Friday, May 11, 2012

Stepparenting - I'm the "mean" one

My ten-year-old stepdaughter hates spelling. How do I know this? Because her mom recently got her grades from her old school and discovered that her grades were low because she lied about not having spelling homework. When I heard this a flashing neon warning light sounded in my head. Was she doing the same thing to me? Everyday this week she swore up and down that she didn't have homework. After hearing about what happened at her old school, I emailed her teacher and discovered that she had spelling homework this week and just didn't want to do it.

With my husband gone every evening and his ex-wife living in another town, I wasn't looking forward to being the "bad" guy again. Yes, I'm the bad guy because I'm the one who assigns chores, asks for help around the house and hands out punishments. My husband works two jobs and is working on a master's degree so unfortunately, the majority of all parenting tasks fall on me. (He has Fridays off but they are always spent either playing on his computer or on one of his other hobbies. )

After a group discussion between all three parents, it was decided that my stepdaughter would not be allowed to go to tumbling class, play on the computer and watch television that night. When I got home from work, her and I discussed the situation and I encouraged her to be honest with me. What I got was that she wasn't sorry about lying - she was only sorry she got caught. She admitted that she never thought I'd email the teacher.

I really struggle with this kid because she isn't anything like me. She isn't rational or logical and she never thinks things through. She would rather spend ten minutes arguing about how she can't find the extra dish soap than just go down to the basement and get the bottle. Lately, she's been treating me like crap and playing the whole "When's my daddy get home because he's nice" routine. So the night before the spelling issue came up, we had a "Come to Jesus" talk about how much I do for her and how much "Daddy" does.

Here's the list:
  1. I buy her clothes.
  2. I make her meals.
  3. I pay for tumbling and drive her there.
  4. I sign her up for summer activities and I hired the babysitter.
  5. I take care of her when she's sick
Daddy's list:
  1. He does only what asked to do.
I'll be honest, it hurts my feelings that my husband gets to be the hero when he's doing maybe one percent of the parenting. I explained of all this to my aunt (who teaches parenting classes) and she explained that I was encountering was "Kid Manipulation 101". The kid doesn't want to do chores so they respond by rejecting you in an attempt to get you to stop asking them to do things they don't want to do. 

Ah, such brilliant insight. I know our "Come to Jesus" talk didn't really get me anywhere because this morning when I told my stepdaughter that she'd left her wet towel on the couch for 24 hours (it was still wet) and should probably get an extra chore (the whole wet towel issue is really my husband's pet peeve so he should be assigning punishment anyway), she gave me the stink eye. I asked if she wanted a hug since they are leaving for the weekend and she replied that she had to get ready for school. (Nevermind that school didn't start for 2 1/2 hours). It made me mad that she rejected like that and I really wanted to scream about how much I do for her and how she should be grateful to me. I SHOULD BE THE HERO DARN IT! Instead, I picked up my toddler and headed off to work. I took a lot of deep breaths and repeated what my aunt had said.

If I don't react and I stick to my guns, I think my stepdaughter will eventually stop treating me like the bad guy and just accept the fact that I'm the parent she's stuck with. It's hard. I don't want to be the bad guy. I want to be the one who gets the hugs and all that but if I give up now, I'm going to end up raising a spoiled child who grows up to be a badly behaved adult who tortures the people around her. And I can't have that. :)

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