Of all the life lessons I have learned so far, changing your perspective is the most important one I can reflect on. Such a simple thing can have such a positive or negative impact on your world and those around you. I recently saw a post on my Facebook page of a parent that snapped a photo during Halloween it had his ex, his ex’s new husband and child, his new wife and her ex there for their child. It was surreal because that is how I was introduced to blending a family the “correct” way. Caption was you put your kids first, it may look weird but our children are happy.
I am putting aside so many issues about the stories between the parents here. Honestly from my own personal experience it started this way. My Uncle W was my world when I was little, I adored him and it felt like he adored me. When he and my Aunt got a divorce (talking late 70’s early 80’s) I remember thinking he isn’t my dads brother, will I ever get to see him again? Will family gathering be the same? It was truly all “what about me moment”. It hit me hard, and affected my world more than they probably realize. But what my family did was amazing, they showed this practice well before it was considered “normal” they sat me down and told me nothing would change really in my world. I could still spend time with him, I would still see him during the holidays, and most of all I was still loved. I did get to see him, I did get to spend time with him and my cousins a lot, and most of all things really didn’t change (for me). They put the kids, all the kids, even the ones that weren’t technically theirs first. Years later I took my then husband home to Ohio with me so he could meet the family. I remember my same Aunt was over at my Uncle W’s house, she was laying on the couch with a headache and my Uncle and his current wife were helping her to make her feel comfortable. My then husband had such a “weird” view of the situation I couldn’t understand it as though he couldn’t understand the situation he was viewing. What seemed so “normal” for us because we grew up with such an amazing example the whole entire family embraced and modeled was such a foreign concept to him. You should “hate” your ex, bottom line. Boy was that a clue as to what was to come in our future.
Fast forward to when my former husband and I divorced, at first we were very civil for our child. We were there for her together for any school event, we showed up if she was ill, I remember him getting very sick and I sat at the hospital with our child and him to make sure he was ok. Did I have to? No but no matter what you shared a huge chunk of your life with this person, at one point you loved each other so much you got married and had a child. Those feelings can die, or go away, bitterness can build up but in the end you can forgive for yourself and do that right thing in life. That right thing was putting our child’s interests first, she was worried about him and I was there to comfort her and do what I could to help him in that moment.
I got remarried and yes he had an ex and a child too, my mom taught me you don’t have to hate the ex. She was a part of their life, they have their own story and in a way you are a stranger to “their” story. Respect the other parent no matter what. No matter what their story is you teach respect from the child towards yourself and the other parents. You model and learn how to blend the family so everyone can enjoy the children. I did that very well, I actually enjoyed hanging out with his ex. We did take road trips together with all our kids, we ate Sunday night dinners with each other. At first if felt weird to have everyone in the same room but when you saw the change in their son it was well worth it. His grades went up, he was calmer, and plus he couldn’t play the houses against one another because we all communicated with one another. It was a blessed situation that evolved over time.
But of course life is not picture perfect, there are always people that do not believe in the same views and that is ok. What I have learned is some people prefer to stay stuck in the same negative pattern in life. They want to punish you for a wrong that occurred to them, or maybe they are just plain miserable and want you to pay for that too. Maybe they were given mixed messages during the first part of their relationship with your ex and now they hate you with every fiber in their body. This list is endless on why they have such negative feelings towards you when they don’t even really know you. I ran into this with my ex’s current wife, she has no reason to personally hate me. I have not done anything directly to her, I have not hit or threatened her in any way. I have not said bad things about her early on in their relationship. But the stance from the beginning was more of the “normal” way to look at an ex wife. I am the enemy, I am the ex, and I am hated. That is ok, as long as it is not pressed onto a child that has nothing to do with the feelings you have toward the ex wife. See as a step parent you have a choice, it is your choice to love and accept your step child. You have a choice to make them feel special, part of a new family or you can punish them for being part of an old story that you have nothing to do with. In the beginning I was happy our child had a new step parent that seemed to love her, I was excited our daughter had someone else she could be close to, to go to in times of needs. I was happy our daughter could have another loving person in her life that accepted her and loved her fully. I was surprised to hear the words of “your step mom is trying to love you, she is trying to be…” but your not making it easy. I feel for them both, so much hatred, so much resentment, so much energy being spent on negativity.
It doesn’t have to be that way, it doesn’t have to be us against them, it doesn’t have to be so full of being separated. I promise if you can lay down your resentment and hate toward one another, it is your child that benefits greatly. No two people get along all the time, that is what makes us human. But what makes us extraordinary human beings is our knowing we are all one, we are all connected, and on some level when you make one parent the hated one, the “crazy” one you are in essence sending a message to that child there is something wrong with them. Because they are essentially half of that other parent you are bad mouthing. You are making them doubt themselves, feel bad about themselves and question not only are they to the bad things your are saying about their parent. But you are also making them question your authority naturally. If you can see when you say “Your parent is such a loser” you are saying to that child they are half a loser, AND you are bad mouthing someone they love. You don’t have to love the parent but they do. So naturally they begin to question your authority, they begin to question you as a person because now you have a different view of them. That parent you are bad mouthing is their world, and you are now bashing their world. When judges, psychologists, and other “experts” or “non experts” tell you in the end you will lose more than you will gain when you bad mouth an ex it is true. Because when someone loves someone they are loyal to them not the one bashing, a child doesn’t have the capacity to understand the big huge picture, they make illogical choices with what they have available to them at that time. If someone were to bash your current spouse right now what would you do? You put up a wall between you two and it stays up, the more bashing more bricks go up on that wall. It’s not rocket science, it is just how we human beings work.
I’m not writing this for the ones in my life, I think they are to far gone for advice. But hopefully ones that are just starting to go through this process, getting together for the children IF you can is what is best for them. The adults are the one who decided to end it, the adults are the ones who decided to change things up and to a child they still need each of you. What better way to put on a front in front of the kids, stand united for them, let them know no matter what you still have their back and will be there for them no matter what. It’s not a message of hey we are getting back together, it is a message to the children despite our differences, despite our problems we are still here for you. You are the most important person to us and we can get along for 2 hours (if that) and be here for you!
Kids are amazing and resilient, they learn by what you model early on in life. With the holidays coming up I just wanted to blog about how maybe you could make it extra special for them.
~Much love to you