Parenting a Child Who’s Not Your Own

Men and women who step up and take care of another person’s children are truly amazing. They’re one of the wonders of the world, if you ask me.

They give children someone to love and hold on to when another parent can’t do the same. They help raise, discipline, reward, and adore children who are not their own. It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful.

But here’s the thing — if you’re going to step up and parent a child that’s not your own, step up and parent a child who’s not your own.


*  *  *  *  *

Jack and I haven’t been seeing eye to eye on certain parenting techniques lately. Now, Holden has two parents. He has me, his mother, who’s been there since day one. And then he has Nate, his father, who was there since day one and then suddenly ripped away when Holden was six months old.

But Holden also has a third parent, the way I see it. Jack has also been there from day one, first as a friend helping out, then as a roommate helping out, then as a best friend helping to raise. He views Holden as his own son. None of this is to discredit Nate as a father — he is, and always will be, Holden’s father and he’s a damn good one, even from where he is. But Jack is now a forever part of Holden’s life as well.

So when he does things like he did the other night, well, it upsets me.

*  *  *  *  *

Jack and I share a room. We’re not together — as you all know, I fully plan on waiting for Nate — but our house is too small and it just made sense. Our room is also the smallest in the house, so we share a bed. Holden woke up in the middle of the night and came into our room, into our bed, as he sometimes does. But something was different about this night.

Holden was upset about something. I don’t know if he was having a bad dream or didn’t feel good, but he was very whiney and moany and groany. He laid there next to us just moaning. Whenever I asked him what was wrong he would croak out, “I need you” without even opening his eyes. I comforted him the best I could, made sure he was asleep, and went out into the living room since I was then pretty awake.

October 15th Sleepy Time -- stealing my spot

Not long after, I heard him whining again. Then crying. Then I heard the door to our bedroom open, Holden go into his room, cry, then back into our room. Jack yelled at him to stop whining.

This is what bothered me. The child was obviously distraught. I get that it’s the middle of the night, but no matter how tired or cranky you are, your child comes first. No matter what. There was a reason Holden was whining and crying, whether we understood it or not.

But Jack, being half asleep, decided he wanted to choose not to deal with Holden right then. Which you simply cannot do.

*  *  *  *  *

You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a parent. Even if you’re not a parent.

Jack has literally no responsibility to Holden. Holden is not biologically his. Holden is not legally his. Holden is not his, period.

But he is at the same time. Because Jack decidedat his own free will that he wanted to be a parent to Holden. And once you decide that, there’s no turning back. It’s all or nothing.

If you’re a stepparent or a caregiver or a guardian, you don’t get to pick which moments you’re a parent just because the child isn’t yours. The child is yours — yours to love and care for until the day you die, because the day you decided to step up, you made a silent vow to do so forever, for better or for worse. You can’t turn your back when there’s a hard moment.

That’s not what parenting is.

*  *  *  *  *

Parenting is the good and the bad. The pretty and the ugly. The early nights and the late nights.

It’s not turning your back when things get tough. It’s changing the once-peed in diapers and the poop running up the back diapers.

It’s everything, and it’s worth it. If you choose it.


33 thoughts on “Parenting a Child Who’s Not Your Own

  1. I agree 100%! When John and I celebrate our anniversaries, Grace and I celebrate our “stepiversary.” In my mind, I made a permanent commitment to two people that day…my new husband and a three-year-old girl. (I can’t believe she’s 13 now!) Parenting is full time regardless of biological ties. I hope you and Jack get things worked out…I’m sure y’all will. :)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Being a sperm donor does not make you a father, no more than being tall makes you a basketball player.

    My son it’s now 14. Technically he is “only” my stepson but I have been in his life since he was only 1. I have never tried to define/force our relationship but very early on he took to calling me dad, which makes me feel good about our relationship.

    I’m the one that helps him with all his science fair projects and homework. I’m the one that gave him the birds & bees talk (so awkward, but that’s another post). I’m the one that he goes hunting with. Finally I am the one that sets the expectations, loves him unconditionally but yet also is the stern disciplinarian if necessary. In short, I try to do everything a “good” father does.

    How successful am I? Well that is up to my SON to decide.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I agree with this post 100% …. father, no matter how you came to be a father, is forever.

    Fathers, all fathers, make mistakes – and need a little forgiveness (or a kick in the ass from mom) from time to time; Jack, who is usually a good father to Holden was probably just having an off night …

    but you might want to make sure he reads this post.


    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m sure he was just having an off night, but there are other things he’s done in the “pick and choose when to be a father” category so this post was just kind of set off by that one incident. He is an amazing father, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you up to a certain point. My kids and step kids are all raised and I have grandchildren now. If there is one thing I have learned about being a parent is that you are human. You don’t always make the best choices when you are parenting. Sometimes we all walk the line between what is right and wrong. Clearly, Holden was upset that night. Men parent differently because they think differently. Don’t give up on Jack yet. Talk about the issues. My husband and I used to say we were a “unified front” (we were in the military) when we dealt with the kids. We both supported each other’s decisions. There were many behind the scenes discussions (no kids present) disagreeing with each other’s decisions though. We always worked it out for the benefit of the kids. NOW, if you ask my kids they will tell a different story… perception is everything. Just do the best you can with what you have at that moment :-)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Well put, Tempest, especially the marriage parallel of “forever, for better or for worse” — and that in spades, since the child doesn’t have the resources to carry on that an ex-spouse (might) have.

    Your post triggers a painful reminder of how time after tme I failed my wife by leaving her to handle the midnight complaints (I “needed sleep” to function at work), the discipline (I “didn’t know how” — and didn’t learn adequately over the long period of time that I could have; I told myself I “didn’t have the temperament” to handle it, the emotional strength, and that she was a teacher with the experience and psychologist with the training to do handle the discipline), I failed both her and them repeatedly, over many years, leaving her to handle these unshared responsibilities — and to feel abandoned. These excuses and evasions of responsibility — and abandonment — were as damaging to an intimate partner relationship as they were shortchanging my parental relationship with my sons — both as a loving father fully caring for them, and as an example of fatherhood; it’s a near-miracle they turned out to be the good fathers they have proven to be.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole and commented:
    बच्चों से ही निस्वार्थ प्यार करना सीखते हैं,और ममता की रसधार हमे पवित्र कर परमात्मा के करीब और करीब ले जाती हैं,,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I know people who’ve stayed in terrible relationships – to their own detriment, even – because they’ve taken on a parental role to their partner’s child, and can’t bear the thought of leaving the child alone with their terrible partner. Good thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Give Jack a break. He was tired, cranky and human. I do think that you and Jack should not share a bed, for that can be confusing for everyone. Just my opinion. Maybe a bunk bed is in order. Full size on bottom, so that Holden can climb in when whiny. Twin on top, so that Jack can have some space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s just that he does other things that make it seem like he’s picking and choosing when to be a parent, so this kind of pushed me over the edge.

      But bunkbeds are so totally a great idea! Can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that. Haha

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, but even married parents do things differently and irritate each other. My husband and I have at times. I’m more of the disciplinarian, believe it or not. He’s more of a pal. Still, above all else, I appreciate how he fathers my son, just as you appreciate that Jack parents your son lovingly. Holden is blessed to be loved so much by so many.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I might have misunderstood but I thought you said Holden has his own room? Could jack and Holden swap to give jack some more space?

    My guess is jack was still half asleep and wasn’t thinking properly, it happens to the best of us. Maybe just sit down and chat to him about it.

    Ps. I loooove that you share a bed with a friend. That’s so sweet :) I think my insides just turned into a marshmallow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holden does have his own room, but neither of us are comfortable with sharing a room with him — I was very adamant about him having his own room since he was born. However, he does have the bigger room, so I’ve been bugging Jack for us to switch with him. Plus, if he wants to parent he should parent, in my opinion, not have his own space (no offense).

      And he totally was — he gets like that a lot when he’s half asleep, but this was just the icing on the cake of things he does that make me feel like he’s picking and choosing when to be a parent. I mean he’s amazing, but there are some things we need to work on.

      And haha! Thank you=]


      • Switching doesn’t sound like such a bad idea :) I remember what it was like with 2 people sleeping in a small room – its not exactly calming! He could just be feeling a bit cramped and stressed.

        But yes, definitely talk to him about it, he might appreciate the thoughts. A lot of people don’t realise how they do something until someone points it out. Just don’t make it into an argument or it could cause a lot of drama! Keep it as a casual convo and it’ll all work out :)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Okay girlfriend – here’s a superficial comment that has nothing to do with the serious topic – forgive me, m’kay?

    YOU are absolutely stunning! :))))))

    I appoint you with the brand-new Gorgeous Blogger Award! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You are so right when you say parenting is forever, for good or for worse. You can not pick. And you are right, that it is not okay to pick. Having said that and knowing how overwhelming being a parent sometimes can be and feel: Maybe he was overwhelmed in those moments. In the moments he choose “not to be a parent”? How does he feel with being so close to you but not being your partner? Maybe this is overwhelming too? I am sure you guys were able to figure it out. And honestly: It seems to me like in a normal relationship… You sometimes just don’t agree with your partner on how they deal with the kids under certain circumstances. Hey, it’s just life…


    • Yeah, he’s always like that when he wakes up. He’s one of those people who could probably kill within the first however long of waking up and get away with it because he’s really not himself. It was just the icing on the cake, so to speak, of other things he’s done as well. We seem to be meshing well lately, though.


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