Approx. 13 years ago, I stood before a church full of witnesses and said “I DO”. My eyes and heart were locked on the beautiful wife-to-be that was standing in front of me. My heart was also locked on the other person I was saying “I DO” to. My daughter-to-be. The vows that I swore before God and those witnesses also applied to this young lady that was now permanently becoming part of my life. Up until this point she had already been an active part of my life for over a year, but now it was official. She was now MY Daughter. Not my step-daughter, not my wife’s daughter, but my daughter. I painted her room her favorite color with a Scoobie Doo border around the wall. I attended all of the donut with dad events at school, I was there for the ruthless recorder concerts, the cold soccer mornings, and the fierce karate tournaments. I was there for the softball games, the birthday parties, the trips to Disney and Universal studio, and the sleepovers. I would give her hugs and kisses and she would do the same. That was MY daughter and I was HER dad. And then it happened……we became steps. I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, or why it happened, or who/what started it…but it happened. The innocence of the full relationship started experiencing the turmoil of the stepwinds.
Unless you have lived under a rock for the last millennium it should come as no surprise that the divorce rate and the incidents of children out of wedlock is at an all time high. One of the by-products of this is the phenomenon we call THE BLENDED FAMILY…also known as the DREADED STEP RELATIONSHIP. This phenomenon has been compounded with societies infatuation with “step” everything. Hollywood reminded us with movies like The Stepfather (and it’s sequel), The Stepmother, Cinderella (don’t forget the evil stepmother). Sure, we have good examples of blended families, such as the Brady Bunch, but if you think back on it you never heard either Mike or Carol referred to as step mother/father, nor the children referred to as steps. What about slangs such as red-headed step child, or how quick we are to point out to the other “That’s your child”.
Over the last 13 years, times have been both good and challenging in our blended family, but we’ve made it through it all. One thing is for certain, we will not be able to change the title of “step” that has been given. Where did this title even come from? I’m glad you asked….IT DOESN’T MATTER! What matters now is that we change the image that has been given to this title. Instead of thinking of the step child or the step parent as someone you step on, step over, or step through, think of them as someone who can help you step up. If you are the biological parent in the relationship, support you spouse and encourage them to be the best parent they can be, but also protect them and defend them if they are being unfairly treated. If things work out as planned, your spouse will be in the house far longer than your child will be. The only way you will ever know what it feels like to be a “step” is by being one. As a step father, I had an obligation to step up and still raise this young lady that although she did not have a drop of my blood in her body she was still mine. I had an obligation to step with her through life’s challenges as well as life’s triumphs. I had an obligation to step through the stereotypical binds of the “step” relationship and raise a child. I triumphed in some areas and fell short in others, but through it all I pressed forward. Today my daughter is living on her own with roomates (THERE IS A GOD…), in school, and working. She comes to the house with a smile on her face and leaves with a hug around the body or a warm farewell. Through it all, I have never introduced her as my step-daughter. In fact, the only time the step conversation even comes up is when people look at me with that puzzled look of “I knew you 15 years ago and you didn’t have a child…”. If you are in a blended family, treat it like the blessing it has the potential to be. As a child, you potentially have double the love from 2 sets of parents. As a parent, you have the ability to influence the life of a young person and possibly change how they parent in the future. Give each other a chance. Don’t blame them for the situation that created the “step” environment. Remember that you are not expected to love each parent the same…but you are expected to love them equally. Just like a parent has a different love for a spouse than for a child, it is to be expected that a child will have a different love for the biological parent than for the step parent. That’s okay…just make sure they are equal because both are just as important. Make it a point to STRIVE together, taking BIG LOVING STEPS all along the way!!!