Accepting My New Spouse as a Parent to My Children
by Margaret Broersma, Author of Daily Reflections for Stepparents
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
In 1982, when I had to have open-heart surgery, my biggest fear was not of death itself but fear of leaving my family alone. If I should die, who would raise my little sons, then four and six years old? Who would get to be the mother of my wonderful babies, nurture them and watch them grow? Who would love them as much as I did, the mom who was told she would never have them?
Before the new valve had to be put into my heart, I had time to gain complete trust in God. It didn’t happen miraculously all in a moment. But by filling my mind with Scripture like those above and many others, I learned to give my boys, one day at a time, totally over to the Lord. I came to believe that if I did die, it would truly be God’s plan for those children, the ones on whom He had His eye when they were yet unborn, the ones on whom He would keep His eye, even if I were gone.
Two years later, when their father was killed and I cried out, "What are You doing, God? How can I raise two male children without a father?" my previous lesson came to mind. OK, I hadn’t died. But as surely as my death was not part of God’s plan, now their father’s death would leave its mark and become part of what would make them the men God had in mind for them to be.
Then Aaron and Andrew got a stepfather. Rog is quite different from their birthfather. During that first year of our blended family, before Rog and I had time to work out the differences between us, he would sometimes reprimand my sons for something that had not been wrong before. Or perhaps he would allow something that had previously been discouraged.
When these situations occurred, my children and I would give each other a "look," conspirators against his "not understanding us." As long as I continued to do this, the boys continued to resent and disrespect their stepfather and his authority in our home. But when I began to trust God and acknowledge to myself that this new man was just as much a part of God’s plan for the character development of my children as I was, then I could encourage them to respect his wishes and obey him. When I trusted my children to God and also trusted them to their stepfather, harmony in our home increased one hundred percent. At the same time my husband was learning to trust me to be the mother of his daughters.
I do not mean that an abusive situation should be tolerated as if it will be good character development for the children. But there is a wide range of what is acceptable and possible in adult-child relationships. Just because your new spouse’s ways of doing things are different doesn’t mean they are wrong.
We talked a lot about expectations—what I expected in Rog as a father, what he expected of me as a mother, whether we could live with those expectations, or where we may have to compromise. We each tried to act as a go-between, often explaining our child to the stepparent and the parent to the child. In addition to our own talking, the school social worker acted as a liaison between on son and his new dad on several occasions. When each learned what their actions and reactions brought out in the other, they learned to change their behavior. As our understanding of each other grew, so did our trust.
Just a few weeks ago one of my sons said to me, "I was remembering when you were first married. I remember that I really hated Dad. I wonder why? He is a really good dad for my brother and me. He is my discipliner and protector. He talks with us about life and stuff and helps us figure out what we should do and what we should be like. I wonder why I hated him back then, and I wonder why I changed?"
I felt my heart burst with joy! I reminded my child that when he got a new dad, he was only ten years old. He probably thought that everything would go back to being the way it was with his birthfather. But Rog was different. He didn’t act in the other dad’s old predictable ways. His idea of fun was not the same, nor were all his ideas of what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior the same. I suggested that in his disappointment at not finding his new dad to be the same as his birthfather, he hated him. But once they adjusted to each other, the hate was replaced with respect and, finally, with love.
Dear Father in heaven, Sovereign of our lives, we pray that You will enable us to relax and trust our children to You. When we watch our new spouse with our children, make us wise enough to be able to tell the difference between "different" and "wrong." We thank You that You are at work in our lives and that you have a plan for our children that is being worked out. In Jesus’ name, amen.