Archive for ‘Step parenting’

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
March 14, 2017

I ask a woman….

by Rod Smith

I ask a woman how her life is going and she tells me about her children. She’s very forthcoming. I hear about their failures and successes and their disappointments and their accomplishments in sports.

So I ask again how she is enjoying her life and she tells me about her children’s teachers and how dedicated they are and how they go the extra mile for her sons and how much she appreciates it and how happy her sons are at school.

I persist and ask her if she has any close friends and how much time she spends with her peers and she tells me how her sons’ friendships are a little disappointing to her and that sometimes they get left off birthday party lists and how much it hurts her when that happens and how she wishes adults were more sensitive to her children.

I ask the same woman who happens to also be a wife how she is enjoying her husband and she tells me they “work together” as parents and they are almost always on the “same page.”

I press in and ask the woman if she has a life outside of being a mom and she gives me that blank look as if I have no idea what I am talking about.

March 2, 2017

My heart goes out to the….

by Rod Smith
  • My heart goes out to children who live in unsettled houses. Houses where the abuse of alcohol or drugs dominates everything. Houses where rage rips people apart.
  • My heart goes out to children whose parents were once together and now are apart. Although the child may have received loving messages about how they are loved despite what mother and father do it still makes no sense to the child.
  • My heart goes out to children who are fighting a deadly disease and to the siblings who are fighting it with them. The necessary lack of certainty bolstered with statements of faith, all within the same adult sentence, can be confusing. It’s at least as confusing for the child as it is for the adult trying to comfort them.
  • My heart goes out to children whose boundaries are ignored and violated and whose voices are ignored or silenced. Such children might as well be invisible to those commissioned to love and protect them.
  • My heart goes out to the child who must assume a defensive stance because of race, gender, or language.
  • My heart goes out to children who are hungry in a nation of plenty, those born outside the dominant culture, those whose troubles are the fruit of a troubled nation.
June 16, 2011

Step-mother may want to realign her expectations…….

by Rod Smith

“I met my husband when his children were 3 and 7. I thought that I would learn to love someone else’s child and that it would just take time to bond. We are now married with a child of our own. Their biological mom is and has always been trouble and does nothing but try to put both my husband and me down in the kids eyes. The kids are sweet and loving but I still find it hard to bond to them. It’s always ‘my mommy this’ and ‘my mommy that’ and it makes it hard to bond. At times I want it to be me and my child and husband. I know how this sounds but seriously can you tell me I must immediately love and like everyone just because they happen to be smaller. I am not a bad or evil person I simply dislike having to be caring and attentive to another person’s child when I get none of the reward. They will always love their mother more and that’s the way it should be, but I can only take so much rejection. Eventually my heart turns off and I am left wondering why I thought being a step parent would be great.”

Blending families is one of the most difficult relational challenges humans face. Everyone in the family faces difficulties, even the children.

If you feel “unrewarded” you might want to reconsider some of your expectations. Any awards ceremony may only occur, if it ever does, when the children become adults and they reflect that you were a non-possessive, non-anxious, steady presence in their lives at time when their lives had been hit by several large blows all seemingly accosting them at the same time.

So, hold off on expecting much reward. It’s not that you won’t be rewarded; it’s that expecting it in itself suggests you might want to realign the understanding of your role.

Asking young children to love (embrace, accept) a stepmother without feeling disloyalty to their biological mother is asking children to do emotional acrobatics that most adults could not do.

If you want your “new” family to survive the continued presence of his “old” family, then I’d suggest you do not make too much of the distinction. “Us” and “them” doesn’t bode well for any human community let alone a blended family. Also, stay out of being the front line of discipline for “his” children: messing with invisible loyalties is a sure fire way to detonate the anger abiding already in the family system.

June 14, 2011

Children in a tug-of-war

by Rod Smith

“My son and his wife are in a constant battle with his ex-wife and her family. They want the grandchildren ALL the time and seem to never think of their new family as really part of the children. I hardly know my new step-grandchildren but I’d rather that than step into the middle of the battle for time with the children. Should I be working harder to get to know these children so they will know me one day or should I just let things be as they are for now?”

It's a fine line......

If there are already tensions regarding who the children ought to know and visit then I’d suggest you follow your intuition which suggest you remain out of the tug-of-war.

Children will readily pick up on surrounding stresses and tensions and will ultimately use them to their benefit – and not necessarily to the benefit of the adults who use the children as bargaining chips.

Stay out of conflicts that do not directly involve you. Your daughter and her husband are presumably adult enough to represent themselves in their own battles.

April 25, 2011

Children and happiness

by Rod Smith

“I see my first responsibility, as a parent, is to make my children have a happy childhood so they can have a happy life. Please comment.”

Good luck. While it is a nice ideal you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Your children’s happiness is ultimately their responsibility and not yours. The sooner they assume it the better.

If you, the parent, work hard at your own life and make the very best of your skills and talents it is more likely that you will have children who will do the same.

If you focus all of your attention on your children and on trying to make them happy it is likely you will create insatiable, demanding, and entitled men and women who are more than a challenge to all who know them.

Of course I am not suggesting parents ought to intentionally create tough lives in order to amplify challenge – this would be ridiculous.

I’d suggest you focus on providing a loving and challenging platform for your children to achieve well in all areas of their lives and get out of their way as much as possible.

Success, and reaching for success, is what results in fulfillment. I’d take “fulfillment” or “useful” or “purposeful” over the illusive state called “happiness” anytime.

January 16, 2011

What is it going to take to “man-you-up”?

by Rod Smith

“I was divorced 4 years ago and have daughter (7) who lives with her mother. I have been living with my girlfriend for 4 years and we have a son (2). I knew my girlfriend before I got divorced and she had a good relationship with my daughter.  After we moved in together she started disliking my daughter. Now that I have gained more access to my daughter my girlfriend does not like it. She says she is too young to accept all of this but it’s been already four years. She knew I had a child before we started dating. I will not choose my girlfriend over my child again. What do I do?”

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Look at YOUR choices

This is not your girlfriend’s problem. It is yours.

What it is about you that you would leave a marriage and immediately move in with another woman, giving yourself no time to assess your first failed marriage? What is it about you that you’d bring yet another child into another unstable context with a woman with whom you’d not discussed joys and challenges of co-parenting your daughter?

Addressing these questions might begin to “man-you-up” (get you some backbone) so that you might begin to take more responsibility for yourself and for ALL your relationships.

 

December 6, 2010

A dozen ways to know your teenager is growing up…

by Rod Smith

He or she:
1. cleans his or her room
2. voluntarily gets a haircut
3. saves money
4. stops blaming everyone for anything
5. takes full responsibility for his or her decisions
6. greets you with kindness
7. stands up for himself or herself without compromising others
8. demonstrates healthy boundaries by choosing friends who are good for him or her
9. has plans for her life that stretch beyond the next few days
10. reads books and newspapers by choice
11. can engage in a meaningful discussion about world events
12. is assertive without being pushy and demanding

October 21, 2010

Single mother writes: thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles…..

by Rod Smith

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

“Thank you on behalf all my many single mother friends for the article published yesterday. Thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles. Thank you understanding the many roles we play and the many difficulties we overcome because of our love for our children. Thank you for noting it is near impossible to have a romantic social life as solo parents. Thank you for listing and understanding what women do not need in a potential partner or in friendly advice. I am 50 and the mother of two sons whose fathers disappeared when the going got tough.

“I have been a single mom for 32 years, and despite the challenges, long hours, and little thanks associated with the job of single mom, I have been blessed to have my sons and love them dearly. I am also proud of having still managed to forge a career, own my home, a car, and travel the world. I have recently studied to become a Life Coach. I just sit with the thought that my children did not chose to be born and hence, are entitled to the best Mom and woman I can be. One thing I know is that my son’s will make wonderful Fathers.”

August 19, 2010

You probably can be a parent AND have a life of your own

by Rod Smith

Bravely begin claiming back your life

Bravely begin claiming back your life

Over-parenting can be as damaging as child neglect. While I am aware of this somewhat harsh generalization, I cannot help but call to mind the many over-focused parents I have met who, in the name of parenting, lost their lives to their children and in the process, all but consumed their children. Such parents are usually taken aback when the children fight back in a desperate search for room to breathe. If you identified yourself in yesterday’s column and would like to move toward a more healthy position, here are a few initial, or small step, suggestions:

1. Announce your insight about your propensity to over-parent to your spouse (or, in the absence of a spouse, to a few trusted close friends) and declare your desire to give everyone around you more room to move.
2. Do not be afraid – if this is at first even possible. Establishing space and healthy separation will not damage your child. Not doing so might. You are not rejecting your child. If you’ve been over-parenting it is likely your child desires some space even if he or she appears to resist your moves toward some independence. Children are as resistant to change as most people.
3. Forge personal interests unrelated to your child. Fake your enthusiasm if you have to, but get involved in something outside of the home. Come on! Think. You did have a life before you had a child. Reach out to it.
4. Reconnect with old friends to reestablish a community of support. Be careful, initially, to avoid other child-obsessed parents as you try to break your addiction to your child.

5. Make a priority to invest time in the relationship with your spouse. I believe that children are happier when they know that their parents do not depend on the children being happy, but rather that the parents’ relationship is strong. (Added by Vincent Randy)