A huge benefit of coupling with my partner when I did and when the Little Monster was so young was that I got to see my partner learn to be a father and we got to develop a “parenting style” of our own together. When I speak to or hear from other stepmums it seems a common problem is joining an already established routine, so I count myself very lucky in this regard.
The monsters (big and little) had a difficult start to their relationship.. I won’t go into all the details because it’s not my story to tell but they were without regular contact from the time little monster was only a few weeks old. Despite this my OH remained totally committed to building a strong relationship with and creating a good environment for his son.
To begin with the contact arrangements were sporadic at best and once or twice a month he had “access” with the little monster, this tended to mean he picked him up at 10am and had to return him to his mums by 4pm. They live about an hour away so in reality they had around 4-8 hours together a month.
Who’s the Daddy?
During the first 6-9 months or so of being with my OH, every time he had the little monster his parents would arrive. Now I think of it, I can’t really remember a time we left the house with him during this period until monster was much older.
Because my partners previous relationship had ended while monster was so young, he had missed out on the “normal” learning curve of spending the first few weeks / months interpreting all the noises and facial expressions a baby makes and getting to know the tiny monsters needs and comforters. It’s very easy to take for granted the time you have with a baby and the unique language you inevitably create. We were told the monster was using sign language and bought several books to try and keep up but without daily practice it was a little difficult to implement.
During this time, the monster of course didn’t speak, he was never much of a crawler but he did love interacting with people and toys! It was a real privilege to get to see him learn and develop interest in his surroundings – he loved bubbles and his stacking toy and you could tell he loved his Daddy. Considering the limitations on their time together, it amazed me and was simultaneously a credit to my partner that monsters natural reaction was to reach for his daddy whenever he was in need of comfort or reassurance.
I also got to see my partners love and bond with the monster grow, which considering very tough circumstances surrounding his fatherhood was both adorable and extremely impressive.
Monster & Me
Throughout the ‘early days’ I had a very small role in monsters life, I was around but not really very involved. There were a number of reasons for this in hindsight; I wasn’t really encouraged by my OHs family, their priority was always for monster to interact with his ‘real’ family, which is understandable – we were in a new relationship and I don’t think anyone (particularly outside my partner and I) knew with confidence what lay in our future.
At the time I felt too uncomfortable to say or do anything about it and always felt I was stepping on toes or barging my way in to somebody else’s business. I was 23 and in a new relationship and I don’t think I saw the bigger picture or the long term importance my bond with monster would come to have.
When my better half and I moved into our new home together, we took the opportunity to try and redefine us (me, partner and monster) as a solid family unit. It happened… over a long hard period… but it happened.
Together, we developed our opinions of what is / isn’t ‘ok’ and learned what did and didn’t work with the monster – fortunately we are usually on the same page, if not I’m a slightly stricter paragraph in the same chapter. We’ve had joint “freak-out” sessions with particularly explosive nappies, unidentifiable rashes, conquering the terrible-twos (we were super lucky this only lasted a month or so) and an incident with snorted bread… don’t ask.. but we’ve got through them all together. It’s taught me more about team work than any corporate day ever could and also the importance of looking after ourselves and each other, after all you can’t pour anything from an empty jug!
Looking back over this period is a great reflection for me, to remember how far we have come as a couple and in defining our relationships within and outside our immediate family unit. The biggest, most ridiculous difference for me is my relationship with the little monster – it’s a world apart now from what it was and I’m so grateful (and pretty proud) I persevered through all the barriers and challenges we faced along the way.