19/06/2018 10:10 BST | Updated 19/06/2018 10:10 BST

Putting The Step Into Parenting

On numerous occasions I’ve heard the saying that being a parent is the toughest job ever. I would disagree; being a step-parent is considerably harder. You’re already entering an established relationship and if you’re a parent yourself, you’ll be going into it with your own style, which can be somewhat different to your new partner’s.

You’re then faced with forming a new connection with someone else’s child, which is somewhere between being an honorary parent and a friend. It’s a hard act to juggle. Throw into that mix a child with a disability. A disability that can find change harder, along with difficulties with social interaction and it’s always going to be challenging ride.

But right from when I first met The Keeper, I knew he would take it in his stride. I’m not going to sit here bullshitting, saying it’s been a piece of piss, but he has certainly made it easier, just by being him. He’s the laid back one out of the two of us (I know, surprising!) and we’ve learnt that we need to meet in the middle somewhere in order to form a new parenting style.

I didn’t need him to be a replacement dad, because Joseph already has one. Initially, I needed him to be the crutch that I needed to get me through some difficult times and the rest he just fell into naturally. He’s listened to my thoughts around parenting and autism and brought with him his own ideas, too. We don’t always agree but usually he comes around to my way of thinking…

As our relationship progressed, we discussed the idea of moving in together and how that may impact on Joseph. How would Joseph react to having to share his mum with someone else on a more permanent basis? How would he feel about having other children in the same house and potentially changing routines that had been established over a good few years?

Thankfully for all of us, they’ve all blended together incredibly well. Joseph constantly asks where everyone is when they’re not here and grills me about when they are coming back. That said, Joseph is a very fickle character and interested in those who are with him at the time. I am under no illusion that when Joseph is with his dad, he completely forgets he even has a mum!

Our family isn’t perfect, whose is? But we work at it constantly and give it the nurturing it needs to flourish. Sometimes, I wonder from the outside whether it looks like we have totally got our shit together – other times I wonder whether it looks as manic as it truly is.

He must have totally thought he had hit the jackpot when we entered his life, as not a day goes by without us hitting a drama, but we get through it; we have to.

Joseph is incredibly lucky because he has his dad and that protected time with him but he also has The Keeper. Although some days I want to poke my fingers to the back of his eye sockets (The Keeper’s, not Joseph’s), I know him and Joseph have a perfect relationship. I’m not sure whether that’s simply because he’s the only one in this house who finds The Keeper funny.

He guides him, he loves him and he will always be there to support him in whatever way is needed, whether that be emotionally or physically.

We can’t ask for much more than that.

Tina Medlock