My step-daughter is a wonderful girl. She is sweet and fun and incredibly artistic. We have a very good relationship and I am blessed to have her consider me “Mom.” Her life is very different with her father and me than it is with her biological mother. Not necessarily bad, but definitely different.
We have my step-daughter with us for most of the summer and every extended break during the school year. Last year we moved to another state and the visits are farther apart and the amount of travel time is greater. We have always felt that she enjoyed the plane rides and never appeared to have a problem coming or going.
As my step-daughter gets older, she talks more about wanting to stay with us. It is certainly something that my husband and I are in favor of, but we try very hard to let her know that the decision is not ours and won’t be hers for a few more years. It is certainly difficult on all of us for her to feel torn between her mother and her family with us.
The most difficult time came when she started to rebel against making the trip back to her mother’s house. She was adamant that she didn’t want to go back, coming up with fanciful ways to avoid the inevitable. She shared her ideas with anyone who would listen and the same question came up, “What do you say?” The answer to that question is difficult.
To tell my step-daughter to not talk like that when the decision is beyond us is negating her feelings and her attempts to show us how much she loves us. However, to encourage her behavior in this regard is also potentially detrimental as it allows her to be less than respectful to her mother. Neither situation is a good one. There is no right or wrong answer and each child has their own level of dealing with divorce and its impact on them.
For us, the answer came in the form of “We love you no matter what” and hugs. All we can do is to validate her feelings and let her say her piece but gently remind her that nothing can change for a few years. It doesn’t change anything but it does allow her to see how an adult deals with his or her feelings responsibly and if we can’t make things different at least we can teach her a valuable lesson in patience.