Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Stepdaughter Saved Me from Myself

I’m pretty sure that my stepdaughter saved me from myself.

The journey from screaming, kicking, epic tantrum-thrower to sweet, loving little girl was not an easy one, but going through it with her has been one of the most healing things I’ve ever done.

I grew up abused and, needless to say, it gave me a lot of issues about parenting and family relationships. If I’d had biological children without having had my stepdaughter, I’m certain my baggage would have seriously crippled my parenting. I had so many strong emotions surrounding those issues that I’m sure I would have allowed myself to be carried away by them.

Having grown up with nothing, I’d have given my kids everything they asked for. Afraid of looking anything like my angry, enraged parents, I’d have nagged but let my kids get away with everything in the end. Then when I reached my breaking point I would have lost my temper and yelled, just like my parents. In short, I’d have let them become spoiled brats and I would have been miserable.

Luckily my stepdaughter forced me to work through my baggage. Because she wasn’t my biological child, I didn’t allow myself to go with my gut reaction when she misbehaved. I was so concerned with figuring out how I should or shouldn’t handle her behavior as a stepmother that I found myself objectively examining my beliefs and actions about parenting and families.

Focusing on what I wanted to do right with my stepdaughter started to take up more brain space than how I'd been wronged as a child. My past pains grew fuzzy as I continued to focus on my new family.

The process also allowed me to break a lot of old habits. For example, my family of origin communicated mostly by snapping at each other; where I might have snapped at my biological children out of habit, I caught myself before snapping at my stepdaughter. Now I can’t imagine talking to any child like that, let alone one of my own.

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