Possibly the hardest climb of my life…

I’ve recently started reading a new leadership book; a different kind of leadership than what I’ve been studying and digesting over the past year and a half. It’s an important growth area, and I confess that I need a little bit of help.

You see, I’m about two years into what is possibly the hardest climb of my life: learning to be a dad and stepdad at the same time. And not just any dad or stepdad, but a darn good one. Not only that, but a better partner and spouse for my wife.

We all know the statistics – less than half of all marriages succeed; but did you know that more than 60% of second marriages fail? There are a lot of challenges with inheriting a family – marriage, parental roles, ex-spouses, discipline, expectations, comparisons, and lots of hurt feelings along the way.

While my marriage and home are not in danger, I am investing in ways to head off danger, lay down rumble strips, and be a better parent and partner.

So, in addition to seeking help from God, I am reading The Smart Stepdad: Steps to help You Succeed!  by Ron L. Deal. I’m a couple of chapters deep so far, and it is already reaffirming all of the reasons to get some outside perspective.

It’s ironic that the book begins with the metaphor of climbing a mountain: you need some guidance, a well-planned route, plenty of supplies, determination, and even a guide who has navigated the summit. It’s a great comparison because, at times, it can feel like staring up at Everest.

If you are a stepparent, do you have any other tips, resources, or encouragement to share?

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5 thoughts on “Possibly the hardest climb of my life…

  1. Great subject, and great post. I am a stepdad, and ironically, I was also a stepchild. My relationship with my stepfather was at times volatile, and it was primarily due to my reluctance, at five years old, to accept this ‘strange, new man’ in my life. For many years, my stepdad harbored an odd form of jealously or competition with us for my mother’s attention; he thought she was over-protective of me and my siblings, which played out in unexpected bouts of arguments with the constant threat of physical retaliation. However, when I became a man, my relationship with him developed into one of mutual respect and admiration for which I am grateful.

    I am fortunate to have a wonderful stepdaughter that I look upon as my own. The unique thing about my relationship with her is that she is very close with her biological father; he is a good man and a friend to me and my wife. He accepts and respects me, and has no problem with my role of being actively involved in the decision-making processes with respect to raising his daughter. I have found this arrangement to be pleasantly unique, for when I share this fact with others, the reaction is most often one of surprise.

    To me, being a stepdad is both a challenge and an honor. It is one that can educate you in ways never imagined. I would offer the following advice garnered from my own experiences:

    Always approach step-parenting with an open mind and an open heart.

    Never attempt to be a replacement for the biological father; seek to be a compliment…an ‘extra dad’, if you will. (My daughter boasts the fact that she is fortunate enough to have two dads)

    Empathize with the fact that being a stepchild has just as many emotional challenges and hurdles associated with it as does being a step-parent. This will help you to understand the reasons for certain types of behavior without taking it personally.

    Be willing to give unconditional love to your stepchild, and if the child has the emotional stability to express those feelings in kind, you will receive it back manyfold.

    Seek to be your stepchild’s biggest cheerleader; someone he or she can confide in and turn to as they navigate the intricacies of life.

    These are but a few of the many things that have made being a stepdad not only fulfilling, but extremely rewarding as well.

    Thanks for sharing this pertinent and insightful post.

    Best regards,
    Kevin

  2. Kevin – thank you for sharing! You raise a great point of understanding and being sensitive to the situation from the perspective of the kids. As I work to grow into my role, I am also looking to understand where they are in the process. I blog about leadership in the workplace, so I should be able to apply those same principles at home, right? As easy as it sounds, it can be incredibly difficult in the moment of truth as emotions are high and expectations (communicated or not) are not met.

    I appreciate your insight. Stay tuned – I’m sure I’ll have much more to say as I continue reading this book!

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