Bristly: like a porcupine. This word describes how I have felt in my beginning years as a step mom. The step kids would have done nothing wrong and yet their very presence made me feel “bristly” – in other words, “don’t get too close – do as I say and no one gets hurt!”
I was living life this way when God decided I needed some help, or better yet, He figured my poor family needed a break! So He helped me learn that I could change my attitude by changing my actions. I have learned to engage these precious ones who make me feel intruded or imposed upon. I have learned that I have not mastered this yet – but I’m willing to continue to keep trying!
I was visiting with a step mom not long ago and witnessed some of the words spoken to her step child. After a couple of days, I asked her to replay her conversations with the step child from the day. The phrases replayed consisted of reminders of chores still to be done and the calling out of tasks not completed. This child – whether he was nice or not – had only heard commands from his step mom.
It is so easy to get into this pattern of living. You feel bristly and then you bristle others. They become more bristly and then bristle you back. This is not a positive pattern. You are the older one – the parent – the one with the responsibility to be a good role model to this child. You may never have this child give you a hug or tell you they love you, but you can show this child what kindness, civility, responsibility, faithfulness and loyalty looks like.
Titus 2:7-8 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
This is what us step moms can be all about – loving our husbands, creating a home haven from the outside world, and being a role model of good works. So now many of you may be asking me, “but how?”
I like taking baby steps so I’m going to share some baby steps. The ABC’s of step mom communication.
A is for Acknowledge. Acknowledge the child at the start of the day with a pleasantry like “Good morning,” “Hope you slept well.” If the step child is pretty bristly, I would stick to short greetings and not ask questions. This is a positive way to acknowledge the child and yet not force conversation and an opportunity for verbal sparring.
B is for Build a Bridge. Once a day, verbally attempt to build a bridge by noticing your step child doing homework, or watching TV or some other quiet activity and then offer to get them a drink or snack. You can do this as you are walking from one room to another. It is just a simple way to reach out to serve the child. As you serve them, don’t expect anything in return. This is your bridge – you are building it. You are the adult. You are the example. The goal is that someday, that child will walk across the bridge to you!
C is for Closing. At the end of the day, make sure you tell the child you hope he sleeps well or has a good night. Their response does not matter. You are the one attempting to close the day in a kind and peaceful way.
There you have it! (A)cknowledge the child in the morning. Find an easy way to serve the child somehow during the day to (B)uild a bridge of love and trust. And then end the day with a thoughtful and kind (C)losing statement. Three baby steps. Grab God by the hand and hang on!
Blessings in Your Blending!