By Jennifer Kelly
Last year at this time my daughter’s father and I were in a feud. He was holding my daughter from me. We had been through a lot of pain, a lot of hurting each other, and a lot of spite. However, something changed this past year. It was like all of a sudden, it just clicked. We both came to the realization that we can continue on this path of fighting constantly (which is really only hurting our daughter), or we can just put the past behind us and move on. Luckily for all parties involved, we chose the latter.
I have to admit, I was unsure of my ex-husband’s girlfriend when she came into the picture. I didn’t know her, but I had known what I had heard about her. I’m ashamed to say, that I used what I had heard to judge her before getting to know her. We all have some part of our past that we aren’t proud of, and she and I are not much different, so I am surely not one to throw stones. I imagine it was hard for her at first as well. Coming into a relationship with three boys of her own, and now an automatic stepmom to a little girl who wasn’t very nice to her. On top of that, I’m sure she heard an earful of lies about me. There were probably some truths tossed in, but exaggerated at best.
For the first year the girlfriend and I barely spoke to each other at pick-ups and drop offs. My daughter who was only 4/5 at the time, would come to my house and tell me how awful the girlfriend was to her and how terrible her sons were treating her. Of course I believed my daughter. It would get me fired up and start fighting with my ex. We eventually started counseling together. We realized that our daughter was telling bold-faced lies between households to gain some sort of attention from us.
When we she realized we had her number, and her dad and I started working on the same team, she eventually stopped telling the lies. It’s now a year later from that point and I can honestly say that the four of us — my husband, myself, my ex, and his girlfriend — are friends. We have hosted a joint party for our daughter (Ava) this year. Her stepmother did an amazing job with decorating and putting it all together. I couldn’t have asked for more for my daughter. I’m not so much the crafty type, and I don’t consider myself very girly, despite the fact that I have 4 daughters. But Ava’s stepmom (Ashlee) has three boys, so essentially Ava is her only daughter and she loves to do these things.
Ava has been having a hard time recently accepting Ashlee. In no way is Ashlee the cause of me and Ava’s dad not being together. In fact, we were broken up a year before Ashlee came into the picture. But for some reason this six-year-old is being very resistant to her stepmother. And as a stepmother myself, I understand how difficult that must be, especially when she wants to do nice things with and for Ava. I am constantly reassuring my daughter that I think Ashlee is great, and great to her. It’s important for her to know that it is okay for her to love another “mom.” It wouldn’t make me feel bad, or take anything away from me. I keep reassuring her that daddy and I are both happy in our lives now, and we are much better friends than anything else. I think she is starting to come around, at least I hope so.
Every year before back-to-school starts I take the girls to get their nails done. It’s a tradition we started when my now fourth-grader started kindergarten. I thought that it would be nice to invite Ashlee. My reasons were threefold. One because she is Ava’s other mother. She is the one that takes care of her, and deals with the down and dirty when I’m not around, so she should be a part of the fun stuff too. Two, it will show Ava that I accept Ashlee and this is our “normal.” Just because we don’t all live together, does not mean we aren’t all family. And three, I would have loved if my mom and step-mom got along. It would have made it so much easier to accept both woman in my life.
So gladly Ashlee accepted our invitation and it was a great afternoon. My step-mom and half-sister also came with us, which made it even more special. I think Ava seeing the whole dynamic, my stepmom, her stepmom, my stepdaughter, my half-sister, myself and her, she was able to feel what I have been trying to say to her.
Everybody’s family comes in different sizes, genders, colors, and blood lines. But blood is the least of what makes a family. Love, trust, and commitment is what makes a family whole and I hope I am teaching my daughter that. I’m so thankful that she has such a great stepmom that really does love her. Had you asked me a year ago, I don’t know if I would have said the same words.
My lesson here is to give people a chance. Raising children is never an easy task, and raising them in a blended family is even harder. But when everyone gets along it makes it so much better for all parties involved, especially the children. You don’t have to love everyone and invite them out like I chose to, but at the very least play nice. Don’t just take the 5% negative that you can find in someone and use that against them — get to know the whole person before you jump to a conclusion. And never forget no one is perfect. But in a blended family, if your child’s stepfamily is good to them and loving towards them than you have no reason not to like them, other than your own selfish reasons. And that is no way to be. The only thing you should want for your children is for them to have people in their lives that love them in your absence, anything else is just a bonus.