Stepfatherhood; Your place in their universe
Like it or not, when you and your beloved got hitched it meant that you took responsibility, of your own free will – you poor benighted fool you; of one or more semi hostile forces. You might be the second cousin of St Francis of Assisi with all the nicest character attributes of Mahatma Gandhi or the Dalai Llama, but as far as your new charges are concerned you are the bad guy. You are Darth Vader without the personal charm, the cool black outfit or the chronic asthma. You are the dark one, the serial killer next door, and just a big ol’ meanie. Check in the mirror. Is that a minor bump on your head or are you (Gasp!) actually growing demon horns?
Congratulations, you are now about to delve into a world of confused motivation and double standards far more convoluted than you had ever thought possible. Crazy stuff will come at you from every direction (Especially during puberty and hormone-charged teens) that you are expected to deal with and not lose your cool. This, I think is the greatest challenge, because if under provocation your long strained patience snaps, it just makes matters a thousandfold worse, regardless of who is right or wrong.
Remember, these children are clay already partially shaped by others and come with enough emotional baggage to fill a steel shipping container. Especially if you arrive in their lives to face the double whammy of puberty and acrimonious relationship with ex. Don’t expect them to automatically accept you. Bringing up someone else’s children is always going to be a long haul, with no promise of success at the end. That agonisingly long tightrope you must walk to acceptance, respect, and maybe even love is made of razor wire without comfort of a safety net.
Afraid? Apprehensive? Good. A little fear on your part is a great motivator. Like it or not, your step children’s future well being is your responsibility. Because, in the words of Younger stepdaughter “Be nice to us, because we will be the ones choosing your care home.”
Well that scares me.
The trouble is, you would be the villain of the piece no matter what because their loyalties lie elsewhere, and you, you utter fiend, are the vile interloper who does horrible things to their mother at night, you complete bastard. They can hear the moans and screams, you utter cad. No, and it doesn’t matter who wears the fluffy handcuffs either. Nor does it matter who’s having the most fun or calling out to whichever God. Forget it. You are Satan incarnate, the adversary, Beelzebub and all the demons of hell rolled into one. The violator of their mother, you scum.
In my innocence I should have been aware that these are children who may not have an accurate handle on matters sexual as yet (I hoped). Their experiences should have been very distant, with the bedroom door firmly closed (and if necessary locked) between us.
A note of caution here; if you and your beloved decide to get physical, mobile or cell phones should be switched off, and the house phone set to take all calls straight to the answering machine. Unless of course you have robust soundproofing in your bedroom, and a decent lock on a solid bedroom door. Which coincidentally takes me into my first little anecdote…..
For those seeking a definitive guide on how to succeed as a step parent, may I recommend the following as essential reading;
‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli
‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu.
Any edition will do, as you will find the basic principles they outline invaluable. A little base cunning on your part will also be required. Good luck.