From the very beginning, my fiancé and I talked about his kids. I felt like I knew them and their little personalities very early on before ever meeting them in person. I knew that Hayley, (the 17-year-old at the time) played soccer and was thinking about going to school to become a vet tech. I knew that the middle girl (9 at the time) liked moustaches, baking and gymnastics and the youngest (4 at the time) was a rough and tumble little man who loved Lego, play fighting and video games. I was able to meet my fiancé’s Mom and sister the weekend before meeting the kids which put my mind at ease and made me more nervous. They were so warm and welcoming and I knew I wanted to be a part of a loving and kind family (given that my family was 3 provinces away).
Being around kids my whole life, I felt really surprised by the fear and nervousness I had the day that we had planned for me to meet the kids. We wanted to keep it casual and fun so, we decided on (Calgary) Zoo Lights a couple weeks before Christmas. I was so fearful that my 28-year-old self was about to meet my potential 17-year-old step-daughter. You always hear about those scary stories of step-parents and teenage kids. Heck! You hear about the nightmare that a lot of bio-parents go through with their teenage kids- I myself was one of those nightmares. I knew that if she didn’t like me, my time with their Dad would be short lived. I was also surprised to be as comfortable with them as I was from the get. Hayley remembers it being awkward and weird, but I remember it being really easy-going. I could tell that they weren’t super comfortable with me being there, but the relationship that they had with their Dad was fun, playful and really comfy and I just snuggled right into that. Hayley was quiet and I could tell she was watching my every move. She observed and paid attention to everything that night, I felt on display, but I didn’t mind! I knew that that was part of the gig! I kept it as casual as I could by talking about her nails, school, her favourite activities and prepping for grad. She politely answered and talked with me, but my true feeling about that night was that she wasn’t really on board.
After that night, my fiancé and I would get together on Tuesdays and on the weekends. As time went on, Hayley would join us shopping at the mall, for dinner and to the movies. She was getting excited for her grad that coming May and asked me questions about make-up and hair and we even went to the mall for her grad shoes. Our relationship slowly evolved, but I can genuinely say it was easy. She was laid back and quiet, I was loud and outgoing (embarrassingly to her sometimes, I’m sure). She was like the yin to my yang and it just fit and worked.
I thought it would be interesting to answer some questions that step-kids might ask their step-parents (in my previous post that you can read HERE) and also give step-parents an opportunity to ask their step-kids questions (this post!!). I get a lot of questions about my relationship with my oldest step-daughter and I chatted with Hayley to see if she would be open to answering some questions that step-parents may ask their step-kids to give some insight and inspiration to keep trying and keep trekking. It’s not always easy for either side, but it is always worth it!
Here, Hayley answers some questions to give insight to life of the step-kid (from her perspective).
- How did it feel when Michelle came into your life? How did the feelings change overtime?
When I first heard about Michelle, I won’t lie, I wasn’t too thrilled. Not in an angry way, but I guess in a jealous way if that makes sense. I almost didn’t want to like her because of what I thought she would be taking away from me. For years my Dad was my best friend, we did everything together, I slept on a rickety futon just to spend time with him watching movies and playing video games. And then suddenly, I was introduced to someone else he wanted to spend time with other than me (and the 2 littles of course). I was worried she would change our whole dynamic. Then came the night I was to meet her. I was nervous, scared, maybe a little annoyed, but honestly pretty excited. As I thought about the idea of her more, I was excited to maybe have another person in my life to rely on, have fun with and just love. The night we went to the zoo with her we didn’t talk much. I didn’t know what to say to her or even my Dad and I think we can all agree it was extremely awkward the whole time. As much as I almost didn’t want to like her, she had a smile that was contagious (still does). I went home and texted my best friend, and the only negative thing I could say about her was that she had bad eyebrows! Slowly she came around more often, I would chat with her at my Dad’s work and she even ended up coming to some of my soccer games. Now fast forward 6 years and I would truly say Michelle is one of my best friends. We’ve created some amazing memories over that time, and I do really love her. I think the feelings began to change the more time I spent with her. She’s caring, sweet, nice (too much at times), funny, she’s fun and loves to sing and dance. Michelle is someone I can now really rely on and I enjoy being around. Once I saw the way she lit my Dad’s smile the way I hadn’t seen in years, that’s when I knew. One, she was going to be around forever, and two, I was okay with that. It took me some time to realize that she was adding to my life and my family was whole for the first time ever.
- Do you love your step-parent the same as your bio-parent? What is the same? What is different?
I wouldn’t say the love is the same, not in the way that I don’t love her as much as I do my Dad, but it’s a different kind of love, I guess. My Dad I’ve loved for 22 years, while I’ve only known Michelle for 6. I think I love them both for different reasons. My Dad I’ve just loved from birth, he raised me and supported my every hope and dream, I didn’t have to “try” to love him. With Michelle, it was a conscious decision, I looked at her one day, I don’t know when, and just knew I loved her. Not going to lie, this question is a hard one. I’m not sure what to say other than I love them equally, but for different reasons. I think the similarities would be the obvious, they both care for me, help me when I need it, pick me up and dust me off. But some differences would be that my Dad is my Dad, and Michelle is my very best friend. I don’t have a relationship with my bio-mom (my choice), so I do see Michelle as more to me than a step-mom, she’s a mom-mom to me.
- What is the hardest part about having a blended family?
At the start it was hard to accept another person into the dynamic. Sharing my Dad with yet another person, after already sharing him with my 2 siblings. But once she moved in with us 5 years ago, it just took time to settle and now it’s easy. I look forward to going home and seeing her (and my Dad), look forward to telling her a million stories about my day, watching a random reality tv show and just being comfortable.
- What about your step-parent made it easy?
Michelle has a very bright and vibrant personality, makes it hard to hate her so, that made it incredibly easy! She wasn’t all up in my face all the time, begging me to like her. She was patient and I think that made a huge difference.
- What about your step-parent made it hard?
Michelle is also a very “lovey-dovey” all-the-time kind of person, I am not. I will be affectionate when I feel like it and nothing can change that. So, I think the most difficult thing about the whole process was just that I felt bad, and felt worried she would get upset that I didn’t want to hug her and what not. It was hard (still can be) to explain to her how I just don’t go around hugging everyone I meet. It takes me time and I can still love you without physically showing it. I don’t think it’s a fault of hers, the world needs more happy and huggy people, just a difference in how we grew up I guess.
- What could a step-parent do to make the transition easier?
Just be patient. That’s my number one tip. Don’t assert yourself into the child’s life like you own the place. These things take time, and if you’re pushy, it could have the opposite affect that you’re going for. Be there when the kids ask you to be, not whenever you feel like it. Don’t get mad or upset if what they give is not equal to what you give, kid’s take time.
- What advice would you give a step-parent newly in the kid’s life?
Without just repeating everything I said in the previous question, the most important thing to remember is that you’re just as new to them as they are to you. And not everyone thinks or feels the same way as you. Their whole world was just flipped upside down and you just need to remember and cater to that. They will come around when they come around and nothing you do will make that go any faster, push and it will probably happen slower. Patience is the key!
- What advice would you give a step-parent where the relationship is full of conflict?
I think it’s best to try and get some alone time with the kid. Try and get them out and do something together that they like to do. Let the conversation come naturally from them, don’t get too personal, let them say whatever they need to whenever they feel comfortable. Let them vent if they need to. Let them rant about everything they dislike about you, maybe they just need that outlet in order to wrap you up in their brain. Again, be patient and understanding, this takes time.
- What was your initial impression of your step-parent and how did that change over time?
Very first thing I thought about Michelle was that I hated her eyebrows! (lol) but other than that I really didn’t have a bad thing to say about her, just about my life changing in general. There was someone else now that required my dad’s attention other than us kids and that was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, honestly. But as I got to know her more, I realized she was kind of what I was missing… that female figure to look up to and depend on. And she was the right one for the job, still is. Friend and mom rolled into one. I didn’t have that anywhere else in my life! Sometimes kids are just mad at their life and the transitions and changes that they are going through, not necessarily the step-parent.
- From the step-kid’s perspective, how do you develop a relationship with the step-parent?
I think in this situation the step-kid has all the power. We are the ones establishing a timeline of how and when the relationship will play out. My best advice is to go into it with an open-mind (as much as you can muster) and to not be selfish. I was just happy to see my Dad happy. He deserved it and that made me realize Michelle wasn’t too bad after all. I’m definitely his number one fan so if he was happy with the situation then, I would be too. Acquiring a step-parent isn’t a punishment, it’s a chance to grow a new, better life. I think the step-kids have to be patient too, as this new person doesn’t know anything about you so you have to establish the relationship as if you just met someone new at school. There’s no lifetime of growing up with this person like a bio-parent, so just be patient as you both learn about each other, and the relationship will grow from there and in time.
- What advice would you give a step-parent on establishing respect and trust?
Let them come to you. Don’t go all helicopter parent or demand anything from them because you will just push them farther away. Let them be the ones to introduce that respect and trust and let them dictate your moves for a while. They are controlling if the relationship will be there or if it will never happen.
- What qualities would you recommend to a bio-parent looking for a new partner/future step-parent to their kids?
I think the best qualities in just a parent overall are patience, acceptance and understanding. I can’t really speak for everyone on this, but I think the bio-parent should just make sure they find someone not only they can click with, but someone they share family views and values with based on their situation. A bio-parent with younger kids is a lot different than one with older kids, and someone with both is a completely different story (our family dynamic). I think that as long as the bio-parent is happy and the kids see that, then it’s easier for the kids to grow a relationship with the new partner.
- What advice would you give your bio-parents as a new step-parent transitions into the kids’ lives?
A relationship ends for a reason. Mutually agreed upon, mutually signed upon and done. The most important thing to remember for both bio-parents are the kids. The kids should always be the first thing on their minds as they start to see a new partner enter the dynamic. If the kids are content and cared for, nothing else should matter. A split is a new start for both parties and after the papers are signed there should be no room for arguments about the past. You’re both moving on and in the best interest of your kids, it’s for the better. As long as the new partner is treating them right, the opinion of the other bio-parent (not the one with the new partner) shouldn’t matter. Berating each other and causing useless fights just makes it harder for the kids. I went into this basically with 1 bioparent (my Dad), so this transition wasn’t a tug at me from both sides, it was a fresh start with someone I knew I could rely on. For those kids who are close with both bio-parents it’s a whole different ball park and I think it’s important for all parents to be on the same page, cut the crap and focus on the kids.
- What has your step-parent done that makes you appreciate them in your life?
Well first and foremost she picks me up late at night when my car gets stuck in the snow so that’s awesome! (lol) But on a more serious note, although it took time, Michelle is the one person I know I can take anything to, and she’ll give me the best advice and guidance no matter what the problem is. She also understands anxiety and is equipped to help me with that as well. And unlike my friends and boyfriend, she’s basically living my exact life alongside me every day. She knows the ins and outs of the past and present, knows the arguments and texts that breakout regularly, so she knows all the details and for that I’m grateful because it makes her that much easier to talk to. Apart from chatting, she’s always down for a wine night, a burger king night, a karaoke night, a random Netflix show night, she does all she can to make sure I’m comfortable and happy. I also appreciate her for what she does for my family as a whole. I love hearing my brother laugh as she attempts to play his video games, my sisters’ stories she tells me after a day spent jumping out of places and scaring Michelle. The overarching feeling in this house is ten thousand times better than any feeling we all ever had in our old house. I may just be speaking from my own point of view here, but I think we all have a better quality of life since Michelle’s been around.
- What are the annoying parts about having a step-parent?
This may just be situational, but there seems to always be some sort of pull in another direction. Someone always trying to break up the bond. The annoyance isn’t with Michelle, it’s with outside people that think they know my brain and want to ruin what my family has going on
In conclusion, Michelle has bettered my life in more ways than I could ever repay her for or thank her for. A stepparent and a step-kid have the potential to create a bond and a relationship stronger than any other. The choice is ultimately up to both sides to make it work, but I really think the patience and consistency from the step-parent and the willingness and openness from the step-child. I think what can come from those moving parts can make for a really beautiful relationship.
I am a 33 year old Step-Mom to three kids who would describe me as a dramatic, fun-loving hopeless romantic (insert eyeroll). Transplanted from Pickering, Ontario and currently living in Calgary, Alberta. My friends would describe me as an open-book, a safe space and an ever evolving shoulder to cry on (my friend told me to say that). I work with children with special needs; a career inspired by my involvement with Willowjak. I have been thrown some pretty big curve balls in my short time here on this planet but, have faced them with a good book in hand and a cup of tea on my night stand. My hope is that what I have experienced in my life can be of use to others. Some support to prove that we are not alone; though we may feel like we are, that we are seen; though we feel invisible and that we have a voice; though we may not know we have one yet.
You can hear more about Michelle’s story when she appeared as a guest on Willowjak’s ‘Choose Your Own After’, by listening HERE.