In our inaugural issue of Parent Survival Guide, an anonymous step-dad shared candid insight into his internal journey towards parenting children who suffer from parental alienation. Below is an excerpt from that article.
I cannot remember where, years ago, I picked up my only ‘what’s the difference joke’ that goes something like this:
“What’s the difference between bacon and eggs?”
“The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.”
I treated it with snobbery for years, even as I found myself step-parenting, the skewed odds stacked further against me by the parental alienation behavior of my partner’s ex. But in the absence of almost any other guidance, the joke patiently dangled its unlikely wisdom in front of me until I was ready to heed it.
In the early days with my new family, I stayed ‘independent’: nothing worse, I told myself, than barging into an established household with my own crap. They have enough going on, including three quite different parents sharing turf well before I even set foot on it. I would be here for a good time, for occasional gems of insight; an excellent but modest role model.
I would be a chicken.
If you are smiling, then you already know what had to drill its way through my thick skull: alienated kids don’t have use for chickens.
Their worlds run short on authenticity and transparency. They are exhausted just reconciling their experience with the alienator’s interpretation of it. If their step-parent is one-foot out, they don’t waste precious energy on the other foot.
So I have come to believe that ‘step’ in step-parenting refers to commitment. It could have been ‘tap-in‘ or ‘brush-by’ parenting, but no..! To step, you must shift your balance, transfer your weight; only when you take a step does your world merge with theirs. Once you step, you are no longer where you used to be, all balanced and Zen. Having stepped, you are in the midst of the new thing, your past on the other side of an equally destabilizing ordeal.
For the complete article, please refer to p. 24 of Parent Survival Guide, Winter Issue 01.