I got married in March and immediately jumped into Bonus Mom mode a few weeks later when our son, Dillon, came down to visit for spring break. From that trip, I said to myself, “Piece of cake! I’ve got this down packed!”
Oh, but summer came, and the first few weeks humbled me in ways that made me question if I was doing anything right!
Time went on and I gradually moved passed my “new mom” jitters. But along the way, summer grew me by teaching me the following seven things that every bonus mom should know.
I am still mastering these golden nuggets.
In fact, writing this post is just as much positive reinforcement for myself as it is for you. But I believe drilling these things into your mind is a great way to keep you in a good space and help you grow as a bonus parent.
Expect an Adjustment Period
Since Dillon lives long distance we miss out on the consistent interaction that I wish we had.
As summer started, I noticed that he seemed more disengaged from me then he was during his previous visit.
This was initially disappointing because it felt like I was starting over. I wondered what triggered the relapse and even felt like I was spinning my wheels trying to build the relationship.
But as time passed, he couldn’t help going back to the kid who crawls up next to me for movie night or asks if he can go with me to do random things. He drifted back to the carefree kid that talks my head off about the most recent happening that I should be in the know about.
Dillon went back to the car DJ who puts me up on what the young people are listening to these days.
He started requesting family nights, sleepovers, and quality time. He went back to normal. And when I thought about it-He ALWAYS does.
From this thought, I realized that I should expect an adjustment period. It is different going from one house to another, especially when you add in the dynamic of a newbie being there.
Although it never feels good when he is totally curving me, doing my part means being understanding to the adjustment until it turns into a seamless transition.
Kids are good judges of character
I believe the reason that the bond between me and Dillon is always rekindled is because children are a good judge of character.
Children observe the way you care for them and how you respond to certain situations. I believe Dillon knows that I love him and that I will ensure that he has what he needs when he is in my care.
Why? He has seen it.
Children know how you feel about them by how you treat them. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind is a great way to avoid going crazy over all the small things that do not matter in the big scheme of things.
Consistency is key with children.
Dillon taught me that children’s expectations are based on repeated behaviors.
For example, I am primarily responsible for being the fun parent.
Our first extended trip together consisted of me taking him to do a million and one things. I continued that tradition through the next few times we connected, so naturally, when he came down for the summer and I told him I actually had to work, he tilted his head to the side and said, “Oh, I get it. You are trying to surprise me! You’re not serious right?”
Because I consistently did fun things when he came down, he was caught off guard by the idea of sitting still for a few days. It didn’t matter to Dillon that he doesn’t necessarily do fun things every day at home, it mattered that he felt I was being inconsistent.
My husband and I enrolled Dillon in more summer camps than he could fathom, alleviating pressure to balance work with a trip to the arcade or trampoline park every day. However, this situation taught me the importance of consistency in everything I do with my son. That means loving him the same; trying the same; taking care of him the same; and reinforcing core principles the same.
Actions speak louder than words
Be dedicated to showing your bonus child who you are to them and how you feel about them. Be conscious of your influence. Ask yourself, “What am I teaching through my actions?”
Even when you do not realize it, you are consistently teaching your child something. Make sure that something is something worth teaching.
This summer, I consistently taught principles regarding good character. Almost every morning I reminded Dillon to be a better person today then he was yesterday. I encouraged him to do at least one nice thing for someone throughout his day, and I stressed the importance of having a good attitude.
I reinforced my message so much that he eventually knew the spill before I said it. And even though Dillon may not understand why I consistently reiterate these concepts or repeatedly do certain things, it will make a difference in his view of the world as he grows older.
Parenting is a lot about molding your child to be the best that he can be. Choose a way to consistently help your child be better in some way.
Do it Your Way
Diving into parenting can be intimidating, especially when you are a bonus parent.
When Dillon first got here for the summer, my mind was cluttered with feedback and nervous anxiety about what the boundaries were for parenting. I wanted to be respectful of his biological parents, and truthfully, I didn’t want to do anything that would make Dillon dislike me.
The first few weeks of his stay were stressful simply because I was tip toeing around doing it my own way for fear of the outcome.
Eventually, I made the decision to use my own parenting style. I got this in my head and stuck with it. I developed my own routines, my own morning talks, my own techniques for discipline and went with it. And guess what? Everyone survived!
Allow for organic relationship building
Everything takes time. Do not try to force relationship building or get frustrated if it doesn’t happen on your timeline. Let things happen organically. Allow your child to learn you better as you do the same. Find things that you have in common and take an interest in things that are important to the child.
Dillon and I bonded over something as simple as watching Avenger movies. He enjoyed talking to me about the movies and giving me background on the characters.
Over time, this turned into our thing. Movie night was our way of connecting. It made him feel comfortable to talk to me about something that was on his level.
Nothing happened when I was trying too hard or wasting time worried about whether he liked me.
Think about it this way. You are a good person. Why wouldn’t someone like you after they get to know you? Keep that train of thought in your head and allow time to be your friend. Don’t panic. You will get there.
Be patient with your child. It can be tough being a little person in a blended family. Kids pick up on things that adults think they are cleverly hiding. Sometimes the pressure of trying to make everyone happy can feel overwhelming. Try to understand the child’s perspective and make the decision to do your part to alleviate that pressure in any way that you can.
Just as important, is being patient with you. You are new to this. Do not beat yourself up over mistakes or worry about how it will be viewed by others. Instead, do your best. Learn from your shortcomings, and focus on being a better parent every day.
You are more than capable of doing this! Don’t let hiccups rain on your parade. Keep going!
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