Thursday

step parents and new babies

All three of my children are excited in their own way about the impending arrival of their new baby sister. It's yet another change among the many big changes they have experienced in the past few years as their parents divorced, moved, dated other people, and then each remarried last year.

As wonderful as Jon is, I worried about how my children would adjust to having a new guy in our household. We had been a cozy family of four - just them and me - for four years when we moved in with Jon (or did he move in with us?). I worried the children would resent him, and he would resent how challenging it is to live with a 9 year old, an 11 year old and a teenager.

Happily, all my worries were for nothing, mostly because Jon is so laid back. He is the epitome of an excellent stepfather (regular readers know I hate the "step" monikers and wish there were a better word).

He is building a unique relationship with each of the kids. Obviously, the way he relates to a 15 year old boy (you don't start trying to actually parent a 15 year old boy when you have just married his mother.) is quite different from the way he relates to 9 year old E., who thinks Jon hung the moon. And of course, he is profoundly respectful of the relationship the children have with their father. He is careful to never overstep his bounds in that regard.

It's a delicate balancing act. He does a great job.

But now things are about to get more complicated with the addition of a new person to our family who will be Jon's biological child. The other children call him "Jon." Our new baby will call him "Daddy." I have to admit to some anxiety over how this will all work. Will NewBaby hear the other children call her father "Jon," and want to call him that too? Will it make me really sad to know that NewBaby will remain at home with Jon and me during periods when her older siblings go to their father's for a few days?

Anyway, it's interesting to think about. I'm sure we'll find our way. We will be a family of a different shape, but a happy family. And apparently other stap-parents think about this issue as well; here's an NICE ESSAY TODAY from a stepmother who is considering having a baby, and wondering whether that would be difficult for her two stepchildren.

9 comments:

Kat Coble said...

Or...you could just have all the kids call him "Papa Jon" ;-p

On second thought.

Maybe no.

IAS, you seem like loving, intelligent and kind folk so I imagine finding your way on this won't be too rough.

Anonymous said...

Katie,

Things seem so great, I am sure they will continue on this path. Your new baby will not be confused about the Jon/Dad appellation, since she'll be growing up with her big sibs talking about their dad and going to see their dad. She'll get it and go with the flow!

Anonymous said...

I had the same worries that my bio kids would call me by my first name, since that's what my stepson calls me. It didn't happen, but more importantly, it really wouldn't have mattered to me by the time the kids were talking, as I KNEW in my heart that I was their mom and that a name just didn't matter.

My firstborn, though, wanted to know how old he would have to be before he got to spend the night at his brother's mom's house, too. He just figured that was how it went: you got to be a certain age, and then you spent three nights a week at his brother's other house. He doesn't mind those times when he's the oldest kid in the house, though--it's just what he's used to.

Lynnster said...

Will NewBaby hear the other children call her father "Jon," and want to call him that too?

I think that will all work out fine, Katie. As I mentioned before, my partner and his brother have two half brothers over 10+ younger than they are. All four lived full time with mom and stepdad, my partner and his brother have called their stepdad by his first name ever since they've known him (since they were very young) and the younger ones have always called him Dad. I don't think they ever had any real issues about the name nor anything else that made one set of half brothers a little different from the other set. The kids tend to work it out in their heads all right, I think (and especially when the other dad is still involved in one set's life and they spend time over there, etc.).

Laura said...

Katie,
I had similar worries when adopting my son last year. My now-7-year-old daughter spends one week with me, and one week with her dad. The Hungry Toddler [now almost 2] clearly misses her while she's gone -- he is now big enough to wander around the house, checking each room and calling "Ay-yeh?" [his best approximation of her name].

And I worried that he would be such a burden to her she'd demand to go to her dad's at other times, or that she'd love him so much she would want him to come with her. :)

In the end, the only issue she had was learning that Hungry Toddler would have _my_ last name [I haven't remarried, and I kept my own name even when I was married to the 7yo's dad] instead of her last name, which is her dad's. She wanted to know, couldn't HT have her last name? And if not, why couldn't she change her name to be _my_ last name, too?

"Just because" seemed a particularly inadequate answer.

Eventually, she quit worrying about that, and the schedule has been smooth as silk. I suspect you will be as lucky, and I certainly hope so!!

Anonymous said...

I have a "stepdaughter" who isn't actually biologically related to either of us. We also don't have her every weekend, or even every other weekend since she started going to sleep at friend's houses. But my daughter did try calling me by my first name for a while, and this year(she's 5, almost 6)she asked me to explain why does her sister call me by my name and why does she call her Daddy "Daddy?" It wasn't a huge deal, for either of us though. And I find it leads to conversations about what a nice man Daddy is to care for someone whose own Daddy abandoned them.

Anonymous said...

I've written here before. My Mom has three girls from a previous marriage, my Dad has two boys from a previous marriage, and I have a twin brother. We never reffered to each other as "step" or "half" siblings, just brothers and sisters.

Different sets were always going off to visit their other families, but it wasn't weird. I actually kind of liked it, and still do, because it feels like my "special time" alone with my parents.

In terms of siblings calling one of my parents by their first name, it never seemed weird, it was just how things were. The only time that is ever weird is when my parents wrap Christmas presents because they have to remember how the child addresses them when they write who the present is from!

Growing up I always thought my family was "normal". It wasn't until I hit middle school that I realized how interesting my family situation is. Whenever I explain it people think my family situation is cool. I've never felt negative about it.

Honey said...

Our biological child called us Mike and Honey for a while because that's what he heard us call each other. Later he switched to Mom and Mike, which sounded like Mike was his stepfather! Now it's finally Mom and Dad. Or Mothah and Fathah when he's feeling disdainful.

Anonymous said...

My 8 year old step daughter is my shadow - but I figure it's due to the fact I am still fairly new to her life. You cannot worry about the things out of your control, such as what will they call you when your own child arrives.
Her father and I are expecting our first in October, and I am elated that I get spontaneous kisses and hugs and that she mimicks every thing I do. Most important thing I had to learn - and quickly - as a step parent I am not a mother to her, but I can be her confidant, her friend, but also a role model for her to learn from so that when our baby comes, good habits are in place for a peaceful household.
Katie, your children bio children will call you mom - that will be instinctive and the right thing to do, as your love undoubtedly will be stronger to your bios than your husband's children.
Have a safe pregnancy and a wonderful life together!