Step-parenting … the dream vs. reality


He had me in a death choke hold with his arm tightly around my neck across my Adams apple. He was pulling with every ounce of strength he had. Although he was “just” 15, at 6’1” he had some serious strength and leverage. The 15 year old man/child trying to kill me was my stepson. We were in the doorway of my own bedroom.

It’s amazing how lightening quick your mind can work when you’re in an emergency situation. In an instant my mind flashed back to a high school seminar on how to defend yourself if attacked. And I also remembered that being in a choke hold was a critical situation. You can black out in just 10 seconds and then you’re at the total mercy of your attacker. Immediate measures are needed.

So I twisted my whole body around and at the same time shot my arm up under his arm through the small gap my twisting motion created. This got his arm off my neck. I was then able to roll him to the ground in a body grab lock hold, taking advantage of my larger size and strength. I had to hold him for some 10 minutes before he could calm down enough and promise not to attack me if I let him go.

– – – – – – – – – – –

How in the world did I end up in the above situation? The immediate answer was that my step-son (I’ll call him Rick, not his real name) had been having a huge fight with his mom all day long. She had grounded him (quite justifiably). He didn’t like it. He wanted his skateboard so he could take off. His mom had hidden it.

So Rick was going around the house looking for the skate board in open defiance of his mom (and me). When he went to the master bedroom I followed him and told him to leave the room. I even went so far as to tell him I knew his skateboard wasn’t in our bedroom. He wouldn’t listen. He finished searching the room as I stood there repeatedly telling him to leave.

When he got to the doorway (where I was) I thought I knew a way to put this nonsense to an end and keep him grounded at home. I reached down to take off his shoe. And that’s where Rick, already agitated, grabbed me in a severe choke hold.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

The aftermath was a mixed bag. Rick’s mom – my wife – called the police somewhere in the midst of all this. They came. A policeman lectured Rick about how he really had to listen to his parents and do as they said. The police then left.

I said nothing to the police about Rick trying to kill me. I had a good reason. In just a few days Rick was heading off to a specialized school for troubled adolescents. If an adolescent had any history of violence the school would not take him.  In other words, if I made a report to the police (on Rick trying to kill me) I would jeopardize Rick’s going to the specialized school. This special school was the end-of-the-rope step Rick’s mom (with my agreement) was taking to try and deal with her unmanageable son.

Later that day I had a serious talk with my wife. I told her that no one gets a free shot at trying to kill me. I told her, as said above, how the only reason I didn’t press attempted murder charges on Rick was because it would stop him from going to the specialized school.

My wife made light of it all. She said Rick was “just upset”. He was just a child and wasn’t really trying to kill me. As it is, the only thing she actually saw was me holding her son down. And further, I had brought it on myself (in trying to take his shoe off).

I assured her I knew when someone had snapped and was trying to kill me. Granted, the situation was not black and white. But still, she just wasn’t seeing or appreciating the reality and seriousness of the situation.

So we lived with Rick in the house for the next few days until he was off to his specialized school. At night I piled up boxes against the bedroom door so that if Rick tried to come in to our bedroom I’d hear him first and at least have a fighting chance if he attacked. My wife thought my doing this was silly and totally unnecessary. But I had no choice. I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t have those “early warning” boxes at the door.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The above incident was some ten years ago now. Rick’s mom and I divorced some five years ago. As for Rick, he came back from his specialized school after nine months but was only marginally better. As he said, the biggest thing he learned was how to play the system better. But at least that meant he also “played at” being better behaved (most of the time).

At any rate, ultimately, it looks like Rick got his act together. Last I heard he got married and is now a successful sales person for an industrial company. Good for him. I have no contact with him or his mother for that matter.

As for lessons learned from all this … well … I really don’t have any good ones. Life can take turns in ways you don’t expect. When I married Rick’s mom he was a cute seven year old boy (albeit a bit disrespectful towards his mom). I had visions of recreating the wonderful relationship I had had with my own stepfather. I can’t begin to count the hours I spent with Rick throwing a baseball back and forth, going to his games, or just shooting basketballs. But he was, how to say it, a very independent minded kid. But then perhaps I could have been a better father to him. I just don’t know. I tried.


5 thoughts on “Step-parenting … the dream vs. reality

  1. Step parenting is so hard, it sounds like you were incredibly supportive where others of us would lack. I’m only at the beginning of this journey and though sometimes it is hard to fathom, I sometimes find myself lost in, “omg, what kind of teen will he be with the terrible torn influences he has?!” I am a lucky one, despite our differences when I was a hormonal teenager I am still close to my stepfather, even after he and my mother have parted, I’m so sorry it did not work out the way you had hoped.

  2. I think the fact that a child has gone through the divorce of his parents puts him/her in a vulnerable position. So it is likely that no matter your efforts, there were influences outside of your control eating away at his adolescent heart. HIs mother defending his violent act did not help matters.

  3. I think one of the reasons I haven’t repartnered after my marriage ending is that I have no idea how I would handle being a step-parent and I can’t imagine someone being in that role with my sons. It’s very complicated and I think it can put huge pressure on any relationship – especially a new one.

    Hopefully you’ll find someone else and things will work out differently, thanks for sharing, this was an interesting post.

  4. had a similar situation… 2 cop cars on my lawn… defiant 15 year old step son in the back of one of them. That was 4 years ago. Situation deteriorated. Really sad. At this point all that is left is prayer. Funny how parallel our situations are.

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