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Stepfamilies Don’t Blend – they stew April 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Not only am I marriage and family therapist, I am a stepson. Stepson is a strange and unusual title to hold. I don’t like it, but it’s growing on me.

My transition into stepsonhood was later in life (meaning not while I was a child or adolescent). My parents divorced when I was 21 years old. I was far from home when it all went down, so I was insulated, in a sense, from watching the thing end. However, I had seen the slow death of the marriage over several years.

In the 10 years after my parents’ divorce, my mother met a man who is a pretty terrific guy. They toggled between friendship and romantic friendship over the years. Both my mother and her friend limped out of their previous marriages and were in no condition to remarry – so they didn’t.

But in 2001, after 9-11 and after a man at church asked my mother out on a date, my mother’s friend asked her to marry him and she said, “Yes.” I was privileged to officiate the wedding ceremony. What a treat. At the same time, I was helping to initiate a new kind of relationship between me and this man. He was no longer my mother’s friend, he was my stepfather. Weird. I didn’t want a stepfather. It wasn’t personal, geez, the guy could have been Billy Graham and I still woundn’t have wanted a stepfather.

The second Christmas into their marriage, my mother indicated to me that his son had sent her a Christmas card addressing her as, “mom.” The indication was that I should do the same thing with her new husband. I didn’t want to do that, so I didn’t. I still addressed him by his first name in writing. She was trying to blend the family, but I was not interested in blending. It had been two years, but that was far too fast for me.

Fast forward to yesterday. It was my brother’s 40th birthday, so the family traveled to Indianapolis to celebrate his birthday. So, it was me and my family, my brother and his family, my sister, my mother and her husband. It was fine. As usually happens when the family gathers, pictures were taken (mom with children—my family—brother’s family—mom with grandkids etc). Finally, my stepfather was going to snap a picture of “the family.” Then a neighbor strolled on by and asked my stepfather, “Would you like to get in the picture?” She offered to snap the photo.

As if it were supposed to happen, we all said, “yeah sure,” and he came into the picture. It was the first family picture he ever in (maybe with the exception of an obligatory wedding photo).

My stomach got a weird and almost nervous feeling. In that photo, my stepfather occupied the place that had always been the place of my father. Not that we took a bunch of family pictures over the years, that’s not what I mean, but moreso the emotional sense that that was his place.

As most of you know, my father passed away 3 weeks ago. So, when my stepfather literally and symbolically “stepped into the picture,” at the same time that my biological father no longer even had the chance to be in the picture, it was a weird moment.

Part of the weirdness of the moment had to do with the normalcy I felt. “This is really the place where my life is,” I thought to myself, “and I am OK with that.”

My stepfather does not replace my father – that is an impossibility. He does now have a place in the family, so far as I am concerned. It’s been five years. That ain’t blending, my friends, that is stewing.



1. TCS - April 17, 2006

May it continue to stew and taste better every day.

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