Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Marrying" your stepchildren... part two

Last year, I wrote a blog post about a video I saw on my Facebook feed.  It was a viral video of NASCAR driver Brian Scott "marrying" his toddler aged stepdaughter, Brielle Caisse.  In my post, I expressed my disapproval over the whole "marrying your stepchildren" trend of today.  Although I thought most of my comments about stepparents-- particularly stepfathers-- mock marrying their new stepchildren-- usually stepdaughters-- were pretty tame, I still got a couple of angry comments from the peanut gallery.

Since I am about to write about this subject again and know that many people think this trend of stepdaddy stepping up is heartwarming and sweet, allow me to pre-emptively remind people that this is a personal blog and what I'm about to write are only my opinions based on my own research and experiences.  I know many people disagree with me on this topic and that's fine.  However, leaving me a pissy comment is probably just going to cause me to respond similarly.  I can guarantee that telling me off will not change my mind and may even inspire me to blog about you.

So, if what I write here makes you angry, my best advice would be for you to either take a deep breath and leave me a calm, rational comment, or simply go somewhere else on the web.  You can even write a rebuttal on your own blog, though I won't go looking for it.   These are simply my opinions and I don't necessarily care about anyone else's... especially if they are presented in a profane or unreasonable manner.

So... now that I've gotten that off my chest, on with today's topic.

Yesterday, I saw a post on Upworthy about yet another stepfather to be "proposing" to his soon to be stepdaughter.  Once again, I noticed how many people were praising William Ledbetter for giving his girlfriend's daughter, Maddie, a ring for her finger and a necklace.  Many people were holding him up as a great example of fatherhood.  In the past, I have made it very clear that I'm not a fan of these types of proposals to kids.  I especially think it's a bad idea to videotape them and post them online.  I have a number of reasons for feeling the way I do.

First off, I don't think it's appropriate for stepfathers to propose to their soon-to-be wife's kids.  Marriage is not the same thing as step-parenthood.  Marriage is a different relationship that involves sexual relations and a type of intimacy that is hopefully very different than the relationship a stepparent has with a stepchild.  A marriage proposal is supposed to be a serious thing and one that most people hope will be special and come once in a lifetime.  Stepfathers who present rings to their stepdaughters, in a way, kind of pre-empt that special moment that may come later in the child's life, when she is a grown woman.  Some people might argue that these types of proposals aren't really serious.  If that's the case, why film them and put them on the Internet?  In fact, why do them at all?

Secondly, many people marry thinking they will be together for life.  The reality is, many marriages don't last a lifetime, especially those that involve stepchildren.  What if, in the heady emotions of engagement, a man gives his stepdaughter a ring and promises to be her "daddy", and then five or ten years later, divorces her mother?  What if mom and "dad" both remarry?  While the proposal memory may be sweet when it happens, years later, it could backfire spectacularly.  For that reason, I also think these kinds of intimate "stepchild proposal" moments should not be filmed.  And, for God's sake, don't put them on the Internet!  If the relationship doesn't work out, that video will still likely be out there and could end up being a source of significant pain for the child.  Besides, I think anyone who wants to make that kind of a serious promise to a child and really means it probably ought to keep the moment private.

Thirdly, while I applaud William Ledbetter for his obvious devotion to Maddie and his girlfriend, Paige Evans, I have to wonder where Maddie's father is and how he feels about this.  While I know that a lot of biological fathers end up being out of the picture and many women rightly feel fine about "replacing" them with another man, I also know from personal experience that not every man is out of the picture by choice.  And while I understand that many people think you can pick and choose your family, my personal belief is that you really can't.  DNA does matter and many people want to know where they came from; why else would genealogy be as popular as it is?  Why else would so many adopted people seek their biological parents?  Many people have been in relationships they'd rather forget.  I know many would like a do-over of their past so that they can erase or edit the bad parts.  The reality is, everyone has a history and no matter how much you love someone you "chose" for your family, it's very hard to wash away that biological connection.

And finally, I know that if a stepmother similarly "proposed" to her stepchildren according to the current trend practiced by some stepfathers, people would not be nearly as supportive.  The reason for that is that most people consider a mother's role sacred.  Stepmothers are often seen as "wicked" or corrupt somehow.  While I am not going to go searching for hard and fast statistics on that truism, I will say that one only has to read any Internet article that allows comments about the stepmother experience.  You will no doubt find many written by children of divorce who hate their stepmothers with a fiery passion.  While I'm sure people have valid reasons for disliking their stepmothers, I also think our society encourages that disdain.  No one I know grows up hoping to be someone's stepmother.  I know I sure didn't.  When it comes to stepmothers, people don't tend to be rational or even have a lot of empathy.  Many folks don't believe you can replace a mom, but they are quick to believe that a dad is easily replaced.  If that's the case, isn't it risky for a stepfather to make a lifetime promise to a child that he may not be able to fulfill?

Personally, I think this trend of stepfathers pledging themselves to their stepchildren is more about the parents than the children.  William Ledbetter's proposal was filmed, after all.  It was planned in advance.  He presented the jewelry to Maddie on camera, which he then put on YouTube for the world to see.  Why do you think he felt the need to share this moment with the masses?  Could it be for Maddie's benefit?  I kind of doubt it.  So often, these kinds of spectacles are more about showing off  and winning over the heart and mind of the child than actual commitment.  What little girl doesn't like extra attention and jewelry (or any other gift that interests her if it's not jewelry)?  What little girl doesn't want to be called a "princess", which is yet another icky trend I don't like so much because of where it can lead?

Most people are on their best behavior before the wedding.  I would be more impressed by a stepfather who gives his stepdaughter a personal token of his love and commitment after he's been married to her mother for awhile, not just before the wedding.  I think those who manage to keep those special moments off the Internet are even more special and wise.

I know that for many people, a stepparent really does step up and fill the role of a parent.  I know that there are people out there who do not wonder about their biological relatives.  I truly do get that.  However, I do not think that's necessarily the norm.  Moreover, while Bill's and my experiences in the "post divorce with kids world" are not everyone's experiences, I think my opinions are valid.  I also think I have the right to express them, unpleasant as some people might think they are.

I see by the comments on YouTube that I'm not the only one who feels the way I do.  I did actually comment on the Upworthy post before I decided not to follow Upworthy anymore.  I expected a barrage of negative comments from outraged women who are pissed that someone dares to express a less than gushing response.  To my surprise, the first few comments were supportive.  When the first negative one appeared, I decided to quit reading.  It's the weekend and Bill and I are about to go on vacation.  I don't want to get wound up over Upworthy.

I will leave the comments open for now, but reserve the right to close them if people get too shitty.


  1. I don't see why marrying one's stepchildren is a good idea, either. give the kid a gift if you want, but calling it "marriage" doesn't seem right to me.


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