"Their Kid" A Post About Step-Parenting By Juggling Eric

In my absence this week, I am thankful to have a couple top-notch dad bloggers filling in for me. Taking over today's duties is Eric of Juggling Eric who I share a big commonality with, well other than we're from Texas. Eric is a stepfather, which is the topic of his excellent guest post.

Their Kid

My parents were divorced when I was five years old. Both my parents remarried, and while I was never close to my step-dads, I was particularly close to my step-mom. My dad was 28 and she was 19 when they got married. So at 19, she was a mother of an seven and four year old. Now a days, that may seem the norm in most public high schools, but I'm sure it was a big change for her. I called her "mom" and would prefer her company to my father's. She was my second mother and I treated her as such.

Fast forward to the year 2002 (20 years later) and my dad and step-mom are getting a divorce, yet I still called her "mom". A year later at my niece's first birthday party (during their time together, they had four children together), she was referring to me as the kid's "half brother" when she introduced me to her boyfriend's family.

What the hell? I was calling this woman "mom" and now she's referencing me as someone who is only "half" related to "her" kids now?

It was obvious at this point, I was back to being "Dan's Kid". The birthdays, the vacations, the secrets shared were all dismissed because there was no marriage certificate any longer to give her that responsibility.

Needless to say, I felt betrayed. Just because I didn't share her blood, I should still have been considered as one of her kids after 18 years right? After all this time, I was always considered a "step-kid". Someone who was easily disposed of because she wasn't married to my dad any longer.

That same month, I met Michael.

"Kristie's Kid".

As my relationship with Kristie grew, as did my relationship with her six year old son. We were best buddies. I took him camping, we went to ball games and wrestling events. I would get pissed when I would hear stories about what his dad wasn't doing to be a contributing father. We would talk about his mom and I getting married, and I told him he was going to be up there with us because he was involved in this relationship as well.

Even when times were rocky between his mom and I, I still called and talked to him. I still took him places and was still a part of his life and he was a major part of mine. Even when it wasn't looking like his mom and I were going to be together, he asked about the whole wedding thing. I told him no matter who I married, I would want him up there with me as one of my best men.

Well things got better with Kristie, and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Before I asked her parents, I asked Michael if I could marry his mom. He was excited as I was when he gave his approval. He wasn't baggage that came with this girl. He was part of this girl's life. As important as it was to Kristie that she find someone that can support her and her son, it meant just the same when it came to Michael's concerns regarding his mother's well being.

Since I started blogging about my life as a husband and father last year, I never prefaced a story about Michael as "my step-son Michael." I've always considered him my son from before getting married. I've explained that he is my step-son if I felt my audience would be confused.

I've come across some dads who blog and consider other men's children as their own (Ron, Justin and Doug to name a few). I've also come across stories of parents who differentiate between their kids and their spouse's by calling them their "step-kids".

To me this puts more pressure on an already tense situation. Actively considering a child as a "step" instead of your own, regardless if you didn't hold them when they were born, prevents bonding. Sure you're likely have rebellion and comparison to their absent mother or father. Sometimes they'll disagree with you on everything just because they want to "test" you. But you need to stick to your guns and still consider them your own. Don't get the "ship them off to military school" at the first sign of disrespect attitude. This can happen to children regardless who parented them.

Last month a woman was in the news because she put her adopted son on a plane back to Russia stamped "return to sender". What gives her the right to make that choice for the child? That tells me she was never ready to be a mother in the first place regardless of the boy's medical issues. My daughter was born with an immune deficiency, that required specialists and diagnostic tests dozens of times in her first 18 months of life. That doesn't give me the right to send my daughter back to where she came from. One it would make my wife very sore and two they are now my responsibility to give the best care I can give her.

The same goes for my son that was born before I met him. Just because my blood doesn't flow through his veins, doesn't make me any less responsible for him. The fact that I have a responsibility to his mother means he deserves the same consideration and any child born since we've been married.

If you're a step-parent or going to be a step-parent, take note that any child that already exists isn't just part of the package. Whether they have custody or you see them every other weekend, be their parent. They may not call you "Dad" or "Mom", but that doesn't make you any less of one. Hug them, call them, talk to them, love them the same way you would if they were your own. Let them know it doesn't make a difference they came from someone else.

Looking back on my childhood, I realized that I did not have that assurance I was actually part of my step-mom's family. I was just part of the package my dad brought in. Michael has the assurance that if anything tragic were to happen to his mother, and even though I have no legal claim to him at that point, I would fight his father tooth and nail for him. I would not stop until my heart no longer beats and my blood no longer flows. With my only regret being that my blood does not flow with his.

You can also find Eric on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @ericdbolton.

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