“Lynnette, can I have a hug?”
As I was sitting in the kitchen glow of early morning light, my stepson quietly comes downstairs, tears rolling down his cheeks. His sweet brown eyes were a fog of sadness and sorrow. He had just received a call from his mom that his Grandma (her mom) had passed away.
His Grandma (Patricia) was 82 years old and lived a wonderful, storied life. She was an accomplished wife to an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, a mother of four, grandmother and great-grandmother, a successful business woman, and according to Keegan baked the best pies and cookies he’d ever tasted.
I sat with him for a couple hours before I woke up my husband, Steve (Keegan’s dad.) Steve understood, and he was glad Keegan and I had that precious time together. I listened to stories about his Grandma Pat meeting the Queen of England, her famous apple pie, her fun Christmas Bag of gifts for each grandchild, and her caring heart.
Stepfamilies are complicated though. I want to reach out to Keegan’s Mom and tell her I’m sorry to hear about her mom passing. A woman losing her mother, her great teacher and first best friend on this earth, is a depth of pain that stands alone. I felt sad for her today, but all I can do is pray for her to feel peace in the coming days. No words said by us will be received with kindness. My husband’s mom was the first of the parents to pass, so she set the precedent. Although we were told there was “sadness” about the passing, it wasn’t acknowledge in a card, flowers, etc. It’s just the way things are going to be I guess.
I CAN show my respects by continuing to show sympathy and understanding to Keegan. He is the precious point that connects all of us.
Rest In Peace to Pat. She definitely played a major part in raising my wonderful stepson.
“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers and sisters, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 GNB
It must be human nature to keep track of the wrong things done to us. A friend of mine takes this so seriously that he vows to ALWAYS return a wrong for a wrong. I couldn’t help but think that takes a whole lot of effort and eventually creates a calloused heart.
All of us have a “history”.
We either have an ex boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband, former place of employment that wasn’t a good fit, a sibling we don’t always get along with, or a friend who betrayed us. We could fill restaurants, bars, or coffee shop conversations will long and descriptive tales of all the woes we’ve experienced at the hands of other imperfect people.
But remember, we are ALL guilty of causing our fair share of pain.
As a second wife and stepmother, my mind is prone to wander off to the “How I’ve Been Wronged” thought soap opera. The characters excitedly display their prowess and abilities right before my eyes, dazzling me with their cunning smiles and malicious sideways glances. They LOVE to perform for me when I replay their dramatic scenes.
I started recalling one of those “scenes” while I was folding laundry on Father’s Day. In 2013 my husband Steve, my stepson and I were coming back from a weekend getaway when Steve and I were informed of a very hateful post on social media by his ex-wife. It was unkind, untrue, and malicious. I felt my heart pounding in my neck and I became angry all over again. I started thinking about all the lies said about my husband and I through the years. She said things about us that attacked our characters and questioned our ability as parents. Many of these things were posted while my stepson was WITH us, which brought on a whole new level of fury.
Meanwhile, Satan was doing a jig. He had taken my eyes away from the beautiful sun streaming into the window. He had taken my senses away from the pancakes my husband was so graciously making for my stepson and I. He had planted these thoughts of bitterness and I dwelled on them. I reveled in them. How dare anyone attack my family? Satan sought out to create strife in my mind, and he succeeded.
As I’ve grown closer to God, I can catch the devil in his tracks.
I more easily can identity his attacks of mental destruction. What I did next was unthinkable, unimaginable in my former thought pattern.
I started praying for her.
Yes, praying for her.
Another fellow stepmom blogger talks about praying for the parents of your stepchildren. At first I thought it was a nice thing to say, and she must not have the patterns of parental alienation we face. I was oh so wrong. When I read her bio I became aware of her struggles. She faces everything we do, and them some more. But she finds peace in her heart and CREATES peace and love within her household by replacing damaging words and actions with prayer. I was apprehensive but very intrigued.
I turned off my wayward thoughts and intentionally prayed for my husband’s ex-wife and mother of my stepson. I asked God to give her a good day and for Him to fill her mind with peace. I didn’t melt. I didn’t recoil at the words. I, in contrast, felt the tension leave my body. I even will admit it felt good to pray for her.
Sometimes we don’t feel like those who wrong us deserve our prayers. Well, news for ALL of us, we didn’t deserve the gift of salvation either. None of us deserve forgiveness paid in full by a loving God. But, He loves ALL of us that much. ALL of us.
Praying for others doesn’t excuse harmful words or actions, but it releases us from being judge and jury of perceived wrongs.
Prayer places all that heavy stuff at the foot of the cross and back into the capable hands of God. We also start to look at circumstances not selfishly, but selflessly.
To dive into this a bit further, check out my blog post, Jesus Loves Her, Too.
Need a prayer partner for your blended family? I would love to pray for you. My personal email is email@example.com
God Bless you all!
“Thanks for the extra help today, Caroline! I really appreciate you.”
Those words were spoken by a stepmom in my office to the biological mom on the phone. I about fell out of my chair.
“Christy, was that your husband’s ex?” I asked.
“Sure was! We haven’t always been this good, but we’ve come a long way. I actually don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Christy explained to me their fragile beginning. It involved a divorce, new love, hurt feelings, and children. Christy was the new bride and Caroline was the ex-wife. There was tension and hardship for a couple years. One day Christy called Caroline to discuss some boundaries and maybe some common ground for civility.
“We need to at least try for the kids,” Christy said.
Those words really broke through the wall Caroline had built up. Do it for the kids.
From that point on, Christy and Caroline worked bit by bit on their relationship. Time and kindness brought healing and understanding. They actually became friends. Caroline would babysit Christy’s little girl when needed, and Christy would pick up the kids if Caroline had to work late. They also helped each other in other ways like picking up something extra while shopping or helping to feed pets when needed.
I was FASCINATED by this. Every time I heard their kind chatter and occasional laughter, I’m sure my mouth would fall open in awe.
My relationship with my stepson’s biological mom is, well, non-existent. I would welcome any olive branch, any kind of civility. I have tried with her through the years, but any action from me is met with hostility, downright hatred, or a passive-aggressive remark about my “motives”. We are 16 years in, and sometimes I feel like she just gets worse. For my sanity (and maybe safety) reasons, I finally had to stop trying and just let it be.
The struggle in the absence of co-parenting with her has taught me many valuable lessons. I could list dozens, but for our time today I will stick with five and share more in a later post. I believe these are pretty crucial though.
- Be very careful and mindful of EVERYTHING you post on social media. The days of carefree posting are gone. Be bigger and better than the haters and KEEP YOUR DRAMA OFF YOUR FACEBOOK WALL! Do it for the children as well. They are embarrassed when we act like first graders. Vent to your spouse, friend, or a diary. But please, NEVER badmouth another parent online or in ANY public setting. I could go on and on about this one, but for our time today I ask that you think of the little eyes that might see your daily updates.
- Be very mindful of texts and phone calls as well! My husband has a great saying for the workplace. He tells his employees, “Don’t put anything in an email that you don’t want to end up on company letterhead.” I think that applies well to the blended family. Even if baited, antagonized, cussed at, or falsely accused, don’t say ANYTHING in text or in a possible recorded phone call that is hateful or tacky. Answer questions directly but stick to the facts. Keep adult problems and emotions out of your questions or responses. A high-conflict individual would love nothing more than to break you and show your inappropriate responses to the kids. They will try in the cleverest of ways to pull you into the mud. Stay squeaky clean, my friends!
- Don‘t be passive-aggressive about the biological parent to the children. The older, wiser, and more mature our stepchildren get, the more they recognize the truth. I promise you! That day does come. They will either see that YOU were the problem or the bio parent was. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution! Hopefully time will heal our blended families where strife remains. In the meantime, rise above the situation! Don’t use a belittling tone about what must go on in the other household or make condescending remarks under the guise of trying to be “funny” or inquisitive. You only cause more hurt and confusion for your stepchildren when you are cheeky and snide.
- Remove the word “mistake” from your vocabulary concerning the biological parent. Do you truly love your stepchildren? Their little lives have purpose and so much meaning. Yes, your spouse’s first relationship failed. But calling it a “mistake” is basically saying the children are mistakes. Imagine how that makes them feel? The TRUTH of the matter is, both biological parents were needed to create your unique and beautiful stepchild. We all have common sense to know that, but sometimes we don’t WANT to know that. The sooner you can be at peace with that, the more loving and accepting you can be of your stepchildren. BUT, please know that YOU can be JUST AS IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY in their lives as a biological parent! YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON AND YOU ARE A STEPPARENT FOR A REASON. I believe you are also reading this for a reason just as I am writing this for a reason. My faith as a Christian teaches me so.
- You can’t control the actions of a hateful person, but you CAN control your reactions! Take GREAT care of yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be as loving and understanding of yourself as you are “stepping up” to be with others in your family. When you feel overwhelmed get out into the sunshine and take a walk, run a hot bath, make your best coffee, call your Mom or best friend, or just sit still and enjoy some silence. My stepparent Sister or Brother, this road is not easy. I understand and my heart goes out to those struggling. I want you to be the BEST VERSION of yourself though and not let tough situations chip away at the beautiful creation you are. Take good care of your body and mind. You are loved and needed.
I could talk about this topic for days! I will end here for now. Need a prayer partner concerning a high-conflict blended family situation? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! Respond to me here or in a private message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today I’m just going to go there. I need to go there for you, but mainly for me. What you won’t get from me is finger-pointing. What you WILL get from me is humility and the pointed finger right back at myself. I’m going to address the bright pink and polka-dotted elephant in the room. Here goes –
Jesus. Love. The ex.
I will start out by saying I don’t want to assume that all or even a majority of my readers have a bitter relationship with the biological mom (or dad) of their stepchildren. I also don’t want to assume that you met her for coffee this morning. However, I will assume that the relationship you have with the biological mom (or dad) has been a rocky path at times. Unless there are EXTREME levels of maturity, understanding, and kindness, the relationship between bio parent and step-parent is like navigating a minefield.
For our purposes here, I’m going to come to the conclusion that your relationship with the biological parent has difficult moments. Speaking for myself, the relationship with my stepson’s mom has been complex (and practically non-existent) for 16 years. That’s a long time to build resentments, make wayward assumptions, and just feel confused or hurt.
I’m not making excuses for an absentee parent, an alienator, a gas-lighter, or any form of child abuse or neglect that goes on in a given situation. We can discuss those topics much more in the future. Today I want to address something that’s been heavy on my heart for a long time.
We are upon Good Friday and the celebration of a Risen Savior. As a Christian, I can’t help but think often about the meaning of the cross and then the stone rolled away from the tomb. I think about it nearly every day as I’ve grown deeper in my faith. I can’t think about one without the other – the price paid for my sin and then the promises Jesus made to his followers when he appeared to them outside his empty grave.
I am reminded that I am not perfect, but Jesus loves me anyway. Had I been the only person alive that dark day on the hill of Golgotha, he still would have taken on the sin of the world for ME. (The depths of that adoration truly go beyond my human comprehension.) He was thinking of ME the night before he was crucified. His anguished prayers to God the Father turned his sweat to blood as he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what he had to do for me to save my soul, and he did it for ME. He thought of me when he victoriously overcame ALL of the perils, battles, and sufferings of this world and hell below. For ME.
And – he did it, as well, for HER. Jesus gave his life for your husband’s (or wife’s) ex spouse.
Let that sink in for a moment. How does that make you feel? Be honest with yourself and let yourself feel the full range of emotion. Really allow yourself to absorb those words.
Jesus loved her so much that he died for her.
I will only speak for myself, but it truly humbled me to think about this. I look at my husband’s ex-wife and the mother of his child through a different set of eyes when the sacrifice of Christ enters the picture.
Our hearts can get stoney and cold during and after a bitter divorce and during the perils of a trying blended family dynamic. The world sometimes tells us to be competitive in the most petty of ways with the ex or to be outright hateful. Well-meaning but misguided friends prod us to “win” battles and to exert unnecessary gruffness.
But Jesus commands us to love one another. There is not a first or second place in the eyes of God. We are all winners in the eyes of the LORD. The sad reality is, our mired earthly actions can create losing situations, though. The pain and consequence of strife with a biological parent or stepparent will be felt by the children, and oh the heavy burden they carry on their young shoulders if we don’t grow up emotionally and act like adults.
Granted, “peace in the valley” of my situation will take a lot more time and prayer. But I never will stop praying for peace. I never will stop asking Jesus to destroy the walls of misunderstanding. I never will stop, because Jesus certainly didn’t give up on you and I.
What Jesus says:
“And whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:44-45 NIV
Moment of Prayer:
“Heavenly Father, I ask that you continue to heal the hearts of our blended family. I ask that you touch each life with your grace, mercy, and love. Live in my heart, Lord, take up permanent residence. Keep showing me the ways of forgiveness. Place your healing, nail-scarred hands on our lives. Make us great examples for our children. Make us more like you. May we love one another just as you love and forgive us. Amen.”
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I don’t take your attention for granted. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. I am, however, very passionate about helping other stepparents with prayer, inspiration, and hope. I care about you! Please leave me a prayer request and I will pray for you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope to be resourceful to your stepparent journey. God Bless You!