H is for Happiness [The A-Z of Step-Parenting]

Having reviewed some of my previous entries I have acknowledged that moving in with my family has made me a grumpy man. I’m sure my family would disagree and say that I was a grumpy man before I moved in.

Taking this into account it is clear that happiness comes in a variety of forms. My advice is to identify what brings happiness to you. Is it the enjoyment of teaching your step children a new skill? Is it the family occasion where a remote aunt tells you your step children are a credit to you? Could it be the moment when a household chore is completed without hours of nagging?

Whatever it may be my experience tells me to look out for it and when it arrives grab it with both hands and hold on tight.

In our house happiness comes hand in hand with a busy environment. Take for example the evenings when the front door is replaced with on which revolves. A procession of my step sons friends knock on and enter. It amazes me that they can’t all arrive at the same time but that’s another story.

On entering they all make the effort to say hello and they all make the effort to have a small chat. They all take for granted that they are going to be given grief for wearing their trousers half way down their backsides. They are all accepting that their ever changing hairstyles will be viewed with suspicion. They all acknowledge that they will behave differently towards us than they would their parents. They are all aware that they are welcome as long as a degree of respect is afforded to us.

Add to this the acceptance that a plate of food will be thrown into the room they are occupying and they remain hassle free their length of stay can be extended. In return for offering them shelter and sustenance they tend to leave us alone – a good transaction on the face of it.

So why then does this bring happiness with it and why then do I encourage it? For me happiness is being accepted in some form or another, by yourself, your partner, your family or your friends. To be accepted by your step children and their friends is a different level of happiness altogether.

To enter their world and be included is the ultimate form of approval, I agree this can be well hidden from time to time. On the odd occasion (actually it’s more often than not) I am excluded from certain conversations and the room will go quiet if I enter. Yet this feels like a greater acceptance as I am being treated in exactly the same way as my wife.

I was rubbish at maths at school as it felt like a foreign language. However, I could always follow a simple equation, little did I know I would be jotting one down in later life; family life + chaotic evenings + acceptance = happiness.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and from it happiness can be furthered. Ken Dodd sang, “Happiness, happiness – the greatest gift that I possess.” I couldn’t agree more.

This is part eight of the “A-Z of Step-Parenting” series by Paul Nevitt, a 33-year-old male with plenty of experience of living with stepchildren. Visit his adoption blog too.