Becoming a step parent is probably one of the most difficult experiences you can have. When I first moved to England I lived with my partner Pete. He has his two kids every other weekend and on a Tuesday night. Due to his work I had started to do school pickups and drop offs and you simply end up assuming the step parent role which can be totally over whelming and because you have your own kids, people assume it is a doddle, because sure you have done it before.
But not with other people’s kids you haven’t….
Parenting other people’s children is a very different ball game to parenting your own.
You can’t yell at them with the same ease as you would your own, you must tolerate rudeness, bad manners and do it all with a smile. Children can test all sorts of boundaries without even knowing it.
We always assume that these little people have already had a hard time with the breakup of their parents, however, kids are so resilient and these two bounced back, despite having two parents with very different parenting styles.
Our house was very much boundary led, freedom to do lots but with rules and respect. Mum’s house was very strict on routine and times with her doing everything for them. By now I had a new baby and my older son had moved across to be with us too so I had 4 kids to deal with and so I needed the children to be much more independent.
We had to teach the basics of tying shoe laces, brushing teeth, eating with cutlery but also fun stuff of riding bicycles, climbing walls and camping. Meanwhile their mum was trying to keep them babies. And so, I became the Arch Angel Gabriel, Pete’s kids would do only what I said, eat what I cooked and like the clothes I picked out in the sales. I can imagine in mum’s house my name was mud for a time.
I was a step child too, my dad remarried when I was about 9 and a half. And I was a horrible step daughter. I have no idea the amount of times I would have said ‘you’re not my mammy’ with my arms crossed and a scowl. Kids have two parents, or perhaps one has passed away, they do not want a replacement. They don’t want another mum or dad, they just want someone on their side!
Sadly, for us there was no happy ending, at least not yet anyways. I had to move out for the sake of sanity due to their ongoing acrimonious divorce and custody battle, mum uses the kids like little weapons of mass destruction and sometimes you must take yourself out of the equation until things follow a path of some sort of normality.
Did I give in? Probably, but as I always said I also have two children of my own to focus on and they were suffering because of the effects of relationships that were of no business to them. I do feel sad at times as we all miss out on things like joint holidays due to inflexibility with dates but I now am not torn between putting someone else’s kids above my own just because they have parents who cannot work together. I was having to rearrange my children’s activities and my work schedule to our detriment, to accommodate pick-ups and drop offs whilst their mum and dad carried on with their day with no disruption so as their paths would not cross.
However, I am a believer in the fact that children do not stay children forever. They observe with eyes and ears all going on round them and they still come to my new house all chat and spend time with my boys. We do go on holidays etc when their dates allow, but I do not hold back on my plans now if they cannot make it. I just feel the space we created was badly needed for me and my kids and sometimes you have to accept that you are not always going to be the perfect answer for other people’s kids. But who knows what the future will bring…