what to do if you don’t like your stepchild?
Or alternatively if they don’t like you?
I have experienced a degree of this dilemma and it’s arguably the biggest problem facing blended families.
Heading into a new union with extras already onboard…Is it a deal breaker?
The other day a friend visited, who is in the midst of a budding romance.
One that has amped into the stage where conversations involving the word ‘future’ and ‘commitment’ are beating loudly.
She has children and so does the new-to-moderate-length love.
She’s quite smitten and it’s lovely to see her happy and again experiencing partner-type activities, like dinner and movies instead of takeaways and DVDs.
BUT, she hasn’t warmed to one of his children and it seems the luke-warm kid may not like her much either.
Her views I’d say are typical.
She thinks HERS are well-adjusted, normal, lovable and bordering on perfect.
She thinks HIS are fairly well-adjusted, almost normal, lovable-enough and not quite perfect.
Except one. And it is causing consternation.
There have been a few heated disagreements and differing views about the luke-warm kid.
She’s now extremely worried that discussions about ‘future’ and ‘commitment’ are just words in a relationship that she may never tip into the long term.
I understand her hesitations.
When I met my now husband, I had views about his three daughters which gave me pause. At the time they were still living mostly with their mother and any issues were infrequent.
It was fairly casual and for much of the time, quite lovely.
I introduced them to a drive-in movie, took them shopping on the weekends, watched television with them without concern over their bedtime and took them to sport.
However when their mother moved away, and we married, I was thrust into the role as the primary parent in their lives.
For the eldest, a 13 year old teenager, it must have been a turbulent time.
There were clashes and it’s fair to say any, every-second-weekend, closeness that we once had, ebbed.
While trying to create as close-to-perfect family as I could, this was a relationship I struggled with and one that caused friction with her father.
I think I tried as best I could.
I would buy little gifts and put flowers by her bed on special occasions. I helped with homework, read and corrected every assignment, I organised and hosted semi-formals, formals and birthday parties, I drove her to sport and work, doctors and hospital.
But I also disciplined, reprimanded, docked pocketmoney, nagged, avoided, ignored, punished and parented.
It must have been tough for her and I’m sure counsellors and psychologists would advise me that her age and her mother not being there would have contributed to the increasing level of estrangement between us.
But here’s my take. We just didn’t connect.
No family is perfect and not everyone gets along in it.
And that is perfectly normal.
It’s okay to have disagreements, or if there are personality differences.
All families, blended, single, typical, traditional, dysfunctional, extended and childless have members that can irritate each other .
There are times when conflict erupts. Siblings fight, parents step back to their own corners for a breath, sisters hate their sisters, brothers beat up their brothers and harmony is often brief and fleeting. All normal!
In my case, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are two people, who are very different, slapped together to form a family.
I wanted it to work, she probably just wanted her mother back.
She once wrote on facebook that she hated me, but I’m sure her true feelings weren’t that severe.
She’s now 20 and I care very much that she is healthy and happy and that our relationship, as she heads into adult-hood is calm and respectful. It’s moving that way.
My advice to my friend was simple.
Don’t force it, be kind and keep trying.
Sure it can be stressful, but you don’t have to create a model family and it’s okay if not everyone gets along famously.
The kids grow up very quickly and leave, what’s left are two people.
There are tough patches along the way, there were for me and without doubt there are for every family.
BUT here is what it all boils down to.
If, when the children are taking off and taking their own paths, you can see yourself with this person on holidays, at home, doing the things in life that are mundane as well as the things that are marvellous, then the relationship is worth trying for.
If not end it! Before the other children, yours as well as his, get hurt and entangling becomes even harder.
Like icecream, I wanted the blending to end up smooth and creamy.
But sometimes like the add-ins at Cold Rock, icecream can have lumpy bits. Ultimately it means a more flavoursome family.