Listen to the podcast discussion on todays topic here
I am joined by Rheaz, 30 from East London, who has kindly shared his story about growing up and being raised by his stepfather.
Today’s story explores the challenges of being raised by a stepfather whilst dealing with the fractious relationship with his real father.
My stepdad got with my mum when I was one years old. Thats a red flag!
How did your parents meet?
My Mum & Dad had been together since they were 14. My mum taught him how to read and generally looked out for him as he was a bit of a tear away child you could say. My dad got around a bit and was a bit of a player.
My mum is the youngest of four children and was quite active in helping out with her nieces and nephews from a young age. She fell pregnant with me after a 7 year relationship with my dad and had me at 21.
Whilst my mum was pregnant my dad initially denied that I was his during the pregnancy. My mum had a good relationship with my dads family, so whilst they claimed me, he didn’t.
My Dad went away to Grenada for a few months during the pregnancy and came back after I was born. He began to see me when I was around 2-3 months old.
During this time, he had met someone else who he eventually married. She already had a child and they went on to have more children together.
How did your mother and stepfather meet?
My mum worked and helped out a pub my uncle owned and that is where she met my stepdad.
How she explained it to me was that they went out to dinner (which she paid for). Following the date, they went back to her place and never left. That’s a major red flag!
To me, that sounds wild, but it is what it is!
I was only one at the time, so I don’t remember any of this occurring.
Why do you personally regard this as a red flag out of interest?
The turnaround was mad quick from my perspective. If my child’s mother had a new man living in her home and my child had barely turned one, I would have a problem with that. You can move on, but there was no real chance…….
To me its weird that you can move on so quickly.
Also, the fact that my stepdad was so quick to move in with someone who just had a baby and he had just met after the first date is equally a red flag for me.
Did your mum and stepdad have any other children?
Yes, my brother was born when I was 3 years old. I remember this specifically because he was born the day after me and I didn’t have a birthday that year because my mum was in labour.
How do you even remember that being so young?
I’ve always been very conscious of my surroundings and whats going on. I remember not having a birthday because my mum wasn’t around, there was no fuss made. I was shipped off to my nans and naturally because of what was going on, she wasn’t as attentive as she usually would’ve been.
Whilst I can relate to having very early memories, were you actually very aware or could this be more based on what people have told you.
Looking back, because I’ve always known who my dad is, there was never that blurred line. Although there was another man in my house my mum always made sure I knew who my dad is.
I was aware that my father had a family of his own and can even remember meeting my stepbrother for the first time. We went to the cinema to see The Rescuers, went to McDonald’s and had the matching blue bum bags.
All my mum wanted was consistency and as my dad was having me regularly, she was happy.
From a young age I was always considered a cute baby and got a lot of attention as a result. I remember when I started nursery that I was approached by slightly older girls who would suggest we played ‘mummy & daddy’. I began to understand what sex was because I was an advanced child.
It was around this time that things went a bit left with my dad.
Why? What happened?
I was four going on five years old at the time. I had gone to my dads for the weekend and I remember that he and his partner were trying for a baby.
Basically that particular weekend, they spent in their bedroom. My stepbrother and I were left there eating ice lollies and watching TV.
They would pop out to check on us, but it was pretty obvious what they were up-to as my stepmother would come out with my dads shirt buttoned up wrong (laughs).
A particular girl at nursery would often touch me and vice versa. One day we got caught, but the girl blamed me even though she was the instigator and aggressor. The nursery contacted my mum as they were naturally concerned.
My mum and stepdad would ask me whether I knew what I was doing and where I had learnt how to behave like this.
Obviously at four years old you cannot rationalise things because your mind is so innocent. I ended up blurting out that I had seen my dad do it so I thought I could do it too.
Needless to say my mum was furious and I wasn’t allowed to spend time at my dads house anymore.
I would say that was probably the worst time with regards to their communication as far as I was aware.
There was also clearly an issue between my dad and stepdad which also didn’t help. This was the beginning of the fractious relationship that developed between me and my dad.
Do you remember what your relationship was like with your stepdad growing up?
I never noticed any difference between the treatment given to me by my step dad in comparison to my brother.
I do have a little bit of resentment though. They pretty much treated us like twins. We both got the exact same tracksuits, trainers, clothes and did the same things. I resented that I was never allowed to be an individual even though I was 3 years older than my brother.
I wasn’t allowed to discipline my brother in any capacity. I could never hit back when he lashed out, and this was enforced by my step dad. He could hit or scratch me and I couldn’t retaliate at all.
I do believe that naturally there will be a difference in how you treat your own child compared to how you treat someone else’s. That was the only difference I can say that I noticed at the time.
My step dad would have a lot of negative energy towards my dad which I felt was unnecessary. My Mum never spoke badly about my dad to me so I couldn’t understand why he was always on the offensive?
My dad wouldn’t bring any drama but my step dad was constantly on the defensive. He would even act intimidating whenever my dad would come to see me. I understand that you want to defend your household but his behaviour was excessive.
Growing up did you feel rejected by both your dad and stepdad?
Being a young teenager, my stepdad and I never always saw eye to eye.
There was one situation where I began to square up to him because of a minor altercation when I was 13. Things went downhill from there.
I began to resent him more following an incident where he purposely tripped me up.
He was quite restrictive and I felt like I couldn’t do the things most teenagers do. I had a lot of responsibility in terms of cooking and chaperoning my younger brother. I just wanted a bit more freedom, I felt like he couldn’t spread my wings. Whereas, my older step brother (who lived with my dad) was allowed to explore a lot more than I was.
My step dad and mum broke up when I was 15, which is a fundamental time in your development. After their relationship broke down, yes I did feel rejected. I felt like I was treated differently as a result. It felt like when it no longer became beneficial for my step dad to be a part of life, he didn’t bother with me anymore.
It was easy for him to switch off, the same as how my dad did.
The break up was not amicable and my step dad continued disrespect my mum when my brother and I would go and see him. He would make negative comments about my family in general and it angered me.
My step dad had his own issues growing up, he never really had a father figure either. I have no respect for him now and have barely seen him in the last 10 yrs.
Regarding my own father, he was a poor dad towards me, but he was a good dad to my siblings raised in his household.
How has the relationship between your father and step father affected you?
I wouldn’t start a relationship with someone who had just had a child. I thinks it’s weird.
I’ve grown up to have an issue with male authority, I believe that’s a direct result of my broken relationships with my two father figures
I do appreciate that my step dad did bring some good things into my life. My love of sport and music especially. I never would’ve played football if it wasn’t for my step dad.
Sometimes I can get too emotionally invested in people, however I struggle to show my true emotions. I have a low tolerance for people in general and I’m not very trusting to be honest. I feel that everyone is selfish in a certain way, so I deal with people accordingly.
The lack of an established relationship with my dad has affected my relationship with dad’s side of the family. At function’s I don’t neccesarily feel like I belong for example. I still have an issue with my dad which is yet to be dealt with and addressed.
My closing message is a warning to women. Be aware of who’s around your children!!