Dear Jingle Bellie,
You have some exciting news in your life this weekend. I have to assume everything went as planned, but as far as I know, your mom got married to Chris yesterday, which means Chris is now your step dad.
I thought this was as fitting an occasion to talk to you about what it means to be a parent or step-parent and how I hope you’ll view parenting when you’re an adult.
First, a little back story.
Never in a million years did I think I would find myself in the situation I am in with your mom. I’ve always been a tolerant person when it comes to other people and I figured that if I was ever separated from my child’s mom, I would still be amicable with any potential step parent. Because I’ve always tried to do the right thing and would not be intentionally mean to someone else, I assumed I would be given the same courtesy.
But, as I’ve aged, I’ve realized that other people’s actions are out of my control, and I don’t get to choose the type of relationship I want to have with others.
I’ll do my best to explain what I mean.
Your mother and I have not had a verbal conversation in about 5 years. Literally no conversation whatsoever. No conversation about how to parent you. No talk of extra curricular activities. Nothing.
I have asked your mom to coparent with me. It’s even ordered in our parenting agreement. But to date, she has refused to initiate a conversation with me about you since I initiated proceedings to retain my legal rights to you.
The details leading up to all of these events are a topic for a future letter, but the fact remains I never thought I would be in a position where I couldn’t effectively co-parent you, but here I am.
Your mom married Chris yesterday, and I’ve never met or spoken to him. My request for his emergency contact information was ignored, and now that I’ve visited you at a school event, he’s stood right in front of me and your mom rushed you out of the event as soon as you and I said hello and goodbye. A typical interaction would at least include a formal introduction, but I was focused on you and you were whisked away before I could even introduce myself. Sadly, I can’t say I was surprised.
Given the circumstances of what happened with your mother and I before you were born (again the topic of some far off letter), it’s pretty safe to say she doesn’t really want me to ever talk to him for fear of what I might tell him.
Now, fast forward to now.
The truth is I have no desire to damage your mom’s relationship with Chris based on my past with her. I certainly hope that what happened between your mom and I never happens again, to Chris, or anyone else, and I have no choice but to trust she would protect you from anyone who did no treat you well. From what I’ve seen on Skype and what you’ve told me, nothing seems crazy or abnormal, and I hope that I’m right.
So what does that really mean for how I feel about parenting and step parents or your mom getting married?
That’s easy. What I want for you, more than anything else in the world, is for as many people to love and support you as possible.
My relationship with your mom ended a long time ago and after this many years, I don’t expect my parenting relationship with your mom to improve. But my love for you is strong enough that no matter what happened in the past, and no matter how much I don’t understand or desire my current parenting relationship with your mom, it’s important to me to not detract from important and supportive relationships in your life.
For this reason, I genuinely hope Chris is a wonderful step-dad to you even if he is likely to be someone I never really know.
Final thoughts to offer a word of advice to your adult self:
Life is hard enough as it is. Raising a child is hard enough as it is. When you’re a parent, if you find yourself in a situation where step-parents are part of your child’s life, I hope you will move past whatever issues you might have with their father and do what you can to a create supportive relationship between their father and step-father so that your child has two wonderful cooperative role-models to emulate and learn from.
It won’t be easy, but I hope you’ll do it because it’s the right way to cultivate the healthiest environment, and demonstrate the healthiest relationships, for your child. I know that what your mom and I have is not healthy for you, and my only regret is that I have been unable to create such healthy parenting environment for you, despite my desire and willingness to do so.
For now, I hope you love Chris just as much as your little heart can love someone and I hope he is a good role model for you.
Also, I bet you were the cutest flower girl ever!
P.S. If you’re a reader of the Ellie’s letters, consider sharing your own experience with parent/step-parent relationships and how you navigated them to create a better life for your children.
P.P.S. Never trust a ladder. They’re always up to something.
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