Posts Tagged ‘grownup’

teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids”–Part III

stepfamily paper dollsAnd…we’re back! Time for the third and final installment of What the Heck Do I Do Now  “teenparentcafe’s ‘Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids”.

In our previous two articles, we discussed worry over whether your stepchildren will like you, children requesting secrecy between parents, and your role as disciplinarian in your new family.

So what do you do when you dislike your spouse’s ex, or disagree with them (your spouse) on how best to discipline the kids? Here’s how we choose to deal:

What if I have issues with my spouse’s ex?

I don’t care if you hate their guts and wish them banished to the lower levels of Hades – when face-to-face with your stepchildren’s other parent, always say hello and BE CIVIL. We learned the hard way never to talk negatively about the ex- within earshot of the kids. This has seriously backfired.

It may seem impossible to hold your tongue or keep from sneering, especially if you’ve had recent confrontations with the other parent. Nevertheless – in front of the kids, we “suck it up” and be grown-ups.  We’ve had some experience with this (and a fair bit of therapy), so we’re confident sharing this little pearl of step-wisdom.

With practice, it’s gotten easier. Kids want permission to love all of their parents. Seeing you get along can ease the stress of the divorce.  

Do it for the kids.

What if my husband and I disagree on how best to raise our kids?

In our experience, it’s important that parents come to an understanding about the role of the stepparent in the home early on. If these conversations don’t take place (there’ll be more than one), you’re setting yourself up for a world o’ hurt.

As I mentioned in teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids, Part II,” we decided that in our family it worked best for me (the biological parent in our case) to take sole responsibility for discipline in the household. Pseudo-Pop (my kids’ pet name for their Stepdad) primarily supports my position and reminds the kids of why the rule was put in place to begin with.

Sometimes – we disagree on my disciplinary decisions. Once I shake off my shock that he would ever disagree with me (KIDDING), we take the discussion into a room where the kids are not, and hash it out. We’re usually able to come to an understanding with a minimum amount of conflict by approaching the situation as unemotionally as possible and being empathetic to each other’s position.

We incorporate this strategy into all of our conversations, especially when dealing with confrontation. We find it works particularly well when dealing with child-rearing issues.

Of course, this is an ongoing effort. Just take it One Day At A Time.

The issues we’ve presented in this three-part series are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll have your own list.

HappySteps_thumb6We’ve learned that a family is a living, breathing thing – one that’ll change many times and call on you to be flexible, patient (bolded that one for emphasis) and have an open mind.

The theme of your new family’s life together could be as cheerful as The Brady Bunch if you talk to each other, be clear on your roles, and…







Just A Number?

Eighteen. The magic age kids dream about – the day they’re grown-ups and can do whatever they want – stay out late!  Have anything they want pierced, tattooed, or henna’d without fear of consequence! Haha! Free at last! Free at last!

Hold on there, not so fast, hot stuff.

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, can I have some money?”

Mom: ROFL!

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, when are you gonna do my laundry! I don’t have any clothes!”

Mom: ROFL!

Neo Adult: “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Mom: “I don’t know. What’re you making?”

Neo Adult (under her breath): “This sucks!

There’s nothing more satisfying to a hard-working, battle-scarred parent-of-a-teen than the knowledge that their child will soon be paying their own bills, doing their own laundry, cooking their own dinner, and dealing with issues at the office. Sweet revenge? Misery loves company?

Not exactly. Like any of life’s hurdles (turning 40 was my all-time low), turning 18 is a terrifying time for many teenagers. Their 18th birthday is the day they peek over the precipice of adulthood – some kids embrace this moment, but others turn back and run screaming for their iPods, GameBoys, and Guitar Heroes. While this can be deliciously satisfying to unappreciated, war-torn parental egos, there are several issues that make it more complicated.

As parents, we clear so many hurdles with our kids – their first step, first word, first day in kindergarten, the “Birds and the Bees”, the first boyfriend or girlfriend, the first time they ask how to use a condom (stay cool), and the day your daughter first asks for a sanitary napkin (fathers fervently pray from the time their daughter turns 12 that she’ll tell Mom first). There are their first “questionable” friendships (see my post on GPS for tips of the trade on locating a wayward teen), and a handful of graduations that have the capacity to turn parents into blithering idiots.

In May, my first child will turn 18.

Let’s face it. Turning 18 is a Biggie. For you and your kid.

Here are a few things I have in mind that I hope will ease the transition for my children and me:

Rule #1 – To rent or not to rent. If they are not attending school, they will be working and paying to rent their own room. (No, I won’t use the money to fly to Vegas – but I will place it in their savings account, to present to them on the day they move into their first apartment. I’m not really The Wicked Witch of the West.)

Rule #2 – If they choose to smoke, they will go to the Surgeon General website and read to me, verbatim, what will happen to their health as a result. If, after saying out loud that they understand that smoking will kill them but not before making them ugly, and they’re okay with that, I won’t mention it again. However – be clear that they won’t do it anywhere near my house, my car, or my person.

Rule #3 – They will do their own laundry, feed the animals and do their part around the house (which includes on-demand shoulder rubs for Mom, to make up for shenanigans they’ve pulled over the past 18 years.)

Rule #4 – Just because they’re 18 doesn’t mean their boyfriend (or girlfriend) can venture upstairs for any reason, and under NO circumstances can they spend the night together in their room. This may sound old-fashioned to them, but I really don’t relish the thought of coming home to animal sounds coming out of my “babies'” bedrooms. I know they may be sexually active, but that doesn’t give them license to be sexually active in my house. 

Rule #5 – They WILL honor their curfew and always let me know their whereabouts (because if they don’t, I’ll find them).

Rule #6 – Rules 1-5 were created because I love them – more than they could possibly ever know – and because I want them to enjoy long, happy lives with unlimited options.

Of course there are other rules – there always are – but these are the ones that need to be understood in order for us to co-habitate during the pergatory that lies between their dependence on me and their dependence on themselves.

Ultimately, parenting is about encouraging our children towards independence, confidence, and the resulting high self-esteem. At 18, there are going to be conflicts and arguments, which need to result in a serious dismantling of their sense of entitlement. These are really challenging conversations. But for your child’s good, they need to take place and the rules need to be made clear.

I read on a parenting website recently that our children need to experience a paradigm shift once they turn 18. As legal adults, they should now behave as if they are guests in their parents’ home. This means they will treat you, your home and your belongings with respect. If you and your teenager don’t have this “come to Jesus”, the transition is going to be far more challenging. Don’t make living at your house too comfortable for them, or you’ll likely have a 40 year old kid still living under your roof!

Given, I am going through this as we speak. This is my plan (“Man Plans, God Laughs”) but I’ve got a framework for handling the changes. I will also keep my sense of humor close at all times, and remind myself that saying “No” (Vitamin N)  and enforcing rules are actually gifts that I give my children.

I am open to suggestions, experiences, comments, or whines on how you plan to handle (or are handling) moving from the role of “Mom” or “Dad” to that of “Coach”, “Friend”, “Confidante” or “Other”.

And yes, I fully expect to see at least one tattoo and larger ear gauges in June.  What the heck – gotta pick your battles, right?

For some great information from the CalBar Association on legal changes that kick in on your child’s 18th birthday, click here:

Mom, I’m Not A Puppy Anymore

“When parents talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”

– Erma Bombeck

For the past 3  years I have struggled with my “baby” – my son – maturing into a young man. My frequent hugs, praise and kisses on the keppy have become more and more annoying to him. The challenge in this for me has been two-fold: 1) he is my youngest (read last) child and 2) he’s always been my “little boy”.  #1 is still true, however #2 now falls squarely into the “Stop Treating Me Like A Baby” category.

I’ve always sensed that I’m overprotective of my son. He’s very compassionate, kind, and uncommonly sensitive to what others are feeling. Because of the latter trait, I’ve unconsciously protected him from some of the conflict, anxiety, and confrontations that he might otherwise be exposed to, all the while feeling that I was doing something good for him; helping him to feel that life was primarily happy and that The Cup Of Life is Half Full.

What I learned earlier this week was that shielding him from life’s difficulties was not helping him.  He experienced my protectiveness as a subliminal message that I felt he wasn’t up to the task of dealing with life.  He told me, sweetly and with the desire not to hurt my feelings (that’s just like him, by the way), that my overprotectiveness actually made him feel that I didn’t have faith in him – that he couldn’t handle difficulties on his own. In his words, “Mom, I’m not a puppy anymore.” I thought this was a perfect way to tell me I need to back off and let him learn to handle life’s challenges like a man (or a Big Dog, as the case may be).

I really appreciated his candid comments, because honestly, it’s gone a long way towards helping me let him move from childhood into a strong, capable young man.

This whole parenting of teens thing is truly a day-by-day process. I’m a better parent today than I was yesterday thanks to my son being honest with me. When the student is ready, the teacher appears (talk about role reversal!)

However – I am STILL The Mother and I WILL take hugs – by force if necessary.