The three birthday celebrants this morning are Angela Ogorman who lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Gary Hemmingway who lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and Tina Williams who comes from Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary but who now lives in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. Enjoy your special day, Angela, Gary, and Tina. Thank you for being my Facebook friend.
My Christmas song today is “It Wasn’t His Child”. This song was written and originally recorded by Skip Ewing. Trisha Yearwood also covered the song.
The song deals with the situation of Mary’s husband, Joseph, who reared the baby Jesus as his own child. With almost half of all marriages today ending in divorce followed by marriage to another, there are many family units who have the man of the house being a stepfather to a child that belongs to their partner and which is not of their blood. Being a stepfather is not an easy role, as anyone who has found themselves in this situation can testify. It is a role that is fraught with all manner of hidden minefields to the novice who finds themselves in love with their new partner, and a new situation for which there is no training. Their new partner is often the mother of a young child with divided loyalties between mum and dad, a child who is both confused as to why his parents no longer live together, and why his mother chooses to live with this stranger instead of dad? The child will still be emotionally unsettled as most parental separations often occur in the heat of the moment and not after cool, calm, and collective thought and proper planning.
In this extremely delicate and highly sensitive situation, the stepfather needs to tread carefully as he crosses a domestic minefield of unexploded emotions that can blow up at a moment’s notice without the slightest warning. Indeed, treading on eggshells would be considered infinitely easier for a stepfather who is new to his unexpected role than his needing to negotiate the muddled maze of a confused child’s thoughts, and a labyrinth of unanswered questions and unresolved feelings which the stepchild is going through during the early stages of parental separation. No new father figure in a young child’s life is ever adequately prepared for this, and should his new partner’s child/children be teenagers, then nothing less than outright defiance by the stepchild is to be expected, along with the persistent rejection of their mother’s choice of new partner!
Often young children believe that they are responsible in some way for the parental breakup, and carry around guilt they ought never to shoulder, whereas teenage children whose parents decide to separate and set up house with a new partner are more prepared to blame the person their mother or father was unfaithful with as being their home wrecker and marriage breaker. Even when the parent, in whose custody the children to the marriage remain living with, was not associating with their new partner before their marital separation, the stepchild still sees the stepfather figure as being an unwanted obstruction to mum and dad ‘getting back together’ while they remain on the scene.
One of the biggest issues with being a stepdad is deciding the boundaries of one’s new role. Just because you have married the mother of another man’s child, does not give you the right to assume that which is not your proper place to adopt. Major issues will include: Do I expect my stepchild to call me ‘Dad’? Do I want him/her to call me ‘Dad’? Is it wrong for me to consider him/her as being my child now that their mother and I are together/married? How should I relate to him/her, especially since their mum and I have parented a baby of our own? Is it natural/ healthy to think of the children in our new family unit as being half-brothers and sisters? Am I allowed to discipline and chastise my stepchild like I would my blood children?
Such are some of the major issues which all stepfathers encounter at some stage, and they are considerations that require a great deal of patience and understanding by all parties involved in the equation. When married parents separate and re-establish new relationships and reconstruct their combined family units, there are usually three family units of different blood in the mixture, and occasionally four.
While it not my place to indicate what is right or wrong in the stepfather situation, having been in this role, I can only tell you how I responded. Months after my separation from my first wife, I met and subsequently fell in love with another woman who had been separated from her husband for the previous two years. She had one child to her previous marriage, a five-year-old son who lived with her, and I had two sons to my first marriage who lived with their mother. Coming together in the way we did, we naturally experienced most of the difficulties that fractured family units usually incur as they seek smooth resettlement and try to bring about an acceptable ‘new family unit’. The one thing that I was eternally grateful for was that neither myself nor my new partner knew each other at the point of either of our separations from our former spouses. I think that had our ‘finding each other’ been the cause of us ‘leaving our previous spouse’ it would have been too much guilt for my shoulders to bear, and I do not know if I could have ever found it in me to forgive myself whenever I looked at my stepson knowing that I was partly responsible for the reason his mother and father separated.
Having difficulty gaining access to the two children of my previous marriage, my stepfather's days of a new relationship naturally made me sympathetic (as well as being as generous as I could be) in ensuring that my stepson had access in abundance to his own blood father. This was the easiest of things to do as my stepson’s father was a good man in every regard. I never physically disciplined my stepson, and I made it clear from the outset that he should not call me ‘dad’ unless he felt that was natural, and only if he wanted to. With there being no expectation that he should call me dad, he never did or has done.
When his mother and I had two children in our union, there were some obvious difficulties we had to deal with. I wanted to create one healthy family unit beneath one roof, and was determined that this aim would not be thwarted by any of the children born to the three unions, by using unhelpful and counterproductive terms like ‘half-brother’ and ‘half-sister’ or ‘step-brother’ and ‘step-sister’. I had no intention of allowing the vocal weaponry of our children to diminish the ‘wholesomeness’ of our new family unit by the divisive use of fractions (like half-brother and half-sister) or seeking to extend emotional distancing between all the children by referring to each other as being one step away from being either a full-blooded brother or sister.
I have often wondered about the problems that Joseph experienced with his wife’s son, Jesus. Little reference is given to that relationship in the bible, other than saying that Jesus was a respectful son.
Sheila and I wish you all a Happy Christmas.
Love and peace. Bill and Sheila xxx