"Thanks for not being evil," Tori recently said to me. This was a very nice compliment to a Step Mother!
Being a step parent is a very delicate balance between being a "friend" and being an almost-parent. You never want to make the mistake of trying to be an actual parent -- at some point the child will remind you that you are, in fact, not her parent, and that you should mind yer own bizness.
I have been very lucky that in my relationship with Tori, it has not been too difficult to figure out what my role is in her life... and a little more difficult to determine what her role in my life is. Contrary to popular belief, creating a blended family is not as easy as pouring water onto oatmeal, and voila: breakfast! The child and the step parent have to figure out what their relationship is going to look like, and how much trust and respect are to be given to each other. Even something that seems simple, like "what are we going to call each other?" is complicated.
But this balance between being a friend and an almost parent extends well beyond the child-step parent relationship. It is also a tough spot to be in with the other parents -- the "real" parents. Even if all the parents work together well (which we do), there are going to be differences in what is seen as appropriate dress, music, movies, shoes, language, behavior, manners, etc. The hard part of being the step parent, is that you never know when you should interject your own thoughts, or when you should just keep quiet and cringe when you think something isn't going as well as it could.
I have probably been too vocal in my step parenting. I'm a pushy person (no? really?), and when I think I'm right, I am bullish about getting my way. Not the best technique when you are wading through the choppy waters of raising a child, and are supposed to be the bystander, not the leader. There have been many arguments because of my inability to see beyond what I feel is the "right" way.
Ultimately, it's most important for all parents/pseudo-parents to remember that the final goal is to assist a young person in becoming a balanced and productive member of society -- in spite of his or her parents' mistakes. And we are going to make mistakes, big ones. And that's okay (this is the hard one to accept).
I am happy to say that, even with all the struggles I have had trying to figure out how this whole parenting thing works, and what my role as a step parent is, Tori is turning out to be a wonderful young woman, and I'd like to think that I've played a small role in that.