Who Do You Love?

If there is one thing that can break up a couple, it’s the kids. You know what I mean if you are in a blended family situation: parental rights, parenting styles, and variant personalities all play a ginormous role in the dynamic of a couple where each of those adults has their own kids. Hell, it can be the elephant in the room when a couple ISN’T working on blending!

We had our first argument a few weeks ago, and I think it upset me more than it did him. It started because, as usual, the ex was being bitchy about not getting her way and I felt like M. was giving in to her. Which I feel happens a lot. I THOUGHT some boundaries had been set. We had just made a rule that, unless an emergency arose, we were not going to keep the kids on each others’ weeks– if for nothing else but consistency’s sake. (The boys are already with M a week, their mom a week, which most judges don’t like to begin with).

I’m not an expert, but I have five years on M and the ex and trying to make things work with kid time. And I guess I come off as bossy and wanting my own way a little more than I’d like, because M and I finally got into it– the “parenting style” argument that is so often the Beginning of the End for many couples.

I am a drill sergeant; I freely admit to it. I am the oldest child, a teacher, and OCD. I THRIVE on order and routine (so this whole situation with M and the kids and the chaos of their lives has already been hard on me). The kids don’t have a set bedtime. They are constantly asking for things and take FOREVER to actually go to bed. M is far more permissive (read: a big softie) than I would be, or was, with my own daughter. I’m not saying divorce has left her unscathed, but I know routine and rules have been helpful for her. I tried to share my experiences, but I guess I sounded like a bossypants.

I got mad because the ex was trying to get her way and I just feel as though she takes advantage of M. He’s a wonderful father and his priorities are always about the boys, and I don’t fault him for that. But just because SHE doesn’t want to keep them during her time and is constantly trying to make dates and pawn them off doesn’t mean HE is a bad father. I think he needs to tell her no– not because he doesn’t want to keep the boys, but because she needs to learn to do her job as a mother. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it.

Well, I came off as harsh and a know-it-all and not wanting to be around the kids. While M admitted that the things I said about consistency and order made sense on one level, the truth is that he is just a different parent than I am. Not better or worse– just decidedly different. I have a hard time swallowing the fact that no matter who I am to him, I am never going to have the final say in how the kids are handled. No matter how crappy a job she does sometimes, ultimately I will probably always have to defer to her. With her bipolar antics and track record of flipping her shit every other day, I told M that I wasn’t sure I could do this for another 15 years. I have enough chaos in my own life to deal with Drama Queen for the rest of it.

To my surprise, M didn’t really fight me there. He simply told me that while he loved me and wanted to be with me, if I couldn’t handle it, it was better to part ways.

Well, I don’t WANT to “part ways”– do I? I love him, I love the boys. It is definitely an adjustment and not one that’s completely comfortable for me, but at the end of the day, I DO want to be with him.

Luckily, just two days after this argument, the oldest had a soccer game. M is the coach, the ex came to the game, and she and I talked about a few things. I might not be able to change her mind about much, but I planted some seeds. I hope that things calm down. I hope that, as all the kids get older, this all gets easier to manage and there isn’t so much damn drama all the time.

Stepmoms out there, tell me it gets better!

 

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Griswold Family Vacation

Spring Break. Two words that strike fear in the hearts of parents around the world and which are almost as sweet as Christmas break to the teacher. I happen to be both parent and teacher, and Spring Break ’16 brought both excitement and apprehension. We had plans to attempt a blended family trip– first, to see my daughter’s volleyball tournament and then on to our friends’ house for a few days of kid-centered fun.

The tourney was in Nashville on the first weekend of break; we’d originally planned on heading up there that morning, but found out very last minute that she actually played first thing in the morning. Scramble, scramble to get everything together and find a hotel for the extra night.

I should note here that I haven’t been on a vacation with little people in QUITE some time. Although my parents, sisters and their families live down in Florida and I do visit, I haven’t even been on a trip with those small people — as in, ever. I’m a bit out of practice, which I learned last week.

The friends we stayed with also have three kids under age 8, two of whom are still technically in diapers (Pull-Ups count, right?)– so naturally, the volume level was always high and at least fifteen times a day we heard screaming, “he has my toy!” “I don’t want that to eat” and other such phrases. I love them all dearly, but I was ready to get back to the quiet of my own apartment.

The trip DID go well– aside from small people arguments, we had a great time and all the kids got along. It gave me a preview of what family trips will look like for the next 5-10 years, and I have to say… where are the adult vacations?