Monday, January 10, 2011


There’s an odd presence in our house. It’s like a ghost, of my husband’s past.

My stepkids, like all of us, have elements of both parents in their personalities. Recently one of my stepdaughters has been gravitating heavily toward her mother, and doing nothing (or in some cases, not enough) about important aspects of life: school, personal relationships, job, her future.  Religion.  We love her immensely and want to see her use her talents to succeed in school and beyond. But since she doesn’t live with us, our efforts to motivate her from afar and provide resources have come to naught. Part of her Grand Avoidance is to make excuses, with the help of her mother, not to visit anyone on our side of her family.

Lack of action has never been my flaw; on the contrary I tend to leap before I look. My husband also is a great “doer” in work, education and a myriad of personal pursuits from boxing to photography. We’ve been exposed in our own homes to a variety of personalities. Our parents and siblings, and to an extent our aunts and uncles all expose us to different methods of dealing with life. And teen years are a time of new boundaries and experimentation for everyone.

I’ve always pictured “new boundaries” and “experimentation” as having actual events to them. A real live experiment. This grand lack of anything—dare I name it cowardice?—is something I’ve never encountered either in my own family or in my husband’s, and I don’t know how to deal with it. It hangs in our home even when she is not here, because she is still part of us, and her mother is part of her. If only there could be some thing to handle!

I know there is always prayer, so I’ve been doing what I can to research saints, parental sites and prayers that maybe can offer advice. I haven’t found much beyond very broad prayers—prayer of a mother, prayer for a teen, etc.—but the research and prayer give me the sense that I’m helping and give me the opportunity to dedicate some time to a girl that I love.

St. Aloyisius Gonzaga, patron saint of teenagers and namesake of Gonzaga University
Perhaps also this is a time when I have to realize that all personalities have also elements of God. After all, this avoidance, which I have no idea how to deal with, is something God has handled in her, in her mother, and in countless people throughout history. President Kennedy was profoundly inactive during the Bay of Pigs crisis, drawing intense, justified criticism…but no war ensued, so miraculously lives were saved. Did he know that doing nothing would release the tension? Undoubtedly not. More likely he just didn’t have the courage to do what he thought to be right. Nonetheless his inaction left room for God to put some calmness into riled tempers. So prayer remains my only answer.

I’ll have to trust that God will put answers in front of me, one at a time, at a pace that my stepdaughter will be able to handle.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, I applaud your care and concern for your daughter. Being a step-parent must be one of the most difficult assignments around these days. Here are a couple of suggestions:

    1) Pray your heart - you don't need to use someone else's words to speak with God. Talk directly to Jesus and tell him your heart's desire, your dreams and fears for your daughter. Pray the Bible over her; search your Bible for scriptures that apply to her situation, and speak them over her life in prayer. A scripture such as Jeremiah 29:11 is powerful: "Jesus, I know that you have a plan for our daughter's life that will prosper and not harm her; a plan to give her hope and a future. Please fulfill this plan in her life and do not let anything or anyone get in the way of your will for her life." God has a plan, and He will lead and direct you accordingly. A woman named Stormie Omartian has written several books on how to pray - you may want to pick one of them up for more guidance.

    2) Ensure that your daughter knows you're "on her side". What I mean is that she should know that above all, and in spite of however she may act, she will always be loved because she is your daughter, period. As a former rebel, I can tell you that love will always get through to the heart, even if there is no outward evidence of the connection. This attitude will speak volumes to your other children, who are watching you to see how to respond in this situation. Who could resist a house full of people who treat you with love and respect? No one, at least not for very long.

    3) Be fair, firm and friendly with her. To be fair, if she must receive consequences when she is with you, ensure the "punishment fits the crime". To be firm, mean what you say, and only say what you mean. The worst thing you can do with a teenager is promise them the moon and then not deliver. Same goes for threats - don't make a statement such as,"Do that and you'll go to your room for the rest of your life!" Obviously, you don't mean that, and there's no way you could follow through on it. To be friendly, always remember that you should, above all, act and react towards your step-daughter with love. She must feel secure in your love. If she does, the love you have for her will eventually break down her defenses and draw her to your home because it is a safe and peaceful haven, where she feels secure.

    4. Realize, although your daughter is probably old enough to logically think otherwise, she may be grieving the loss of her parents' relationship - no matter how long it's been over. Your appearance in her life signaled that end, as a tangible reminder, and she may be acting in resentment towards a percieved notion that you were to blame. Not saying it's right or fair, it just may be how she's feeling. If so, loving her in spite of herself will break down this defense, too.

    5. Remember that time is on your side. You're in this relationship for the long haul, right? So, you don't need to solve everything right now. I guess it boils down to patient endurance. Eventually, if you are loving and considerate with your step-daughter, she will recognize your efforts and reward them; maybe even with an occassional smile or hug! :-)

    One final thought. A wayward or rebeillious teenager can sap your energy and drain the life out of your home. Make sure that your other children get the same amount of attention from you as your rebel...this will help them cope through what must be a difficult time for them, too. And, I would even suggest that you pray, as a family, every day for your daughter. Prayer changes lives...I'm living proof.

    I hope this helps! I'll pray for you both tonight. Carole :)