Raising Step-Children: Not a Competition

Mother’s Day has just passed. In this age of COVID-19, many of us didn’t see our mothers face to face, but we all hopefully still found a way to honor them.

For me, I come at motherhood with a slightly different perspective. You see, I fell in love and married a widower with two children. Thankfully, that widower had been my high school sweetheart. But that’s a story for another day.

I never take for granted that those two wonderful children (who are now grown and married) were able to open their hearts and make room for a new mother in their lives. There were many days that were difficult as I tried to make room for them to grieve, to make it easy for them to share memories of their mother, and to keep their traditions alive while trying to create our own traditions and memories. It wasn’t always easy, but these two kids were worth it. No doubt.

The fact that they both honor me on Mother’s Day is a blessing. One I treasure immensely every year. And the fact that their late mother’s family also has welcomed me and accepted me is a gift, that I continue to marvel at year after year.

There were times while my kids were growing up, when things got tough, that I tried to think what their mother, or any mother, would want for her kids. My conclusion is that she’d want someone to love them, cherish them, and care for them. To show them as fierce a love as she would give them. That was my guide as I stepped into parenthood.

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here. My point is twofold: first, to thank my kids, and thank their grandparents, for their love and acceptance of me. Trust me, it is a treasure in my heart.

And second, for all of us to remember what can happen when we open our hearts and let love in; when we quit drawing lines in the sand, and quit putting boundaries up that keep us apart. My kids still retain the love of their mother’s family. They still have their mother in their hearts. But they made room. They made room in their hearts for me, and for my family. And by opening up, knocking down the wall of grief, they received a whole new batch of people to love them. Their family just grew. No one “replaced” anyone else. More people were added into the mix to love them.

And I received a new branch of the family as well, with my kids’ grandparents, and aunt and uncles, and cousins.

If you’re in a step-family, second marriage, have children from one parent and another — keep the walls knocked down. Don’t draw lines in the sand.

Raising children is not a competition.

It truly is amazing what happens when you tear walls down and let love in.

 

Second Chances

(Note from Becky: This week’s post from Jude Urbanski discusses Second Chances with a second marriage. This really touched me personally. It’s so timely in today’s world. Thank you for sharing, Jude!)


Second Chances by Jude Urbanski

The words Isaiah 43:18-19 are inscribed inside my second wide, gold wedding band. That verse tells me to forget the former things and see the new thing the Lord is doing. In other words, I have a second chance in a second marriage.

Now, I feel I’ve been married all my life! Twenty five years the first time and almost 25 years the second time. Yes, I like to think I am a sage woman still with dreams. Our original family is never replaced, but to forge a blended-family takes a bunch of all-around courage, civility and cheers.

I happened on to a little book by Harry H. Harrison (H to the third power!) called 1001 Things Happy Couples Know About Marriage. His chapter on Second Marriages sang to me. I will paraphrase and bullet some of his words of wisdom and words of humor as well as some of mine. I laughed out loud as well as took some deep breaths when thinking of these. May it be so with you.

• Being married a second time means we are blessed to find comfort and companionship again, but that we can screw up royally the first time and get a beautiful best fit the second time.

• Any marriage is a sacrament. Even second ones. Even fourth ones. Even fifth?

• We often feel like teenagers in a second marriage, when we have teenagers.

• An emotional divorce is needed from our first spouse in order to really connect with our new spouse.

• We need to know all the kids involved may dream of their parents getting back together. So proceed slowly.

• It may take more than an overnight to fall in love with your partner’s children.

• Over time both sets of children can learn to respect and tolerate one another, but it will take time and be on their terms. I personally can attest this can happen.

• Your new spouse probably wasn’t looking for a new mother or father for the kids, but a partner and companion. In fact, my husband said these exact words.

• Whenever possible, think in terms of ‘our kids.’ Period. Not easy, but do it.

• We have found that separate personal accounts, but a joint household account, works well. We can still borrow from one another! The rich and famous do this I hear.

• Accept that step kids may like the first set of grandparents better. Normal! In reality, we should shine at this and be more than glad.

• Whatever the custodial arrangements, it is important to spend time with your own kids.

• In my opinion, joint custodial arrangements are hard to accomplish. Maybe the parents should move from house to house and not the kids.

• Think long and hard on why the first marriage failed, so this one won’t.

Whatever our story or our unique set of circumstances, we must go forth from where we are and make the best decisions we can. We know that all things can be made new; we can forget the past if needs be and see happiness ahead. Viva la Second Chances!

Jude Urbanski

Jude writes both non-fiction and fiction. Her ebooks, The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing, come out this year in print by Desert Breeze Publishing. She and husband are working on a small, non-fiction book of vignettes when he was a single father of five. They are approaching 25 years of a blended family with eight kids and 20 grands, who live from coast to coast.

Combine All Ingredients, Mix Well… and Add a Dash of Love

In today’s world, I’m sure all of us know someone who is part of a “blended” family — with step-parents, step-siblings, half-brothers and sisters and the like. Perhaps you’re one of these “step” or “half” relations yourself.

Sometimes these blended families don’t mix together very well. Differing personalities, choices about who’s yours and who’s mine can cause a lumpy mixture instead of a smooth one.

So what makes it work? I know of one family who has made it work, where the parents are parents and the kids are kids, and there are no labels like “step” or “half.” It doesn’t even enter their vocabulary.

Here’s their story in a nutshell: The husband fell in love and married a woman, who was a single mother to a beautiful little boy. That boy was three years old when they married. Together, this new couple had a daughter. So, already, you have a step-son, step-father, and half-sister. But they were family.

Sadly, some years later, the wife passed away. The husband remarried. So, enter wife #2, who somehow needs to blend in to this family and become a mother to two teenagers while respecting their deceased mother.

The only way this family could blend well was to mix it with love. The new wife had to learn to appreciate their traditions from before, while slowly making new traditions that they could share together. It was finding ways to blend the past and the present… to appreciate what came before, while creating the new family today.

Was this always easy to do? No, of course not. But it came down to everyone involved making the choice… they made the choice to love each other.

The kids noted their dad was happy again after the passing of his first wife, so maybe they needed to give this second wife a chance. Their new mother was different and had her own ways, but she wasn’t so bad. Again, she made Dad happy. And she was good about allowing them to have their friends over and always seemed to have brownies and Dr Pepper at the ready.

She stumbled a few times along the way. Things were not perfect. But wife #2 knew she had to make her place in this family and not be a replacement. Her husband helped her with that by making another choice…to treat her as someone who had a place in this family and wasn’t a replacement for his late wife.

As a mother, wife #2 could only learn on the job. But her attitude in “claiming” the kids as her own was this: Any mother, if they can’t be there for their kids, just wants them to be loved and well-cared for. So wife #2 figured the best thing she could do for those kids and as a show of respect to their mother, was to love them and take care of them. Treat them like their mother would’ve wanted them treated. Period. It was pretty simple once she kept that in mind. Any mother wants someone to love and care for their kids if she can’t be there.

So, this family blended together by choice, mixed together, had a few lumps along the way, but always added that dash of love. Don’t forget your sense of humor as well!

What about you? Do you know of blended families that really make it work? What’s their secret?

Please share.

As for the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say), I lived this story I told you today, and know it from the heart.

I am “wife #2.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo credit: roshan1286 / Foter.com / CC BY