In the early years of our marriage, I wondered if we would make it to our next anniversary. Blending four children, grappling with our stepparent roles while learning to parent together, combating ex-spouses, and trying to stay afloat with job, church and community obligations seemed impossible. As we celebrated 22 years of marriage recently, I’m thankful we never quit.
Stepparenting should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint, with perseverance a key ingredient. If a marathoner begins a race with even a small consideration to quit when it gets hard, he won’t finish. When the muscle cramps slow his gait, when the road stretches endlessly, when his breathing labors under the hot sun, as others stumble along the way, he has to decide he won’t give in to the temptation to stop. The choice is daunting.
It’s no different as a stepparent. Without a firm commitment to trudge through the challenges that come your way, you won’t make it. It’s tough. Very few stepfamilies escape what stepfamily expert Ron Deal calls the “wilderness wanderings.” The wanderings will look and feel differently in each home, but most stepfamilies will endure days, and possibly years, of hardship and suffering. If you don’t determine ahead of time you will persevere when it gets tough, you will likely turn back. You won’t find the blessings that accompany your journey in the end. Stepfamily statistics confirm that.
My husband, Randy, recently experienced the privilege of walking his youngest stepdaughter, Jodi, down the aisle. His face radiated with joy. Tears welled in my eyes as I recounted his years of commitment to my girls. But Randy will be the first to tell you he is an imperfect stepfather. Although his stepdaughters now love him dearly, it hasn’t always been that way.
Jodi was almost three when we married and my oldest daughter, Jamie, was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life and she made that clear to him.
He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too, I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.