Her opening line was: "That's my mommy."
Those were the first words Tween Girl (age 5 at that time) spoke to my now husband five years ago.
Oh, and she also jerked my hand away from his.
Fast forward three hours later!
Yes, that is about how long it took for both of my kids to become attached to the man who would become their stepfather.
You're probably expecting me to say that things changed, that they started to hate him, or that he started to hate them.
Their relationship, if anything, is a picture perfect version of what most blended families can only dream of.
“He knows that he is not their biological dad. That does not stop him from investing in them. He never addresses either kid as his "step kids" -- instead, he refers to both as "our kids" or "my kids."”
And I am not exaggerating.
Most days, I think they like him more than they like me.
How does he do it?
Why do they like him so much?
It's actually pretty easy to answer those questions.
He treats them as his own.
He knows that he is not their biological dad. That does not stop him from investing in them. He never addresses either kid as his "step kids" -- instead, he refers to both as "our kids" or "my kids." Both kids know how he feels about them by the way he treats them. He takes pride in driving to soccer practices, even driving five hours to drop College Boy off at school (okay, maybe he painted that look of pride on his face). He is excited when Tween Girl remembers how to solve math problems from an example he has shown her or when College Boy applies the wisdom my hubs has shared with him. Needless to say, he actively shows up on a daily basis to make them feel like his own kids.
He shows his love for me.
I believe this was the game winner for my son. My son has always had my back because, for many years, it was just me and him.
Not to toot my own horn (toot toot!) but prior to my hubs, I was the breadwinner as a single and married woman. I became used to doing things myself. You know, things that come with running a household. So, to have someone who wanted to partner with me, to relieve me of some of the duties of being the "head of household" was something that my son needed to see. Kids can sometimes stress over the stress that their parents are under. My hubs' daily actions show our kids that he loves me and that love extends to them.
He knows the value of quality time, with and without kids.
My hubs has taught the kids and me the meaning of family. By actively spending time together as a family, we have learned how to respect each other, how to work together, and how to listen to one another. We have done this from simple things like eating dinner together most nights, playing games, or from taking vacations together. These moments are important because we are setting an example to our kids of how families should interact, hoping that they carry these same traits into their homes when the time comes.
“To have someone who wanted to partner with me, to relieve me of some of the duties of being the "head of household" was something that my son needed to see.”
Couple time is just as important to my hubs as family time. We know that it is important for parents to spend time alone together without the kids. This gives us a chance to experience each other and to grow the relationship so that we can be better equipped to battle parent when back together with the kids.
My hubs can go from flying a kite in the backyard with Tween Girl to going to a professional soccer game with College Boy to driving with me to Asheville for a weekend getaway. He's a regular jack of all trades when it comes to spending quality time with us.
He's always of good cheer.
If you walked past our house, you would absolutely believe that we have about 10 kids! My hubs knows how to get both kids going and ramped up. He understands that life is too short to be grumpy because things aren't going your way. The kids see that even when my hubs is facing an obstacle, he keeps a good attitude. I know they see him as the "fun one." Even when my fuse is short, he turns the situation around with a few of his famous dance moves (well, famous at our house, anyway) or one of his play on words (ever heard of a jack-a-lope?). Trust me, he has taught me a thing or two or three about how to use lemons to make lemonade.
He has set boundaries when it comes to his authority.
The kids don't mistake his good cheer as him being a pushover. He has boundaries in place that they know not to cross. It took some time to get to this part of the blended family process. In the beginning, we both agreed that I would be the disciplinarian because we knew that the kids would not respond well to him dishing out rules and orders. This worked for us because the kids had no idea that he and I were working together to come up with the discipline, I was the one who communicated whatever course of action to take.
“He has taught me a thing or two or three about how to use lemons to make lemonade.”
As time passed, he has gained the kids' trust to where his opinion matters to them. In no way do they want to disappoint him.
It's pretty easy to see why the kids love this guy so much. I mean, after all, who could resist being in the presence of a man who knows how to rock a mullet on Halloween. (Thank goodness it was only for a Halloween party!)