If you’re a biological parent in a blended family, you often wonder exactly what its like from the step-child’s perspective. My son and I have a very close relationship and I’m always inquiring about his feelings on just about anything, especially when it comes to our family structure. If you recall, I wrote an article talking about my feelings and how I felt when it was obvious that my husband was treating my son differently than our other two younger girls that we have together. I believe that in order for the kids to feel comfortable talking to you, you have to show them that it’s okay to express their feelings openly. Without saying too much, I told him that I felt as though his step-father was a little too hard on him sometimes and wanted to know how he felt. His perspective was very interesting and shocking.
At the time he wasn’t even 12 years old, but the way he responded made me feel bad that I didn’t give him the credit he deserved for being such an insightful young man. After all, that’s what we’re working so hard for him to be, right? My son replied nonchalantly, “Mom, my real dad is my real dad, and no one can ever replace that. Me and him…we’re like this (he crosses his first two fingers). The dad that I have here with me everyday…I know he loves me, but not like my real dad.” At this point, I was shocked to hear what he was saying, but felt somewhat perplexed that this was “an unspoken understanding”, or so it appeared. When I asked him why his step-dad didn’t love him like his his real dad. He said, “I guess because I don’t want him to.” I obviously had an astonishing look on my face, because he continued to explain that he was not very nice to my husband when we first got married and admittedly recalled the way he would act out. He jokingly went on the say,” [Step]Dad? He’s just old-fashioned and strict…I think he just wants me to be like him.”
Later on in the conversation, I learned that (according to my son), his biological father treats and talks to him the same way my husband does, if not worse! So, here I was being the protective mother, who will never understand the need to use firmness and tough love when shaping a boy into a young man and unbeknownst to me, he was being handled the same way in both of his homes. Wow! My child’s innocent and candid response confirmed what my husband was trying to tell me all along, but being a naturally protective Mommy, I just couldn’t relate. Yes, he felt like his younger sister was treated differently. He just shrugged and said, “She’s a baby.”
Blended family situations are never easy. They’re always sticky and can get a little tricky at times. You never know if you’re going to step on anybody’s toes. That’s why having open communication amongst all parties, from day one, is key. Although my husband’s role in parenting my son was not clear in the very beginning, we soon realized that it was very important to the clearly define this role and that of his biological parents. Once that was determined, things seemed to fall in line a little bit better.
Communication, even if someone’s feelings are on the line, is vital. When the expectations are laid on the table, its a win-win for everybody. Our situation, has forced my husband and I to communicate more and to discover the differences in the ways we approach parenting. I realized that my husband’s parenting style is directly related to the way he was reared and mine too. So, with or without the issues of step-parenting, we had to reach a happy medium so that we don’t confuse the kids.
When I asked my son what, if anything, we could do differently…he said that he wishes that his [biological] father and I had worked things out. But, we know that is not an option. We do know that our current family situation is just what it is. It ours…And it helps so much that both dads communicate well with each other, even without my involvement. And, are both showing my son that they are always on the same page when it comes to helping him become the awesome, productive young man that he is destined to become.
BMWK – have you ever asked your kids how they feel about your blended family and their step-parent? If so, how did it go? Please share with us what you are doing to promote open communication in your blended family.