This has, admittedly, been one of my waterloos.
I have been struggling to be a good stepmother from the time I took my husband’s last name, and although stepson and stepmom have both tried, I am no closer to the boy now than I was the first time I met him.
We, Filipinos, have this stereotypical vision of the stepmom as being forever evil. Hardly do we ever think of stepchildren being evil to the stepmom. Like most things, it goes both ways.
I have always been very good with children, and sadly, I failed to establish a relationship with the one who was part of the family I am building. I have a now almost 2-year-old son who is very fond of his half-brother, but I cannot even depend on this older brother to be a good role model for him. My son is totally devoted to his Dad and the other son is disrespectful and rebellious.
It’s his 16-year-old brain that’s the culprit, I know. It got so bad some time back that I went to therapy to resolve my personal resentment about the situation. The therapist kept reminding me that I should not think of the situation only from my perspective. To understand it, I had to remind myself over and over again that I’m dealing with a teen-ager’s brain.
But I am an eternal romantic, and to me, the heart — at least the goodness of one’s heart — knows no age. In fact, I believe the younger a person is, the purer his or her heart is — as it is not yet jaded by life’s cruelty. One thing my Mom taught me early on is that there is a certain good in all of us. While some may have it aplenty, others are not as generous about revealing that part of their personality. So while I know his immaturity makes him rebellious, I would like to think that there is that goodness that my Mom has put so much faith on, that lurks somewhere inside him.
It was worse before. He would spend the whole weekend with us without saying anything to me. He would even give me the “evol eye”, if only looks could kill.. Even if I intervened when father and son were at loggerheads over homework and patiently tutored him, only to be rebuffed with sighs of exasperration and talkback, we never quite bridged the gap.
One time his Dad and I were confronting him about his attitude, I purposely hugged him tight because I knew he was repulsed by such intimate contact — and he tried so hard to pull away.
These days, he says hi and goodbye. He talks to me when he needs something. He still doesn’t help around the house, has to be continually reminded to pick after himself, and still tells me after I’ve cooked dinner that he isn’t hungry and will not be eating with us. (So forget that I cooked something he liked, or that I purposely cooked one portion extra for him.)
I have learned to steel my heart. I have accepted the reality of our situation and know that if anything happens to both Alan and me, I need someone to take care of my son. I know better than to expect the stepson to be there for us when we are older — not to take care of us, but just be there for us, even just for his Dad.
Stepparenthood is an altogether different thing from Parenthood because you are restricted by the very fact you are NOT a parent. I’m still trying, and it’s not getting any easier. Then again, as my bestfriend used to tell me, I have to remember, I married the father, not the son.