30 Days to a Better Stepfamily – Day 8
It is 2:45 in the afternoon and I have been working for two days trying to prepare for out of town guests who will be arriving in about three hours. There is a lot I would still like to do, and at this very moment I am trying to cook a really great meal when I realize that it is time to pick up the stepchildren from school. At this point my own children are driving or not living at home any longer.
Arriving at the school, the younger one says that he has practice and forgot to tell me, and the older one is nowhere to be found.
Don’t…Have… Time… For This!
Running from building to building I see one of her friends, who informs me that my stepdaughter, decided to get a ride home with her boyfriend. (This is not allowed.)
At this very point I want to throw out the stepparent rules that say, “ you cannot kill what you did not birth.”
I am ready to ring this child’s neck!
You can tell your birth child that they are on restriction until Satan can have a snowball fight in his own backyard, but it doesn’t work that way with a stepchild. Especially in our stepfamily. In our stepfamily both parents have joint custody of the children. So to put someone on restriction takes a conference to make sure both homes know what is going on and will abide with the restriction.
To be honest, I really admire how Doc and his former wife handle joint custody. They do an amazing job with their children and, though there is always some difference of opinion in any given subject, they look at what is best for the child and can usually come up with a compromise.
This can be hell on me, the stepmother who has the most physical custody of the children between after school and time for the parents to come home.
Today I make a unilateral decision that she would wipe off the baseboards for me while I finish making the rice and browning the beef for Dirty Rice.
As the beef browns in the skillet I hear a little voice coming from the den, and she is singing, “Cinderella, Cinderella, Night and Day its Cinderella from the moment that I wake up – its really quite a shake up…”
I walk into the den where my stepdaughter is sitting on the floor with rag and Murphy’s Oil soap in hand, singing her soulful song.
Part of me wants to laugh at her analogy of herself but I hold it in, and ask her
“how’s it going?”
She says nothing.
To her silence, I reply, “Cinderella – Really?”
She hasn’t finished all of the baseboards, but I let her quit and come to the kitchen for her afterschool snack.
“You have the best sense of humor.”
This time I get a half smile from the girl that is too quickly becoming a young lady. She brushes away the one long strand of hair that slides across her forehead.
“Remember,” I added, “after you clear a change in a routine with your parents, you need to let me know. Please don’t assume that they have told me.”
Her eyes never leave the chips and salsa, as she gently nods, then drinks down the rest of her soda.
I would not have accepted the lack of eye contact, nor the non-verbal responses from my birth children, but step parenting is different.
Doc and I decided before we married that we would not spank, or strongly discipline the other’s children. We would inform each other, advise, make suggestions, and then we would step out of the way and allow the birth parent to handle the situation.
We have had times of disagreeing about how situations were handled; but, I cannot take over and tell him exactly how to handle his children, nor do I want him to take over with my children.
I am the parent, and though I insist that my children show Doc respect to him, I am the one they answer to. Doc is the final boundary. There has been a time or two that I have asked him to step in and have a talk with one of the children.
Back-talk is not unexpected with our birth children or our stepchildren. Do not let it rattle you. Try to find reasons to laugh often.
As we would draw lines in the sand, our children at one time or another, to our great chagrin, would run straight to the line, jump over it, and do a victory dance on the other side!
They would dance, wild and free, in valley of “don’t go there”, as we held on to each other, prayed, and at times hunted them down like a hound on the trail of a fox.
There is no perfect plan for discipline in stepfamilies. Each one must make a plan for their family, and be willing to be flexible, be willing to listen more than your talk or “lecture”, but above all else, the birth parent and stepparent must have an unwavering, united front when they make decision about how to discipline in a Stepfamily.