One woman's thoughts and insights into how she weathered the rocky beginnings and managed to form a healthy relationship with her stepchild.
You have no idea how many times I have been asked by people "You seem to handle being a
stepmother so well! How do you find the patience?"
Which is nice to hear, and good for my ego, but bears no resemblance to the reality of my day to day
life. The truth is, I don't always handle it well and I am one of the most impatient people I know.
When my husband and I met and married we both had a child from a previous relationship. For my
child, this really wasn't a problem. He didn't have a father due to circumstances beyond anyone's
control and my new husband was exactly what he had been looking for. It wasn't so simple with my
husband's son. It became even less simple when his mother gave us custody because she needed to
work some things out and felt we would better be able to care for him.
It isn't as if my stepson hated me. He didn't really. He just thought I ought to take off and live
somewhere else so that things could get back to normal. Normal was his mom and dad living together
He was too small then to realize that one of the things his mother needed to work out was the fact
that she was gay and so the chances of that happening were, oh, about nil to zero.
It was pretty hard for me to be the adult when he informed me that:
1. His mother cooked everything better than I did.
2. His mother was much nicer than I was.
3. His mother had much better hair than I did.
4. His dad kissed his mother more than he kissed me.
I'm sure you are beginning to the see the trend here. His mother apparently rivaled The Queen
Mother in the categories of grace, charm, style, intelligence and overall ability.
I would like to be able to say that I always handled this with grace. It would be a lie, but I'd still like to
be able to say it.
Sometimes, I went into my room and screamed into the pillow. Sometimes, I told him that if he
couldn't be at least civil to me he needed to go to his room. Sometimes...well, you know how on
cartoons when there is a fight you see this big dust cloud rolling around with arms and legs poking
out from time to time? Sometimes we did the verbal equivalent of that. Not often, thank heavens, but
it did happen a few times.
As time wore on, however, he started to like my cooking. He quit comparing me his mother at every
opportunity and amazingly even started to behave like I might actually belong in his life.
Now he's a teenager. The other day he asked me "Do you remember how mean I was to you when I
was a kid?"
"Yeah, I remember. There were times when I wanted to send you to outer Mongolia for an indefinite
vacation. Why did you stop?"
He pauses and thinks for a minute and answers me, "Because, I think, you always told me the same
thing even when I was really being a brat."
"Oh yeah? What was that?"
"You always said that you knew that I was angry because my mom and dad split up and that you
didn't blame me for being angry but that you weren't the one who was to blame for that. That it was
okay to be angry but it wasn't okay to be mean to someone just because of that."
"I always said that?"
"Well, almost always. Except that one time that you told me you were going to ship me to outer
"You lie! I never said that!"
"I have amazing mental powers. I read your mind."
At which point we broke up into laughter.
The point to this is that even though I lost my patience with him, even though neither one of us were
perfect, both of us managed to find a place in our hearts for the other. I've always wondered how that
happened given our rocky beginning. My stepson gave me the answer. I didn't blame him and he
So even with all the mistakes I made, and I made plenty, the one I didn't was to blame a child who
was angry and not sure who or what he was supposed to be angry at. I didn't have to be perfect, I
didn't have to try and mimic his mother, all I had to do was understand and let him know that I did.
Not that this was always easy, it wasn't, but if you are new to the stepparenting thing and your
stepchildren are putting you through the wringer. . .before you call the post office to inquire about
the price of postage to outer Mongolia, take a step back and try to see it from their perspective. That
one simple thing can really help you to make it through. Then tell them that you know what they are
doing and why. That can help them to make it through, too.
It's worth a shot. You don't know any addresses in outer Mongolia anyway.