Russian Roulette: Conversations in a Blended Family
If you’re a step-mom, you don’t need me to tell you that having a conversation with step-kids is like playing Russian Roulette with a 6-shooter loaded with 5 bullets. There’s a very good chance that someone is going to get shot.
Rebel Boy: “How come you don’t let Joyful One have pop?”
The Mom: “Because it’s not good for babies.”
Rebel Boy: “She’s not really a baby any more, she’s two. And if it’s bad for babies, is it bad for kids too?”
This is where I should have listened for the sound of a gun cocking, but I missed it…
TheMom: “It’s not good for anyone, babies, kids, adults. [insert lesson here about all the harmful effects of carbonated beverages on humans].
RebelBoy: “Is that why you don’t let ArtGirl or TornadoBoy have it?”
RebelBoy: “So why do my parents let ME drink it? Isn’t it bad for me too?”
At this point, AttitudinalTeenGirl has stalked upstairs to her room because I’ve just insulted their mother. Again.
We really have no hope at all, as step-mothers. Cinderella’s step-mother ruined it for all of us when she asked her step-daughter to scrub the kitchen floor while her own daughters went to pick out dresses for the ball. See, what the story DOESN’T tell you is that Cinderella lived in a whole other school district. She wasn’t invited to the ball because her school’s ball wasn’t until the NEXT weekend. And she already had a dress anyway. Instead, we indoctrinate our daughters to hate their potential step-mothers from the time they’re old enough to understand fairy tales. It’s just. not. fair.
Sometimes the conversations seem as innocuous as that above – a simple conversation about food choices means that I’m saying your mother doesn’t take good care of you. Other times, it’s much more obvious, and insidious.
AttitudinalTeenGirl: “Why don’t you and TheMom move to our neighborhood?” – [read – don’t you love me? Why don’t you want to be more a part of my life?]
TheDad: “It’s hard to just pick up and move a family an hour away. We’d have to get jobs, move three kids out of their schools and enroll them in a new school. We’d be moving ArtGirl and TornadoBoy an hour away from their dad. We’d have to sell our house and buy a new one… it’s a lot.”[ – read – just because your mother chose to move you 70 minutes away from me doesn’t mean that I can just pick up my life and follow her. I have another family to think about.]
AttitudinalTeenGirl: “But you would love it up here. I don’t understand why you can’t just move. I want to see you more. [--read – don’t you love me more than you love HER family?]
TheDad: “I would love to live close to you. I love you so much, and want to be part of your life. But you’re growing up, and you don’t need me to be around as much anymore. I’m still here for the important things. And we get to spend our weekends together.” [--read – please don’t make me choose between you and the other people I love in my life. I love you desperately.]
AttitudinalTeenGirl: “I hate coming down here. I hate having to leave my friends for an entire weekend.” [--read – I hate that you left my mother. I hate that I have to accommodate your life. You’re the adult, accommodate MY LIFE.]
Ok, so I know enough to stay out of this conversation, but it’s a minefield. There’s nothing that can be said. It’s a dance around the truth that no one wants to say. It’s kids feeling vulnerable in their own home. It’s parents dancing around the truth to avoid telling their kids about the lies their other parent has told them. It’s sometimes just a simple case of different opinions of the parents that can make the kids feel like THEY are being judged.
One thing I know for sure. There is no such thing as a conversation that DOESN’T have the potential to make a child feel vulnerable. Oh, that and never, ever, ever ask your step-daughter to scrub the kitchen floor while your own kids are out shopping for dresses.