A typical family is established when two people fall in love, get married, and decide to start a family. When they announce that they are having a baby there is blissful cheer and celebration. I can't help but be envious of how easy that family dynamic must be. My family is not so simple and did not start this way. We are made up of many families and lot's of explaining. When I explain my situation it isn't often met with the same blissful cheer as a baby announcement would be. Instead I get a lot of perplexed faces, concern, and questions of who's who related to?
So what does it take to be a Parent? What differentiates a good parent from a bad parent? What about Step-parents? These are just a few of the questions that weigh heavily on my mind almost on a daily basis. This is obviously a very heavy topic that hits close to my heart. I myself come from a blended family and now my own heart and life is set pursuing a blended family. I may not have a ring on my finger, yet ;) that is, but that does not mean that my life isn’t consumed with parenting or that I am any less of a parent. As you may sense, I am highly sensitive and passionate about this topic. So brace yourself for a long post.
Most people on the outside would look at my Little Family confused. I am 25, Daniel is turning 34, and his (our) daughter is 11. I know how it looks, I know what people think, and many times I’ve been confronted with negativity from others. I’ve actually had women in person on more than one occasion act rudely towards me and belittle me because I’m not Madison’s, or for that matter anyone’s biological “Mother”, or they’ve heard things. It absolutely crushes my heart. It’s as if to tell me I shouldn’t be as respected in her life or taken seriously because I don’t necessarily have a title. I’m not perfect and I have never claimed that I have been from the start of my relationship with Danny. I have grown and learned a lot since I first started dating Danny and have navigated through our relationship for almost the last three years now. It is NOT easy being in my shoes but it creates even more of a challenge when I feel those living in the same town as my family don’t support us. Have you ever felt the whispers of dozens in a small town hit you? It really isn’t fun. It has created an entire complex within myself. I am always wondering if I will ever be good enough or what I must do to prove myself to those around me. At times it makes me feel entirely hopeless. A feeling that is not easily fixed with a Band-Aid like a surface scratch. No, this feeling hits much deeper and closer to the heart.
I have read tons of the books, blogs, and pins about stepparenting. Let me tell you, it’s crap. It’s ALL CRAP. I mean just Google the term “Step Parenting” and see what pops up. There isn’t even a correct way to spell stepparent. Is it Step parent, Stepparent, or Step-parent? This is a life long learning process that can’t be managed into a few chapters of a book or ten key bullet points. You can’t read about how to be a stepparent, or for that matter how to be a great one. You can’t read about all the scenarios that may occur, you can’t read about how you’re supposed to act when it comes to education, birthdays, holidays, disciplining, and exactly how you’re supposed to help mold them into the best possible little human. There’s no book written about how to communicate effectively to your S.O. when it comes to parenting or about the challenges and complicated nature of co-parenting. And certainly there is no book written on how to defend yourself against the negativity. It’s incredibly difficult. No one really understands either. “Well you’re not the parent so what does it matter?” OR “None of that is your responsibility anyway.” But yes, she is my responsibility. It is my responsibility to help her be her absolute best self in this world. It is my responsibility to instill good values upon her and to always help her light shine with confidence when she’s within my care, at our home, or on her own growing up in this world. When I decided to date Daniel I collectively made the choice to date Madison as well. I decided to be apart of BOTH of their lives. I decided to love them both. It has been both rewarding and challenging. It is most definitely not a cakewalk.
The world has portrayed stepparents as evil, terrible beings. They’ve grouped all of us into this category of evil selfishness with ill intent for our step children. Even the movie Mother’s Day, just released THIS year, with Jennifer Aniston makes a mess of stepparenting joking of how her ex husband is dating a tween unfit to parent. Think about it, can you actually name ten movies or books that glow about step parenting? I bet you could easily rattle off about 50 names of worthy biological Mother-Daughter or Father-daughter parenting movies. Although Cinderella and Snow White did have it pretty bad, has anyone actually looked at the opposite side of things? Has anyone noticed the good stepparents? I’m talking about the stepparents who choose to love another child as their own when the entire world, and sometimes their own family/friends, work against them. Has anyone noticed when I attend cheer competitions, school functions, or birthdays? How about when I go out of my way to make sure Madison has what she needs, makes it to practice, appointments, and I wake up early to make her lunch and take her to school on time. Has anyone noticed that I listen to her and I look out for her best interest in all things: her future, her friendships, her health, her family, or even her general emotions of the day. I care and I listen, and I love for this little girl day in and day out. I'm not seeking to replace her parents or hinder the bond established between herself and the ones who gave her life. Rather I'm trying to shed light on a topic that's difficult to approach for many in my shoes.
I have known Madi since she was 8 and in third grade. I have been around for her 9th, 10th, and now her 11th birthday. I can tell you she likes tortellini, cheese pizza, and actually loves most fruits and veggies. Madi loves sweets. Ice cream, cake, cookies, and most especially candy. Madi is creative, smart, beautiful and funny. She’s a great storyteller and tumbler. She is always experimenting with slime and watching YouTube videos about pimples (she wants to be a dermatologist) and cheer (she also wants to own a cheer gym). But what she doesn’t know is that many times she has taught me about myself. She has taught me to be more open and patient towards others. She has taught me to love more when my emotions wear thin. I have learned to be less selfish and less self-centered because children come first. Madi has taught me to be a more affection person when she opens her arms to hug me or just wants to be around me when I’m working. My heart feels full. I have opened my eyes to seeing how great of a person her father is when I witness him being a great dad. I get to witness this daily when most couples have to wait to see until they have children of their own. Most importantly she loved me back when I was scared to be in MY own shoes.
I do not have ill intentions for this little girl who has opened her heart and shared her Daddy with me. I do not wish her to eat a poison apple or to ship her off to boarding school like the books and movies have played me out to be. I want what's best for her always. How could I ever want anything less than a grand life for her? Stepparenting is hard, I won’t lie about that, I still have much to learn and accomplish within myself to be great for her. It takes a lot of energy to cancel out the noise of the negativity surrounding my family, but it is worth it. I’m just trying to be the parent I would want raising my children and you know what? That’s the best I can do. Stepparenting is a gift I never thought I’d have the opportunity to unwrap but certainly one I hope to never give up. My heart is so full each day and happy to be apart of THIS life with my blended Little Family.