I have a brother and two step-sisters; we're all about the same age. Our mum remarried their dad when I was 8 and we lived with him growing up. My step-sisters lived with their mum and came to us every Saturday day, and stayed over every other Saturday night. We lived in the same town but went to different schools and had different friends. We got along ok as kids but drifted apart somewhat in our 20s just through circumstance more than anything (uni, travel, work, babies etc) but remained (for the most part!) on friendly terms. I wouldn't say we were ever particularly close though.
It's been by no means an easy family situation and we've had ups and downs over the years, but things are good now. Saying this, something has occured to me this year and I hope I can share this in the hope that it may help (for want of a better word) other step-families.
I'm 32 and my eldest step-sister is 30. She had a big party for her birthday and it was the first time I'd ever met her best friend. I didn't even know her best friend's name. In fact, I didn't know any of her friends' faces, let alone their names. It struck me that because they always came to us as kids (ie they'd spend Saturdays at our house) it was always them coming into our lives. We never went into their lives. I don't know what their bedrooms were like, what posters they had on their walls, what their life at their home was like. We went to different schools and were in different years so our friends neve overlapped. It still is like that - when we all see each other, it's generally a birthday or Christmas, round at my mum and step-dad's. They come to us.
Having never been a particularly girly-girl, I was always happy to just have a brother when I was a kid, but as I got older I felt a little sad that although I had step-sisters we weren't close like sisters perhaps could be. We could've been closer and we should've been closer. Whilst I've known these girls for 25 years, I barely know them at all.
I respect that our parents never forced anything on us but I wonder if perhaps a little more encouragement might've helped. I wonder if we'd been able to spend time with them in their environment, their comfort zone, their turf, it might've made things less rocky when there were ups and downs... And in turn perhaps at least the foundations for a closer on-going relationship might've been created.
Their mum did make life difficult and she was never very accepting of my mum or us (despite her and my step-dad being divorced before my mum came on the scene). So I suppose it was never going to be the case for us that we'd be invited over after school or whenever. But I do wonder if would've helped us all bond better. My younger step-sister has had many self-confidence issues over the years and I wonder if she'd had a better sibling support network, she may have dealt with these in a different way.
Anyway, I guess I'm saying that the step-family relationship shouldn't just be about the "new" family. If you have children that have step-siblings, and can face encouraging the friendship, then maybe that'll be a nice thing. It was hard for me and my brother to let our step-sisters in to our lives, but I wonder if it was just as hard, or harder for them, to go into someone else's lives on a weekly basis. I know you can't force anything but if you can avoid the scenario I've described where it didn't even occur to anyone in our family that it might be nice for the step-sisters if we could understand more about their world, well, perhaps it might be good for everyone involved.
I understand the reluctance to share things with your ex or his/her new partner/spouse. Having my own baby now, I can't imagine wanting to encourage her to be be besties with a new woman's kids... But I'd like to think I might try.
Hello, you sound like a really lovely, caring person and will be a terrific mum. I'm mum to a ds and sm to a dsd and dss, they are all about the same age, my ds filling the gap so to speak. They get on well with each other, call themselves brothers and sister and support each other when needed. But yes they are always at our place, do things with us and separately with their mum and now also stepdad. My ds has never been invited to anything although mum and her family know him from school plays we visit (none not at same school). Some of her relatives sympathize with my dh and visit us and have given us money for a great family vacation, my ds is given Xmas gift, etc, by these two,lovely people. My ex is married to a lovely woman too, can't have own kids and has always treated my ds really well. We talk a lot and arrange visits, etc. they have said at various times they would love to welcome dss an dsd to their home when my ds visits them. They are not allowed to move however without their mums say so. She openly says she hates all children except her own, they never have friends over excepts when she is out or working late or enjoying busy social life. They invite friends to our place... I am happy we can offer a good home to my ds, his step siblings and sundry friends. Some people just don't want that, unfortunately this feeling can be passed on as preferable, and their kids will not be wanting more closeness either...? Hopefully our blended brood will prove loyal in future too. All the best xx
Thanks for an interesting post - I'm in the same position your mum was in 20 years back. My DCs mainly get on well with their step siblings, but, like you, it's mainly them coming into our main home, and my DCs have never set foot in theirs. I'm aware of this disparity when it comes to birthday parties - DSC are always invited to my DCs' parties, but their mum organises their parties and never invites my DCs That said, she's not actively hostile or anything, it probably just doesn't occur to her, so I might try and see if I can encourage/facilitate a bit more direct contact between them all. Maybe if the kids initiate it.
Like you, my DD only has a brother, but has a step-sister (well two actually, but one is 6 years older than her). She does play a great deal with DSD2 when she's here, and I'd like them to stay close as they grow up, but guess that's not something you can take for granted, as you say. The DSC do ocassionally have friends round here, so I might try and encourage that a bit more. Do you have any other advice how I could help them to inhabit the same world? Like you and your steps, they go to different schools.
I have a daughter (19) and two sons (9 and 13) and a step son (11) and stepdaughter (8) so quite a mixture. I think my boys and dss are all good friends, they certainly have a lot in common as they are similar ages and they are all very protective of dsd but I don't think they will ever feel the natural bond that they have with their natural siblings. My eldest dd doesn't live at home so she isn't close to the step dc at all. In fact she finds them quite irritating but adores her little brothers/
My dc have nothing to do with my dscs home life but it doesn't seem to bother any of them. My dc go off to their dads and have a whole other life away from home too and they seem to cope ok with that.
I have two stepbrothers and a brother and while I get on well with my stepbrothers I don't feel that bond with them that I do with my own brother. We were teenagers when our parents married so maybe that is why.
I don't think you can force a close relationship between step siblings, it either happens naturally or it doesn't.
I can remember being quite disappointed that my mum married a man with two boys as I had always wanted a sister but when my dad was seeing a woman with a dd we were very jealous of each other so maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
After I wrote this post it occurred to me that it would've been difficult to spend any time with my step-sisters outside of the weekends they were at ours, because we were at our dad's on alternate weekends and wanted to spend time with him, and I can't see that he was ever going to invite them over to his as such (as they were spending those weekend with their mum anyway) and then in the week we'd be busy with school and homework and clubs etc.....
We didn't go to my step-sisters' birthday parties, so I think that's a good idea.
I guess it's about encouraging a friendship rather than a weird sibling dynamic. When our stepsisters came to our house, my stepdad pretty much sidelined me and my brother, which to an extent I guess is understandable - as he wanted to spend that precious time with his kids and he'd seen us all week, but it still felt like we were ousted a bit. We did do plenty together as a "family" and had some good times... Holidays were fun and I'd say that's when we mainly bonded and got on really well, but then when it was back to every other weekend, well I suppose a fortnight is a long time in a kid's life.
Also, in my head as a kid it was hard to know how to "treat" them when they came over. Were they guests who needed hosting? Would it be better to just let them get on with it so they were like the rest of us already living there? I didn't always want to share my space, room and time with them and I know I acted up in this regard (which must've felt really hostile for them, kipping on my bedroom floor whilst I princessed-off about having to share or sleep with the light on as they liked when I was used to it being turned off.....).
I don't suppose there is a magical answer and maybe I'm not giving my parents enough credit - perhaps they were aware of the difference between them coming into our lives, and us having them come into it (if that makes sense). And maybe we just didn't click so that was that.....
Thank you for this post. Its making me look at things from an angle that in the chaos of becoming a step mother and a mother I had forgotten about.
I think I should probably be telling my stepsisters all this tbh
It's a funny dynamic though because I think it makes my dad wince a bit if/when I talk about them (my mums affair with my stepdad was the hammer in the coffin of my mum and dads marriage though they all get on ok-ish)....
Op, you sound lovely.
Before I married my DH I imagined my ds (from former marriage) was gaining 3 steps. My dh's 3 were older than ds but much was made of the "it's so exciting, having step brother and 2 step sisters" as ds was an only child.
At first, they did the every other weekend/midweek visit thing but, despite only living 5 mins away they were older (12, 17 and 18) and are now young adults. Ds is now 12. It came home to me pretty early on that ds (who was around 9 at the time) could NOT go beyond a certain line in the relationship. DH went to collect his 2 (the eldest was then off to uni) and when they got to his former wife's house, my son leapt out of the car saying "can I see your bedroom?". Of course, he wasn't allowed in. I met DH 3 years after the affair his then wife had, that ended their marriage so, I was nothing to do with that, but my son was refused entry and its remained so.
18 months ago, dh's youngest daughter fell out with us about something. My son hasn't seen her since. As I say, he's 12 now but I resent (on his behalf) the massive encouragement made to "sell" our relocation (to benefit his 3 kids and his relationship with them) so DH and I could marry. Ds had step siblings thrust at him (in the nicest possible way! and now, we never see them.
Personally, I'd have let a little boy into my home to see the dog and a kid's bedroom, out of motherly kindness. Clearly, DH's ex could not.
This is a lovely thread and what an interesting thought to plant in the head of people in blended families.
We have a set of four brothers in our household ... full, half and step brothers. They are all great friends.
I think we do ok in this regard as an extended family for the boys - they've all seen inside their other bedroom, have played together when with other parents (even though there is a significant physical distance), have been to birthday parties hosted by the boys' other parent, skype and message one another when they're apart, have even managed a sleep-over when our youngest was born - but thinking about it the level of interaction probably doesn't reflect their friendship. I think more effort is required on our part to ensure their friends know the brothers despite type of brothers and that the step-siblings at other houses have the opportunity to come and visit here.
Thanks for the prompt.
Thanks for this - it's really interesting
As a child of divorced parents who married another child of divorced parents (all parents remarried and a variety of step and half-siblings on all sides), it's been interesting to see with my own eyes the different ways people deal with the fallout.
Since my x and I separated, it's been clear that my family were always in the 'share everything' camp and his were always in the 'share nothing' camp and I find his ionflexible attitude quite frustrating.
OP, after reading your post I will definitely keep pushing for my dd to have flexibility and choice in her access to ALL of her extended family and will encourage her to maintain relationships with everyone
and sod her miserable dad!
Teamakesitallpossible, that sounds wonderful. For the boys especially. It's a credit to all the adults involved. Sadly, some adults behave childishly, despite their advancing years.
My ds has Aspergers so, finds it very very hard socially. I always imagined this large extended family-type of situation and saw no reason why we couldn't all be happy together. It was never really on the cards and I feel the
Ensuing rows and estgrangements have not only been awful for DH and I, but I've really let my son down, massively.
Eliza It's not all wonderful. I think we've, all the adults, behaved childishly at some point though the boys do come first regardless of the other stuff and they ask so charmingly they usually win through! We're fast approaching teenage years so don't expect it to last mind!
I'm not sure I read your post right but if I did ... I'm sure you haven't let your son down massively. My DS has dyslexia - which isn't the same at all but with him I feel I feel like I never do a good enough job because his life is harder than the others and I can see the difference I make to him - the thing is I can't do everything for him.
Anyway, with the thought I can't influence other people's behaviour, only my own.
I'm going to make more effort with the step-siblings in my DSs other homes from now on because I could definitely do more.
Sounds wonderful but makes me so sad. If DD's step siblings had been nearer her age I'd have certainly encouraged the relationships more but then I got on really well with her SM (in fact they are still in touch now although SM is now divorced from DD's Dad).
But DS will never have that - he only sees his brother (DH's son) at our house on contact visits and misses him dreadfully, but is allowed no contact at all with DSS at any other time (mind you neither are we). He used to go with Daddy to collect DSS but we've stopped doing that now as ex can be prone to semi-violent outbursts and we don't want him exposed to that.
I understand what you mean OP because my DDs see their half brother when they stay with their dad but he never gets to be involved in their lives here even though it's obvious that all the DC would like it to happen.
I have invited my ex's 8 year old DS to stay with us for a weekend but my ex isn't interested. He'd have a lovely time here too.
I have (only once) baby sat for my kids half sister. It's a long story and I never thought I would be in the position but I offered to do it and it was without a doubt the right thing for my kids. She was their baby sister, they put her in the buggy and paraded her round the street here like lady muck and showed her off to all their friends. I would never turn her away in years to come if she was with mine when they were being dropped off and wanted to come in and see a bedroom, but this thread has made me think more of encouraging contact between them all outside of when they are with their joint father.
Do your step-sisters feel the same?
I have to say I don't think I'd be comfortable with inviting exP new partners children over to my house for dinner.
I think the things is the kids don't know. ATM my two are young enough not to notice, but this year DSD was allowed to write out an invite to her birthday party for her halfsisters. She wasn't allowed to give it to them though. Her mum didn't even acknowledge DD when she came out to the car to give DSD something on the way to school. We're very lucky that DHs family are very involved in DSDs life so we get to meet her friends etc., and are more involved that way, but I can't imagine DD ever being invited into DSDs mums house.
Oh it's hard, I know. My ex had a baby with his girlfriend and it made me feelso conflicted. Half of my was thinking "You little leech, you've stolen my children's resources!" And the other half was thinking "omg you look so much like ds2, you are ADORABLE!"
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