Font Size » Large | SmallWhen raising our youngest two children, I found myself second-guessing my every decision. I felt as if someone were watching my every move, questioning my motives. Their first mom, Kristi, had passed away when they were very young, and I often wondered if she would approve of the way I handled them. Of course I never questioned my motives when disciplining my two biological kids; I knew I loved them. But Kristi (in my mind) and her family could not automatically assume I loved Caleb and Ashlie, and in reality it took awhile for that parental bond to form. At first Kristi’s parents’ and siblings’ visits were stressful for me. For some reason I imagined they would judge my parenting skills. They treated me wonderfully, and yet they were Caleb’s and Ashlie’s grandparents. They had a huge investment there. RELATED: “The Two (plus his two kids and her two kids) Shall Become One.” Andrea’s perspective from 1996 in Message, when she was just starting the journey of blending a family. Thankfully my husband, Denny (their dad), and our extended family were amazingly gracious. My parents and siblings took in Caleb and Ashlie as part of the family. Denny’s family treated my two older children like their own. Even my ex-husband’s family was great. All four of our children call my former mother-in-law “Meme.” Yet I will always feel deeply indebted to Kristi’s family. They never once compared me to Kristi. Never once did they say, “I know you’re trying, dear, but Kristi would have done it this way.” One day several of us were visiting the cemetery where many of Kristi’s relatives had been laid to rest. Kristi’s mom, Irene, was showing me the tombstones of various family members, and then we came across Kristi’s grave. Irene started telling stories about her and automatically teared up, as did I. But then she did something I will never forget. She reached over, put a hand on my shoulder and said, “But Andrea, we are so thankful for you.” I hadn’t expected that. Sorrow, sure. Words of wisdom, understandable. But thankfulness for me? What an affirmation. Another defining moment for me was a time we were all visiting around our kitchen table and the kids were being normal kids, definitely not perfect. I was expecting a word of advice from Kristi’s dad. Instead he simply chuckled, put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, and said, “You’re doing a good job.” You can see why I soon looked forward to their visits. Are you doing your best to “stepparent?” Thank you for your faithfulness. You are likely doing better than you think.