Step children and step parents. Common place now.

We were the first family on our block to have a divorce. The word was only whispered in the fifties. We moved to a new house in a new city, where Mom became "the divorcee" on the block, a threat I am sure, to all the mothers and wives in the immediate area. We three girls played heartily, oblivious to it all, but aware that we were a bit more free with our time than the children we played with. Mom went to school full time, worked at night to support us, leaving us on our own a great deal of time. The expression "Latch key children" had not been invented yet, but that's what we were.  Thankfully, we were content with it, usually starting dinner and setting the table, doing our homeowrk and picking up the house on our own before Mum got home.

Then Barney showed up. He was a hard, short, mean little Polish guy. We never understood what Mum saw in him, but it was not our place to speak. They eventually married (we groaned) and we moved to a dreamy, brand new large two story home in San Jose. This wasn't the beginning of a new wonderful life, it was the beginning of our nightmare.

Barney was clear he would discipline (or mentally beat) his three new step-daughters into obedient, loving daughters. We were clear we liked ourselves just the way we were. It was a battle from Moving Day one and continued until we moved out on our own, followed by (gasp) a divorce.

Years later, it is eay to reflect on those days. Poor Barney, being very old school, was aghast at our independence. Perhaps if we had liked him, (or he liked us) or he had been an ounce kinder, it would have worked out differently. What did happen was a actual, planned rebellion, close to an all out war that ended up in family counseling, also to no avail.

What I remembered in the thirties was my attitude towards him. If I purposely got him mad, upset, or downright furious, it made my day. It did not matter what penalty I had to pay for all the mean, tricky things I did, I relished in his responses, his anger, turning red and purple with fury.  I actually thought it was funny, and spent many hours in my room alone as a result. Little did he know that alone in my room was my favorite place to be, which pleased me even more.

Remembering all this helped me beyond words to deal with my step-son.  When I refused to display anger at his actions, when I learned to deal with his antics in a calm, lovng manner, the game was useless to him, at which point we became a somewhat sane, normal family.

Step children will never be your children, no matter how strongly you wish it or desire it.  Step parents will never be a child's real parent, no matter what. A true, loving and strong relationship can develop, but it will never replace the real parent and child relationship. As long as both the parent and the child know this, and adjust their attitudes to becoming a new family, peace can exist.

After my divorce when I contemplated a new relationship, I had all the memories of Barney as a guideline.  No matter how much I might have fallen in love or enjoyed someone's company, how my children reacted to any new person would have determined their future in my life. No one is perfect, but as long as it was a workable situation, there was hope.  

I met David, who had already raised his own daughters, and a step-daughter to boot.  Experience, I thought! Just like anything else, every experience is unto it's own, this one being no different. Adjustments, understandings, difficulties, arguments, resentments, all to be worked out one by one.  When Jena's room was a disaster, David would stay silent, not wanting to cause problems. When her room overflowed into the rest of the house, he would (not too kindly) demand it be picked up. Jena's reaction was, of course, "He's not my father!"  That's when Mom had to step in, to carefully remind David that treading gently works better than anger, and to remind Jena that while David was not her father, and never would be, this was his house, he was her "Other Father figure" while in this home, and to grow up and clean up your mess. It worked out fairly well and they are reasonable friends at long last.

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