“Yours, mine and ours” makes for an amusing movie plot, but it doesn’t assure a harmonious home. With so many different kinds of families these days, you would think we’d know how to make it work, but we don’t.
It’s a challenge to be a stepparent, no matter how good your intentions are. Maybe we’ve seen too many “wicked stepmother” stories that there’s an assumption of the stepparent as being the enemy. As soon as a new “parent’ arrives in the family, the children start carving out territory.
Then the adults get in on the act. Before long, the battle lines are drawn. As the kids struggle to defeat the stepparent, their biological parent is emotionally torn between kids and new spouse.
Is Step-Parenting Driving a Wedge Between Your Family?
Psychotherapists have a name for it: “triangulation.” And even when you’re not dealing with a narcissist in the family, you might have to deal with it. So let’s talk about triangulation, shall we?
Think of a triangle with three sides. That’s what’s happening in the classic step-parenting drama: you, your spouse and kids are triangulating on every issue. It’s just constant upheaval in the home.
Kids always try to come between their parents. As early as two years old, humans instinctively know the principle of “divide and conquer.”
When the parents are divorced and there’s a stepparent in the home, the game gets more intense.
Now the kids have a strong basis to create division, the old “blood is thicker than water” principle. And it’s natural for a parent to rise to the defense of his or her child.
But when that’s a husband defending his child against his wife, the stepparent, it’s setting up a huge conflict on two fronts – spousal and parental.
The All-Important Necessity for a Healthy Family: A United Parental Front
In step parenting as well as traditional parenting, the spouses must find agreement and present a united front to the children. Even if they disagree, the couple must agree to disagree in private out of ear range of the children.
Never let the children know that they can divide you, because they will attack like hungry predators. The couple must also decide who disciplines whose children. There needs to be basic rules that can be applied by parent or stepparent.
Then the kids know that there’s no appealing for a reprieve. Break basic rules and the consequences apply equally. That also gives the stepparent authority that the parent will back up.
Step parenting is challenging enough on a good day. The couple has to remember that strengthening and affirming their commitment to each other is the best way to create family unity. The step family is only as strong as the marriage.
“It is from the progeny of this parent cell that we all take our looks; we still share genes around, and the resemblance of the enzymes of grasses to those of whales is in fact a family resemblance.” ~ Lewis Thomas
I have this thing where I study faces. And since he first told me his adoption story, I’ve been studying the face of my husband. Like, almost obsessively.
And when our children were born, I began to study theirs, too. Regardless of whether we know them growing up or not, we tend to look like the people we’re biologically related to – and that’s exactly why I am OBSESSED with YOUR face. Oh yeah.
See, when he was born, my husband’s birth mother must have been in a bad way. Whether she personally made the choice or it was made for her, the baby (who would later become my husband) she gave birth to in the wee hours of the morning on June 6, 1972, was found around 9 a.m., wrapped in a towel and tucked into a box.
The box was inside of a telephone booth in front of a busy convenience store in Kansas City, Kansas, and no one seemed to know who left it there.
The police said a woman called in to let them know she thought she heard an animal inside the phone booth. The convenience store manager supposedly found the baby and a police officer pulled him out.
Now, and since the first time I heard the story more than a decade ago, I look for his features in every face I see.
I notice noses, foreheads, eye color and shape – general coloring and body types and shapes. I look at chins and eyebrows and even ear shape.
Since we had his DNA tested last year, I look at names too. And though I’m a complete amateur, I’m pretty smart – so I pore over the results as each new match comes through.
By now, I’ve narrowed his mother down to a certain generation in a certain family, I think. But his father is a whole other question.
The closest DNA connection we’ve found is a second cousin or grand-aunt.
I have noticed a trend in which a lot of Pennsylvania, Texas and Missouri people that are connected to his DNA.
I have a theory that one of his parents might be a Quaker from Pennsylvania. Or maybe even an English exchange student or immigrant.
This is because, as I understand it, the Quakers are primarily English. And according to his DNA, my husband is 78 percent British.
I think this means that one of his parents must be 100 percent British. It definitely means, according to Ancestry.com, that he is more British than the average British citizen today. That seems significant to me.
But what we don’t know is who gave birth to him, who his father was and why they left him there in that phone booth on that warm June day in 1972.
Those are the answers we are seeking. Those are the things I am compelled to discover.
We are not looking for a family, though we would not reject one. We are simply looking for closure and answers to these questions that have plagued my husband for 43 years – and me for nearly 15.
Our kids have a right to know who their father came from. And he has a right to know who his biological family really was.
And if they’d like, they could get to know their relative and two of the coolest kids around.
But as I sit here, writing about it on my front porch today, there is no resolution; there are no answers. I’ve had news stories published, I’ve blogged about it, I’ve even gone so far as to reach out to the world via social media – and yet, despite a few false hopes, we’ve got nothing definitive.
I want to stop looking. I want to give up trying. But I carry on. I am driven. I feel like it’s part of my life’s purpose.
And so I keep looking, searching, hoping for a clue that will tie it all together.
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There was a time in my life when I heard the word “mother” and associated it only with a woman who had given birth to and/or raised a child from birth.
But as I have grown, and since I have had my own children, I have come to understand motherhood in an entirely different way.
Now I know that giving birth to a child doesn’t automatically earn one the title of “mother,” nor does adopting a child.
All types of mothers deserve to be lifted up. But what makes one a “real” mother?
Mothers, as far as I’m concerned, have a few particular common qualities. They truly know the meaning of the word unconditional. True mothers unconditionally love, they unconditionally support. A true mother will always look at those she loves and see their best qualities, and she will never betray their trust.
Her loved ones can always count on her to pick them up when they fall and to celebrate with them when they succeed. She may offer constructive criticism, but she does not berate and destroy. A true mother always has the best interest of her loved ones at the forefront of her mind and of her actions.
Some mothers have biological children, others have adopted or step or foster children. Some are pet parents, others are loving aunts and grandmothers and godmothers and friends.
Some mothers take care of everyone around them, but have no children of their own. Others have their own children and “adopt” many more in their hearts. And, despite the fact that many people will adamantly disagree with me, I believe that some mothers are even men.
Some people only have one mother, but most often, people have many mothers throughout their lives. In addition to their biological and/or adopted mothers, some people are lucky enough to have mothers-in-law who treat them as their own. Other people find mothers in teachers, friends, neighbors, nannies.
There are all kinds of mothers, all around each of us. Today, celebrate all of the mothers in your life, not just the one you call “Mom.”