At the age of 13, Stefanie has two parents, two stepparents, an ex-stepparent, an ex-stepbrother, two half-brothers, and two stepsiblings. Whew!
Stefanie, an only child, was three years old when her parents got divorced. A year later, her dad got remarried, and his new wife had a son who was just a year older than Stefanie. "We got along pretty good," says Stefanie. "We had the same interests. It was pretty cool to have a brother and to have somebody to talk to." After a few years, her father and stepmom had a baby boy, Cameron, giving Stefanie her first half-brother.
Meanwhile, her mother started dating a man she knew from church. Remembers Stefanie: "When I was seven, she told me they were getting married and asked if it was okay with me. I liked him, so I said yes!"
Stefanie got to know her future stepdad by playing games, going fishing, and watching sports together. She also visited her stepdad's parents, her "stepgrandparents," because they were part of the new family, too.
"My mom had a family wedding ceremony, and then a reception," says Stefanie. "I was the flower girl. It was a little strange to be part of that, but I'm glad we did it."
She settled in to a balancing act where she lived with her mom and visited her father's house every other weekend. "It was different because you want to be around both your parents at the same time but you can't. Since you love both of them, you try to make both of them happy, so you visit each one."
It was also a little confusing to have different "house rules" at each home. For instance, Stefanie says, "At my mom's house, I had to go to bed at a certain time, but at my dad's house, he didn't really care. He worked the night shift so he was used to staying up. If I couldn't go to sleep I would stay up with him."
A few years later, when Stefanie was nine, things went topsy turvy again as Stefanie's father and stepmother got divorced. She remembers: "It was hard because I'd gotten used to having that environment around me, then I had to switch to a new one." Her dad got married again a year and a half later, and fortunately, she liked this new stepmom too. "We had the same tastes, so we got along and did stuff together," says Stefanie. She also got a new stepbrother and stepsister, her stepmom's children, who were older. "My dad seems happy, and he likes his new stepkids."
Still, Stefanie's a bit cautious about the situation, especially since she's already been through her father remarrying and divorcing once. "I'm not getting really attached, because I feel like I don't want to be disappointed again."
Stefanie got another sibling when her mother and stepdad had a baby boy, Marshall. "When I found out my mom was going to have a baby, I didn't really like it at first. It was my birthday, she told me and I was a little upset, but then he was born. I wasn't worried about them paying attention only to the baby, but I knew there were going to be changes." Now, Stefanie says it's "kind of wild" to have younger brothers, and she likes helping out with them.
Because everyone lives in the same area, it sometimes feels to Stefanie like they're all one big family. "When my mom got remarried, I thought of my stepdad's family as my family, and my dad's wife's family was my family. I think of my stepdad's parents as grandparents." She even sees her father's ex-wife and her son occasionally, when she goes with her dad to pick up her half-brother.
Stefanie has good advice for other kids in similar situations. She says: "If there's any bad times, just know that you're going to get past them. They'll go away. There will be more good times than bad. When I was feeling stressed out, it helped me to play sports, because you can take all your aggressions out on the field. I play soccer all the time, and some softball. It also helps to hang out with your friends or even just cry into your pillow."
A positive outlook helps, too! Stefanie says: "You do different things at different houses, so if you don't get to do one thing at one house, you can usually do it at the other house. It's like a new adventure every time you go. And remember that around your birthday and Christmas, you get double the presents!"
Next: Read how a brother and sister handled their new stepfamily, in Cortney and Joshua's Story.