Do You Desire To Bring Your Child Into The Kingdom?

It's hard enough to be a Christian parent in this world. How do we combat the forces of evil while at the same time raise our children to desire to walk in God's light? By seeking His face, His Word and inspiration from each other as we stumble through this parenting process together. You will find all the instruction, encouragement and resources you need right here at The Greatest Mission Trip You'll Ever Take to help you be the most effective witness to your child that God would have you be. Look around and come back often. Let's learn together.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Stepparent - Parent Or Friend?

photo by Mark Coggins

I know there are all kinds of “blendings” out there. Please don’t think I’m ignoring your situation in favor of focusing on another. I believe the unique challenges in witnessing the gospel to stepchildren can be universally applied.

Back when I worked as an ER nurse I had triage desk duty one shift. I called in a young boy, maybe six years old, who was accompanied by his mom and step dad. He had received a nasty gash on his hand and it would require stitches.

I recognized right away the fear in his face and began the process slowly by interviewing the parents about what happened and talking quietly in a noncommittal way with the child. Eventually, though, I needed to look at the laceration.

The little guy withdrew his hand, vehemently shaking his head as his eyes welled up and his lower lip quivered. He was sitting in his mom’s lap, but his step dad got down on one knee in front of him and gently said, “Let the nice nurse look at your cut. You don’t want me to make you do it, do you? You don’t want me to be your parent, do you? We’re buddies, remember? Don’t make me be your parent. Show the nice lady your hand.”

Those of us who are stepparents find ourselves walking a fine line. We don’t want to step on any toes. We oftentimes struggle between being a parent without the full authority of blood and a buddy who doesn’t require obligations to the relationship.

But as that young boy protectively held his hand away, a look of confusion swept his face in response to the stepfather’s request. At that moment he didn’t need to feel the weight of his fear all by himself nor did he need to be given the responsibility of deciding his level of interaction in his care.

He needed his step dad to swoop him up in his strong arms and say, “Hang on, son. I’ll stay here with you. Let’s do this together.”

First and foremost, regardless of how we got to the position, we are a parent. When we married our spouse we accepted the mantle of parenthood by virtue of default, at the least, and by God’s ordaining, at the most.

That doesn’t mean we can’t develop a friendship with our stepchild. Any parent, step or otherwise, should work towards making the kinds of connections that encourage enjoying each other’s company and where your child feels free to share his or her thoughts and feelings.

Our primary role, however, is as a parent to our stepchild. Incumbent with that role is all the leading, guiding, loving, sacrificing, and yes, teaching that comes with it. We have just as much responsibility to prepare this child for his future, including his eternal one, as any parent.

Let others know about this series. Please email a link, post about it on your blog site, or let your friends know through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. There are a lot of blended families out there who need this information and encouragement.

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4 comments:

Diane L. Harris said...

Deb,

In my opinion, the "parent or friend" issue is not related to my step-parenting role any more than it is related to my husband's role as biological father of his two boys.

Children need "their" adults to have fun with them, but they don't need adult friends--mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, whoever.

As an adult, I see myself in a parenting role with any child who comes under my charge, whether for a month at a time, a week, a day, or a few minutes. What I say goes, by virtue of the fact that I'm the adult and I should know best. Doesn't matter if you're my stepson, my nephew, niece, or the neighbor's kid. I love playing with children when it's appropriate, but I don't want any underage friends. My job as a responsible adult vis-a-vis children is to teach, protect, and care for them. Period. We can be friends when they grow up.

Deb Burton said...

Diane, i agree with what you're saying, but I've had experience with stepparents who do not see themselves as their stepchild's parent. If they have children of their own from a previous marriage, they may even treat their parenting role differently between the two sets of kids - an I'll-take-care-of-mine-you-take-care-of-yours type mentality.

In addition, I've noticed that our society seems to endorse, or at least assumes, this kind of relationship. When I would attend parent-teacher conferences or speak to the principal about a situation, somewhere in the conversation my being the stepparent would somehow come up. The teacher/administrator would always act surprised that I would invest as much as I did into a relationship with a child who wasn't 'mine' through blood. They assumed by my behavior that I was the biological parent.

As Christian parents we always need to take a biblical stance on our parenting, regardless of the 'blood link' between us and the child. Or lack thereof in the case of, say, a foster child. For those Christian stepparents who haven't assumed that responsibility, this article was meant to show them the direction they need to be practicing as a parent.

As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

Joy in the Burbs... said...

Deb,
I got you all linked up on my blog with your button. I had to delete all the stuff except for your blog address and now the link works.
I hope it will point people to your ministry.

Joy

Deb Burton said...

Thanks Joy! I appreciate your partnering with me. :)