I travel for my job sometimes, and have found over the past several months that I'm always sitting next to a step-parent. It's funny how it happens, but I do. I'm not much of a talker on planes. I really like to put my headphones on and read a book, sleep, or stare out the window. I use it as "me" time, but every once in awhile I get in a conversation with my seatmate. Somehow in conversation it comes up. Usually when I mention that I'm marrying someone with kids. Then they start with their stories. Here are a few I've wanted to share.
#1.) Woman about 48 years old. Didn't have her own kids, and had full custody of 2 kids that she came into the picture as teenagers. She said, "oh honey, you are going to have some really tough teenage years, but I promise you that it will get better. Always remember that. I have grandkids from them now and there is nothing more amazing than being their kid's grandma. The kids and I have wonderful relationships, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Don't ever let the kids tear you and your husband apart...they might try, and you will fight because of them. Don't give them the satisfaction. Have great girlfriends that you can talk to and vent to...they will be your life line sometimes." She had a lot of advice, but was really happy and optimistic. I like these stories. They remind me that things don't always have to be hard.
#2.) Man about 47-49 years old. In a second marriage with 2 kids of his own and 2 kids of hers. He took a job and moved out of the state his sons live in and is full time with his new wife and her 2 kids. He talked about major regrets about not being close to his own kids and how much it has damaged his relationship with them. As teenagers they don't even want to come visit for holidays or breaks because they feel like a stranger in their dad's life. They are also VERY jealous that he is raising "her" kids instead of them...his own. His stepsons and him don't get along very well, and he travels for work as much as possible to stay away. He was a very very nice man with what seemed like a lot of regrets. His advice was, "stay as close and as involved with the stepkids as possible. Don't let your husband give up on a relationship with them. The kids need him more than he might realize, and it will later hurt him. Things don't end at 18...only legal issues with the ex end at 18. 18 is when they will have more choices of the relationship they will have with you and their dad...make sure they still want that relationship. Fight for it. I didn't." I felt really sorry for him, and told him it's never too late and he should tell his kids how he feels. Apparently I'm an airplane therapist...one step-parent at a time.
#3.) Man about 42 years old. He married an older woman (8 years older) who had a son. He came into the picture when the kid was about 9. Dad was a deadbeat and as a stepdad he had to step in. He said that he made bad mistakes with bad mouthing the dad too much and the stepson lost respect for him. He ran his mouth too much about, "your dad didn't care enough to do everything I do for you...he's not even around...you need to listen to me". Eventually by teenage years stepdad and son were getting in physical fights. A lot of screaming and yelling and putting the son up against a wall. The man never had kids of his own and said he felt like it was up to him to do everything to put the kid in line. He later said that once he backed off a little and let mom be the primary disciplinarian things got easier. Today the son is about 21 I think he said, and they watch football and have a few drinks together. They talk about how crazy those times were and have a great relationship now.
So, from these stories it seems like if you do the right thing and love the kids eventually it all has a way of working itself out. Your own kids are hard enough, but stepkids can be impossible at times.
People who have been through it and come out the other side alive give me hope. 2 out of 3 stories have been good so far with some good lessons from the story not as positive. Odds aren't so bad!