For the first few years after my father’s death in 2002, the idea of my mother dating someone else repulsed me. In my 12-year-old mind, her obligation was to my father, even after his death and any potential suitors were put through a mental obstacle course. Flash forward to July 2007, I was 17 years old and my mom casually brings up a man that she had been seeing for a little while. As she went on about the “lil’ cricket looking man”, I was worrying what this dude would be like. I had no idea that I would be meeting the man that would become my stepfather five years later.
My mom and stepdad got married last summer when I was 21 years old. Unlike a lot of stepchildren, I didn’t grow up with my stepfather. I was an older teen when he met my mother and a young adult when he married her. So, my experience is a bit different but has still been an adjustment.
Here are a few ways being an older stepchild is different from being a younger one:
Bonding with step siblings is different.
When my stepdad came along, he brought two along two little girls. Usually, when a child gets stepsiblings, they see potential playmate or a potential toy-swiping enemy. As someone who is used to having siblings that are closer in age, dealing with my stepsisters was quite the adjustment because they are both at least a decade younger than I am. Rather than learning how to share toys and dolls, as the oldest in the household and a teenager, I had to worry about influencing two additional lives. I went back to having to babysit and actively look after young children. At first, it irritated the crap out of me because I didn’t want the additional responsibility but I learned to tolerate it. Now that my stepsisters are 11 and 12, I’m figuring out how to deal with two burgeoning adolescents and that is a completely different blog post!
He’s An Ally Rather than Another Disciplinarian
One perk that I have experienced as an older stepchild is that I haven’t had to deal with what I call the “you ain’t my daddy!” syndrome. Rather than being presented as just another parent, he tends to act as a voice of reason when my mother and I don’t agree. I have been the same for him and my mom as well. Rather than treating me as just another child, they treat me like an adult. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t tell either of them what to do and they will check me when I act dumb, but they respect my voice and input. I doubt it’d be the same type of relationship if I was a 12 year old rather than a 22 year old.
Appreciation of Another Person and Their Culture
My stepdad is a Panamanian and Jamaican person that has lived in Panama and the States, primarily New York and here in Atlanta. As a result, he is a completely different person in terms of culture. As a young child, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at him being able to speak English, Jamaican Patois and Spanish but as an adult, and especially someone that is an Africana studies major, this intrigues me. Children don’t notice subtle things like how Caribbean people suck their teeth differently or how a New Yorker’s driving is way different than Southerners. As an adult, I am able appreciate things like this from my stepdad that might have flown over my head as a child.
Overall, being an older stepchild is definitely an adjustment but I couldn’t imagine my life without my blended family. The past five years have been quite an adjustment but I am glad that I am not as jaded as I was those first few years after my father’s death. That suspicious attitude could have prevented me from bonding with someone that has become a very important figure in my life.
BMWK Family, do you have any experience being an older stepchild? Parents, do you have any experience as being the stepparent of a teen or young adult? Leave a comment!
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