Hurtful Words Cannot be Taken Back

I answered the phone and could hardly understand my stepdaughter because she was crying so hard. “I guess my brother hates me. He told me I’ve lost the privilege of being his big sister.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Where did that comment come from?”

Because both of my stepchildren are now living on their own, I don’t usually get in the middle of their relationship. But lately I’d noticed they were drifting apart and not making much effort to stay in touch. I’d told both of them that relationships are two-sided and both parties are responsible for their part. I love the adult relationships I have with my siblings and want the same for my children.

My stepdaughter went on to tell me about the conversation. Her brother had exchanged hurtful words that she took personally. It was an ugly conversation that escalated to things that should have never been said.

I had a flash back to the conversation my stepson and I had a few days prior. He asked me if I knew what today was. “No,” I said, “what is it?” “It’s the day my mom died.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” I answered. “It’s been six years now, hasn’t it?” “Yeah, I guess that’s right.”

Compound that hurt with other stresses of life, and it’s easy to see how angry words can fly. But it’s still not right. Those words can never be taken back.

I wanted to hug my stepdaughter and tell her how much we love her. But, unfortunately, she lives over 300 miles away. She is trying hard to live a mature, Christian life and make it on her own. She had called her brother because she knew he was coming to visit and she wanted to see him. But all she got from him was defensiveness and anger.

As our stepchildren get older, we carry less influence with them. I’m thankful my stepdaughter called today and confided in me. But addressing it with my stepson will be difficult. Young adults want to believe they have all the answers and no longer need help from their parents.

I know God can heal their hurts, if they will let him.  I will continue to HOPE (Having Optimistic Prayer Expectations).

“Only God can turn a MESS into a message, a TEST into a testimony, a TRIAL into a TRIumph, a VICTim into a VICTORY. God is Good…all the time.”

Are you careful with your words? We can never take back what we say to our loved ones.

Back to School Tips, Part Three – Resolve Conflict as it Occurs

I was shocked to learn of a family today whose son has left for college and his mom hasn’t spoken to him in several weeks. There was a conflict within the family while they were on vacation and the conflict was never resolved. So, now several members of the family are not speaking to each other.

That is tragic to me! How do you allow your son to leave for college and expect him to have a successful year when there is unresolved conflict and hard feelings with his family?

But, could it be that we do that in our own families and don’t realize it? Is there unresolved conflict with an ex-spouse that impacts your stepchildren/children every day? Are the children in your home expected to go to school and function at 100% when they left a battlefield back home? 

Our children are hugely impacted by what happens in our homes. If there is unresolved conflict, it will carry over into their lives and affect every aspect of their day. We owe it to our children/stepchildren to work through angry words and hurt feelings with direct communication.

As a new school year begins, it’s a great time to evaluate how well we’re doing with the parent in the other home. Are we doing our part to cooperate with them regarding a new school schedule, the kid’s needs, and any issue that came up during the summer months? Do we need to offer an apology or show mercy toward them for unresolved conflict?

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal offers advice on what happens  when we refuse to work with an ex-spouse. “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.”

Our children need to be able to go to school and concentrate on their school work without worrying about conflict among relationships in their homes. We must do our part to resolve conflict as it occurs.

Are you using healthy communication to work through conflict?

A Different Kind of Drug Problem

My husband forwarded an e-mail to me with the following newspaper excerpt from an anonymous writer. The content is worth pondering as a parent/stepparent.

“The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a Methamphetamine lab had been found in an old farmhouse in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, ‘Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?’

I replied, ‘I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.

I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher, or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me.

I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profanity. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of dad’s fields. I was drug to the homes of family, friends and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline, or chop some firewood, and, if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the woodshed.

Those drugs are still in my veins and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, or think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and, if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America would be a better place.’

God bless the parents who drugged us.”

Are you drugging your children/stepchildren?

Character that Counts

I picked up a book last night that my husband is reading by Tony Dungy, Uncommon, Finding Your Path to Significance. I read a few sentences that immediately captured my attention, and left me thinking about the importance of character.

If you’re not familiar with Tony Dungy, he was the first African American football coach to take a winning team to the Super Bowl when the Indianapolis Colts won it in 2007. He is only one of three men to win the Super Bowl as a player and head coach.

In the book, Tony Dungy talks about what character is. “Character begins with the little things in life. I must show that I can be trusted with each and every thing, no matter how trivial it may seem.”

He goes on to discuss character on the football field, which can also be applied to our character as stepparents. “When it comes to character, the game of football can be a real test for our players. Will they decide to do the right thing, even when they know doing so will be difficult?”

“Character is tested, revealed, and further developed by the decisions we make in the most challenging times. We have to know what is right, and we have to choose to do it. That is how character is developed – by facing those decisions and choosing the right way over and over until it becomes second nature.”

I think as stepparents, we usually know the right thing to do. We know how to treat our stepchildren and we know how to be a capable stepparent. The question becomes, “Will we do the right thing, even when it’s difficult?” Will we choose “the right way over and over until it becomes second nature?”