A child of Divorce deals with the transition between the two houses in their own unique way. Some kids get nervous, some want the exchange over as quickly as possible to avoid seeing his parents argue, some look forward to the change, while others dread it. Younger kids can also worry…much like the old saying if a tree falls in an empty forest, does it still make a sound? While the child is with their other parent, and there is no child in the other home, is that person still their parent? Does a Dad stop being a Dad while his son is at his Mom’s? Children worry what their absence means…what does their parent do while they are away? More importantly, will their parent forget about them?
My young stepdaughter used to fill my husband’s bedside table with little trinkets and toys. She’d place a handful of things like a marble, a crayon, a stuffed animal, a photo of her and her lucky penny next to his alarm clock every Sunday night before returning to her Mom’s house. One day I asked her why she did this.
“Because I don’t want Dad to forget me while I’m gone.” My heart about broke when her little 4-year-old voice confessed that. That night, as I looked around our apartment, I came to a horrible realization: Of the dozen framed photos around, Stepdaughter was only in two of them. And on his bedside table? A five by seven of our first date. I cringed with embarrassment at my error. I’m sure many young couples do the same, they fill their home with photos of their love and adventure. But I overlooked that there was another love in my then boyfriend’s life, and she was scared of being forgotten.
The next day I switched out half the pictures and made sure her cute smiling face could be seen in the living room, on the mantle, and his bedside table. There, next to his alarm clock, I added a brand new frame with Stepdaughter’s smile beaming through. I did not remove our first date photo, I simply added her to it. I made room for her, and I never wanted her to feel like there wasn’t room ever again.
When she saw the new additions to the apartment, she was ecstatic. She loved seeing herself on our shelves, and she especially loved the fact that my husband now woke up every day to her picture. The little piles of trinkets stopped, and instead she made sure the frame was as close to her Dad’s pillow as possible every Sunday night before she left.
The excitement of new love can consume us, and cloud our minds. It’s exhilarating, and it’s only natural to focus on the wonderfulness of the two of you. When you date someone who has been divorced and has children, it adds a third party to the mix. They may be small in size but they have a big place in the home you share with their parent, and they will notice if you try and squeeze them out. They may be too young to know how to put their concerns into words, or they may be too annoyed to confess their thoughts, but it’s important to pay attention to their non-verbal actions as well, such as a pile of trinkets.
Never again will I overlook such a minor yet major piece of etiquette of blended family living. My husband was her father before he was my husband. Stepdaughter needed to know I was not there to replace her in his heart. He has room for the both of us, and so do our picture frames.
Founder of the I Have Series
The “I Have” Series was born in 2014 when Colleen saw her stepdaughter struggle with understanding her lifestyle, and seeing adults in her life struggle with healthy answers. The children’s book series has received recognition around the world, and has been a tremendous tool for both parents and kids. Current titles include I Have Two Homes, I Have a Stepmom, and I Have a Stepdad. Colleen is Formerly the “Stepparenting Expert” contributing writer for About.com’s Stepparenting Blog, you can learn more about her on her website and Facebook! Colleen’s books can be found at http://www.thedivorceangels.com/classified/purchase-series-books/