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Commentary: What I've Learned As A Stepparent

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There are a wide spectrum of experiences when it comes to being a stepparent. Blending a family can be so natural that it's an afterthought or so disruptive that it can tear a marriage apart so it should not be taken lightly. As you all know, Ronnie had two kids when we got married.  So I've got a daughter that has known me as daddy for as long as she can remember and a son that's been fighting the idea of having 1 more person that holds him accountable from jump street. Below are five things that I've seen and learned through my journey and the journey of those around me from a stepparents point of view. Are You Built To Be Blended Essence family, the truth is everyone is not cut out to be a stepparent.  And that's not a knock against the people who aren't. Before we got married, I examined the situation and was fully aware that everyday might not be easy based on the circumstances and everyone that was involved. Since then, what I've internalized is that nothing is going to break up my marriage including troubles that arise from our blended family. I'm willing to do what it takes to maintain my marriage above all else and this affects other areas in my life like parenting. Before getting married, examine your relationship with the kids, what is their relationship with your soon to be spouse, and their other biological parent, then decide if it's something that you're willing to work through in case things get tough. It's much better to make a decision beforehand than 5-10-25 years into your marriage. Don't Do It For The Thank You I see the pain of stepparents who feel like they're trying to pour into the lives of children that are not biologically theirs (perhaps even more than their actual mom or dad) and feel like you're being treated unfairly by the child that may be living in your own house. Well... it is what it is. In some cases you won't get a thank you.....at least not now, so that can't be your motivation. I've taken our son to events and experiences at age 12 that I didn't have until age 30.  Only to hear him later say that I never take him anywhere.  Or spent the entire day hanging, watching the game, wrestling etc... only to hear him on the phone the next day saying I never spend time with him all because I'm making him clean his room up. I knew a guy who's stepdaughter didn't like what he was telling her to do.  So she lied on him. After he had been raising her as his own for 13+ years, the results were he spent over 2 weeks out of work and sitting in a jail cell until his 8 year old son testified and proved in court that daddy wasn't where his sister said he was because they were together. What I think is that being a stepparent is one of the most unappreciated jobs on God's green earth. You may be taking care of a child more than their other biological parent and not be appreciated for doing it. It is what it is, but what you have to realize is that this is the job you've accepted and the responsibility is yours to handle it. Don't Forget The Person In The Middle As much as I know it's tough for stepparents, sometimes we forget how tough it is for our spouse who is often left to play referee, moderator, judge and jury. Show some compassion for the situation that they are in and the tightrope that they are left to walk. I know we always say this.... but in a blended family it's even more important communication. Can't have enough of it. Roles, expectations, discussions on what's going on. The two of you have to stay on top of what's going on in your house. A Family Is Only As Successful As The Head What I love about my wife more than anything is how even when I know it's tough for her we stay united in front of the kids. I've seen it time and time again where the biological parent in the marriage turns on the spouse and it's a dynamic where it's me and MY kid(s) versus you. No one wins in that situation and all it does is build resentment. We stay united and then if we have issues between the two of us we take them up behind closed doors. If children see a chink in the armor of your marriage, they are going to attack it. Especially if they don't want you there in the first place. If your marriage starts to go downhill your family will quickly follow. Seldom Is It The Kids Fault This is what I've learned personally and pray that it will help someone out there who is having a tough time with being a stepparent.  When children are acting out, fighting a stepparent every step of the way, fighting your marriage every step of the way seldom is it really coming from them. The other mom or dad is often feeding them the, you don't have to listen to them, they are not your mommy\daddy speech and they digest it and then act it out. There can even be other people in your lives or even family that instigate this type of message because they don't want to see your marriage and your family succeed. If you look at it from this point, really the child is the victim and those adults are the weak ones. They send a child into your house with these messages and then when they act them out the kid is the one who gets in trouble. More than anything keep in mind that your marriage needs to remain after the kids move out. Like I mentioned before, communication is the key. You have to be able to understand your spouse and what is going on with them in relation to the kids and they need to understand your views as well. Find common ground and what works for your family and don't be so rigid that you won't change if needed. Your marriage and the happiness in your life could depend on it! Essence Family: What are some of the things you've learned as a stepparent? For more Black & Married with Kids stories, click here.
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