Respect in the blended family

“You’re not my mother!”
Right. I knew that before the child ever said it. I never said I was – but as a parent for nearly 40 decades in a blended family, I’ve definitely been reminded a time or two of that fact. I know it isn’t easy for the children, but then family living never has been and the blended family is nothing new.

My mom’s father had two step-mothers after his own mother died. His first step-mother treated him as her own. When she died, Grandpa’s father re-married and Grandpa moved in with his first step-mother’s parents who loved him as their own. During Grandpa and Grandma’s early childless years they parented a relative’s son for several years. Both my dad’s mother and my aunt housed foster children – as did I for one year.

Although I have not lived on the child’s side of a blended family, I do know the struggle as an adult to treat each child the same. Sure I might not be their birth parent or grandparent, but that is not the kid’s fault and it is the my responsibility to provide godly, loving parenting.

My mom-in-love also housed unrelated boys for a while. One day, she and I were having a discussion about blended families when she stopped and pointed at a seasonal picture, “Look at this picture of the Nativity. Mary’s husband Joseph was not the father of Jesus.” She stood staring at a picture of “the holy family” realizing that even Christ came from a blended family.

At 12, Jesus acknowledged His birth father when He said he had to be about His Father’s (God’s) business, but then Luke 2:51 records that having said that, He returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph “And was subject to them.” Christ submitted to that man who was not His father – and Luke 2 ends saying that “He increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

Similarly, Samuel the last prophet/leader for Israel left his parents’ home as a very young child and went to live with the high priest and “and the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli,” it says in 1 Samuel 3:1. Except for the earliest years of his life, Samuel did not live with his parents, but he honored Eli – and God – by subjecting himself to Eli’s authority – even if it meant he had to wake up and go help aging Eli when he called in the middle of the night.

My family’s experiences and the Biblical examples came together recently when I reviewed the rules for expected behavior with some in the family. I count six children, 15 grandchildren and a couple great-grandchildren. Some are not related biologically, yet the goal still is to treat each one the same way and I expect the same from them.

We are not a unique family. Whether in a blended family or not, many adults and children need an occasional reminder to treat others with respect and to follow the examples and mandates in the Scriptures.

In Exodus 20:12 every person is commanded to “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long on the earth.” It doesn’t say ‘if they are good enough, have not offended you deeply or have not made some horrible mistake.’ It says to honor them. For me, as an adult that meant that even when my father was difficult to be around, I was to choose to speak respectfully to him. I could not obey his every whim but I could respectfully decline.
At the same time, we each have many people who are in authority over us besides our parents: Teachers, pastors, supervisors at work, police officers and government officials.

Our job as followers of God is simply laid out in Romans 12:1-2a “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: The powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God.”

I know it is not easy for children or adults to honor everyone in their lives. I also personally know it is not easy to deal with intact families, let alone blended families, but I know by faith that God honors and blesses those who follow His way.
(Joan Hershberger, is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at