“I first met Charlotte when she was eight. It’s fair to say that she wasn’t keen on her mum having a new relationship. I think she thought, ‘Who is this idiot?’ After all, she had a dad whom she saw regularly, and she had a loving mummy all to herself. In her eyes I was superfluous.
Marianne and I dated for about one-and-a-half years before we got married. It wasn’t what you’d call a ‘normal’ courtship; it was very child-centred – I think it had to be. If we were going out, for example, we had to be careful that Charlotte didn’t feel rejected.”
Her first ever bunch of flowers
I discovered the best way for us to build a relationship was spending time together, especially shopping.
“I discovered the best way for us to build a relationship was spending time together, especially shopping. We also went on one of Care for the Family’s 1-2-1 Challenge weekends and built some good memories together. I think those shared experiences are crucial.
You can find that shared history in unlikely places. For example, I bought Charlotte her first ever bunch of flowers. It was an apology – I’ve discovered how much it means to a child when you apologise if you’ve done something wrong, or something that they feel was wrong.”
Dad and stepdad
“Looking back, I’m surprised how important my relationship with Charlotte’s dad was. I made a conscious effort never to say anything about him which might be seen as negative. I admit I felt jealous of his relationship with her, and how important he was to her. As far as it depends on you, keeping a good relationship with the other parent is vital – Charlotte’s dad and I get on great.”
Making decisions as a family
Simon and Marianne have recently become adoptive parents too – a very different parenting situation and one that Charlotte had to be a part of. “Inclusiveness is part of the deal when you become a stepfamily,” says Simon. “We’d included Charlotte in our ‘honeymoon’ (going on a family trip with her after having some time just for us) and we felt she had to be involved in our discussions about adoption too.”
It’s a different dynamic with adoption. It’s not like suddenly becoming dad to an eight-year-old. Being a father to the babies is very challenging, but it’s not as loaded.
But having said that, I believe my relationship with Charlotte was well worth working for. I adore her and I try to tell her every day that I love her or that I’m proud of her. Sometimes she rolls her eyes when I say that, but I don’t think you can ever tell someone enough that you love them.”