When you first meet your partners daughter, don’t give her a flat coke- That guilt will stick with you.
I’d only been seeing my partner for a month before he (unexpectedly) introduced me to his 10 year old daughter.
I don’t know how you feel about this but I know I definitely didn’t feel ready and I was worried about how she might feel and react.
My cupboards were bare at the time, I had no juice or milk to offer her, just some coke from a recently opened bottle. My place could have used a bit of a tidy and a clean and as someone who hasn’t got kids nor had much dealing with them, I was more than a little unprepared.
Thankfully I was very lucky with Erin and the meeting went much better than expected (bar the flat coke incident above of which she was too polite to tell me about until months later. I am still mortified to this day.)
Since then I have made every number of mistakes and constantly find myself wondering how I am still here and managing to avoid ruining her for life.
It’s coming up to 2 years now and I truly love her to bits. I am so proud of her and how sweet, gentle and polite she is. She still retains that innocent naivety of youth, but at the same time I am lucky enough to see her grow and evolve into the beginnings of a lovely young woman.
Sharing the milestones
Sharing in many of life’s milestones is one of the key experiences you will get as a successful step- parent.
The first one for me was when Erin allowed me the privilege of sharing in one big milestone of any girl’s life- bra shopping and buying ‘lady things’. The latter she won’t need for a few years yet (she is so slim and her development so slight that we doubt she will start anytime soon) but it makes sense to be prepared and it was important to me that she felt she had our support for the changes coming her way.
I remember the first time I went shopping for these things with my mum for example, and I was quite uncomfortable.
With Erin it’s different. She is excited for the changes to come and has embraced what development she has. Being slim and a ‘young’ 12 year old, she is almost desperate to catch up to her friends, many of whom have developed noticeably after hitting puberty.
One of my struggles at the moment is getting her to dress appropriate for her age and development, to understand everything has its time- which is a problem as she wants to keep pace with her friends.
Personally I don’t agree with a pre-pubescent 12 year old running around flaunting her first bra- the bright orange and blue padded one- through a sheer lace crop top, so trying to get her to understand the concepts of ‘dignity’ and ‘age-appropriate’ is my current goal.
Saying this, a work colleague told me 12 is the new 15, so I fear my quest is doomed
Despite this, I am glad that she sees these changes in a positive light, I wish I had at her age because it is an exciting time and a right of passage.
Just as a side note seeing as we are talking about milestones, Erin and I said our first official ‘I love you’s’ last week and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since.
Being the Confidante
A year ago Erin described me as ‘like family but a friend‘ and it is by far one of my proudest moments.
She has since then confided in me about her first crush and first boyfriend- the innocent first boyfriend that you hang out with at school and put a title to- Inside I freaked out when she first told me, but as she got squeamish at the thought of what you do with tampons and begged me not to buy her any, I can safely say that sex definitely isn’t on the cards just yet. (Phew.)
Being the confidante and the person she talks to puts you in a much better position to that of the parent. You are given access to what is going on in their heads and their lives at a stage where most parents are kept in the dark. After reading a few blogs on the subject of parenting a teenager, the more they tell you the better so the longer you can maintain this level of communication the better a ‘parent’ you can be.
Finding your Place in the Familial Unit
As a step-parent, you do have that awkward position of helping to mould them, care for them and love them but disciplining them is a grey area and I’m not sure it’s ever a place where the goal posts don’t move- I know I have long struggled with where mine lie as my partner keeps unintentionally moving them, making me uncertain of how I can impose guidelines and rules.
It has taken me a long time to realise that maybe I don’t belong in that role. Perhaps I belong on the flip side as the ‘family but a friend’ they can confide in.
Who says that as a step- parent you have to fit into the mould of the generic parent? Why not be the confidante that can coach from the sidelines, moulding and shaping through alternative avenues to the parent?
This is not to say don’t put your foot down. Sometimes you need to say ‘no’ but in situations where guidance is a solution, the step-parent is in the ideal position to do this.
If the child trusts you and respects you enough to divulge their secrets, then they will respect your opinions and listen to your guidance.
Leave the discipline and conventional parenting to the parents. The child has given you an incredible gift- an opportunity- they have provided you with an alternative more natural position in which to parent and mould them into the young adults you hope them to become.
I feel honoured and privileged that Erin sees me as a guardian figure, confidante and a friend. I love seeing her grow and the changes in how she acts and thinks. She surprises me every day with how mature she is becoming while still being so young, sweet and generous, and I look forward to being there through the milestones to come.
To me, these are the perks of being a step-parent.