Monday, November 15, 2010

Step Parents and Grieving Children

Step parenting, I am sure (though have no personal experience) is potentially very challenging at the best of times. Though I imagine when the step parent is entering a family where the Mother/Father died it’s a whole other obstacle course.

I look at Chloe and the amazing relationship she has with my son and I am just completely overwhelmed by the fact that she doesn’t just accept that my son is a part of me, but she LOVES that. She loves him in a way a Mother would without ever infringing on the memory of his biological Mother.

I heard some criticisms this weekend (not directed at me though certainly felt close to home) about people who “move too soon” when it comes to introducing someone else into grieving children’s lives. I think I know the person those comments were aimed at and I want to take an opportunity in this post to actually contradict the criticisms completely.

I had never been in a relationship with my son’s Mother during his lifetime. We were friends. But irrespective of whether the parents (at the time that one passed) were together or not, it’s the surviving parent who will be the one the child looks to, in most cases, to “make it feel better.” And there’s a tendency, in my experience at least, in the early stages for a child and the surviving parent to become insular. It is expected. So for someone to then come into this insular unit is a big shift. That is something that a step parent or step parent figure has to deal with. And in my opinion, the men and women who are prepared to enter that set up and deal with the inevitable hurdles deserve MEDALS, not criticism.

There’s no such thing as a right or a wrong time to introduce someone new. And if a surviving parent just so happens to fall in love at what other people thing is a “bad time,” then other people should mind their own business. Providing the children’s feelings are respected at all times and the children are given an opportunity, at their own pace, to get to know that person, then I see nothing wrong with it. A parent knows their own child. I knew my son was ready when I introduced Chloe seriously into his life. I knew he was ready when I asked her to move in with me. And she knew he was too.

So when I hear people criticising situations like mine, it actually makes me sick. As reiterate that these criticisms were not directed at me – but regardless, the sit close to home in light of my own personal circumstances and it irritates me that people can think they can pass judgement.

For my son, having Chloe around has been amazing for him. Yes, there are times he still gets upset and misses his Mother. He’s 6 and she has died – it’s expected that it will hurt sometimes. But he actually talks to Chloe about it now as openly as he does to me. And she respects certain boundaries, certain memories and they completely adore one another.

I say it again – people prepared to love grieving children, knowing that they could, at some point, become a target for resent, and to love them unconditionally, respecting all boundaries and memories. Is the most selfless thing in the world.

I imagine most people who criticise such situations have no first hand experience whatsoever....

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