Tell me about you, and your family. How long have you been married? How old are your kids?
My name is Ashley. I am a cake decorator and teachers aide-but my two boys would say I’m a ninja mom because of my ability to sneak up behind them when they least expect it! I’m married to an amazing man who is also a wonderful father. We celebrated our 11th year of marriage this past May. Our boys are ages 9 and 5 and keep us very busy between baseball, school, broken bones, lego building, and sword fights. We are followers of Jesus and teach our children to love others, even when nobody is watching and give generously because nothing here is really ours anyway.
How long have you been a stepkid?
I became a step kid when I was in the 8th grade. Trying not to age myself here, it’s been roughly 22 years.
Did you have a good relationship with your stepparents? Are they still married today? Are you in contact?
No. Not at first, anyway. To me, my step father was the reason my parents got in touch with a divorce attorney and even considered getting divorced. It took a very long time for me to just forgive him and learn to let him in emotionally. Before that, I acted out, getting arrested, skipping school, and in general being a horrible person. It was a rough 4 years before I graduated high school and moved out. When I was 19, I asked Jesus to take control. It was life changing. Letting go of the bitterness, forgiving both of them, really helped grow our relationship into what it is today. They are still married and I do get to see him quite often.
I also have a step mother, which was a totally different experience…but for sanity purposes, I’ll keep these comments about my step father, since that’s who I lived with primarily.
How has this experience changed you?
My parent’s had nearly divorced a few times. I can remember them sitting us down and having the “talk” with us, and then nothing would happen. Then we’d have another talk. And then nothing. Then one day, when my dad was away on a business trip, she moved us to a new house. It was so life changing, that I never want my own kids to go through that if I can avoid it. I know that there are MANY different reasons and way to become a step child or step parent. My story is through divorce. And it broke our family for a long time. So for us, we of course want to avoid getting divorced if possible. That being said, some friends of ours have recently decided to get a divorce, and I genuinely believe that it is the right choice for them. Our friends have only been married for a couple of years, and because they completed a prenuptial agreement, the financial side of their divorce should be relatively straightforward. I can still remember the day when my friend told me that she was going to meet with a team of Los Angeles prenup attorneys. It is pretty safe to say that signing a prenup turned out to be the right decision for them. Nonetheless, of course, in our marriage we have had many ups and downs, but our promise was not only to each other, but also to God. I think going through a divorce experience made me a better wife and mother.
What would you have done differently?
Oh gosh. I would have stopped being such a brat and just listened to him! He had two grown kids of his own and knew a thing or two about how to raise us. I just didn’t want to hear it then. I will say, he did a very good job of just hanging back until I was ready to let him in.
Has your parenting style been influenced by this experience?
I’m sure it has in some way. I just never really stopped to say, hey, I do this because I was a step kid.
What advice would you give to someone new to either the stepkid or stepparent game?
To stepkids I’d say, be open. Let your step parent in. Talk to them; let them know if you’re having a hard time. Be respectful and share some of your favorite family memories, and make new memories together!
Is there a story about your childhood you’d like to share?
My step father knew our family for years before he became a part of it. He was a magician. I can remember him sitting us down as kids and teaching us magic tricks. We each got to learn one. We were sworn to secrecy about how it was done. To this day I can not reveal how the trick he taught me is done.
Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about your experience?
Only recently did I learn that my stepfather actually struggled with forgiving HIMSELF for how everything happened with my mom. Out of respect for him and my mom, I won’t list details, but I will say that it made me look at him with much more sympathy. Over 22 years living with guilt is no way to live life. Forgive yourself. Forgive your step parents. And step parents: forgive your step kids. One day they WILL come around!