Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Step Parenting

I am not a step parent. So take my opinion for what you will.

Step parenting is the most thankless job under the whole umbrella of thankless jobs called Parenting.

You have to be positive about and deal civilly with a person or people that there's probably a very good reason your spouse left. You have to put the needs and wants of these children above those of your relationship and sometimes you have to let those kids go off with someone that you don't trust. Not even a little bit. And you have to be pretty cheerful about it in the process.

"No, I don't hate your mom. I don't hate anyone. Sometimes I disagree with her, but that's to be expected."

You're the latecomer, you're the 5th wheel and yet you're also the glue, the brains and the heart of the operation.

While being a good parent and making decisions that kids may not agree with you still have to be the first to forgive and the first to give with people who don't love you and shouldn't be expected to, except that you've got to live together now. I mean, these kids didn't fall in love with you, they didn't decide they couldn't live without you. It's just another decision that they have no control over that affects every single moment of thier lives. Like getting assigned a roommate at boarding school. If boarding school were life long and your roommate dispensed your allowance, checked your homework and cooked all your meals.

"You're not my mom!"

Yet, you love them. Because you can't raise kids without loving them. At least not well. You want the best for them. You delight in seeing them grow into amazing human beings. You cry for their losses and you grind your teeth in frustration at their shortcomings.

And that is possibly the worst part of step parenting. If you didn't love them you could stop fighting the good fight, stop doing the right thing, walk away from the relationship. We've all walked away from a perfectly good romance when things got hairy, for our own good, for our sanity or for reasons much less clear and defensible. But, there are kids involved now, so if you're a step parent worth your salt (the salt ground into your wounds almost every day) you stay.

That's pretty fucking brave. Right on the cusp of stupid. But in a good way.

So, raise your glass to a step parent today. Then give your drink to them. They need it.

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