I couldn’t write yesterday. I was so defeated by my weekend, and so depressed about the reason why; nothing else presented itself as even an option. I could only write about that one thing, but that one thing seemed…well, sort of unsuitable.
The tricky topic? Parenting my boyfriend’s son, who lives with us every weekend.
If it’s anything less than a wonderful time, a fun family adventure, or a brand new braggable accomplishment, I feel like I can’t approach the story no matter which lens I use. If I’m honest, feelings will be hurt. The things I say will embarrass Jeff, hurt and anger the Xman’s mom, and that’s before we get to the part where we wonder what will happen when the Xman is old enough to read it himself.
And so I clam up. I hold the words inside of me, rather than pick through the landmines. The problem with choosing to say nothing, though, is that it sort of feels like a lie of omission. If I just pick up with a happy topic today, or even a neutral photo-heavy post, aren’t I offering a fictional front? Presenting a version of what’s going on that isn’t even anything close to reality? I know that not everything is my story to tell, but the truth is: I am really struggling here. I am not okay right now, to the extent that I feel like ignoring the topic completely is dishonest to myself and to others who might be struggling privately, too. I can’t write about what happened, but I can’t not say anything. And so I’m stuck, glommed down in the mud of ethical parenting and writing in a public space vs. being honestly,
un- occasionally apologetically me.
I’ll say this: Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is incredibly hard, especially when some of the children involved are not your own. It’s tough when you agree on parenting styles and specific techniques, and it’s unfathomably difficult when you don’t. I have yet to meet a couple – even the ones who did it right and have stayed together – who didn’t say step-parenting was the hardest thing they’ve ever done. It was a win for us that the frustration and anger this weekend was directed at the stubborn little boy who was causing all the disruption. Yes, it was because he was a 5-year-old acting like a 2-year-old, as they are wont to do sometimes, but that still doesn’t make the behavior okay. Just to be expected, and corrected.
Be a team. Make decisions together. Be consistent. Remind each other of the rules of the house and the reasons you’re parenting the way you are. Communicate. And not just decisions – it’s okay to verbalize your frustration with the situation, too. Parenting is hard and step-parenting is ridiculous; you have to have a way to vent some steam or you’ll pop your top. Have a bestie to confide the things you won’t say to your partner (and there will be some, believe me).
The Xman won’t be
three five years old forever. These weekends when he spends very nearly the entire weekend in timeout (I wish I were exaggerating) won’t always be the norm. We won’t always have to cancel plans and embarrass ourselves in front of our friends, or ignore our other children because one is going for gold in extreme tantruming. If we put in the work now, the Xman will learn the rules and turn into a terrific kid, and we won’t any of us dread the weekends the way we do right now. If there’s an “us” left at the end of the war.