I is for Individuality [The A-Z of Step-Parenting]

Individuality as such, should be celebrated. In our house it’s simple. We all have things we enjoy, we all have things we share and we all have things we wish the others would keep to themselves.

With individuality I’m not thinking about the teenager who decides to dress as in long black leather jackets, knee high black boots, wear black finger nail polish and paints their entire room in black and grey. I once asked a child I taught why they dressed in this way. He responded, “It’s ‘cos I want to be an individual.” He didn’t understand the irony of all his pals dressing in a similar manner.

My experience is that before you are a step parent you have certain traits which define you as an individual: hobbies, interests, work and past experiences. Within a week of moving in with my family my individuality had been cast aside.

Any clothes which I once thought were cool have now become embarrassing. Any music which I thought was hip and trendy has now been deemed passé. Any hobbies I once enjoyed have now seemingly turned into a waste of time.

In losing elements of my individuality my wife and the lads seemed to have extended theirs. My wife is now able to pursue activities she would love to have done when she was a single mother but couldn’t. As the lads mature (strange vocabulary choice seeing as the older they get the dafter they seem) they naturally explore their own individuality and what defines them.

The eldest of the two has always been good at exploring what makes him an individual and is willing to share some of the things that interest him, particularly music and literature. He is also more than willing to share any of my clothes which he has more than a passing interest in.

The youngest, however, isn’t so keen. His interests he guards closely. In trying to take an interest he calls for the fifth amendment even though he doesn’t know what it is or that it is irrelevant in this country. He claims all that I wear, listen to, watch or engage in are seen as the antichrist. Why then do I regularly find him borrowing tops, accessing my iTunes library or following me to the golf club?

There lies the truth of the matter. As individuality goes once you become a member of a step family you begin to adopt a corporate identity rather than an individual one. You begin to listen and watch bands that you all ‘kinda like’. You watch films that have a common ground for all. You visit restaurants that the youngest one will like and the rest of us will put up with.

Individuality remains and grows but not for you. There must be a point when that changes although I take great delight when the lads ask me about a band from the eighties or borrow a shirt (without asking).

I can’t wait to remind them of these things in the future when I’m a step grand parent.

This is part nine 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.