Being a step-parent is so incredibly difficult. I came into my boys’ lives when they were seven and five respectively. They already had an established family order and I came in and “screwed everything up.” I married their dad. I became another authority figure in a crazy messed up hierarchy for them.
They are now almost eleven and nine years old. It’s been a long four years of figuring out how we fit as blended family. J and I added two little girls to the mix thus making it more confusing because the rules for the girls are different. The girls are parented solely by myself and J. The boys, however, are parented by their mom and step-dad, J’s parents, and J and myself. It’s a hot mess and the boys know it. They play off the adults to get what they want whenever they want. I came in and screwed up that dynamic.
I’m a firm believer in only the parents doing the parenting and it shows when it comes to my girls. J’s parents are the grandparents ONLY when it comes to the girls. They never cross that boundary between grandparent and co-parent. Probably because I won’t allow it. But with the boys? It’s a constant fight to get them to recognise that they ARE NOT THE PARENTS. J can stand firm to our boundaries with the girls, but allows his parents control over the boys. I don’t get it, but then again, I wasn’t around in the beginning.
Today, C (almost 11yo) got sick at school so I had to go get him. Normally, when he’s sick, he sleeps the day away which is good, but today he did nothing but scream and throw a fit that I wouldn’t let him go to his grandparents’ house. Well, sorry, bucko, if you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to go play at the grandparents’ house. But, it made me realise just how messed up this entire situation is, he truly sees them as parental figures and everyone but me has fed into that for so many years. J called me a bit ago to see how it was going and C had calmed down and started behaving so I told him it was going much better. He then informed me that he spoke to his dad about everything and he’s going to talk to his mom to see “what we can figure out.” Uhm, what? I don’t want or need your mommy’s advice on how to raise our kids. All she’s going to tell him is that I’m being too hard on C and I should just send him down to their house. No. The issue between me and C today? I wouldn’t let him eat junk food while he’s sick. I wanted him to eat a healthy lunch and drink a glass of water. That was the issue. And J wants his mom’s input on how to fix this. No. I don’t care what she has to say, I did not ask for her advice, nor do I want her to try to tell me how to deal with C or B.
I would say that 95% of the time, the boys behave fantastic for me. Now, I know that sounds like a lot, but comparatively speaking, the boys behave better for me than they do for ANYONE else aside from their bio mom. I know it’s because I have high expectations, but only because they have PROVEN to me that they are capable of reaching my expectations. No one else expects them to behave so they don’t. No one else gives them consequences for any horrific behaviour so they have no reason to behave. When they’re behaving, my house is an awesome place to be. When they aren’t, yes, it’s a bit rougher, but they straighten up, discuss their attitudes with me, and we work on building the coping skills to get through whatever it was that caused the bad behaviour so they can be productive adults.
I’m fighting an uphill battle, however, to create healthy and responsible adults. It’s hard and exhausting to be the only adult with healthy expectations and boundaries for children. It makes me want to just back off and not be involved other than making sure they’re fed and clothed. But, what kind of example would that set? That yet another adult doesn’t care about them or what they do or how they grow up. So I continue to fight. I continue to care. I continue to cultivate an atmosphere that teaches responsibility, boundaries, consequences, and reasonable expectations. I will continue to teach them that they are worth the hard work and the time it takes to teach them how to be a good person.
But, gosh, it is exhausting doing this all by myself, especially when I’m fighting every other adult in their life to teach them right from wrong.