Cinderella probably had the most famous stepmother of all time. Wicked and cruel, she did everything she could to keep Cinderella from marrying the handsome prince and living happily ever after. Why Cinderella’s father married her in the first place is something I will always wonder.

My stepdaughter was a big fan of Cinderella and the Disney Princess franchise in general. Her favorite was Ariel, who simply didn’t seem to have a mother…but Cinderella was a close second.

Luckily, I was able to dispel her expectation that I would be a wicked stepmother early on. I was, however, an active parent. Dave, my husband, and I decided long before we got married that the only way things would work for us would be if we both took active roles in the kids’ lives. While I was still dating Dave, I volunteered to be his oldest son’s soccer coach, had regular “dates” with Kira and learned everything I could about Down syndrome and the rights of the disabled so that I could actively advocate for Kyle.

Involvement was the key to our success. I took an active role in guiding, disciplining (time outs and groundings, not spankings), and decision-making. I attended parent-teacher conferences and IEP meetings, school plays and soccer games. I wanted to be a family.

This worked for us because #1) my husband was totally supportive and #2) their biological mom was completely hands off. She occasionally came to a soccer game, but she did not come to parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, or take advantage of her right to 50% custody.

I know that my situation is different than most, and in reading about the experiences other stepmoms have had, I realize how lucky I’ve been to have things go more smoothly.  I am no stranger, though, to the constant struggle that goes on between all of the adults in the relationship when it concerns the kids. I’ve been accused of “stealing” the kids, of preventing them from seeing their mother, of lying about them being home to take the occasional phone call.  I’ve been called names and threatened.

It’s heartbreaking to me that the supposed grown-ups in these are so willing to demonstrate the worst of themselves, often in front of the children, because of whatever perceived threat or frustration they have. I implore all families out there in step relationships (and that’s the majority of us these days) to please step back and think first of the children. Count to ten before saying something you will regret. Walk away. Wait until the kids aren’t present.

My stepchildren’s biological mother didn’t do that, and neither did their grandmother. Because of how volatile their behavior and choices were over the years, first our oldest son and then our daughter severed ties with them.  I never wanted to replace their mom or cause them to not have a relationship with her.  I kept my promise and did not speak negatively about her in front of them (although my sister and mother were audience to some of my more memorable moments of frustration).  Whether you are the step or the biological parent, now is the time to try to change the direction if things aren’t going well, because someday it might be too late.

Get Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle. Read more or request a review copy.