(And Then What Happened When I Was)

In my very first post on this blog, I mentioned that I have a big,
beating heart for kids.  Before I even had kids I signed up to be a
mentor to ten-year-old girl who was classified by my mentoring
organization as “at-risk.” 

I never really found out what the “at-risk” was all about. Sadie (not
her real name) didn’t feel like she could spill her guts with me because
she saw me as “too perfect.” 

I’ll never forget her speech.  “You have the perfect car.  You live in a
perfect house in a perfect neighborhood.  You have the perfect
husband. [whom I am no longer married to – Sadie, where are you
now?] You have the perfect job.  I could never be like you.”

Me, back to her.  “No, Sadie, you don’t have to be like me.  I don’t
want you to be like me.  I’m just supposed to be a positive influence in
your life…not something you have to copy.” 


“Sadie, I’ve worked really hard to earn these things.  They weren’t
handed to me. I moved from California to afford a house.  I’m
committed to my career.” (Which only lasted five more years until the
stress made me physically ill – Sadie, where are you now?)

I don’t know if the things I said ever stuck.  Still, we had some fun
times.  After a while, her mother got remarried and had a baby. Sadie loved
her little sister, things improved for her at home, and the need for a
mentor fizzled away.

I really wasn’t trying to be perfect then.  I am not a perfectionist by

So why, when I got remarried and had stepchildren, did I suddenly
want to be perfect?  The kids’ mom died and I took on a mission to be
the great female role model. (one they didn’t really want, by the way). 
And I thought that the great female role model should have some
model kids, so I likely projected my need for perfection onto them.

I don’t have a lot of answers for why I behaved this way.  My best stab
is that it had something to do with providing control in an atmosphere
where a lot of things were probably out of control.  Kids grieving their
mom, a lack of family structure, the pressure of relatives who “knew
better….”  I drank a lot more wine in those days. 

I don’t think I ever once let on to those kids that I was having a hard
time or that I didn’t know how to proceed.  A little humility could have
gone a very, very long way toward building relationships I was trying
to force instead.

So I entreat any of you who are stepparents (and this can apply to
parents too):  “Watch” yourself in action with your family members. 
Do you show a full spectrum of emotions? Do you sometimes admit
that you don’t have it all together? 

My experiences show me that kids need to see we’re human.
Humanity breeds humanity.  You may have to dip a toe in the water
first, but that action might encourage another family member to do a
full bob, and the third to dive right in.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to


Tags: ,

Leave a Reply