I have a great relationship with my stepkid’s mom. Do you want to know the secret? Because she is secure in her role as her son’s mother. She knows that no one can take her place and yet, there is room in his heart to love me and our own unique relationship. She sees that there are things that I can bring to his life that perhaps she would not and she is okay with that. She knows that we are not in competition but a team of people surrounding her son’s best interests.
Are there moments when things can get frustrating? You bet! Did this relationship happen over night? Not at all. I have been with my husband for nearly twelve years and it took us probably half of that to develop the relationship. Now she comes over on Christmas morning to have breakfast and open gifts so that her son can open his gifts with his siblings and have those memories. This wouldn’t work for every family but it works for ours.
I have always appreciated how she did not treat her son like he only had one parent. She knew how much her son loved his dad and encouraged them to spend time together. She never kept her son from attending his father’s family’s events even if it wasn’t ‘his day’ by the court decree. If there was a birthday party or family occasion, she encouraged his being a part of the affair. This resulted in him having a close relationship with both sides of his family which is a benefit to him. In fact, they have rarely had to use their parenting plan in the court decree because they are both flexible and do not play games.
It saddens me when games are played. Little things like not putting the father’s information on a school contact form. Trying to intercept items from school bags that are to go to the non-custodial parent to keep them in the loop. Not sharing email addresses to coaches so the other parent knows what is going on outside of school so they can attend. Or worse, not encouraging your child to attend his half-siblings birthday party or event of his other family. When those types of games are played it makes the non-custodial parent feel like it is a battle to be a part of their child’s life. Does this benefit the child? Not one bit. Research has long shown that a child does best when both parents are involved in his or her lives.
I know there are deadbeat parents all over the place who are completely disengaged. Perhaps the child’s other parent has an addiction or a mental health issue. This does not give the custodial parent the right to speak poorly of that absent parent in front of the child. Your child deserves to develop their own opinion of the people in his or her life separate from your own. Be the bigger person, no matter how hard that is.
Forgive yourself when you act less than admirable towards you child’s other parent and do better the next time. One of you has to start somewhere, so make it you. If you can’t, each and every day can seem like a lifetime of hell because of all the angry and bitter feelings that result and trickle down to the children. Think of it from that angle: A child growing up in an angry and bitter family.
And nobody wants that.