18th March 2020
As they grow, we become more concerned with their emotional health and being a support to them during trying times, abating sibling rivalry and mending broken hearts, which is inevitable. During all these seasons, there’s no way of knowing if we will one day become friends. Very often, that’s not even the focus at the time. They consume our lives, that we don’t give so much thought to what the future might hold.
It is with much joy that I can now say, that with each one of my five children of which three, I gave birth to, I have a great relationship. It is completely different with each one. Each of my children, who are all now young adults, are so uniquely diverse. They each bring a particular flavour to my life. No two relationships are even remotely similar.
If you had asked me eleven years ago if I thought I’d ever have a good relationship, one that remotely resembled friendship with either of my stepdaughters, I would have answered with a swift “No”, but we have come such a long way. The two of them, have added such depth to my life. Being a stepmom is nothing like being a mother. There’s a completely different set of rules. If you have an argument with one of your own children, you might over-think the situation, but you never doubt they love you. With step-children, the dynamic is quite disparate. The nights I laid awake, going over and over the words I’d used, how I could have expressed myself differently, how I could have rather perhaps kept quiet or spoken up… The list goes on and on. We have the added complication in our household of having different first languages. My step-children are Afrikaans speaking, so at times, there have been misunderstandings around meanings of words, that just would not have been there if we all spoke the same first language. But we have learned to make allowances for each other. Often, I’ll say I need to express myself in English, and then I give them the opportunity to check with me that they understand what it is I’ve said. This helped us tremendously, after many setbacks, to navigate our complicated communications, with understanding and grace.
Where my own birth children are concerned, I have made many mistakes. I grew up being seen and not heard. In the beginning of my parenting years, I duplicated some of those negative patterns, but my children did not react as I did as a child. They have always been more open about discussing how they feel, and they have, for the most part, been far more communicative than I was at their varying ages. Because I wasn’t allowed an opinion, especially as a teen, I would rebel. My eldest did this more than the others, but then, she was my first, and unfortunately, I made more mistakes with her. Thank goodness, she’s a gracious forgiver and we have come to a deeper understanding and have managed to build a beautiful, strong and genuinely meaningful relationship. I feel my son had it the easiest. He got me as his Mom, after I had sorted out so many of my own inner demons, and being eleven years younger than my daughter, he benefited from me having learned so much from parenting all the other four first!
I am so grateful for the blessing now of having a friendship with each of my children. They have become incredible young adults who contribute positively toward the environment in which they live. They are well-adjusted despite going through their parents’ respective divorces and remarriages. The five of them, have great friendships even with each other. Some bonds are stronger than others, but that is the nature of siblings. This mother’s heart is happy with her brood and ever grateful for second chances.