I was asked recently to name something at which I excel. I said “Step-parenting”. Think about it; I parent 5 kids, 3 from my husband’s 3 previous marriages as well as my 2 original sons, and we all get along pretty well. Doesn’t that make me an expert?
Then I got to thinking… how do you measure success as a step-parent? There’s no perfect family. In fact, my relationships with each of the kids differs greatly. And I’m pretty sure if you asked each of them to rate me as a step-mother their answers would vary as well. So if I’m so great (wink, wink) why the inconsistency?
- Their personalities. These 3 kids (and I use that term loosely since one of them is 20) could not be more different. One is calm, quiet, helpful yet with a sense of entitlement that prevents him from being a self-starter. One is sarcastically funny, a self-described lazy teen, but excels at most anything he puts his mind to. And the third is talkative, attention-seeking and challenging yet eager to please. Doing life with these kids has taught me that there is no one-style-fits-all method of step-parenting. Communicating with each one is especially challenging, and constantly in need of adjustment .
- Their backgrounds. As I mentioned, each of these kids is the product of a unique marriage. Each of them has a different mother with a different family dynamic. Thus each has different expectations and different ideas about what a family looks like and how family members should interact.
- Their ages. Obviously kids of different ages need to be parented differently. The 9 year old still requires supervision in most areas. The 17 year old is transitioning into greater independence. The 20 year old is right on the border of adulthood. To be honest my relationship with the 20 year old is the most challenging right now because I haven’t figured out whether he’s still a kid or ready to be an adult (and to be fair he’s moved back home and is struggling to figure this out as well). The specifics of that struggle is another blog for another day, but the point here is that the ages and needs of these kids play a large role in how they relate to me and vice versa.
So do I really excel at step-parenting? Yes. I say that because despite the challenges of personality quirks, background baggage and the ages and stages of their lives, I choose to be a good step-parent. I don’t always get it right but I keep trying. I look for ways to show them love and appreciation, even if I’m not always brimming over with those feelings. In all things it comes down to a choice to be the best we can be.