Here in the Green household, we have a family situation that can be, shall we say, ‘trying’ at times. Sara & I have 3 children – 2 from me & 1 from her. Her son is a teenager and his father is not only absent, but has driven him from wanting any contact whatsoever. Mine are both 9yrs old and from 2 different mothers that I have a totally polar-opposite relationship with. My relationship with my son’s mother is constantly difficult, whereas my relationship with my daughter’s mother is very lax and agreeable most of the time. The dynamics of how all of this plays out has extreme challenges that never give us enough room for life to just be less than exciting. Yes, less than exciting could be refreshing for maybe a year. One year would be great.
We try so hard to make the best out of the free time we have to spend with the kids and we definitely have challenges to overcome in that aspect too. They are, after all, 3 very different kids with 3 different scenarios that are shaping 3 different perspectives of the world. And here we are, trying to keep the fabric between all of us just strong enough for them to make it into adulthood with an understanding of their individual roles as siblings. The other sides have thrown the bullshit comments around about how they are not their real family, so that has made for some interesting moments.
Not too long ago, we finally had the inevitable moment where I had to check my stepson’s attitude at a moment when he had some friends staying the night, so of course, being a teenage boy, he also feels the need to fluff his feathers and try to assert himself.
“YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER!”
I remember early in our relationship, telling Sara that this moment would come and it was unavoidable and I didn’t know what I would do when it did happen, but I guess I always thought that I would most likely just leave the room or something to avoid blowing up. But in the moment of truth, things can become very clear what needs to be done.
Those words came so sharply that despite how it hurt, I knew that I couldn’t just walk away and frankly, I was kind of relieved that it has happened already – I really wasn’t expecting it until after he’d been driving for a year or so. Instead of trying to ‘be his friend’ or tell him that kind of thing is hurtful or any of the hippie suggestions you may find on the world wide wackiness, I got very close to him – breaking the comfort zone – and told him he was right. I am not his father and I’m not trying to be his father. I’m the one who is here with him every day. I’m the one who is trying to teach him how to be a man. I’m the one who will still be here tomorrow and will help keep him from making the mistakes that could land him in jail. I’m the one who is going to show him how to stand on his own.
Getting very close to him was key in this situation for a few reasons. He didn’t have room to run away from things that may be uncomfortable to hear. I was able to bring the volume back down from yelling to speaking, so as to calm the situation and to reduce the embarrassment that may have started to boil from this happening with his friends at the house. It also forces me into the common 3-foot-comfort-zone where at first, I’m sure he didn’t know what I was going to do, but in the end could see that I was close enough to hold him without threatening him. I think he found some comfort knowing that even when things got nasty, I had his best interest at heart and was not trying to hurt him. He hasn’t gotten much of that from the other side. I don’t know if everything I did was right, but I know that it has helped our relationship. I know that things have been better between us since then and even if I made any mistakes at that moment, he still understood what happened – even if not consciously.
We have so much to deal with in the coming years in regards to what will happen with my 2 and Sara, but I think for now, we have a good base to start with and maybe now we might even have a little extra help from Dylan when the kids don’t want to hear anything from us, but may be more receptive to the thoughts of a sibling. What I do know is that I’ve heard too many times that a step-parent needs to try to be a friend to their surrogate children in order to build a better relationship and I had tried that. I now know that to be bullshit. Our kids don’t need adult friends. They find their friends on the playground and at school. They need parents. They need people who will give them security and make sure that they will be taken care of even when things get ugly. They need people who will take charge and tell them what they should be doing in the face of the things they want to do, but shouldn’t.
Parents are supposed to love their children and make them feel like they will always have a friend to talk to, but they are also supposed to be the person to give them the right direction in the things they are confused about. Parents are supposed to be a united front that the kids can’t break – and trust me, they WILL try. We are supposed to keep them safe and warm and be quick and sharply protective of them in the right moments and let them know where they have gone wrong in others, but that no matter how bad it gets, they will always have a person to feel at home with. The key to being a step-parent is to put the focus on the word ‘parent’. Anyone who tells you to be your step-child’s best friend is setting you up for failure. Your kids have friends and their friends don’t pay bills in your house. Be the king &/or queen of the castle and your castle will become stronger.