Happy August everyone! I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the summer. With our joint custody schedule, my summer with the stepkids feels like it has only just started.
It’s August, so that means camping for August long weekend. With Matthew working abroad and my work schedule, this isn’t something we’ve been doing enough of, I have to admit.
One of the family’s traditions that I’ve been thrown into after moving to Canada is camping. I’m not talking about camping at your run of the mill campsite with hundreds of campers packed next to each other like sardines in a can, but bush camping in the middle of nowhere without any cell service or amenities and with only the friends and family who came out with you.
I’m sure you can imagine that for a Dutch girl, driving 3 hours down a dusty forest service road full of potholes to a secluded spot in the mountains has been quite the change from the way I used to spend my summers in Holland.
One thing I do love to see that we don’t have any of in Holland is the amazing wildlife. We passed 2 bear cubs on the way up. Cute, but a little scary!
This year we set up camp at a beautiful glacier fed lake surrounded by tall peaks and the guys built us a true redneck hot tub right in the back of the pick-up truck. I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but it was awesome to sit up late with a glass of wine under a pitch black sky FULL of stars and have a chat with some of the people you are closest with in this world. I mean you could literally see the Milky Way and we watched a beautiful lightning show!
On our last night, after everyone went to bed, Matthew and I sat at the campfire, drinks in hand, chatting about life.
Every stepmom goes through different emotions and struggles when it comes to her stepmom life and her stepkids. For me, at that moment in time, it was the relationship I have with each of my stepkids.
I went on and on about how sometimes I feel like the kids go through phases and that it's easier for me to connect with one stepkid over the other; how I feel bad about this and I wonder how it can be changed. I love them both equally, this was just something I was struggling with. I basically poured my heart out, never letting Matthew interrupt me.
Why does it sometimes feel like it’s easier to talk to one than the other? And then it switches.
Why does it seem like it’s easier for one to open up to me over the other?
Do I have more in common with one than the other stepkid and, If so, why? What can I do to change this?
Matthew, being the awesome husband that he is, reassured me that it’s okay. The lesson I learned that night is that Matthew has a different bond with each of his kids as well. He doesn’t love one more over the other, it’s just a different connection he has with each, just like you would with any other person in your life.
My stepkids are two completely different human beings after all, with two very different personalities and sets of interests. It’s totally normal to have a different bond with each of them.
I have a different relationship with my two stepsons but love and treat them equally. I’m OK with that. I have to keep reminding myself that there is really nothing wrong with that.
1. Remember that all relationships take work
Relationships need time to grow and it takes time to build trust. Especially when it comes to the relationship you have with your stepkids. Take your time, be there for them when they open up to you and allow them to talk about what they want to.
2. Prioritize time with your stepchild
Make time for your stepkids without their dad. Listen to them when they come to you with a story about what happened at school and be there for them. If you dismiss your stepkids because you’re too busy with the dishes or replying to a text from a friend, they will notice and hesitate to approach you and open up next time.
Most importantly, have fun! Plan activities that they and you enjoy doing.
3. Don't take it personally
Too often it’s easy to take something personally. They slam a door on you, get their back up about something you said or just don’t listen at times. IT’S NOT PERSONAL! Even though I sometimes believe it is because that’s how it feels until I witness them doing it to their dad too. Yup, it’s just kids being kids I guess.
The fear that stepmoms have of the words ‘I DON’T NEED TO LISTEN TO YOU, YOU’RE NOT MY MOM!’ is something we need to let go of. It’s a cliche I hear far too often. I haven’t heard it so far from my stepkids but I’m sure it will sting when it happens, just like it will for their mom or dad when their teenage son tells them in the heat of an argument that they ‘hate them’. Guess what... kids will be kids. Teens will be teens. All we can do is try to build strong, lasting bonds that will stand up to the test of puberty in the short time that we have.