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-   -   StepMonsters and other scary second parenting issues (http://www.butchfemmeplanet.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2412)

jelli 07-12-2011 06:22 PM

One day our son, G, got really angry about something and stormed off saying, "I hate being here!"

Cruel responded, "I know you're angry, I still want you here and I'm still going to love you."

Always a lesson to be learned or shown...
:hangloose:

Bard 07-13-2011 09:14 AM

This is a very thought provoking thread both bring up the good and the bad .. I want to thank all for the support my childhood was rough but what I take from it is how I will never be to my daughter or make her feel not wanted or loved. Desd and I know it will not always be easy but we give Abby all the love we have yes I have to watch not being the FUN parent all the time but I want her to grow up strong and secure in who she is and that she is loved..it is wonderful to see how abby is with Desd and her family and she knows Desd is not trying to take the place of her mommy but in adding to our family. and Desd makes me see when I am being to hard on my goose. I expect a lot from her and she is a awesome kid smart loving in a way Desd balances us out lol Abby is just as hard headed as I am and she is MY daughter. to see how abby bonded with Desd's dad is amazing he is her BFF and she follows him all over and he loves it. we talk we laugh we cry but we do it together and that is the key. that and I never put down my ex in front of my child whatever the ex and I have between us is just that between us Abby loves us both and I will not cloud her thoughts just because her mommy and I dont get along:rrose:

oblivia 07-15-2011 04:27 PM

When Sparx and I got together, She'd been doing the single mom thing since the boys were 3 and 4 respectively. They were, then, 12 & 13 ... oh.. and both gifted. These were uber-intelligent boys. They were (and still are) smarter than Sparx and I. So it was scary stuff. I was TERRIFIED.

Coming into their lives just when they were entering the most tumultuous, confusing, conflicting, craziest years of their whole lives? And... they're smarter than me? AND... they've had their mom all to themselves for basically their entire lives? WAS I INSANE?

Thankfully, no, I wasn't.

For starters, there were several things working in my favour...most importantly - Sparx had been doing an AWESOME job raising them.

She had raised them with a very open-door policy and also raised them to have a great deal of agency and say in their lives and what happens in them. Because she was a single mom in a small town with few resources, she raised them with honesty, and respect. She had a few very hardcore parenting rules that she told me about up front - and I thought they were all fantastic. The fact that the boys were so well mannered, mature, and respected her so much were testament to the fact hat they worked.. so I followed her rules and learned a LOT about what "healthy parenting" could look like (having a very poor example from my own childhood... I needed to defer to someone who had a better outlook).

I came into this whole step-parenting thing ready and eager to learn from someone with a better idea of parenting than how I'd been raised - so I was content to be a bit of a follower - and it paid off big time. In return, Sparx made it very clear that I was a co-parent... not less than... and had equally valid input into all parenting decisions. We had a LOT of trust going into this.

So here are the rules, or more accurately the parenting "principles" she swore by.

First, if the boys ask "Why?" when we tell them to do something, they ALWAYS get an answer. Sometimes the answer might be "I am really not up to talking about it right now but I will later". But the answer is NEVER "because I said so". And Sparx expects anyone who is a part of their lives to respect this (family, friends, babysitters etc)

This was totally foreign to me. It wasn't how I was raised. And sometimes this was frustrating because sometimes.. you just wanna say "because I said so". I had to learn that sometimes I have to say "I'm frustrated and will end up sounding angry if I talk about it right now, so let's talk about it later" (or some version of that) - but usually once I explain, they understood and it was easier to get them to do what I needed them to do. AND... maybe more importantly... sometimes... when I explained, they were able to provide a convincing and mature rebuttal for why they couldn't do what I asked or would rather do something else and sometimes I would discover my request was unreasonable - or needed tweaking - and that was okay. So our respect for each other grew a LOT through my learning to accept that they were people and deserved an explanation when they wanted one. And to their credit - they RARELY 'demanded' one.. they almost always asked in a genuinely curious and/or polite way.

Second, We do not lie to them. Period. The only allowable exception is the good kind, or removing extranneous or non-age-appropriate details that are inappropriate, but They are always to be told the truth to the best of our ability (within the limits of what they could understand). By the time I came around they were old enough that that was pretty much the whole truth.

She told me that when they came together and confronted her (sadly, at a very young age) and told her that they'd been talking it over and had figured out that she was Santa... and the Easter Bunny... and the Tooth Fairy... she admitted they were right. And while it took some of the fun away for HER, they were so proud of themselves for having figured it out - and she wouldn't lie to them... but she did explain to them that it would make it not fun for other kids if they shared the secret, so they felt very important and responsible by "protecting" the secret when it came to their friends (and younger kids).

To date, the complete honesty that we share with them, makes it easier for them to be honest with us. They're teens now, they have secrets... and the youngest REALLY didn't like us being on him about his schoolwork and went through a few years of lying to get us off his back - but he is a terrible liar - we knew he was lying... he knew we knew he was lying... so there was some mutual frustration... but we were able to work through and get past it.

Third, ALWAYS be willing to admit when you're wrong, and apologize to them if you've behaved badly, lashed out inappropriately or otherwise screwed up.

This is... also huge. So many parents think that they can't or shouldn't apologize to their kids. If I've made a bad decision, or Sparx has or we've snapped at them undeservedly or whatever and we come to them later and say "hey, sorry about that, that was uncalled for", they respect us so much more... and it makes it easier for them to apologize when it's their turn. I was not raised this way. I was the only one in my family (and I mean that quite literally) who had to apologize for anything, ever. Not cool.

Fourth, Involve them in decisions that affect them!! Always give them input and take it into account. Children are people too and they sometimes have remarkable insight into a situation.

This meant that they got input into EVERY decision that affected them... including when it was time to let certain people in their lives (extended family members) go because the relationships had gotten unhealthy. They had full say on the matter, even when they were younger than ten.

Another example....
If she couldn't afford to get them something they wanted and she would have liked to - she owns it, and has since they were very young. The result of this particular one is SO noticeable because they truly are not superficial as a result. They were not "poor" growing up, but they certainly had very little money.

She told me that sometimes she would give them choices when it came to big purchases. For example, when it came time to pick out birthday or christmas gifts, she said they could have a new video game, but only one because that was all she could afford *OR* they could have two or three USED video games. They always picked used, and they felt important being a part of the decision making - and it shows today. They are not hung up on whether stuff is new and shiney and they always appreciate the things they do have - and they never whine/beg/bug for things they know we can't afford... they really understand and appreciate the financial decisions we make day to day - this is HUGE.

I can not describe in words how important this was. The boys really get what it means to make choices based on capabilities. When money is tight and they were growing fast, they got new jeans or coats from the thrift store and didn't care... in fact... our youngest's current coat was a thrift store find and he LOVES that coat... loves it. A workman's jacket with a removable inner lining. He raves about it and appreciates it more because he knows we would never have been able to afford to buy him that kind of coat brand new at the time.

Now that they're almost adults, it feels good knowing that they understand how to live well, and happily, with less. They don't care about new vs. used, or name brands vs. generic. The eldest is more social/popular and trendier but still scoffs at designer label prices and finds ways to get his "look" without spending more than he thinks is realistic. I know that when they finally go out on their own - they'll be able to manage their finances without hardship.

And it's not just about money. If we have to make hard decisions, they're a part of those decisions. They never have to worry that we will just dramatically change their lives without their input. As a result they feel safe and secure. If we're even THINKING about moving.... or making a big financial decision.. we bring them in on it. We discuss and work through things as a family.

Fifth, Own your headspace. Be self-aware.

This means that if you come home grumpy because work sucked, you admit right up front that's what you're feeling... take responsibility for it... so if you end up snappier than you intended or accidentally take something out on the kids (er.. or the wife *blush*) they know it's not personal and it becomes a LOT easier to deal with. This one was super-ginormous for me. It taught me to be more self-aware of my moods, headspace, and the way these things affected the people around me. I appreciated when the boys were able to say to me "Yeah, in a bad mood so gonna hang out in my room" because they had learned how from their mother. I appreciated when Sparx would tell me up front when she was grouchy so I knew not to take it personal. So it was with gratitude that I learned to do this for them as well.

Not only did this do WONDERS for my relationship with the boys (now man-children), but it did wonders for me learning how to have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.

Anyways - I've been writing forever. I just feel like this was a HUGE learning curve for me and I feel so grateful. I got lucky in a lot of ways. The boys were being raised well. Their biological father had been out of their lives since they were very small.. there was no other parent for me to deal with. They took me seriously because Sparx had not brought any other woman into their lives as other than a friend before me. And most importantly - she consulted them before our relationship could get off the ground. She asked their opinion the whole way through. She wanted them to know they were a part of the decision to let me in. And she told me this up front - because she trusted them to be mature about this responsibility even at 12&13. They wanted me in their lives. If they hadn't, Sparx and I may never have taken the next step in our relationship. They came first. I knew that from the beginning.

But they did wantme... and so Sparx and her boys moved from Ontario, 3,000 miles away, to Vancouver, BC - a place they'd never been before, so that we could all make our home here together. I moved from the Puget Sound in Washington. We all had to trust each other a whole lot and communicate even more to make our little family and such a big move for all of us, work. And so we did.

There's been a lot of challenges... but as cliche as it is - a lot of communication was the key to making it all work.

And I have to say, being a step-parent has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Tcountry 07-31-2011 07:54 AM

Not sure I am fully ready to share...but here goes nothing...
First...(not bragging, just saying) I have great parents. They married young, raised us well & are still happy & very much in love to this day. (i wanna be like them) I learned a lot from them.
That said...I have been a part of a parenting team.
I say team because 1) I was not considered a "parent" & 2) the girls' mother was in the same house & their father in the same town...
BUT...
The biggest thing I learned was BE CONSISTENT...not only you but as a team with the other parent. Have the same consequences...follow through with them...& if you don't like something your partner did, discuss it in private afterwards(change it next time, don't second guess them in front if the kids).

There is a reason why after 7 yrs we are not together...& there is a reason why whenever I actually get time with the girls they still listen to me. Lol
.......that is enough for now.......or too much....but, yeah
Some things we learn the hard way

luv2luvgirls 07-31-2011 08:26 AM

wow a great thread...now for my two cents

im a stepmonster have been for for so long now it feels like forever....ok here goes...might be TMI but I feel so comfortable on here you all have really made me feel welcome and I need threads like this, other perpectives and experiences if you will :)

I had a best bud met at work we were co workers,he had a son that was about 14 or 15 at the time..just trying to find his place in his dads life as they had just met. well the kid came to work with us and attached to me..when I hit 28 29ish I made a choice I wanted a child so I asked my best bud and he agreed to it,so as a result his son calls me his step parent we have a great relationship,after my friend passed,I was the only family my stepson had so he asked to move up here with me and his lil sister...he is about 30 now just got married and has a kid on the way...yeah I think im now going in the grandparent role soon :|

now on the other side of it I have been my childs only parent...she knew who her "father" was of course because of my stepson,and Dave and I (that was his name) had an understanding...im the only parent listed on her long story,but my choice.I didnt want to have all kinds of people in and out of her life...so I didnt date or do a thing the whole time...now im kinda ready to want to find someone who makes me happy and is a good fit in my life but im worried about the whole process,you know having to get to know them what if it doesnt work out ...I really dont want to show my child a crazy life at the age she is ...she is almost 10 now. any tips out there?

ReDo 07-31-2011 08:32 AM

Oh my goodness where has this thread been?????

I swear I have the worlds worst step daughter.... can't write about it right now but will come back later after trying to juggle bus tickets, grandmother, father, and everything else going on with her right now...

all I can really say is AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHh

I did not sign up for this

jelli 07-31-2011 09:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tcountry (Post 389181)
Not sure I am fully ready to share...but here goes nothing...
First...(not bragging, just saying) I have great parents. They married young, raised us well & are still happy & very much in love to this day. (i wanna be like them) I learned a lot from them.
That said...I have been a part of a parenting team.
I say team because 1) I was not considered a "parent" & 2) the girls' mother was in the same house & their father in the same town...
BUT...
The biggest thing I learned was BE CONSISTENT...not only you but as a team with the other parent. Have the same consequences...follow through with them...& if you don't like something your partner did, discuss it in private afterwards(change it next time, don't second guess them in front if the kids).

There is a reason why after 7 yrs we are not together...& there is a reason why whenever I actually get time with the girls they still listen to me. Lol
.......that is enough for now.......or too much....but, yeah
Some things we learn the hard way

Thank you for sharing.

I had my kids during a marriage and in that marriage I was the one that made the decisions and took physical and emotional care of them. I didn't trust the other parent to do so. Later when Cruel and I became partners, I was not thrilled at some of the lessons I needed to learn. It was so hard to change from the "control freak" about my kids. It was so hard to not play the "mom card" whenever I "felt" it necessary which wasn't always truly when it was necessary. We've learned a lot of changes, compromises, lessons, over the years and some weren't even painful or driving us to the doors of therapy. ;)


Communication. Consistency. Communication. Compromise. Communication.

jelli 07-31-2011 09:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by luv2luvgirls (Post 389199)
wow a great thread...now for my two cents

im a stepmonster have been for for so long now it feels like forever....ok here goes...might be TMI but I feel so comfortable on here you all have really made me feel welcome and I need threads like this, other perpectives and experiences if you will :)

I had a best bud met at work we were co workers,he had a son that was about 14 or 15 at the time..just trying to find his place in his dads life as they had just met. well the kid came to work with us and attached to me..when I hit 28 29ish I made a choice I wanted a child so I asked my best bud and he agreed to it,so as a result his son calls me his step parent we have a great relationship,after my friend passed,I was the only family my stepson had so he asked to move up here with me and his lil sister...he is about 30 now just got married and has a kid on the way...yeah I think im now going in the grandparent role soon :|

now on the other side of it I have been my childs only parent...she knew who her "father" was of course because of my stepson,and Dave and I (that was his name) had an understanding...im the only parent listed on her long story,but my choice.I didnt want to have all kinds of people in and out of her life...so I didnt date or do a thing the whole time...now im kinda ready to want to find someone who makes me happy and is a good fit in my life but im worried about the whole process,you know having to get to know them what if it doesnt work out ...I really dont want to show my child a crazy life at the age she is ...she is almost 10 now. any tips out there?

First of all I hope nobody, not saying you, feels like they have to justify how their family came to be. I have met many people that always feel compelled to explain as if there might be consequences if their family came about in any one way shape or form versus another. I, for one, was married to a man and had 5 children. I have no shame in that fact. I have been looked down upon for that fact. I still have no shame.Hope that made sense.

Grandparent? Me, too. Welcome to a whole new world. Do you get along with your daughter-in-law? My relationship with my DIL has been VERY tricky(even though she has lesbian aunts).

You don't want to bring craziness into your daughter's life? Ha! Good luck. We all have a bit of crazy in us. But as far as dating... so don't bring crazy around. I dated Cruel for months before she was allowed to even meet my kids. She knew of them(hell, I tried to convince her to run away from mine and my kids craziness...haha). She saw them on webcam running back and forth behind me while we talked. but we didn't do the sleep over, picnic date, "this is my friend so & so". You need time to get to know someone face to face not via the internet because if they are loons(you know we've all met a few of those) they can't hide it long. Set yourself a time line for dating etc such as 3mths. I know that might sound like ages in the lesbian life for some, but if you meet someone and they try to push that boundary -
red flag.

jelli 07-31-2011 09:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ToKissAgain (Post 389202)
Oh my goodness where has this thread been?????

I swear I have the worlds worst step daughter.... can't write about it right now but will come back later after trying to juggle bus tickets, grandmother, father, and everything else going on with her right now...

all I can really say is AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHh

I did not sign up for this

Is your step daughter the worst or is her behavior the worst?

luv2luvgirls 07-31-2011 09:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jelli (Post 389243)
First of all I hope nobody, not saying you, feels like they have to justify how their family came to be. I have met many people that always feel compelled to explain as if there might be consequences if their family came about in any one way shape or form versus another. I, for one, was married to a man and had 5 children. I have no shame in that fact. I have been looked down upon for that fact. I still have no shame.Hope that made sense.

Grandparent? Me, too. Welcome to a whole new world. Do you get along with your daughter-in-law? My relationship with my DIL has been VERY tricky(even though she has lesbian aunts).

You don't want to bring craziness into your daughter's life? Ha! Good luck. We all have a bit of crazy in us. But as far as dating... so don't bring crazy around. I dated Cruel for months before she was allowed to even meet my kids. She knew of them(hell, I tried to convince her to run away from mine and my kids craziness...haha). She saw them on webcam running back and forth behind me while we talked. but we didn't do the sleep over, picnic date, "this is my friend so & so". You need time to get to know someone face to face not via the internet because if they are loons(you know we've all met a few of those) they can't hide it long. Set yourself a time line for dating etc such as 3mths. I know that might sound like ages in the lesbian life for some, but if you meet someone and they try to push that boundary -
red flag.

It did and you gave me food for thought...I hadnt looked at it like that.

my DIL is a good person we get along well,her sister even added me on FB and likes to talk w/ me. They are all ok w/ who I am,after my stepson got his first place here he had a roomate that is lesbian,that was where he met his wife thru her.

lol yeah i know what you mean...we are crazy,funny you say that about ages in lesbian life lol.
im the one who might get crazy lol thats what im worried about :|

jelli 08-01-2011 12:30 PM

Quote
 
The foundational understanding on which the entire parent-child relationship rests is found in a careful balance between love and discipline. The interaction of those two variables is critical and is as close as we can get to a formula for successful parenting. (Dr. James Dobson, The New Dare to Discipline, p. 48)

luv2luvgirls 08-01-2011 12:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jelli (Post 390315)
The foundational understanding on which the entire parent-child relationship rests is found in a careful balance between love and discipline. The interaction of those two variables is critical and is as close as we can get to a formula for successful parenting. (Dr. James Dobson, The New Dare to Discipline, p. 48)

Nice! thanks for sharing it jelli

Ginger 03-11-2012 05:12 PM

I hope it's okay that I'm cross posting this; I just posted it in a thread about dating someone with a kid, then I saw this thread and started reading it, and realized my post really should have been placed here.

That said...


I'm the live-in girlfriend of a single mom, and here's what I've learned. Every situation is different but here's what works in mine:

1) Avoid ever taking a parental or disciplinary role. If safety is involved, of course, step up to the plate, and quickly. Otherwise, wait and report the behavior to the mom--but only if you think she'd want to hear it! And save your silver bullets. Don't go running to her all the time with troubling shit the kid did.

What I found works best in my situation is, that even if it's something little, like setting the table, I now ask the mom to ask the kid. I made the mistake in the beginning, of assuming I would be some kind of co-parent, or step-mom, and that caused all kinds of problems. So, I took it way, way down. Result? Peace. The kid is nicer to me, and the mom isn't bent out of shape at what she sees as my interference in her parenting.


2) Never fight in front of the kid. Did your parents fight in front of you? Mine did, all the time--and it felt awful. I don't want to put another kid in that situation. Besides, even if your partner is being an asshole, if the kid sees you fight, you're the bad guy, and that feels ever worse than the fight.


3) Accept, and don't take it personally, that you will never come first with your partner. Well, maybe on a very rare basis you'll feel like you're the priority, but if you need a lot of that, you're in for a lot of disappointment. The kid comes first, and if you can't handle that, find a partner without a kid and stop torturing her with your whining--she will only resent you for it.


4) Hold on to your sense of self; don't abandon your own hobbies and beloved "grownup" activities; don't lose touch with your friends and things that aren't "kid friendly." Gradually, in an organic way, you might gel as a "family" with your partner and her kid/s, but then again, she might not have that as a goal (mine doesn't--and she tried to tell me as much, but I didn't hear it at first). Besides being clear about expectations before you move in, be flexible; once you do move in, go with the flow. It's not a predictable process and meanwhile, it's incredibly important to make sure you have your own life, that your own identify is intact and not dependent on fitting into some fantasy you thought would happen and isn't going to.


5) I guess last of all I want to reiterate something from that last point--be clear about your expectations, before you move in.

These aren't things I learned easily, and they aren't appropriate for everyone, so please don't take offense if they aren't right for you. Honestly if they spare one person the heartache I experienced, living under some very misguided expectations, it's worth the trouble posting it.

femm_cb 05-30-2013 01:16 PM

My childrens other mom
 
I was married to a bio-male and had two beautiful children. We divorced when my youngest (age 17 now) was a year old. He met and married a woman who is an incredible advocate for my children.

In the beginning of their relationship, there was jealousy on my part towards her. My kids loved spending time with her, she made sure his child support payments were on time, she arranged travel to spend time with them. She was amazing. After their summer visits, my kids spent weeks talking about "how great Ms. R is" I was pee-green with jealousy. But after a while, I took a step back and realized "Why am I getting so jealous over someone loving my kids? Isn't that what I want for them? Why am I so jealous over someone being good to my kids?" All those questions. She and I had a heart to heart on the phone one time and I discussed my insecurities. It wasn't her job to fix them. Fastforward 15 years. R and I have the best relationship. When I call my ex to discuss kid matter things, I call her directly. I often call her "My babies other momma" I make sure my kids call her on Mothers Day. She is, after all, a mom too! I could not have asked for a better parent for my children.

Now as I said above regarding calling her on kid matters, I do not exclude their father at all. When it's issues that he needs to be aware of first hand, I speak with him first. I don't ever put her in the role of making major decisions, but do value her opinion.

Scots_On_The_Rocks 09-30-2013 10:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arwen (Post 235731)
I'm starting this for those of us who have or will step into the role of "the next parental unit". It's not easy. It can feel like you are stepping into a live mine field full of "so and so didn't do that" and "you're not my mom/dad" and "those are my kids!".

How do you navigate that? What are the rules/tips/tricks you've found for being a good stepparent?

Let's talk about the wins and the losses. I've had both.

One of my wins is my beloved son, KC. He's not mine by birth, but he's mine by love. He's 21 now and we are very close.

One of my losses is his eldest sister, Dv. We talk a bit but the relationship will never be more than that of casual acquaintances. KC is our link to one another.

Their mom and I do not speak except about the kids. We do not have a friendship at all due to choices we both made and behaviours we both exhibited. I regret that on many levels.

So, how about you? Who's a step-monster out there?

*KC introduces me as his step-monster. I love it.

The whole idea of being in a relationship with someone who had kids in the home always used to be a huge, "NO!" to me, and yet, something in me shifted shortly before I had my hysterectomy. Not sure what that was, but it did and here I am happily partnered with a woman who has a 11 (will be 12 in the next few months) year old. I was so afraid of being the "step monster" because we have all seen and heard the horror stories. And really, when I sat down with my partner and talked about my fears, and how I felt, we worked through much of the anxiety and reticence about it all and worked out a game plan.

What has been crucial in making a healthy and strong bond with my step-daughter has been the following tips, tricks and ground rules:

1. Assure her that I am not here to replace ANYONE in her life. Let her know that I am merely another addition to the family, like an extra parent, or a new uncle. And that with that I will never ask to be called Dad, Papa, or anything like that.

2. Even if I don't agree with kiddo's mom (or dad) on their parenting style, or discipline techniques; as long as they are not abusive, I must stand as a united front with them. Any disagreements about parenting style/discipline techniques can be discussed behind closed doors where the kiddo can't hear them, because believe-you-me, kiddo will exploit that divide like nobody's business.

3. Never, and I repeat NEVER badmouth her father (or mother) in front of her. This also extends to dad's (or mom's) partner/spouse.

4. If in doubt on how to proceed when kiddo acts out, make a note of it (if mom or dad isn't around) by calling their attention to the fact that it wasn't appropriate, and inform them that a conversation will happen when their mom (or dad) gets home where you ALL will sit down and discuss what was done and how to resolve it.

5. ALWAYS make the punishment fit the deed. You should be firm, fair, and consistent...but never be excessive in your punishment.




These have been what works for me and my partner as well as kiddo's dad and his new wife.

Hope they may be of help to any of you. :)

Scots_On_The_Rocks 09-30-2013 10:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by oblivia (Post 379864)
When Sparx and I got together, She'd been doing the single mom thing since the boys were 3 and 4 respectively. They were, then, 12 & 13 ... oh.. and both gifted. These were uber-intelligent boys. They were (and still are) smarter than Sparx and I. So it was scary stuff. I was TERRIFIED.

Coming into their lives just when they were entering the most tumultuous, confusing, conflicting, craziest years of their whole lives? And... they're smarter than me? AND... they've had their mom all to themselves for basically their entire lives? WAS I INSANE?

Thankfully, no, I wasn't.

For starters, there were several things working in my favour...most importantly - Sparx had been doing an AWESOME job raising them.

She had raised them with a very open-door policy and also raised them to have a great deal of agency and say in their lives and what happens in them. Because she was a single mom in a small town with few resources, she raised them with honesty, and respect. She had a few very hardcore parenting rules that she told me about up front - and I thought they were all fantastic. The fact that the boys were so well mannered, mature, and respected her so much were testament to the fact hat they worked.. so I followed her rules and learned a LOT about what "healthy parenting" could look like (having a very poor example from my own childhood... I needed to defer to someone who had a better outlook).

I came into this whole step-parenting thing ready and eager to learn from someone with a better idea of parenting than how I'd been raised - so I was content to be a bit of a follower - and it paid off big time. In return, Sparx made it very clear that I was a co-parent... not less than... and had equally valid input into all parenting decisions. We had a LOT of trust going into this.

So here are the rules, or more accurately the parenting "principles" she swore by.

First, if the boys ask "Why?" when we tell them to do something, they ALWAYS get an answer. Sometimes the answer might be "I am really not up to talking about it right now but I will later". But the answer is NEVER "because I said so". And Sparx expects anyone who is a part of their lives to respect this (family, friends, babysitters etc)

This was totally foreign to me. It wasn't how I was raised. And sometimes this was frustrating because sometimes.. you just wanna say "because I said so". I had to learn that sometimes I have to say "I'm frustrated and will end up sounding angry if I talk about it right now, so let's talk about it later" (or some version of that) - but usually once I explain, they understood and it was easier to get them to do what I needed them to do. AND... maybe more importantly... sometimes... when I explained, they were able to provide a convincing and mature rebuttal for why they couldn't do what I asked or would rather do something else and sometimes I would discover my request was unreasonable - or needed tweaking - and that was okay. So our respect for each other grew a LOT through my learning to accept that they were people and deserved an explanation when they wanted one. And to their credit - they RARELY 'demanded' one.. they almost always asked in a genuinely curious and/or polite way.

Second, We do not lie to them. Period. The only allowable exception is the good kind, or removing extranneous or non-age-appropriate details that are inappropriate, but They are always to be told the truth to the best of our ability (within the limits of what they could understand). By the time I came around they were old enough that that was pretty much the whole truth.

She told me that when they came together and confronted her (sadly, at a very young age) and told her that they'd been talking it over and had figured out that she was Santa... and the Easter Bunny... and the Tooth Fairy... she admitted they were right. And while it took some of the fun away for HER, they were so proud of themselves for having figured it out - and she wouldn't lie to them... but she did explain to them that it would make it not fun for other kids if they shared the secret, so they felt very important and responsible by "protecting" the secret when it came to their friends (and younger kids).

To date, the complete honesty that we share with them, makes it easier for them to be honest with us. They're teens now, they have secrets... and the youngest REALLY didn't like us being on him about his schoolwork and went through a few years of lying to get us off his back - but he is a terrible liar - we knew he was lying... he knew we knew he was lying... so there was some mutual frustration... but we were able to work through and get past it.

Third, ALWAYS be willing to admit when you're wrong, and apologize to them if you've behaved badly, lashed out inappropriately or otherwise screwed up.

This is... also huge. So many parents think that they can't or shouldn't apologize to their kids. If I've made a bad decision, or Sparx has or we've snapped at them undeservedly or whatever and we come to them later and say "hey, sorry about that, that was uncalled for", they respect us so much more... and it makes it easier for them to apologize when it's their turn. I was not raised this way. I was the only one in my family (and I mean that quite literally) who had to apologize for anything, ever. Not cool.

Fourth, Involve them in decisions that affect them!! Always give them input and take it into account. Children are people too and they sometimes have remarkable insight into a situation.

This meant that they got input into EVERY decision that affected them... including when it was time to let certain people in their lives (extended family members) go because the relationships had gotten unhealthy. They had full say on the matter, even when they were younger than ten.

Another example....
If she couldn't afford to get them something they wanted and she would have liked to - she owns it, and has since they were very young. The result of this particular one is SO noticeable because they truly are not superficial as a result. They were not "poor" growing up, but they certainly had very little money.

She told me that sometimes she would give them choices when it came to big purchases. For example, when it came time to pick out birthday or christmas gifts, she said they could have a new video game, but only one because that was all she could afford *OR* they could have two or three USED video games. They always picked used, and they felt important being a part of the decision making - and it shows today. They are not hung up on whether stuff is new and shiney and they always appreciate the things they do have - and they never whine/beg/bug for things they know we can't afford... they really understand and appreciate the financial decisions we make day to day - this is HUGE.

I can not describe in words how important this was. The boys really get what it means to make choices based on capabilities. When money is tight and they were growing fast, they got new jeans or coats from the thrift store and didn't care... in fact... our youngest's current coat was a thrift store find and he LOVES that coat... loves it. A workman's jacket with a removable inner lining. He raves about it and appreciates it more because he knows we would never have been able to afford to buy him that kind of coat brand new at the time.

Now that they're almost adults, it feels good knowing that they understand how to live well, and happily, with less. They don't care about new vs. used, or name brands vs. generic. The eldest is more social/popular and trendier but still scoffs at designer label prices and finds ways to get his "look" without spending more than he thinks is realistic. I know that when they finally go out on their own - they'll be able to manage their finances without hardship.

And it's not just about money. If we have to make hard decisions, they're a part of those decisions. They never have to worry that we will just dramatically change their lives without their input. As a result they feel safe and secure. If we're even THINKING about moving.... or making a big financial decision.. we bring them in on it. We discuss and work through things as a family.

Fifth, Own your headspace. Be self-aware.

This means that if you come home grumpy because work sucked, you admit right up front that's what you're feeling... take responsibility for it... so if you end up snappier than you intended or accidentally take something out on the kids (er.. or the wife *blush*) they know it's not personal and it becomes a LOT easier to deal with. This one was super-ginormous for me. It taught me to be more self-aware of my moods, headspace, and the way these things affected the people around me. I appreciated when the boys were able to say to me "Yeah, in a bad mood so gonna hang out in my room" because they had learned how from their mother. I appreciated when Sparx would tell me up front when she was grouchy so I knew not to take it personal. So it was with gratitude that I learned to do this for them as well.

Not only did this do WONDERS for my relationship with the boys (now man-children), but it did wonders for me learning how to have a healthy and fulfilling marriage.

Anyways - I've been writing forever. I just feel like this was a HUGE learning curve for me and I feel so grateful. I got lucky in a lot of ways. The boys were being raised well. Their biological father had been out of their lives since they were very small.. there was no other parent for me to deal with. They took me seriously because Sparx had not brought any other woman into their lives as other than a friend before me. And most importantly - she consulted them before our relationship could get off the ground. She asked their opinion the whole way through. She wanted them to know they were a part of the decision to let me in. And she told me this up front - because she trusted them to be mature about this responsibility even at 12&13. They wanted me in their lives. If they hadn't, Sparx and I may never have taken the next step in our relationship. They came first. I knew that from the beginning.

But they did wantme... and so Sparx and her boys moved from Ontario, 3,000 miles away, to Vancouver, BC - a place they'd never been before, so that we could all make our home here together. I moved from the Puget Sound in Washington. We all had to trust each other a whole lot and communicate even more to make our little family and such a big move for all of us, work. And so we did.

There's been a lot of challenges... but as cliche as it is - a lot of communication was the key to making it all work.

And I have to say, being a step-parent has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.

EX-fucking-ACTLY! You hit the nail on the head on so many topics of being a step-parent. I wish I could have articulated as well. Thanks for this.

JDeere 06-30-2016 07:52 PM

My gf has told me to tell her, soon to be 4 year old child, that I am her stepparent!

We are not even married just in a relationship. Does anyone else out there have any advice for me, regarding how I should manage telling this kid I am her stepparent, when I don't really know much about kids.

*Anya* 06-30-2016 08:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDeere (Post 1073349)
My gf has told me to tell her, soon to be 4 year old child, that I am her stepparent!

We are not even married just in a relationship. Does anyone else out there have any advice for me, regarding how I should manage telling this kid I am her stepparent, when I don't really know much about kids.

Why does she want you to do that? Does a 3- year-old, almost 4-year-old even know what that means (the word step-parent)?

Dos she mean that she wants the child to call you dad or...?

When my kids were young, I was so careful about the length of time I dated someone before I even introduced them and then, what my kids called my boyfriends (before I came out). I usually had them call them by their first name or whatever my BF felt comfortable with.

Step-parent implies a level of permanency. Kids get attached so easily.

Are you comfortable with the child feeling like you are his/her parent? If you have any doubts, don't do it!

I would encourage you to have some real in-depth conversations with your GF about why she wants this and understand where she is coming from.

MsTinkerbelly 06-30-2016 09:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDeere (Post 1073349)
My gf has told me to tell her, soon to be 4 year old child, that I am her stepparent!

We are not even married just in a relationship. Does anyone else out there have any advice for me, regarding how I should manage telling this kid I am her stepparent, when I don't really know much about kids.

Why is she asking you to be the one telling her child about your role in her life? Why is she forcing the issue since you are "just in a relationship"?

Is your girlfriend wanting more from you than you are wanting to give? Does she have problems setting clear roles and boundaries in her life?

It sounds like a conversation is in order to clear the air!

Best of luck (f)

JDeere 07-01-2016 05:28 PM

No I'm not comfortable at all with the step parent role. The kid calls me by my first name. I think my gf has boundary issues. I don't mind being there for the kid but kids get attached too easy and I don't want that kind of pain, for anyone of us.

I'm just lost.


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