As most of my regular readers would be aware I am a father to three beautiful children, two young girls who are One and Three, and a 16 year old boy. For those doing the math in their heads, no I did not have a son at 15, Joseph is my wife’s son to her first husband, and he is my son, period. Having a step-child is no real different to having children, you still need to love on them, guide them through trials and tribulations, and you need to be there when times are tough for them. I wrote a while ago about boundaries, and encouragements for the children, and all of this is extremely relevant, but there are some pitfalls, and they are quite deep.
When I first came on the scene, dating Alinta, and generally being around Joseph he was Nine years old. I didn’t force any sort of title on him, I told him my name was Luke and he could make his own mind up. Over the proceeding months, I showed him how to properly set a table, showed him chores he could do around the house to be useful, playing imaginary games in the back yard, and generally hung out. One night, at the dinner table, about three months into the relationship, Joseph stops eating at looks at me, and he says I think I am going to call you Dad. My heart melted. The hardest thing with any step relationship with a child is creating a close enough bond with them so they feel as though there is no difference between you and who would be their parent. Our relationship has grown since the early days, he gives as good as he gets now which is refreshing, but he still calls me Dad, no matter how angry or twisted he gets.
Another complication which needs to be addressed is the Biological parent. In my instance Bio-Dad. Once Joseph had decided to call me Dad he was quickly getting confused between the two of us in conversation, I suggested that while he was with his mother and I he could refer to his Dad as Bio-Dad, keeps it all clean and simple. What I hadn’t expected was when he visited Bio-Dad and he was talking about me as Dad and was corrected by his Nanna to call me Step-Dad, Joseph got quite fired up and defended me as just Dad. This isn’t the case for every parent, step-parent or otherwise, but it is still a complication.
The other half of this problem is arranging time with the Bio-Parent. I know plenty of people who loathe seeing their child go to the Bio-Parent, get spoiled rotten for two weeks, then come home. Initially, I loathed Joseph going away, as I would have to spend the next 3 months correcting him and directing him to get him back to where he was before he left. Since then I have softened, I do not stop Joseph spending time with his Bio-Dad, we arranged a number of years ago the Easter and Term 3 school holidays are free game for Bio-Dad, instead I encourage Joseph to do all the things his Bio-Dad wants to do, but stress that he doesn’t ask for any expensive gifts. His Bio-Dad is not a wish granting fairy. The short and tall of all of this is you need to be comfortable allowing your Step-Child visitations with the Bio-Parent. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be rough, but it is in the best interest of the child, and that’s what’s important.
Parenting a step-child can be difficult. Some children make it exceedingly difficult for you to really fulfil the role of Mum or Dad, others make it all too easy. As a step-parent you are not second rate, or just a fill in, you are their parent, sometimes more so because you chose to be there. You looked at the Child and decided that you can step up and be the parent they need. To all my brothers and sisters out there who are parenting a step-child, stand up, be proud, and know that you are awesome.
Maintain the Rage