By Audrey Cade
Every relationship we form serves a purpose in our life. Some relationships become partnerships for practical reasons. Some relationships are pure pleasure. Some bonds are magical and a connection of spirits, like the kinship between best friends, and some relationships take time to develop in strength and depth. Without a doubt, each person who comes into our life leaves something behind: memories, experiences, or lessons.
In most cases, if we find ourselves in a difficult relationship, we may opt to sever it; but, sometimes we have to endure even the most challenging associations because our situations require it. I found myself in such a link with my stepchildren.
For years, I ran to them with my arms and my heart open wide. I nurtured, praised, provided, and made myself available in every way. Time-after-time, I was pushed away, and my heart was broken; but, giving up wasn’t an option. I made a commitment to my husband, and a promise to them that we would be a family.
Early in our stepfamily adventure, I didn’t understand the obstacles in my path. I didn’t grasp that the children I tried to tuck under my wing were grieving the loss of their former family as we simultaneously tried to form a blended one. It didn’t matter how nice I was to them or how much they may even be tempted to accept me because my presence represented a threat to what once was or could be.
In any other relationship, rejection, resentment, and unreciprocated affection are grounds to dissolve a union; however, my lesson was not yet learned! I didn’t want to disappoint my husband or damage our marriage by turning my back on his children, no matter how hopeless the situation sometimes felt, and I still held out hope for a happy ending.
I learned that some happy endings don’t come without a large investment of time, patience, and never giving up. This lesson, made possible through my experience as a stepmom, would not be learned without enduring heartache first, and it is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received!
These are the worthy gifts I have received from my stepkids:
We live in an instant gratification society. If something isn’t pleasing or doesn’t work right away, it’s easy to cast it aside in favor of something simpler or more guaranteed to “take.” I couldn’t just simply walk away or give up because the challenge was too great. I had a formal commitment that held me to my word, and the exercise in continuing in the face of adversity made me stronger and less likely to yield.
I owe my stepkids my thanks for pushing me to my limits so that I would have to keep standing my ground and fighting for something that mattered. It has been important for me to be held to a high standard, and for them to have a model of not giving up when something is too unpleasant or hard. They have evidence that I’m in it for the long haul, and they know they are worth fighting for!
READ ALSO: The 7-Step Recipe to a Successful Blended Family
Parenting someone else’s children can be very different from parenting our own. I had the advantage and blessing of knowing my children since birth. I knew all of their preferences, quirks, pet peeves, and had the benefit of them also knowing mine. We had a history, routines, and our own sort of culture.
When I became part of my stepchildren’s’ lives, I found myself in the unique position of needing to complete parenting-type tasks without the biological or historical connection I had with my own kids. They didn’t like my cooking, they didn’t understand my methods or motivations, and the only glue holding us together was their father. I’m glad that we had a force compelling us to bond, because we were made to overcome our differences and overlook the circumstances that brought us together to become part of the same unit!
A greater capacity to love
Stepfamilies are proof of the heart’s ability to infinitely expand. Love does not place limits on how many people can be loved and to what degree. We simply love who we love to ever-expanding depths! I thought that my heart was completely filled with my own two children; but, now I couldn’t even imagine not having four more in my life! I have been present for more than half of some of their lives. On good days or bad, they are a part of me, and I’m part of them. There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do for them, and I am so thankful they are an integral piece of my story!
Appreciation of time
My stepkids and I came into one another’s lives to teach each other lessons. I have plenty to learn, and so do they! I can never let myself forget that they are still kids, so some of the lessons they learn won’t come to completion for years. My oldest stepson started college this year. Time away from his family and in another city has given him a new perspective of the people in his life and the blessings he has.
When he left home, he was in the midst of a rebellious teenage phase, and we were not on the best terms. He has since started to become a man. I am touched by the new direction our relationship is taking because he has now formed an appreciation for our relationship and everything he had at home. His transition into adulthood has shown me that childhood is not the end of my presence in these kids’ lives. We still have many years to get it right and enjoy where our association leads us!
READ ALSO: Sesame Street Takes a New Step for Blended Families
Stepparenting is certainly one of the more challenging endeavors I’ve ever engaged in; but, I am starting to see the value in persistence and the beautiful things that can come from working through a tough situation. As the saying goes, with no pain, there’s no gain. Often, what we need and will end up valuing the most comes from seeing something through to the very end rather than giving up when we wish we could.
I have many reasons to be grateful for the contributions my stepkids have made to my life. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person without their influence, not as strong, and certainly not as forgiving or loving. The entire experience has shown me that the most worthy gifts may be delivered in all sorts of wrappings, and we need to give them time to reveal themselves to us. We may not always recognize a gift as a gift when received any more than the one giving it realizes its value; but each person’s presence and what they teach us is a present!
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of “Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision” (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.