I was a Stepmother before. Then my Husband left me and I lost the child of my heart- I raised her and now have no contact with her anymore. It broke my heart, I swore I'd never be a Stepmother again. Then I met someone. Who has three children. Three children I'm beginning to love.
I'll call him B. B has an 11 year old daughter, a 7 year old son, and a 4 year old daughter. He's a widower- his Wife died about 15 months ago. I have a 16 year old son and a 9 month old son- between us, we have 5 kids. I tried just being friends, but I'm finding myself becoming very interested in B. We just... we understand eachother, we can talk to eachother, he knows my history (abuse from younger son's father) and is willing to go as slow as I want, physically and emotionally. His kids... I really like them. They really like my kids. My kids really like them. He really likes my kids. I'm starting to think of possible "maybes". I'm probably crazy.
His house... a complete mess. Serious, I could never live that way kind of mess. His 7 and 4 year olds... no for of discipline. Flip-flops in a snowstorm, no bedtime to speak of, not even a "put your pajamas on and brush your teeth" at night, we go to a store and all his kids scatter and he has no idea where they are, resteraunts are a nightmare- we are the people the other people give dirty looks to because the 7 and 4 year olds are throwing food, jumping off chairs, running laps around the resteraunt... His 11 year old... she tries to be Mommy. And he lets her. He tells her to. She gets way too much put on her and she has said as much, as well. He's not a bad parent, per se, but he's completely overwhelmed, doesn't have a clue. This is of his own admission, btw. When the kids are off the wall, he gives empty threats, and when that doesn't work, he has his 11 year old handle it. They've kinda got a bit of a "Lord of the Flies" thing going... I give him an A for effort, but a D- for actual performance. Me, I have no authority over these children because I'm not their parent or caregiver yet, but there needs to be a way to help him learn how to keep them in line, for their own sake, but also because, if things develop into something serious between me and him, I cannot, will not live like that. But... I really like him and I really like his children. For the first time since my Husband left me, I've begun to actually feel happy, and even hopeful for my future, for my sons' future. And for the first time since I lose my stepdaughter, I've (accidentally!) bonded with someone else's child, not a blood relation to me. I can see the possibility of him and his children and me and my children having a future together. This scares me for many reasons. I'm trying to run towards, and away from, at the same time.
Soooo... possible future stepchildren... how do I help their Dad learn better parenting skills? He's willing to learn, but I also suspect he also needs to be pushed a bit, as he's admitted that he lets them run him ragged because he feels bad because their Mother died. Is there hope, or... what?
I haven't been-there-done-that, so hopefully someone will be along with some advice from that perspective.. but my instinct is to say that if you can't take them as they are, you may want to rethink joining families any time soon. Because (a) they might not change... the way they are has been years in the making and it is going to take more than a parenting class for things to change, and (b) reigning in misbehavior and putting limits on his children who have thus far been calling the shots may be a quick way to turn a good relationship with his kids into a bad one. They might be resentful of someone coming in and telling them what to do (even if that isn't what you are actually doing). Even if you just helped dad get connected with parenting support, you might still be viewed as the one who made things different.
I don't know the kids, I don't know the scenario... it's quite possible one or more of them would LOVE some limits and boundaries, and that they would thank you for giving their life some structure and predictability. But as much as kids need and want that, kids who haven't had it may resent it being imposed on them by "an outsider."
Thank you- I am keeping that in mind. I hope to, at the very least, remain a family friend indefinitely, but I can't let things go forward to a serious point, either, but it looks like I'm not gonna be able to handle following through becoming part of their family. He's been upping the discipline, he's had a really rough week with the little ones, but hopefully things will be better, if not for my sake, for him and his kids' sakes- the four of them need some serious stability and routine in their home.