My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A STEPparent's Job

Dear [stepparent],

Regarding your question about your particular responsibility about your husband's kids, here's how that lays out:

1) the stepparent is not legally or morally or physically responsible for their stepchildren. If a child gets into some sort of liable trouble (causing expensive damages to someone else's property, for example), the biological parent is legally responsible for reparations for that damage. Not the stepparent. Morally, God places responsibility for raising a child and teaching that child how to be an adult on the biological parent. Not the stepparent. 

2) The stepparent has the opportunity to bless the stepchildren; to teach them by example how to be a kind, loving, forgiving person. The stepparent also has the opportunity to demonstrate to the stepchild how to react, in a Christian manner, if they are insulted, ignored, or even harmed by the stepchild. The stepparent does have the responsibility to show the stepchild Christ in a very real way through daily living and lovingkindness (just as any child or person). Yes, this can be hard. I remember when my own stepdaughter slapped me in the face in public, (once physically and many times with her mouth and hateful attitude) in front of others, to embarrass me and to challenge me. As a Christian who just happened to be married to her mother, my responsibility was to demonstrate to her how a Christian would deal with a personal attack like that. (Remember what Jesus said about if someone slaps you on one cheek? Forgive and get over it and love them, He said)

So the stepparent, you and I, has no legal responsibility over the stepchild - but the Christian has a responsibility to witness Christ's love and forgiveness to everyone, ESPECIALLY those in our household.

One more point; Just because a stepparent does not have the responsibility for their stepchild, they are family. And, as family, they have a relationship with those stepchildren. You and I, as family members to our stepchildren must be careful not to shun those children, but to reach out to them as family members. When Dad and the kids are doing something, a family member should show an interest and care about that they're doing. If the stepkids reject your attempt, that shouldn't make any difference in your actions. We are still family members with those children of our spouse, and as such we need to show the same care and consideration as we do toward our spouse's parents, brothers and sisters, or their grandparents. Reach out with patience and love and respect because of who they are related to … our sweetheart.

It is a balancing act: love without having to, care without being forced to. But so is every other relationship we have - with our spouse, our parents, our siblings, etc, etc. It may not be the easiest, but it's the right thing to do.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blessings of Being A Stepparent

1) I married my high school sweetheart after we'd both been divorced upon by our spouses, so new life, new hope;
2) she brought a daughter, sort of a curse AND a blessing;
3) she then had a son, my step-grandson - a definite blessing!

Here is a journal entry I wrote about a day with my grandson, back in 2002:
February 2002

What a perfect day with Michael!
I never could have believed (and now I speak with faulty memory, because his presence has altered my mind so much) that I could be so completely taken by a baby boy! I think of him far more often than anyone else, and wonder about him whenever he is not with me. When he runs to me and wraps his arms around my leg, either to hug me or in an attack, I just feel all poured out for him. What I mean is that he seems to take over my full emotions. To make him giggle or even to scream with delight makes me feel like the most successful man in the world.

Today was a Monday, which means that I have promised to set all else aside to care for Michael. It’s definitely a foolish thing by the world’s standards, but I’m afraid I’m completely foolish when it comes to this little boy. After dropping Jo (Nana) off at her job, I came back home to find Jennifer almost ready to leave for her job and Michael still asleep. I puttered with home chores – dishes, trash, etc. – until I heard him call o ut. I called to him, “Hey Buddy, Grandpapa’s here.” In a few minutes, he toddled into the living room, tilted his head ‘way to the side and grinned at me.

We spent the morning playing and watching some cartoons, then while watching Bear in the Big Blue House, he started getting drowsy, so he got up and stumbled over to the couch, climbed up, and scooted over onto my lap! He laid his head back on my chest and stuck his bottle in his mouth. He could only sit still for so long, lest he fall asleep. So he hopped down and sprawled on the carpet, propping his chin on his fist, while his feet were propped up in the air. I couldn’t resist ... I laid down beside him, adopting the same pose. He snuck a look at me out of the corner of his eye, then got up on his knees and flopped on my back to watch TV from there. I rolled over so that he fell off giggling, and got on my hands and knees looking at him. He charged toward me, butting me in the head with his head. I dropped my head and burrowed into his belly. He squealed and grabbed my shirt, wrestling with me. I fell back on my back and he pounced on me.

We wrestled like that until we were tired (really I tired much more quickly than he did!) and we sat back on the couch. His mommy came home then for lunch. He had a sandwich with her, and when she left I laid him down in his play pen with a bottle of milk for a nap. He never made a sound, just looked up at me with sleepy, bright eyes. After his nap time, I had gotten us ready for a trip to town, so I went in to wake him. I leaned over his bed and whispered, “I love you. I love you, Michael.” He slowly opened his eyes and then jumped up when he saw me, and held out his arms to be picked up. I got him dressed and we left the house.

We then went to Wal-mart. I took Michael in to get Jo’s medicine refilled. After getting the pills, we played some. I’d push the cart out in front of me, crouch down and growl, “I’m gonna get your belly!” while running up on the cart and tickling his tummy as he squealed. We did figure eights, and drove through the too-tightly-packed clothing aisles, the shirt sleeves ticking his face. If anyone was paying attention, surely they thought I was nuts! Or maybe they envied me getting to play with such a wonderful baby. We bought some supplies for my new office and check ed out.

Then we went to get Jo. I took Michael upstairs to let her show him off. As we started in the front door of the clinic, I said, “Let’s find Nana, OK? Nana?” He perked up and said, “Nana? Nana! Nana!” looking around for her. In the elevator, I sat him down and he walked out, holding my hand. Jo was delighted to see him (of course!)

After we dropped Jo off at college, Michael and I went by the office to get a phone number about tomorrow’s appointment. Michael again captured everyone’s attention. He sat on my lap at my desk ... and knocked pictures off the desktop. Leaving there, we went back to my dad’s apartment.

Michael picked up a package of gum Dad had laying on a table. Dad said, “Oh no, Michael, let me have that before you lose it.” Michael grinned and took off with the gum! I said, “Oh you little fart! Gimme that gum!” He fell on the gum and hung on for dear life. I pried his little fingers off the now crushed gum sticks and started chewing on his belly. He just flopped back and grinned at me as if to say, “Go ahead, Papa, get me. That’s why I started the trouble anyway.” So I picked him up and (carefully) tossed him on Dad’s bed, then dove on top of him, pinning him under my chest. He screamed and started kicking. I got up and he charged right at me, hitting me in the chest with his head. I tickled his back and knees as he tried to squirm away.

We left Dad to get Jo from Westark and head home. I laid down for a much needed nap. When I woke up, it was to a happy little boy laying across my chest, hugging me awake. Before he went to sleep that night, in bed with his mama, he leaned up from the covers and patted me on my arm, his way of saying, “Thanks for a good day, Papa. I love you.”

What a great day!

Show your STEPfamily Pride!