A fresh (step)parent perspective.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

Have you ever felt like blending your family isn’t possible? Or, that being a stepparent is too much work for you to take on alone? That failing is your new favorite pastime and honestly you are unsure what or who you are even fighting for? Do you question if you have what it takes to be a stepparent? If your answer to any of these are yes, then know there is hope. Being a stepparent has days, months and even years where you are and will be tested and pushed. But, when you’re able to see past the step, and only see the parent, those rough days become more and more manageable.

When my husband and I blended our family seven years ago, it was rough. We’d both been divorced more than once before. We both had children and very different parenting styles. (We still have different parenting styles) There were days I was angry, days I cried, days I wanted to give up and say “no this is not my problem or my job” and truthfully a good reason behind dating for so long, well that and our failed marriages.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

When Cole first came into the mix he was struggling in school, and as harsh as it sounds it was a huge cause of friction in our home. When you blend children who’s parents have different expectations or even the lack of, it can rock even the most sturdiest of ships. Gracie and Gage were expected to come home right after school, homework was done first, playing was second. Cole had his own idea of how it should be done, which was not at all. And, to be honest there were days, weeks and months that felt like the only person in the entire universe who cared about his education, was me, and it was exhausting. My husband and I fought, the school and I fought and Cole and I fought. It was awful.

School nights consisted of tears, frustration, too many erasers and both of us going to bed defeated. Cole did not have confidence in his work or himself. Sports were his priority, and schooling was mine. It didn’t take long before I saw things differently. One of the great blessings of being a stepparent is you see things from a different perspective from your spouse who is more intimately connected to situations with their child. You are a fresh view, and that’s a blessing. I could see Cole was capable of much more than he was letting on, I could see he knew more but something was holding him back AND, I could also see how at times he was working both the school and my husband.

Admitting that you need help or that your child needs help, is no easy feat for some. With that in mind, imagine how it felt for me trying to persuade my husband into understanding (his son), our son needed help. Ours, was not a word he heard, he only heard, his, help, and failing. It was as if I was telling him Cole was damaged and it was his fault. He was against it all. Cole’s hesitance at least made sense because kids can be awful to anyone who learns differently, and he knew that. But, after my incessant pleas, we eventually approached the school about getting him into an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Coming from a place where I wasn’t directly or personally connected to a false sense of ownership, I could see this was a need not a fault, and it was in his best interest and would help him. And, luckily the school agreed.

The days of missing assignments, lies about homework, bad report cards, all the times Cole would say “I don’t know”, “I’m confused” or “I’m just dumb” were enough for all three of us to want to give up and run in separate directions. There were days I would go to work and cry because I was so frustrated, and felt like it would never change or get better. But, it did change. IT GOT BETTER. SO MUCH BETTER. The school has been incredibly instrumental and supportive along the way.

Cole was now not only getting the help he needed, but it fed his confidence and made him see he was capable of more, he did know more and understood more. He just needed to be expected to try by us, and then taught how to do things in a new way at school until eventually it all clicked. He will be a freshman next year and has all A’s and B’s this year so far. He had all D’s and F’s…even in PE. That’s how I knew this little turkey was capable of much more!

My point to this is, it may not be school you’re struggling with, and it may not be homework that your crying at work about. But whatever it is, if it’s going to benefit your child/stepchild, don’t quit advocating for it, even if it is with your spouse. The day you committed to your spouse, you committed to being a parent who looks out for and fights for the best interest of your children as a whole. You may start off as a fresh stepparent with no idea of how to parent differently than you did before blending your families. But, being new and fresh is a hidden gift in itself. You are a fresh set of eyes, ears and a fresh heart even, which is necessary when your new family may come with broken or bruised ones.

When I talked to Cole’s teacher the morning of our annual meeting she said somethings to me I will never forget, “He had such great things to say about you. He talks about you a lot and even shared you’re writing a book, he’s very proud of you, so you should know you’re doing great!” Yes, my little kiddo who used to battle me on everything was PROUD OF ME! It did feel great to know that as he’s making me proud, I’m making him proud too! And, I’m (just) his (Step)mom “technically”… So don’t think that restricts you from wanting and being more or doing better for your kiddos.

Keep fighting and love until it’s natural, you’ll be glad you did!

– Jess

The “Theys” say…

You always hear people say “They say this, or They say that”, and I often wonder who this they person is and how exactly they know so dang much! Truth is, I am a they and you are too. One of the biggest things “they say” is to write what you know…which according to my husband leaves me not much to write about, but what does he know anyhow?

Truth is, my husband is actually quite supportive as of late, he was impressed seeing my blog, and the emails from step-moms all over either asking for advice or simply thanking me for starting the Facebook page. Even though I give him a lot of flack, we both know, he knows, I’m pretty smart and knowledgeable in a few things, one of which is being a mom. 

Growing up in the south, St. Mary’s Georgia to be exact, everyone knew JC James, which really was Jessie, but with the southern drawl it came out “JC”.  When I was four years old, I moved there with my grandparents because my grandfather was stationed at the local naval base in Kingsland, GA. Everyone went to the same church, the same grocery store, the same school, and so on. For as much as everyone knew about everyone, I don’t recall ever being asked by anyone, where my mother was, or even who she was for that matter. To be honest, I don’t recall if I ever questioned it either. 

Until a few years back I harbored great resentment towards her, for abandoning me, and not stepping up to the plate as a parent. Actually for years before that, I even believed that the stories I heard, the letters never received, birthdays  missed etc, were all because of some grand misunderstanding that would one day be cleared up and all would be forgotten. Then, one day this little dreamer, woke up and realized the only misunderstanding was the one I created out of hope. That’s where the resentment part came to play.

Holding my daughter when she was only a couple weeks old, and going over every tiny perfection, falling in love with every noise, every tiny wrinkle, every single detail she possessed, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why any woman would walk away from their child. In that moment, I made a vow to my daughter and myself to never be anything like the woman, who was nothing like me. That was almost ten years ago~ and I have succeeded. 

Over the years, I’ve had two conversations with the woman that gave birth to me, over the phone,  and they brought me to two conclusions. First is that the best thing to ever happen to me, the most fortunate experience of my childhood was this woman walking out and staying out of my life, because she did me a great favor – by not staying and completely ruining both of us. The other is that she never had any business being a mother – as she was battling demons that would never had allowed her the functionality or understanding of caring for another. She did of course create and give birth to me, which I am thankful for, their are other choices she could have made.

They say children born into broken homes, create broken homes, instinctively. They also say, those born into broken homes create protective homes and reverse the cycle. Personally, I like the second They’s better – much more positive in my opinion. See for me it is pretty simple, if you don’t like it, change it. No one decides who you are going to be, not the They’s or me, only you! If you ask me that’s a set of pretty great odds, a bet I would take any day. 

Am I a perfect parent? No way in gods green earth or the fiery hells below am I anywhere near it – BUT, and its a big BUT, I am a damn good note taker. My husband says I am the best mom, when he thinks I can’t hear him of course, or when he is defending my honor to our “beloved” or not-so-much Bio-mom of our son. I’m sure it tweaks her to no end to hear him say anything of the sort, but in my own defense I do have seven years more experience in failing and prevailing as a mother than her, and ten years of maturity by age alone – lets not go there now though! Maybe that’s where they say its takes a village to raise a child comes from. I was raised by a village, and now a village in a sense is raising my stepson. 

You have to figure this little man has three sides of family involved in his upbringing – the math alone on that could create a head spin! He has his mothers side, his fathers side, and my side. He gained a brother and sister, aunt, uncles, and many friends that have turned into family from me, and then the normal aunts, uncles, grandparents on both mom and dads side. That’s a lot of people! Think of it in terms of Christmas, birthdays, this little boy has it made in that department, and you know every set of family is over-compensating for the broken home created by mom and dad or circumstances of such. That’s another story for another time.

The main importance I know is that this little guy is happy, well-rounded, loved and adjusting normally – and I can assure you he is loved and cared for. But, I think we all know that well-rounded can be a struggle when being raised by so many different people, with different ideals, morals, backgrounds, beliefs – not to mention the underlying resentment of a step-mom loving another woman’s child. You do realize that to many, this is an offensive crime, punishable by tar and feathering, even hanging I am sure in some areas. In the post office of our local town, I am sure behind some random paper, there is a bounty on  my step-mom title, and step-mom head. (It would be a really high bounty I know, because I have a pretty great step-mom title and head too).

Truth is, well they say the truth is, kids are blessed to have more love, than not enough, more family then none, and more parents than one, these days. Since I like these statistics, I must agree with the theys in this matter as well. So far the theys have it!  

Being in my early (very early!) – okay early mid thirties, I’ve never have called a woman mom, or felt like I had one until marrying my husband. I never knew how it felt to come home and lay my head in a mothers lap, and have her run her fingers through my hair, like I do my daughters. I never knew how it felt to come home and cry in arms that accepted me completely, that created a safe place to simply unravel. I never knew what it felt like to have someone be proud of me, to tear up when I got an award, or was caught doing something small yet monumental. These are all moments that I have with my children, I know how it feels to be the mom, to hug, to hold, the pride and unconditional love that exists between them and myself – but I do not know how it feels to be the child. That kills me still to this day to never have felt that sense of contentment, belonging, to be unconditionally loved by anyone. And, I simply refuse to allow that pattern to continue for my children, including my step-son. 

He is a blessing to me, a gift there was no way of creating myself. His heart is genuine, pure and I will be damned if anyone treats him as anything less than he deserves. I don’t want him being thirty years old and questioning whether he ever made anyone proud, whether he was wanted, loved or important. I want this little man to grow up to teach his children that love knows no bounds, no bloodlines, no limits – and that every person deserves to be loved by another. What we teach our children now, we are also teaching our children’s, children. At least that what They Say.