As the late Christopher Hitchens, my greatest idol, once said, “It’s not in my nature to let off a captive audience so easily.” A joke, and a truth. Well, I have that in common with him. In my previous post The Crime of Fatherlessness, I made mention of the damage it does to children to have stepparents, but didn’t explain further. Well, I will do that now. This will serve as an addendum to that post.
I’ve never once met a person who grew up with stepparents who didn’t carry some kind of severe, permanent emotional damage. It’s hard enough on a child knowing the people who made them, the people who they call ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ are no longer together and never will be again. That’s hard enough on its own. Now, think about it from the child’s perspective. In addition to this confusion and heartache, there usually comes along 2 additional adults that they now have to call ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ who they also have to love … even though these two are not really their parents.
Even if the child is not required by either set of parents to call the stepmom or stepdad ‘mom’ or ‘dad,’ on an emotional level, they still have to. They have to do it just to get by. They can’t emotionally afford to just call each stepparent by their name, because that keeps their relationship distant and therefore even more difficult. But, they also can’t call either stepparent ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ because the child already has one of those. Either way, the child loses.
It gets worse. Each stepparent has their own parenting style. Look, no two people raise kids exactly the same. Every mom and dad in the world does things a little differently from each other. But, add two more people on top of that, and you have a child who is forced to adapt to four different parenting styles. Even if each stepparent does things exactly the same way as the bio-parent they are with, that’s still a minimum of two different situations to adapt to. That is guaranteed, because it’s not like the bio-parents split up for being so similar to each other…
It gets even worse than that. Stepparents cannot love their stepchild the same way a bio-parent does. It’s impossible. It’s human nature. I’m not saying they can’t love their stepchild, I’m saying they can’t love their stepchild as if it were one of their own. When two adults get with each other, they are with each other for each other, not for the child the other has. Nobody gets with a kid’s parent to be in the kid’s life. That’s secondary, at best. They do it because they are are in love with that kid’s parent. This is what makes it impossible for stepparents to love a child like it’s your own. It’s not their own, and never will be. The kid simply came with the package. No matter how hard the stepparent tries (if they try at all), it will never happen, and worst of all … the child will know. They always know. And as if it couldn’t get even worse, it does: The stepparent will likely create a baby or two of their own (or already have some), whom they will love as their very own.
When I think about it, it makes perfect sense why every single person I’ve known who grew up with stepparents turned out to be some degree of an emotional mess.
Of course, all I’ve said thus far is making a big assumption. That assumption being either bio-parent actually stays with the stepparent they are with. Chances are good that at least one of the child’s bio-parents doesn’t stay with the stepparent forever, and it’s only a matter of time before they bring yet another stepparent into the child’s life.
This is another reason why I believe married couples … actually, any couple who conceive children together … should either do everything physically possible to make their relationship work, or not make kids at all. They shouldn’t separate for stupid, petty, selfish reasons. Sometimes distance and time mends relationships, sometimes counseling, sometimes soul-searching, sometimes better financial stability. I fervently believe, with all my heart, that if two people choose to do whatever it takes to make things work between them, it’ll work. From what I’ve seen, of any type of relationship, romantic or not, whenever a relationship doesn’t work between two people, it’s always because at least one of them is too immature to improve themselves. Someone always thinks they did nothing wrong. It’s childish. And as I say in my personal life, “Children shouldn’t raise children.”
Nobody should become a parent at all unless they try to make damn sure their child has a better life than they had. Make it better, not the fucking same.
I already discussed in The Crime of Fatherlessness how a child coming from a broken home(s) will inevitably become broken themselves. The problem goes even deeper than that. Even if the child is highly motivated to have a stable family as an adult, how are they going to know how to do that? Who are they going to learn from? They can’t look to Mom, because it’s usually the mother who breaks up the family. They can’t look to Dad, because he made the mistake of being with a ‘woman’ who serves herself before her family. Or, both/either parent(s) are alcoholics, gamblers, addicts, poorly educated, or anything of that sort. My point is, it’s absolutely crucial to be a shining example to your child of how to be as an adult. If they can’t learn it from you, the greatest influence on their life, then how are they going to learn it?
Mixing stepparents into the situation only makes it more confusing. With stepparents, the child is too caught-up trying to please their real parents, AND their extra parents. They’re trying to make the extras love them, and trying to adapt to the lifestyle of the extra parents, and they do this so much that they hardly learn any important life lessons/skills at all. They’re too caught up trying to feel loved, trying to do what is expected of them, trying not to be confused, and trying to keep their own mental stability, that they never have time to truly learn everything they ought to know.
I wish I was exaggerating with this subject of stepparents, but this is all the shit I’ve seen in real life, every single time. It can’t be a coincidence when it’s all I ever see from people who were somebody’s stepchild. As I said in The Crime of Fatherlessness…
All adults were once children, and we all bring what we had in our childhoods into our adulthoods.
(I honestly couldn’t find a good image for this subject. That’s why there isn’t one.)