Practice Positive: My ‘other parents’ are great

They enter our lives without much input from us. They fall in love with our parents, then take on the messy challenge of step-parenting.

These days it is pretty common to have a stepparent or two in your life. These people enter our lives without much input from us. They fall in love with our parents and then take on the challenge of being a stepparent. It can be a messy business. They come with their set of rules and habits and we come with ours. It’s why the term ‘blended family’ is used. Add in teenager drama and hurt, confused feelings left over from a divorce and you get a mixed bag of emotions.

I come from a broken home. I have a stepmom and a stepdad. I met my stepmom Lynda when I was in elementary school. I was a frustrated pre-teen and a bit moody. At 15, I moved in with my dad and Lynda. I was an angry, somewhat depressed teen. Lynda had never had children. Taking me on must have been daunting.

The thing is, as a young person, I never considered how hard it must have been to be a step-parent to myself and my brothers. Looking back at that time with my now adult eyes, I can see that she did the best she could. She loved me the way she knew how. She put in the effort to get to know me, and shared things she liked to do with me.

I have a great relationship with her now and I don’t like to use the term stepmom to describe her. I lived with her for a few of the most challenging years of my life. She gave me her time and her love. That’s why, when I dedicated part of my book to her, I called her my Second Mom. That is what she is. She helped raise me.

I met my second stepdad, Steve, when I was 17. I was a much happier person by that time but still fragile. He has been there for me through three significant heartbreaks, many jobs and a complete mental breakdown. Like Lynda, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but he has always shown me love, plus he gives great hugs. I consider him my Second Dad.

Stepparents get a bad name. Even in cartoons they are depicted as cruel; evil. I used to think of my step-parents that way sometimes. I could only see how much change I had to endure. I couldn’t see how much they had to change; to give up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to really appreciate just how challenging it must have been for Lynda and Steve to enter my world.

I watched my own mother tackle being a stepparent. I saw her struggle to enforce rules while not being the ‘real parent’ to my stepsisters. I saw how hard she tried to be there for them. It was a tumultuous time. Looking back at her role made me acknowledge how it must have been for Lynda and for Steve.

Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I’m able to see my second parents as people. I know that they messed up sometimes, but so did my biological parents. So did I. Stepparents don’t often get the same amount of respect and level of forgiveness as biological parents. That’s really too bad. They work very hard. They do what they can.

Now, I’m not talking about those stepparents that live up to the cartoon depiction of cruel or evil. Those exist too. I’ve had one of those myself. However, if you have a step-parent who really has been there for you, who really has tried to be good to you, take some time to really let them know that you appreciate that.

Tell them you get just how much they have done for you. They are the unsung members of the family but they don’t have to be. Make sure they know they are appreciated.

– Dawn Carson is a writer, positive mindset coach and public speaker. She lives in Cloverdale.

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