Loyalty and step-parents

I remember the weekend after my ex remarried. The kids had spent Shabbat with him and his new wife and her kids. They came home, and we sat together talking. The little one, who was five at the time, said to me, “I am so lucky, I have two mommies now”. I understood his sentiment, and was glad that his new stepmom was someone he liked, but boy did it hurt to hear him say that. It felt like a knife in my heart, even though he totally had not intended it that way. I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in my eyes, even though I tried to smile through them. I had to leave the table to get busy with something so I wouldn’t break down.

Squiggy, who was all of ten then, decided to take his youngest brother to task. He reminded him, none too gently, “THIS is your mother, Ima is the one that carried you in her belly for nine months, this is the woman that gave birth to you, this is the woman that has raised you. Don’t you dare forget that!!!” So many emotions coursed through my mind at that moment. Pride in Squiggy that he defended my honour, so to speak. But I felt bad for the little ChatterBox – his intent was not to hurt me. He was just telling me he was happy – what more does a mother want for her child?

Once I had regained control of myself – it was a rough time emotionally as I am sure you can understand – I sat down with the both of them. I explained to the older one that he doesn’t have to choose sides or show more loyalty or anything like that. He can like his step mom without it hurting me. I explained to the little one that I am glad that he likes her and she is nice to him, because that’s very important. I explained to all the kids that there is no choosing one over the other. They live with me, they know who their mother is, but that does not mean there is no space in their lives to like or love their step mom. She is now a part of their family, and as such they have to at least respect her and treat her right. It was tough to explain to small children, who have a fierce love for their mother, that liking their step mom doesn’t discredit me in any way, shape or form.

In the years since then, the kids have learned a balance that has stood them in good stead. They adore the KoD, their step dad, and are not conflicted about loyalties. They understand that they can love him AND their own father at the same time. My children are so fortunate in having so many people to love and who love them. At the end of the day, they know who has raised them, they know from whom they learned their values and principles. But I also know that each of us who spend time with the children have had a hand in forming them into who they are, whether it’s a big hand or a small one, we have all contributed.

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13 Comments

  1. Chav says:

    Beautiful!

  2. Hadassah says:

    More people should learn from your example!

  3. That is so very true. I have what I like to call a psychological father although most of the time, I just call him Dad. My bio father gave me away and then abused me when I located him later. So yeah, I know who my father is but it took me a long time to really figure that out. Your kids are so lucky that they had a great relationship with their stepmother so that when the KoD entered the picture, they were just as prepared to have a great relationship with him!!!

  4. batya from NJ says:

    BH that your kids get along so well with both of their step-parents. That is such a bracha! Hopefully, you too will enjoy a similarly special relationship with your step-kids (& perhaps you already do) but it will probably be easier once you are living full-time in Monsey. It is great when a biological parent can be mature enough to encourage their kids to have a healthy relationship with their ex-spouse’s current spouse. Of course, it is NOT easy but it is a sign of maturity & ultimately striving for your childrens’ happiness & mental well-being (so long as the new spouse is a good person of course).

  5. lady lock and load says:

    Beautiful Hadassah, how you always put your children’s welfare first. Wishing you and KoD nachas from all of the children.

  6. sheldan says:

    There’s not much I can add here.

    I certainly understand Squiggy’s rationale, but ChatterBox didn’t mean any harm; maybe he wanted to say that he was glad that his father’s wife was a good person and would take care of him too. Fortunately, the parents (you and the ex) were perceptive enough to know that your new spouses can only be an asset to the kids if they (the kids) know that four people love them.

    It looks as though things are well here. Keep up the good work.

  7. this was such an eloquent post! my heart wrenched for you at your little one’s comment. of course you teared up! who wouldn’t?! it sounds like you handled things with grace that your children are *sure* to remember and treasure!

  8. jean says:

    I really admire you, Hadassah! It takes a special person not only to talk the talk, but really put your heart into it yourself.

  9. kisarita says:

    Frankly, I believe your kid was quoting someone. I don’t think that thought originated with him on his own. It would be unnatural for an eight year old to enthusiastically embrace a stranger as his mother without some heavy duty coaching.

  10. kisarita says:

    sorry I meant a five year old. But basically its true for a kid of almost any age.

  11. kisarita says:

    … and they can like her and get along with that, which is great, but that doesn’t make her their mother. That title belongs to you no matter how well they get along. Squiggy is right.

  12. kisarita says:

    This being said, I’m really impressed with the way you handled it with your son. I think you told him the right thing. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t address it with your X in a totally different way!!!

    On the otherhand if your husband is daddy to them, well then you pretty much had it coming to you, no sympathy.

    (Note, this may be a way of alleviating himself of his own anxiety. I can’t imagine he is not experiencing ANY anxiety over the presence of this new person? Also, how many kids are greatful to have a mommy at all? It’s something we take for granted- as we should at that age.)

  13. wonderful post, very special

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