love with him, I guess I didn't leave much for my step children. I was paranoid about them holding him or even touching him. I gave my step kids evil looks if I thought they were breathing on him. I become more and more wicked as time went on. Of course, to the outside looking in, I was still perfect "mommy". I was Super Mom!
Rule #3 Spread the love and attention around. If you have a baby of your own with step children in the house, don't shun them away from their half-sibling. They are just as excited as you are about the addition to the family. They need to feel loved and still wanted just like traditional families with siblings.
I'm going to stop with just three rules for today. Next time I am going to share some really funny stories of step-parenting, some actual dialog and inner thoughts I had at the time.
If you are part of a blended family or going to be-don't shoot yourself-instead shoot me any questions you may have or share your own story with me. I would love to hear from you!