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...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Stepdad's Christmas Gift

by Bobby Collins
© 2012

<NOTE: this true story is taken from our lesson book, Responsibility of A Lifetime.>

It was a common enough story. The young man had already fallen in love with 
the girl, they had been seeing each other for awhile, they had even made 
plans to get married. Their future looked perfect.

Then, not too long before their wedding, she told him she was pregnant. He 
was stunned. Not just about the unplanned pregnancy, but mostly because the 
two of them had not ... done anything yet. Both had agreed to wait until 
they were officially husband and wife. So, whose was the baby?! He knew it 
was not his. But she was turning to him to help her solve her problem.

His first thought was to save himself - just cut her loose, that was what 
his friends said. She could tell her family whatever she wanted. It was none 
of his business. She had gotten herself into this mess, let her get herself 
out. He had his whole life (not to mention the reputation of his family!) to 
think of.

But the more he thought about that, the more he realized he could not just 
leave her to face it alone. She was really special -- and he was really in 
love. Something about her touched his heart in a way he had never been 
touched before. And he was afraid he would never feel this way again if he 
let her go.

So, against all advice and common sense, he decided to stick around - at 
least long enough to help her get through the pregnancy. Some of her family 
(and most of her friends) had decided that she was a slut and did not 
deserve to have their friendship and help. One by one they turned away from 
her in disgust, some openly, some by just insisting they were constantly too 
busy to see her. Finally,  he was her only friend, her only support.

Of course, it meant more difficulties, since they had not planned on it. 
Neither of them had any money for a baby - they barely had enough for the 
two of them. And still, always in the back of his mind -- it was not his 

The birth was difficult, but he was there to help. He never left her side as 
she birthed someone elses baby. After the baby boy was born, his feelings 
for this girl were even stronger. Plus, since it was part of her, he had 
already started caring for her baby.

As the little boy grew by days, months, and years, the man never tried to 
say he was his dad, even though he felt like it more and more of the time.

So, this stepdad moved unofficially into the position of daddy to the little 
boy. He helped him when the baby took his very first steps. He taught the 
boy the important things in life:  how to fish, how to throw a ball, and how 
to spit without getting yourself wet. He showed him the beauty of a sky full 
of stars, a sunset over the lake, and a flower in the grass.

He also taught the little boy to know the difference between right and 
wrong, to be respectful of his elders, and to be fair when he played games 
with others. And he taught his stepson to be nice to ladies and girls and 
those littler than him.

The stepdad showed his wife's son what it means to be committed to someone, 
even though you might not be responsible for them legally. He loved the boy 
no matter how he acted. He never turned away from him.

He also demonstrated how a real man should love his wife - tenderly, 
unselfishly, and unconditionally. The boy saw his stepfather loving his 
mother in many ways: by speaking respectfully to her, by helping her with 
the household chores, by opening doors and holding chairs for her, and by 
giving her his full attention.

He showed his stepson how to work hard, but still make time for important 
details like the boy's sports and school events. He took his family to 
church to show them the importance of worship and gratitude for being part 
of a family. He laughed and he cried with the boy, and he helped him grow 
into a good man because a good man cared.

And when the young man had grown and was ready to leave home for a life of 
his own, the stepdad lost part of his heart. Even though the boy was not 
really his own. Because thats what stepparents do.

And because this unselfish man was willing to take on a family that was not 
really his; because he looked beyond a girl's shame and into her heart; and 
because he gave the best years of his life to love and guide and care for 
someone else's son ... because he took on the Responsibility of A Lifetime as a 
stepparent, his stepson - Jesus - passed on to us many of the lessons he 
learned from his stepdad, Joseph.

MORAL of the story:

Your stepchild may not turn out as perfect as Joseph's did, but every stepchild - even yours is as important to God as Joseph's was. Look for the good in your stepchild. Nurture that spark of divine. Bless him or her as though he or she was that Christmas stepchild of Joseph's. 

You don't have to be a Joseph - or a Mary - to be a vital part of your stepchild's development. Give your heart. Give your time. Give your mate all of you, and your stepchild will see and learn about love from you. You can be the most important contribution your stepchild receives.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For the Conn. Families ...

My dear Stepfamily friends,

Please stop and pray for the families of the children and teachers killed and injured in Connecticut today. The pain they will go though this holiday season makes even our stepfamily issues seem small and trivial by comparison.

Take time to pray for and appreciate your children AND your stepchildren. And, as you try to explain to them what has happened, and how it could happen, be sure to remind them the the Lord loves them no matter how much craziness is in this world. His mercy and love is everlasting.

I hope you will take this sad experience to heart and, if you've been angry or dissatisfied in your marriage and stepfamily, you will reconsider your stance. Consider, instead, embracing them (even the stiff, cranky, or rebellious ones) with a love that can melt the distrust. Love them MORE than you would hope to be loved were you in their shoes.

I will be sending out another regular newsletter this weekend. Until then,

Go with God,
STEPcoach Bob

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You & Your Stepkids

For good or evil, more than likely the people in your stepfamily that get the most attention are the ones you weren't even thinking most about when you decided to get re-married.

You and your girl-or-boy friend sat holding hands while dreamily playing what-if about being together all the time in your home, and —almost as an afterthought— how nice it would be for the kids to have a "real" home again.

Also more than likely, your kids were either pretty positive about the upcoming marriage, or at least they didn't raise too much dust...until the wedding was over. Following the wedding, most stepparents are shocked to see a rapidly escalating roar of rebellion.

Angry statements like "You're not my dad!" "I don't have to listen to you!" and "I hate you!!" come out of nowhere. And suddenly what was supposed to be Heaven with your new family takes a downward turn.

What went wrong? And more importantly, how can you fix it?

Well, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is there are ways to make your home much happier. The bad news is it's gonna take work—from everyone, especially you. But before we start fixing the problem, we need to get an idea of why there's a problem and what the problem is.

In his book, Stepparent is Not A Bad Word, David Nowell states,
"[stepkids]feel the nervous excitement of the upcoming [wedding] ceremony, the final realization that Mom and Dad are not going to get together again, the joy of seeing a parent really in love, jealousy at that same love, budding affection for the new stepparent, ... add to the mixture a few adolescent hormones, and it can become too much to handle."

Re-marriage isn't even easy for the husband and wife, and we're adults who are relatively experienced with handing stresses. To a child who's had to experience a death or divorce and the subsequent adjustment to life with a single parent, the introduction of a new "family" is often too difficult to grasp.

Puppies and Kittens

When they are faced with a new authority figure and competitor for their parent's affection, many stepkids will react in one of two ways. I like to think of it as either a "puppy" or a "kitten" reaction.

Let me explain, if a puppy is placed in an unfamiliar environment and suddenly confronted, he will probably tuck his tail, let out a whimper, and head under the sofa. On the other hand, if a kitten is placed in the same environment and scared, she will probably arch her back, lay back her ears, spit, and strike out in self-defense.

And most stepkids will react one of these ways depending on their personality and recent experiences. A "puppy" will withdraw from family functions and pull into himself. He may speak civilly to both parents, but inside, he is resentful of both their parts in the upheaval of his world. Eventually, a puppy will explode...either in anger and rebellion, or in escape and possible self-destruction.

If you have a "kitten," though, she probably wasted no time telling you exactly what she thought of the new arrangements! Fur flew and claws were used freely. But these often aren't healthy ventings of feelings, rather they are indications of fears and betrayal that will only get worse until they are dealt with properly.

Your Important Decision

Understanding the problem is one thing. Remembering those reasons in the midst of a screaming match with a wild-eyed teenager is another. But that is just what you have to do. Someone has to act like an adult, and you are the most likely prospect.

As I said earlier, this is going to take a lot of work, especially from you, the stepparent. And actually, that's not really unfair. She's just a kid, after all. You, as the stepparent, are the one who has entered their world. And although her parent is happy with the new set up, your stepdaughter feels like she's lost her best friend and her place as number one in her parent's heart.

The most important thing a stepparent can do for their family's peace of mind is to improve your memory.

  • Remember who's supposed to be more mature, and act like it. 
  • Remember what all they've been through, and try to imagine how you'd feel going through the same messes (maybe you even have!). 
  • And remember that you will be held responsible for how you teach them and react to their challenges. Not officially, not by the courts or the police, but your spouse and your own heart will tell you that you had a hand, even if it is secondary to the bio-parent, in how they turn out.

That last may not seem fair, especially when the kids are older and were raised by someone else during their formative years. But nonetheless most folks will, to a certain extent and perhaps just in their minds, judge you by how they grow up. So you might as well do your best to steer them right.

Because that is your purpose in life.

What did you think it was? Working harder than the next person? Having the most and best toys? Looking your prettiest longer than your friends?

Of course not. None of those things matter. They will all pass away at your death. My mother had a poem hanging by her fireplace that says:

Only one life--
T'will soon be past.
Only what's done
For Christ will last.

That's true. And it especially applies to your stepkids. You never planned to be raising these children — someone else's children. But you are.

You have been given the opportunity to dramatically affect lives that otherwise you may not have ever come into contact with. And what will you do with this opportunity?

I know one stepdad in our area who's solution to a rebellious, smart-mouthed teenaged stepdaughter is to just shut her out. He never gives her any affection or any attention other than to tell her what to do.
His defense is solid: "I give her a roof, a bed, clothes, school; and what does she give me in return? Backtalk and disrespect. I've turned my life upside down for her and she hates me for it. Fine. I'll keep her alive until she can move out. Then she can go to Hell for all I care!"

As a matter of fact, I know several stepparents who are giving up like that. And it is easier than the options. But at what cost? What have you taught in this rare opportunity? That no one can be trusted. That no one cares about them. And that there's no reason to hope. ... And the suicide rate holds steady this year again.

NEVER give up. Never quit saying —and meaning— "I love you."
Be an adult about it. They need love. They need you.
You, working with their parents, are their best, perhaps their last, hope for a good future.

Only one life
T'will soon be past...
What memories of you do you want to last?

STEPcoach Bob

Show your STEPfamily Pride!