New 'Stepdad' Seeking advice
My girlfriend and I have been together for a while. The situation is complex, but I'll try and sum it up as briefly as possible.
When she was 17, my girlfriend went to a party, made some irresponsible choices, and got pregnant after a one-night stand. The father was never seen again, except in the courtroom. She did not want to get an abortion, and intended to give the child up for adoption. Her mother talked her out of it, and agreed to take the child in instead. My girlfriend has regretted this choice for many years now. Her mother is addicted to prescription drugs and various other things. She lives off the child support she receives for my girlfriend's son, unemployment and whatever else she can scam her way into. They live with the grandmother's husband and their 22 year old shiftless deadbeat son, in a crappy multifamily in a bad part of town.
A few years back, my girlfriend actually started trying to get her life straightened out. She started working regularly, albeit in low paying jobs. We had known each other a long time, and after a number of years without ever seeing each other, we ran into each other. Our relationship grew and we moved in together a couple years ago.
In the time we've been together, the biggest cause for problems has been the crazy dynamic between her divorced parents and her child. Her parents, I could do nothing about. But she expressed torn feelings about her son. She is angry that her mom talked her out of the adoption, because she realizes that her son is now living in a horrible place, and has been his whole life. He is angry and depressed, he acts out at school and gets poor grades. However, she also never wanted to play the role of a parent.
I love my girlfriend very much. I have no fears about us living together, and sharing our lives. I also believe that in order for us to have a happy life, for her to feel like she's redeemed herself to her son, and ultimately for her son to have a decent shot in life, he needs to get out of the place he lives. He needs to have people who care and will work to make sure he succeeds around him. To that end, I offered to have her son move into an apartment with us.
Don't get me wrong, my girlfriend would have already done this if she had the money. I would have as well, if it had been possible. But the time is now. He's 12 years old already, and I know the clock is ticking if we're going to undo the damage.
So, after my lengthly introduction, does anybody have any advice they can offer? I know there's books out there, but I haven't found one that can offer advice on being a step-parent to an emotionally abandoned, at-risk boy. We've informed him of our intentions, he's excited, seems optimistic, but I know he can't trust me yet. He may not even trust his mother. She hasn't been a total stranger - we've had him over on the weekends many times. But I know he must harbor resentment for her. So, I'm trying to step up, and give him direction. I'm trying to be easy going, and give him some leeway on certain things, because I know he had no structure where he lives and horrible examples for how to treat people respectfully.
I could go on, but I'd probably just be rambling...
So, how about it? Any wise words?