Learning How to Love the Unlovable Child
- Tuesday, April 01, 2014
If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they seemed spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.
But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. The desire of my heart was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed and sought God’s wisdom.
The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family, to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.
Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with strict rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent—they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.
The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for his glory, if I let him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred me toward tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.
Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”
I was enraged and think to myself, “I always longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you.” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.
As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with his unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.
Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and not my own. And that transforms everything.
Copyright © 2014 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When ‘I Do’ Becomes ‘I Don’t’—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, and 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom (May 2014). Her website is www.LauraPetherbridge.com
101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom: Expert Advice From One Stepmom to Another (May, 2014, Bethany House) is written for any woman dating, engaged or married to a man with children. Growing up having two stepmoms, plus a stepmom herself for 28 years, Laura offers bite-sized nuggets of wisdom and truth for how to survive and thrive in today’s stepfamily.
Publication date: April 1, 2014
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