The Unexpected Blessings of Stepparenting

“Who will walk the girls down the aisle when they marry?” I cringed at the awkward conversation my ex-husband had started. Concerned about the relationship that had developed between my two daughters and their stepdad, Randy, my ex-husband raised the question. “We will do what the girls want to do,” Randy replied. A brilliant response, I thought. 

Fast forward ten years later. My daughter, Jodi, married this past weekend. A few months before the wedding, Jodi approached the subject with Randy. “Dad, I’d like you to walk me down the aisle. You’re the one who’s been there for me.”

Wow!

My steady-Eddie. That’s what I call my husband. Randy has walked through the good and the ugly with my two girls. Temper tantrums, sassy attitudes, adolescent meltdowns, controlling boyfriends, parking lot fender-benders, late night phone calls, teenage drama, failing grades, bad decisions, and so much more.

Randy never walked away. He wanted to. He talked about it a few times. But perseverance won out.

And now… after 20 years of stepparenting, an unexpected blessing.

Blessings of stepparenting

Well-deserved by a man who’s given unselfishly to his stepdaughters.

Not perfectly, however. Randy will be the first to tell you he’s done a lot of things wrong as a stepdad. But the girls see his heart. As young adults, they recognize his well-meaning intentions.

I know it doesn’t always happen this way. Stepfamily weddings can be awkward and less-than-joyous. If you’ve experienced that with your stepchildren, I’m sorry.

But there are blessings amidst the challenges of stepparenting.

Simple things. A smile from across the room. A request for your opinion on a sensitive issue. A light-hearted evening that includes laughter and hugs with your stepchild.

Your blessings will look different than mine. Or my husband’s. Sometimes they’re disguised and hard to find.

Expect them. Look for them.

Live in the now. Experience the joy of today. Don’t hold onto regret or I-wish-it-were-different.

Above all, let grace and mercy prevail in your home.

And you’ll find your own unexpected blessings of stepparenting.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3, NIV).

What unexpected blessing have you experienced as a stepparent? Will you share it in the comments? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has an upper respiration infection.  As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast, I didn’t want to believe him. My to-do list for the day didn’t include a trip to the doctor, a two-hour wait with screaming children sliming their germs beside me, and another trip to the pharmacist.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had denied his symptoms, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. We leave for a seven-day cruise tomorrow and that’s a disaster in the making!

It’s the same in our stepfamilies. Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you — her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!

Eventually, your stepchild will accept the reality of your presence in his or her life. Even if the biological parent in the other home is bashing you on all fronts, reality will win. Eventually, your stepchild will recognize that you’re not going away and she needs to squelch her fantasies and begin to develop a relationship with you. At some point, your stepchildren develop a mind of their own, separate from the garbage the other biological parent is feeding them, and form their own opinion of you!

It’s not easy. There may be some squirming and squealing in the process. There might be one step forward and two steps backward. But from my own experience, I can assure you — even if it seems hopeless…it’s not!  Even if there’s a lot of conflict in your stepfamily right now, it eventually subsides. I promise. (If you don’t give up).

I love Dick Dunn’s words in his book, “New Faces in the Frame.” He says, “At first you may see little or no progress. Remember that as children mature, their capacity to understand matures also. True maturity is a life-long process. In time, fantasies give way to reality, and children move on with their lives. Fantasies attach us to the past–letting go frees us for the future.”

Be gentle with your stepchildren as they learn to put aside their fantasies and live with reality. It’s not an easy process, but it will change your relationships over time. Reality triumphs every time.

Do you agree? Is your stepfamily living in reality or still struggling with fantasy?

Pic by Victor Habbick

Have you heard of our Stepmom Retreat? Come join us in Dallas September 25-27, 2015 and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

 

Perseverance Wins the Prize in Stepfamilies

In the early years of our marriage, I wondered if we would make it to our next anniversary. Blending four children, grappling with our stepparent roles while learning to parent together, combating ex-spouses, and trying to stay afloat with job, church and community obligations seemed impossible. But as we celebrate 20 years of marriage this year, I’m thankful we never quit.

Randy and I lead an ongoing stepfamily class at our church and often counsel other step couples. One day I asked him why he thinks the divorce rate of remarried couples is so high. His answer was simple: they quit too soon.

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Facing the Challenges of Adolescent Stepchildren

I recently began teaching a Sunday School class for 13-14 year-old girls at our church. Some days I wonder why I agreed to do it. Since our youngest son is the same age, I’m seeking to invest in his youth group and get to know his peer group.

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As I observed the girls at a youth event recently, I couldn’t help but notice the drama that surrounded many of them as they related to one another. My first inclination was to step away and escape the uncomfortable feelings that began to arise as I reminisced about difficult adolescent years with my stepdaughter.

My thoughts turned to, “Do I want to re-live the drama I’ve moved past that naturally accompanies girls this age?” I could choose to bail and escape the headaches that will accompany the role I’ve taken on.

I must tell you the answer to the question I asked myself was not a resounding “Yes.” However,  I can say this is where I believe God has placed me for this season.

So I have a choice. Will I change my thinking to how I can help these adolescent girls and invest in their emotional and spiritual maturity, or will I selfishly choose to run, leaving behind a part of God’s plan for me right now?

It reminds me of the choice I made when my stepchildren were adolescents. Many days I wanted to run and escape the heartache I was experiencing as a stepparent. Rejection. Loss. Disrespect. Unfair treatment.

I considered leaving. I pondered my option of becoming a single parent again. I wasn’t sure I had the strength to endure the challenges thrown at us as our stepfamily walked through the minefield of adolescence.

But I reconsidered the vow I’d taken when I married. I knew God had placed me in the lives of my stepchildren and had a role for me to play– to invest in their lives emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, to be a light in the midst of darkness, to show them a relationship with a loving God they might not experience otherwise.

Would I run away from God’s plan for me through a difficult season? Would I choose to completely detach so I didn’t have to experience the pain of rejection again? Or would I allow God to use me to help raise two of his children and heal the wounds they had experienced, growing and maturing me in the process?

I’m thankful today I didn’t quit. It was during their adolescent years that my stepchildren unexpectedly lost their mother after a short battle with cancer. The loss further complicated our stepfamily dynamics and created challenges I didn’t know how to face.

But with the Lord’s help, we muddled through. And today I can look back and know that I played an important role in the lives of my stepchildren during a difficult season.

I’m reminded of an appropriate phrase I’ve heard stepfamily expert Ron Deal say, “Stepfamilies were not made for the emotionally fragile.” And I’d like to add: the emotionally fragile stepparent won’t make it through adolescence.

If you’re in the midst of parenting adolescent stepchildren, don’t negate the importance of effective communication and conflict resolution. If you need help in these areas,  please find a counselor, pastor, or coach who can help–one trained in stepfamily dynamics.

Adolescence can bring out the worst in stepfamilies, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Be prepared to deal with it with good communication and conflict management skills.

If you’re looking for support as a stepmom, or maybe just a few days of respite with women walking a similar journey, I hope you’ll consider joining us at our next Stepmom Retreat. You’ll find laughter, hope, healing, and friendship with others who understand the road you’re on. Come enjoy the amazing Cooper hotel and spa in Dallas. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2j1wko6

If you’re parenting adolescent stepchildren, step back and take a deep breath. It’s not easy. They’re in the midst of significant change and so are you. But don’t give up!

There are blessings on the other side.

Can you share tips on how you’ve overcome adolescent challenges with your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them.

Pic by Vlado

The Value of a Stepdad

 My husband, Randy, and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this year. My youngest daughter,  Jodi  (pictured) was 2 1/2 years old when we married. I had no idea what an influence my husband    would be with Jodi.

Jodi bonded easily with Randy from the beginning. She wanted to call him “Dad” at an early age, but my ex-husband forbade it. So, she called him by his first name until she got old enough to make her own choice. Then, she called him Dad.

Jodi’s biological dad floated in and out because of a life wrecked by addiction. There were many months we didn’t know where he was or if he was still alive. But every step of the way, Randy was there for her.

Randy will readily admit he wasn’t a perfect stepparent. As we blended our four children, we experienced emotional melt-downs and parenting collisions. We faced ex-spouse pressures and co-parenting conflicts. But Randy stayed the course, through the good and bad.

During Jodi’s elementary years, Randy taught her to ride a bike, helped with homework, and carpooled her to sleepovers and birthday parties. During middle school, Randy was Jodi’s biggest cheerleader as she tried out for the track team – running with her during her training season, and attending every meet he could. And through her high school years, Randy stayed close by her side – counseling her through boyfriend dilemmas, challenging maturity in her faith, and encouraging wise choices in her every day walk.

So, it was only natural when Jodi was selected for Homecoming Court as a high school senior, that she asked Randy to escort her on the football field. It was a proud moment for him that Friday night to walk arm in arm as her dad, a reward for many years of faithful stepparenting.

The stepparenting journey takes a different route for each of us. Some get to play more active roles than others. But we can each have a positive impact on our stepchildren if we commit to the journey, persevering through the challenges, celebrating the victories, and cherishing the relationships that are developed along the way, even if they aren’t perfect.

Do you recognize your value as a stepparent? If you’re a stepdad, how will you celebrate Father’s Day? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Character that Counts

Do You Feel Like an Outsider as a Stepparent?

Step-Relationships Change as Time Passes

Our family enjoyed a long Easter week-end with four of our five children home. As I watched our kids interact, I couldn’t help but reminisce of times past when we encountered constant bickering and conflict among them. But now, with four of our children in their young adult years and only one child at home, the relationships have matured and grown beyond what I could have ever expected.

In the Easter picture of the kids, it’s interesting to take note of how they arranged themselves. My two biological daughters are on each end with my stepdaughter in the middle. In early pictures of our family, my bio children always stayed close to each other and stood side by side. But as years have changed their relationsips, they easily assume positions next to their step-siblings.

I would love to give easy, pat answers on how to mold relationships in blended families. But there are no easy answers.

It requires time, perseverance, and unending prayer. It requires constant nurturing of your marriage.  It requires going the extra mile when you don’t feel like it. It requires sacrificing some of your needs and wants for the sake of others.

But I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth the effort.

I know there are days you want to quit. I’ve been there. Especially during the early years of our marriage, I remember thinking that single parenting was easier than trying to blend our family. If my first divorce hadn’t been so painful, I would have probably walked out. But after 16 years as a stepparent, I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

I’m also thankful that step-relationships change as time passes. It’s worth investing your time.

How have your relationships changed? Will you share it with us?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Nuggets of Wisdom from Co-Author Laura Petherbridge: The Smart Stepmom

Coping with Change