Being a parent is the hardest job. Unless you’re a stepparent. That’s even harder.
Raising your own children from diapers to dating is super hard. Raising someone else’s children – from 8-18 should be easier, right? The baby years have already been toughed out by someone else. Kids are resilient. Look how well they get along with their friends. This blended family thing can’t be all that hard, thinks every soon-to-be-stepparent everywhere.
Oh, yes, it can.
Today is Father’s Day, and if you’re a stepdad, you deserve not only a new tie, but a big round golden medal to wear around your neck. Or maybe a brand new Range Rover and a Rolex watch would be enough!
I have a real soft spot for stepdads. The role of stepdad is one tough job. It requires a man to be all the man he can be. It asks of him everything he has to give. His time. His talents. His emotions. His dreams. His plans. And, Lord help him – his money.
But what’s a guy to do? He loves the mother of these kids.
Here are 5 ways to make your stepchildren pretty darn glad you married their mom. Five things you can do to secure the perimeter of your blended family’s boundaries. Five ways to make sure they respect you when it’s all said and done.
Make known your commitment to their mom.
Children of divorced parents are all the buzzwords that people say they are. They’re resilient. They’re strong. They are survivors. But, imbedding itself into their new identity are a few other, slightly scarier descriptors. They’re skittish about the future. They’re sad it didn’t work out for their parents. They are hesitant to love. During the dating process, they’ve seen you treat their mom well, and now that you’re all married to each other (they see it as a “we” marriage), they will go about their growing up so much better if they hear from you, “I am here for the long haul. I love your mom, and I will not leave her.” You only have to say it once. The rest of the time, they’ll watch you and grow to know you meant it. Their security in your commitment to their mom will have long-lasting, far-reaching, reward-bringing results.
Make known your respect for the position of their father.
There truly may not be a whole lot to respect about their dad. But you will be a hero beyond heroes if you verbally respect the position of their father in their lives. Be willing to answer questions, but never, never, never in your long-legged life attack the character of the man who sired them. As your stepchildren get older, they will see the flaws for themselves. They won’t need anyone to point them out. For now, just let them watch you, confident in your own manhood, loving and being committed to their mom. That, alone, speaks volumes, dear stepdad.
Make known your willing investment in their activities.
Life might be exponentially crazier for you now. Instead of getting yourself to every event of three children before, you are now running ragged getting yourself to five. (Like I said, you deserve a brand new Range Rover!) Your being a supportive cheerleader at your stepdaughter’s games will be like nuggets of gold to her. When you sit in the driver’s seat and drive your stepson to early morning practices, your man-to-man conversations will help him figure out who he is – and who he wants to be. If their biological dad lives in another city, or if he just can’t be there, it will be your face they remember in the stands, and it adds incredible stability to their emotional well-being.
Make known to them that you want this family to have fun together.
Vacations are one of the best ways for blended families to blend. Get together at the dinner table to plan a weekend away or a week of summer vacation. You don’t have to go to Disney World to make a lifetime memory with your blended bunch. Regular camping weekends in the mountains or at a nearby state park will go even further. Of course, there will be some hiccups on the hayride. That’s to be expected. The goal is to keep things lighthearted and f-u-n. If one of them doesn’t want to join in the fun, let him sulk a while and deal with what he’s feeling. Then gently encourage. Look him in the eye, smile, and let him know that you understand – and you’d really like him to join in the fun.
Make known to your stepchildren that you take your position in their lives seriously.
Your provision, your protection, your own personal growth – these are things you need to continue to do as you enter the world of step-parenting. Whatever you would have done before they came into your life, keep doing it. Step-parenting will keep you on your toes in every way. Sometimes you’ll feel as though you’re dodging difficulty like a soldier in a field of landmines. You need to stay fit for the task at hand by being responsible at work, learning what you can to protect your family from disaster (even if it means going to counseling), and continuing to get the whole group to church every Sunday. These may be your very best weapons.
On a daily basis, your doing these three things will shield your step-children from turmoil and despair and give them a safe haven from which to sprout their wings.
Oh, how I admire a good stepdad. If a young girl finds herself in a mixed up hodgepodge of honyocks with a stepdad who doles out just discipline, is interested in her life, dresses up like Porter Wagoner and never says anything bad about her biological father, a young girl can survive. She can grow up. She can create a good list of what she wants in her own husband. She can love her father. She can respect her step-dad.
And she can be glad – very, very glad – that he married her mom.
Happy Father’s Day to the man who did all that and much more, and Happy Father’s Day to stepdads everywhere. I have a soft spot for you all.
Encouraging intentional adventure and a word of affirmation for the average, everyday, exceptional stepdad,
PS – If I could buy you a brand new Range Rover, I’d do it!