Thursday, March 24, 2011

is negativity just another word for parenting?

it's very hard to be negative in the face of a delightfully cheery bouquet of surprise flowers from a good friend. but i've been pondering negativity of late. mostly because i feel i was recently wrongfully accused of it. and generally speaking, i think i'm a fairly positive person, tho' i will grant that it is hardest to see oneself, so i may not be a good judge. i can be dragged into negativity by my work environment. and i can feel negative.  i have been known to be cynical for comic effect. but generally, i feel myself as a positive person. so it rocked my world a little bit to have my negativity cited as the reason that one of husband's daughters hasn't been here on the agreed weekends for the past few times. and here, i thought she had to work...

i've written before about the challenges of step-parenting - especially when, like me, you intentionally do not take on the step-mother role, thinking that your husband's children from a previous marriage already have a mother of their own and do not need another one. but it's a delicate balance. and sometimes i think that in my desire not to be mother, i end up a bit aloof and cold. which is different than negative, in my view.

but i can also see how a lack of warmth might end up seeming negative. especially when there is a streak of disapproval in me towards the teenager in question. but you see, when i'm awakened at 4:30 a.m. by loud voices and laughter and go out to look and find said teenager on a video chat on her little sister's computer in her little sister's room, while her little sister sleeps, i'm probably not going to be a particularly happy or positive person. so if i'm deemed negative for putting my foot down about such behavior, then so be it.  and if i think it's a bit ridiculous to stay away for a month because you can't take being reprimanded for your thoughtless behavior, then, yes, call me negative. and perhaps even call me parental, which is another thing i'm not keen on.

part of growing up is taking the consequences of one's actions. so i'll accept that i could be deemed to be negative. but i think i also, as an adult, have a right and a duty to draw the line as to what behavior is acceptable at our house and what's not. even if it makes me unpopular.

i guess as long as there are teenagers humans, there will be negative moments in a home. and that's probably just part of life.  so thank odin for good friends who send you flowers that can put you right back in a positive frame of mind.


Lost Star said...

I think that negativity towards that particular incident is fully OK, even as a step-parent trying to avoid being deemed parental. It's not even really parental. It's practical. 4.30am in someone else's room, even if it were the living room, would still be a no no in my book. So I think you have every right to act as you did. It is seemingly a teenagers prerogative to act out if they feel hard done by?

In terms of the role of step parents in parenting, I've grown up with step parents on both sides of the case. Whilst one (the step-mum, who really, I've never considered as such) has not been a part of my life at all, my step-dad, raised me from the age of 10 in a much more active way than my Father. Part of that was his choice to accept the role (although, 10 compared to teenage years is very different. He never adopted such a role to my brother who was 13 at the time) and part of that was my decision to live with him and my mum. To many intents and purposes (and this is something that I do regret occasionally) I left my Dad behind with my brother and their new family to be with my mum and our new family; and whilst there is overlap, my Dad has been less of a Father to me since I left for University than my step-dad. Odd how it all works out in life. How family situations turn out in very different ways for different individuals in that family.

All that was really just to say I understand where you are coming from in adopting a non-parental but still an adult role. As teenagers who already have a mum every day of the week, they don't need another one. But perhaps what they do need still is adult supervision to make sure that when they are with you, they make decisions that do no harm and keep the harmony in your family. After all, that is what you are, albeit a 5 only twice a month.

And honestly, if being told off for being awake at 4.30am and in someone else's room makes her want to not be around your house then so be it. She will get over it.

Wow. That was possibly the longest comment ever. I'm going to shut up and go sew now.

Loredana said...

That's not being negative, what it is is your typical teenager wanting to stake their claim in the home. She's lucky you didn't rip the cord out of the computer instead.

All teens go through this moment in their lives where they're trying to act as if they're the adult and know best. So if said teenager thinks it's best to stay away for a month then so be it, eventually she'll come around and maybe one day she'll even grow up like the rest of us did and realize how rude it in fact is to be up at 4am in your little siblings room, being loud on a video chat.

Or you can go a whole other route and once she's back and fast asleep in your home again you can go near her bedroom door at around 4am and be really loud and clank champagne glasses together while dancing to some music that you so happen to have to have loud because the radio is in the other room....just sayin' you have options ;-)

Sandra said...

I think being a parent, or step-parent, is often going to make a person unpopular. If not, the job probably isn't being done.

You know teenage girls are masters of manipulation, so let it go.

poet said...

The situations you describe would have merited you asking her to change her behavior regardless of your relationship to each other. Setting boundaries in a case like this is necessary, not negative (or even particularly parental).

Lost Aussie said...

Having had my own two sons and inheriting two more via my husband, I can attest to the minefield that step parenting can be. It's hard enough with your own.
If it's any consolation, I found as the step children got older and took charge of their own lives, the less I seemed like Cruella De Ville and more like someone they wanted to be "friends" with, as I never tried to be their "Mom".

heidikins said...

My dad remarried when I was 8 and I had a step-mom until I graduated from high school. I had a hard time paying any attention to any direction or attempt at discipline she ever tossed my way. She had never attempted to "Mom" me, which was a relief, but she had also never attempted to become friends, or even be friendly. In my teenage girl opinion, she didn't have the "right" to "parent" me because she made it very clear that I was not important to her in any real way. I only obey those I respect, and I felt she made deliberate efforts to ignore me, which did nothing to gain trust or respect.

Was this the best possible action on my part? Probably not. Was I blatantly disregarding to her instructions? Not necessarily. Did I ever go out of my way to make her life easier or less chaotic or do anything nice for her? No. But she afforded me the same coldness, so I have never felt guilty about that either.

I can't imagine the difficulty in parenting OR step-parenting, and I know there are mine-fields there I can only hope to never meet. I'm just saying that as a step-daughter to a very cold woman, I--a generally very obedient and polite kid--never felt any need or desire to be anything but cold and distant back. And yes, kind of a punk.

Good luck, J. Hope it's just a phase. ;)


will said...

There is no known remedy, vaccination or any other normalization for the condition known as "the teenage years".

The other problem, teenage years have been culturally extended ... in some cases they continue into a person's 30s.

I had always hoped for rocket travel and free passes featuring free video gaming for kids aged 13+ to Alpha Centauri.

Indiri Wood said...

Step parenting requires quite a balance, one that I am still trying to figure out. I have 3 of my own and I'm a step mom to 2 more most weekends and a little bit besides. I'm not their mother and I try not to parent BUT their mother doesn't seem to parent much and I find myself having to in order for them to learn anything. (If the little one whines enough, over and over and over, I think he can get anything he wants from mom. I put my foot down and send him to have any tantrums in his room and tell him he can come out when he's done). I do a lot of art projects with my step daughter and try to build a bond that way rather than through parenting. She is about Sabin's age and, like Sabin, seems so much more thoughtful than her years would normally allow so I try to not treat her like the little kid. On the other hand, it is hard to let them do their thing according to dad's way when I have to tell my own children of the same age no but I usually try to handle those things with dad so the kids don't end up in the middle of it all.

I also overcompensate with the step kids sometimes to make up for what mom is doing on the other side. When the little one misses daddy she tells him that "Daddy isn't here because he's with Sara" so the little one goes through phases where he doesn't like me for no other reason than he misses his daddy and his mother is a bitter and mean woman who can't filter or shut her mouth around the kids.

I try to be very careful around the kids also because I *hate* my step-mother and completely love my step-dad. I try to take away from those relationships what I did or didn't like and apply those lessons to my own step kids. The result is that I'm trying to not parent them myself much but I am trying to bond with them (like an aunt?). I am working on building a relationship where it eventually doesn't feel odd to say I love you (because it still does feel awkward but I think they need to hear it anyway) and where I can hug them without them feeling like they have to (I seriously hate that about my own step mom).

As for kicking her out of her sister's room, of course that was right. If that is her complaint then she needs to get over it because as much as we try not to be their parent, eventually we have to sometimes and that was one of those times. Maybe some one on one time might help with her thinking you are cold, I don't know. It seems to help my bonding with my step daughter if I sometimes focus on her without my kids and just have some us time.

Sammi said...

UUUUUGGH!! What a situation to be in?! Well, I guess if the mother can't see that her daughter was rightfully being reprimanded then there's the problem...

I hope it all sorts itself out, and perhaps this is read by the people involved!

Good luck Julie!

There's that whole balance thing you've been craving appearing again in this post...

celkalee said...

What a great friend you have to send the beautiful flowers. Of course, you photograph them so well.

I have absolutely no experience in the step-parent role to share but others have already stated so much. I know it has to be really difficult, unsettling at times, and may indeed invoke negative feelings. However, that is not necessarily so bad. Your work here is not negative, it is insightful. At times, that insight is drawn from difficulty. The young person in question is indeed testing boundaries, physical and emotional, sort of marking her territory in your life. As the
adult, you have defined your feelings in the matter. Good luck, its a challenging time for kids and parents! corrine

kristina said...

of course doing what she did is not ok. maybe you should talk to eachother, sort it out? she might need to hear from you that she's still welcome - teenagers are funny creatures, you know :-)
so glad the flowers made you happy!

Roberta Warshaw said...

I have never been comfortable in the role of step-parent. My husband has 2 adult children. One sees him outside our home, the other hasn't spoken to him since he married me.

I have learned to disengage after too much heartache from people I was never related to in the first place.