If you are reading this, then there is a very good chance that you are a parent. That being said, there is also a very good chance that many of you are step-parents. Statistics show that one in two marriages end in divorce, and that, currently, there are over 30,000,000 children living in a home with a step-parent, in the USA, alone. That’s a lot of families, and a lot of confused little kids, having to learn to live with, and trust, someone who is not their “real” mom or dad. It also makes for, in my case anyway, some VERY confused step-parents.
First off, if you are a step-parent, let me tip my hat to you, and say “Thank you”. You freakin’ deserve it.
Knowing that there are millions of others out there, LOSING THEIR MINDS, struggling with some of the same “you’re not my dad” issues that I was going through daily, gave me a certain amount of confidence….it’s an ”if they can do it, I can do it” kind of thing. I don’t think I am any better than anyone else, but I don’t think I am necessarily any worse, either.
I have two beautiful ‘step’ daughters. That’s what the law calls them. I just call them my daughters. My girls. They are no less my daughters than my biological daughter, Gracee. I love them and would do anything for either one of them. However, it’s been a helluva long, screwy ride to get where we are, today. April still laughs at how uncomfortably that I acted that first day that I met them.
I am a very capable person. I can generally handle myself adequately, and with confidence, in nearly any situation. Very few things can make me shake in my boots. But THAT day. That day, I was as nervous as A-Rod taking a drug test. I couldn’t sit still. I was up, and down, walking around. A jittery mess. I was terrified. The gravity of the situation, to me, was crushing. Afterward, I realized that I was nervous on many different levels.
First, apparently this awesome, hot chick named April (that I really liked a lot) liked me so much that she WANTED me to meet her kids. That, in itself, made me get a little shakey. Cuz she was really hot. Oh, and she had never introduced a man to her kids before. To me, that SCREAMS commitment, which makes me feel like there’s a cable clamp around my esophagus.
But then, I began to think about other things. Like, “OK, I really like her. Love her, even (gulp). But what if her kids don’t like me”?! Will she still want to date me? That’s HEAVY. Talk about pressure! I’ve had a hard enough time trying to get ONE woman to like me for any extended period of time. Much less three! And, what if I don’t like them?!? I know that sounds a little harsh because they are just little girls, but let’s just be honest, some people are “kid” people, and some just AREN’T. I never have been. Ever. So, the thought of really liking her, and the possibility of these kids jacking everything up, was a pretty legitimate fear. And even though others may not admit it, I know I am not the only one that has felt that way.
If you have never read any of my posts before this one today, then let me briefly explain my two oldest daughters. They are QUITE different from one another. They couldn’t be more opposite, in fact.
First, we’ve got Emma. Oh, Emma. She is a now ten-year-old blonde, with bright blue eyes. She is spirited and wild. The next thing that will come out of her mouth, well your guess is just as good as mine. I’d calculate that about 60% of the actual words that come out of her mouth probably make their way onto my blog. If you happen to have the itch to write a Daddy Blog, well, Emma is a friggin’ gold mine. I have to write down the funny things she says because she says them so often, I’ll forget them if I don’t. I save them and put them on my page if I can’t think of anything else to write.
She’s also very outgoing, very loving, and very easy to get to know. She’ll talk to anyone and she will tell you all about herself in the first ten minutes that you meet her. Not long after we met, when she was seven, she would sit on my lap, give me a hug when I would leave, and when she first told me she loved me, I thought I may pass the freak out. As far as making me feel comfortable, she did great.
Then we’ve got Abby. And Abby is a tougher nut to crack. She’s a brunette, with hazel eyes. She has an excellent, very dry, sense of humor. She is quiet, calm, and mature for her age, and extremely laid back.
Now, don’t get me wrong. She is completely capable of going off the rails of the crazy train, but hey, she’s just turned fourteen years old. We’ll give her a pass. BUT, she is also VERY cautious. She and her mom have a very unique relationship, and when I first came along, Abby was scared that I was going to somehow affect that. She wasn’t necessarily mean to me, but she was totally and completely indifferent to my existence. She would act like I wasn’t in the room. She refused to look at me and would only speak to me in muted, one-syllable words, and only if her mother made her. She made me SO NERVOUS.
It became my mission in life to make her like me. Almost everyone likes me. Surely, I can make this ten (at the time) year old girl like me. I CAN make this happen.
I tried being sweet. Nope. Not even close. I tried being funny. Nope. She’d go out of her way not to laugh. I tried buying her things, to which she would say thank you because she has good manners, but nothing seemed to crack through her shell.
For months, I tried, and hadn’t seemed to make any progress, whatsoever. It began to really upset me, although I did my best to not let Abby know it. April tried to make me feel better about it, but I was at a loss. She said, “Just ignore her. She’ll come around eventually”, but that was impossible. I couldn’t make myself ignore her. So, I just kept trying….
And then one day, she came and sat down by me on the couch….
And then she told me a story of something funny that happened at school…
And then she laughed about it, and said “isn’t that funny”?
And then one night she asked me if I’d take her to Sonic to get her some ice cream…
And then she probably farted.
What I am getting at, is that she began to trust me, a little, finally. She realized that I wasn’t there to steal her mother away from her. Or to steal her things, or kill her dog. She realized that I just genuinely loved her mom, but that I also genuinely loved her. She realized that my attitude towards her wasn’t an act, but was who I really was, and how I really felt. I was there because I WANTED to be. Not because I had to be. And, finally, it WORKED!!!
So, if you have some new step kids, if you are slamming your head into a wall or wanting to jump off a bridge, just hang in there.
Just keep showing them that you are there for the long haul. Be nice to them; try not to be too awkward or uncomfortable, like I did, because that probably ain’t gonna help a whole lot. But, if I could only give you one solid piece of advice, the most important thing that you can do, by far; show them that you really love their mother (or father). Once they see that, and they believe it, I promise you; those kids will fall in line, eventually. I know some of you will have a harder time than others, but perseverance is the key. It’s a process. A long one. But it’s worth it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we are still a work in progress. We have our days that we all want to kill each other. But that’s just regular family….right?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stoney Stamper is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries, and is the best selling author of My First Rodeo (available at Target and Amazon). He and his wife April have three daughters: Abby, Emma and Gracee. Originally from northeast Oklahoma, the Stampers now live in Tyler, Texas. For your daily dose of The Daddy Diaries, visit Stoney on Facebook or visit his website The Daddy Diaries.