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I recently read the following post that was written by another blogger who happens to be the product of a divorced family. Her mother and father were divorced, and her father remarried. She wrote the post about her “second mom.” It’s always refreshing to hear from adult children because they provide so much insight regarding how the blended family has and continually affects them. This provides us with the opportunity to put those assumptions to rest and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
My Second Mom
June 1st is my dad and step-moms anniversary. I hesitate to call her. It’s not like she won’t already be thinking about it and I want her to know how I feel. I just don’t want to remind her of her pain.
My dad is gone, but I still want to celebrate the union that made Gramma sweet family. That day almost thirty years ago tied our souls to hers and we’re never going to let go. The heart break is, he’s gone.
I don’t want to just remember the fact that if he were still here they would be celebrating another beautiful anniversary. There marriage was one to aspire to. They loved each other with a passion beyond your imagination. They supported each other and treated each other with kindness. They trusted and respected each other. They enjoyed each others company immensely. They had their individuality, but they were the best of friends. I can’t even imagine the weight on her chest. I can’t even imagine the crushing numbness that comes with losing a spouse.
But she, Gramma sweet, is one of the most amazing women I have ever had the blessing of knowing. She took my dad in holy matrimony with three children and a hurting ex-wife. She made herself available to us in a way that our blood parents could not. She loved because she wanted to, because she could, because she chose to. Not because we were born to her.
God works in mysterious ways. Growing up a child of divorce, I had a lot of questions. Ironically, I never wished my parents back together like some kids do. I just wanted them to be neighbors. I didn’t want to give up my step-parents. I knew even then that they were a blessing in disguise. That’s why I want to celebrate tomorrow, because tomorrow is the anniversary of Gramma sweet telling the world not only how much she loved my dad but also how much she loved us kids.
Some people are lucky enough to get one set of beautiful people to raise them. Divorce can turn even beautiful people into complete fools. I was doubly blessed. Not that my parents never made any mistakes, they were human after all. Looking back I see that most of the mistakes were made by me.
If I could take her pain away I would. I would take it all and swallow it hole. I would carry it with me until the end of time so that she did not have to suffer. I would spend every last day begging God to bring him back only for her, not even for me. I love her. She is my parent, my friend and my mom.
Stepfathers don’t get enough credit, and because I know at least two that are exceptional, I feel obligated to pay homage to them in this post.
Some stepfathers enter into a second marriage trying to recover old wounds from his own past, build a marriage with his new wife, and settle into his new family with his stepchildren and often times, children from his previous marriage. Although it is a difficult situation for them, it must be handled with care because their new role can affect many people and many situations. There are those who take this challenge seriously and use their new role to help heal fatherless children. Those individuals deserve praise for stepping in to help raise another man’s child/ren.
The first man that I must honor is my husband who has been in my son’s life since he was 4 years old (he’s now 11). He is “dad” to him in every way that counts, and for the first time since my own father, he has proven to me that being a father is much more than just playing with a child and disciplining him. You can often find my husband picking up and dropping off at school, attending parent-teacher conferences, coaching little league, knowing my son’s favorite foods, watching his favorite shows (even the ones he can’t stand), making him laugh and loving away his pain. He basically does everything a good mother would do. The amazing thing about these types of stepfathers, including my husband, is they are not bound by obligation. Instead, they are with these complicated families by choice. That, in and of itself, is powerful! They make a choice to love us and our child/ren.
The second man that I must recognize in this post is my stepson’s stepfather. Ok…did I confuse you?? Even through all the chaos and turmoil that our respective families face (mostly due to his wife, my husband’s ex-wife), I can not deny that he is a great father. Through numerous conversations with my stepson, it has been revealed to me how much he adores his stepfather. He’s told me about his favorite dish that his stepfather cooks for him. He often picks him up from school. He’s the excited dad in the stands at baseball games. He’s the father who is primarily raising him in his home. Although his wife (my husband’s ex) would like for him to believe that my husband is on some sort of ego trip because another man is raising his son, this couldn’t be further from the truth. My husband actually appreciates the fact that another man can be there, full-time (we live in separate states) because he can’t. I, too, have come to learn, through my stepson, how invaluable this man is to him. Additionally, I realize that it can’t be easy because his wife comes equipped with a lot of emotional baggage. This baggage keeps us bickering, in and out of court, on a regular basis. Yet, through it all, he remains completely devoted, by choice, to this child and his mother. That, alone, deserves a major pat on the back!
One definition of a stepfather is “the man who is married to someone’s mother, but isn’t their real father.” It makes it sound like these men are more like boys/girls club mentors than they are fathers. Whoever created this definition obviously isn’t or has never had a stepfather because these men are real fathers in every way that counts.
Paula Biscare, Founder of Remarriage, LLC said it best – A stepfather is the man stuck next to you on the freeway on a Friday evening, relentlessly trying to get home to catch his stepson’s umpteenth baseball game this week. He’s the shopper at Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. December 24 trying to snag the last copy of the hottest video game. He’s the neighbor teaching his stepson to hedge the bushes, or his stepdaughter how to parallel park.
Stepfathers listen compassionately to their teenage stepchildren at the dinner table and skip golf on Saturday morning so they can take them to their SATs. They provide endless guidance and leadership, all while silently providing a secure and safe environment for their families. They often take on financial responsibilities, from medical bills, to college and wedding bills, and they do so without complaint.
Some stepfathers are unsung heroes that deserve honor, support, recognition and praise. I will continue to recognize them in my own way, and I hope that all you second and ex-wives and stepchildren take the time to show the stepfather in your lives just how important he is to your family.
I was watching The Gameplan (a movie about a football player and his 8 year old daughter) this morning. Joe Kingman (the football player) met his daughter (Peyton) for the first time when she was 8 years old. Peyton’s mom, who died in a car accident, never told Joe about his daughter. The movie is based on Joe meeting, connecting and learning how to be a dad for the first time in his life. Well, towards the end of the movie, Peyton decides that she wants to go back home with her aunt, whom her mother appointed guardianship to. She felt that she might be a distraction for Joe during his football season. Joe became devastated, and was actually more distracted by her absence than her presence. At one point, he asked one of his team mates who was also a dad, to tell him what to do, and the advice he gave is the advice I give to my divorced dads.
“Make sure she knows you love her and that nothing is ever going to change that. And when she’s ready, she’ll come to you, ” he said.
I often have this conversation with my husband because his son needs to hear it most. However, my husband fears countering what his mother tells him will cause confusion for his son and raise questions. His mom is often on the other end influencing him, no matter how subtle, to think otherwise. At any rate, I encourage my husband to tell his son everyday how much he loves him and how much he wants him to be with us, so that K isn’t just hearing one side of the story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would never suggest that a father tear down his ex-wife or baby’s mama in order to accomplish this task, but there is nothing wrong with continuously telling your child how much you love and want him with you.
And so, divorced dads, I am encouraging you to do the same. I know (for those of you who actually care) that it gets hard at times to keep up the fight to remain an active parent in your child’s life. As I’ve stated before, it’s physically, emotionally and financially draining most of the time, and most importantly, just not fair. However you must remember that one day your ex’s influence over your child won’t be as great. She won’t be able to run interference for long! When that time comes you want your child to have always known how much daddy loves him. It’s amazing how many fathers actually don’t know what or how to do this so below are a list of tips.
- Call your child everyday, especially if you don’t see him/her very often! When he/she is sick of you calling, then you know you’re doing a good job keeping in touch.
- When you do talk to your child make sure you continuously tell him/her how much you love and miss him/her.
- Make sure that your communication revolves around him/her. Meaning, ask questions about school, teachers, friends, extra curricular activities…
- If your child is older, make sure you open the floor for his/her questions and be honest with your answers.
- Send Christmas presenst, birthday presents or just thinking of you presents to constantly remind him/her of your love no matter how near or far you are. These presents don’t have to be huge – just a little something to remind him/her that daddy is still here.
- Create a presence of your child in your home even if you don’t see him/her very often. Make sure that there are pictures of him/her hanging up with the rest of the family photos. Make sure that there is a place for him/her when they finally do return. If you can’t afford or don’t have enough bedrooms to maintain one in his/her absence, then create a drawer or closet space that is just for him/her and his/her things. Be sure to keep your child’s favorite foods and snacks in your home. Simply put, your child should feel like he or she is a part of the family when he or she is with you. He or she shouldn’t feel like a visitor!
You should do all of this knowing that due to the nature of the situation, your child might not be receptive to you, at first, however, by continuing the above actions, you increase your chances of it getting better in the long run. As stated above, your ex will not be able to run interference forever. At some point, your child will be older, and you will be able to maintain a relationship with him/her that is separate from his/her mother.
Before I met my husband’s ex-wife I wanted to believe that she would behave as admirably as I did when my ex remarried, but that didn’t happen. So, if you’re reading this, take note.
Even though my ex and I decided that we would always put our son’s needs first, and work hard to facilitate a relationship with both parents, it was much easier said than done prior to both of us remarrying. At that point, I realized that I was not responsible for facilitating the relationship between my son and his biological father, but he had to be responsible for that. Additionally, I had to put forth my effort into my husband and family, and he had to do the same with his. And, hopefully some way, some day, we could create two households that worked together, but separately, if that makes sense. Well, when my ex remarried it became difficult for me to adhere to my preconceived notion – mainly because my ex went about things totally wrong prior to getting married. Our son was only 3 years old and he hadn’t seen his father in 10 months (remember he plays overseas basketball). My ex popped up one summer with a new woman and said that he was getting married. He sprung this on my son in a 24 hour period. Keep in mind that my son is very young and already confused by the fact that this man, who we tell him is dad, but he hasn’t seen in a year, is all up in his face. But now, he has to deal with the fact that mom and dad aren’t together anymore (we usually lived together once he returned), and not only that, I have a new mom now too. I thought that he would’ve been more sensitive to our son’s feelings. I thought he would’ve talked to him first about the changes that were going to take place, but he did none of that. As such, as you can imagine, I was pretty upset by that because I knew how it would affect not only my son, but the little relationship that they had. My son immediately became standoffish and completely turned off by his father. Not to mention that he didn’t know this new woman who he would now refer to as his stepmom. It was way too overwhelming for a 3 year old.
With that being said, I had a difficult time initially accepting my ex’s new wife. I wondered about her moral character. Didn’t she ask her new husband about his child? Didn’t she wonder if he had told him about her? Why would she want to enter into a family on these types of terms? From there, I began to question how this type of person would be toward my son since neither of them were being the least bit sensitive to his needs and feelings. However, I did this without even talking to the woman, and I must admit I was wrong. I finally realized that I might as well accept this new family structure because it wasn’t going away. At that point I began to make a concerted effort to see the good qualities in his new wife, and I was pleasantly surprised. His new wife had an amazingly positive impact on both my ex and my son’s life. My ex began sending birthday and Christmas presents when she came into his life. She was surprisingly nurturing and loving with my son. As a matter of fact, my son has a better relationship with her than he does with his biological father. I am so grateful that he chose someone like her. Having said that, I don’t want to lead you to believe that we agree on everything, we don’t. But, our respect for one another is mutual. I respect the fact that some of her decisions are based solely on what’s best for her family and vice versa.
At any rate, after 7 years she and I not only communicate much better, but we understand each other better too or at least we make an effort to do so. It’s been a learning process for me because after a careful self-examination I had to realize that I was beginning to do to her what many do to second wives, and that is to use her as a scapegoat for my issues. I quickly had to do a reality check, and remember my tough position as a second wife to my husband. I had to recognize the fact that she would be the one comforting at bed time, fixing my son’s favorite meals, transporting him to certain activities, and attending school functions, and she does all of that and much more. As such, I had to give her the respect as the mother figure in my son’s life that I have been demanding in my life as a second wife and stepmother.
Although we haven’t completely worked out all of the kinks on this side of my blended family, it has gotten soooo much better over the years. Once again, I am grateful that my ex picked a woman that has enough patience, grace and intelligence to handle the many obstacles that a blended family faces. I must also pat myself on the back for seeing past all the bad mistakes that my ex made to find some of the good that now exist within our blended family.
The most interesting thing about ME writing on the subject of first and second wives is that I can write from both perspectives. I am married to someone who has a child with his ex-wife, and I have a child with someone else. Although I wasn’t married to my ex, we were together for nearly 6 years, and lived like husband and wife. My experience being a first “wife” coupled with my conversations with other first wives led me to write this post.
I usually write from the standpoint of being a second wife because that causes the most chaos in my blended family. However, as previously stated, I don’t want to imply that all of my blended family issues are unilateral because they’re not. My ex and I definitely have our share of communication issues as well.
For example, I still can’t believe that after 7 years of being married to other people that this is even an issue, but he still seems to think that all of my concerns regarding our son somehow revolve around him. Fellas, let me clue you in on something, all of our decisions, concerns, questions or anything else regarding our child is not because we want you so don’t flatter yourself. Please know that because we share a child we still have to discuss certain things even though we are not together. This means I can question your whereabouts if you have my child with you. It also means that you do have to call me if you’re going to be late either picking him up or dropping him off. It even means that I might have to occasionally discuss money issues with you as well. I know that it’s difficult to grasp because seemingly we still have to do many things that husbands and wives do, such as the above-mentioned. However, it is necessary when you share a child.
My ex and I actually had to go to court over these types of issues because I couldn’t get him to understand that all of our communication was not about him. My ex is an overseas basketball player who lives out of the country for about 10 months out of every year. And, often times he would just pop up in town one day asking to see his son. He failed to realize that we just don’t sit around waiting on him all year long, and our life actually does continue in his absence. As such, I would often sign him up for summer camp because I didn’t know when he was coming in town (he never arrived at the same time every year), and our son had to go somewhere while my husband and I were at work. Well, he got really upset by the fact that I had signed him up for summer camp during his visitation. So, I told him that he had to let me know when he was coming to town, and he couldn’t let me know 2 days before his arrival. He told me that we were no longer together, and he didn’t have to check in with me anymore. I responded by telling him that it isn’t checking in, it’s called being considerate of other people besides yourself. It turns out that the Judge agreed with me, and ordered him to give 60 days advanced noticed upon his arrival or visitation would be at my discretion.
It seems as if everything I do and say, in my ex’s eyes, is because I’m secretly longing to be back with him. Never mind that fact that I am and have been happily remarried for the last 7 years. I love, and more importantly, respect my husband because his love for both my son and I is unconditional. He has been my biggest fan, supporter and best friend for the last 7 years. We have a wonderful relationship that most of my friends and even some strangers admire. So, why in the world would I want to trade in what I have now for what I use to have? My ex and I parted ways because he was selfish…everything was about him and his career. He was a cheater, and although I never caught him, we spent 10 months out of every year, for 3 years, in different countries, I’m not stupid. Not to mention that he was a horrible father, who never spent any time with our son when he wasn’t playing basketball. Instead he chose to spend time with his boys and anything else that didn’t entail being a father. So again, why would I trade in what I have now for I used to have with him???
My ex never wants to take responsibility for his actions. Instead, it’s easier for him to just blame me for everything. At one point when he returned from overseas my son wanted nothing to do with him. He didn’t want to go over his house let alone have overnight visitation with him. And even to this very day, my son is still not completely comfortable with his biological father. He still doesn’t want to spend the night or have frequent summer visitation with him. Of course, my ex has concluded that it’s because I am influencing my son due to my bitterness of not being able to be with him…yeah right, that makes sense. It has nothing to do with the fact that he has been living overseas for 10 months out of the year ever since my son was in the womb, and therefore they have not spent enough time together to develop a relationship.
As I’ve stated in many of my articles, at some point in the blended family everyone has to let go of their past. Men if you’re still accusing your ex-wives of wanting you, then you have not let go. Contrary to what you may believe, the world does not revolve around you. And, even if your ex does feel that way, you must find a way to always make it about the child that you share together instead of focusing on your old relationship. If you do anything else, you’re doing an injustice to your child. Your child deserves two parents that can communicate and coexist like adults. Whatever happened in the past or whatever feelings you may have had in the past should stay there. It truly doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters is raising healthy, happy and well-adjusted children.