Step-parenting is not a competition. I’m not referring to entering yourself into a competition with other step-parents (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t exist anyway) but rather the contest that can silently exist between your kids biological parent and you, the step-parent.
Whether your step-kids spend most of their time with you, less time or it’s an equal split this element can come into play.
Here is a scenario I can recall from my early years as a new step-parent. My wife and I are the primary household for our kids. This means they spend the entire week with us, and then spend a weekend or maybe just a weekend night with their Dad. The weekends away from us typically would include dinner out, theme park visits, late night movies and video games and sometimes small shopping trips. It wasn’t all candy and adventure, but it was way more than they would get during a typical week at home with us.
The kids would return home after their adventures, and in addition to trying to re-build the sandcastles that had been washed away, I sometimes felt like what I was providing for them wasn’t good enough. After all, I simply couldn’t afford to take them to the theme parks and out to the movies that often. So for new step-parent that was at times lacking confidence in my new role, this scenario was kinda rough. It was even more prevalent around the holidays, when the boys would come home with twice the amount of presents that my wife and I had given them!
Of course I realize now, and even in the early years to some extent, that ‘stuff’ does not and has never equalled love. I realize that putting a roof over their heads, feeding them, taking care of them when they are sick, cleaning up after them and placing them in the right schools and neighborhoods to succeed are gigantic, amazingly important things. But c’mon, kids that are 3-13 years old don’t care about most of that, they want the movies and theme parks!
I got pretty upset with the response from one of my kids when he asked my wife for something, I can’t remember what the item was, and she turned him down due to cost.
“I’ll just have Dad buy it for me.”
So how do you respond to that? How do you help your kid understand what really matters at an age when they can barely wipe the food off their faces?
I’m here to tell you that you can’t.
Yeah, it sucks but you cannot force them to understand the importance of the everyday stuff versus the weekend Dad fun.
My wife and I never disparage the weekend Dad stuff either by the way. My boys Dad is doing what he feels is best for them in the time he has with them and I’m happy they gets that time. After all, lots of kids don’t grow up knowing their real Dad, or sometimes any Dad at all. My guys get two Dads and a Mom.
But sometimes you just wanna sit them down and force feed them the fact that the money you spent on their new jeans is way more important that the visit to Chuck E. Cheese, but it just won’t work.
What you can do is be consistent in your communication about why you do what you do. You can be consistent with why your house functions the way it does and you should also work in as much fun stuff as you can as well, without trying to make it into a contest.
Finally, what we are TRYING to do is be incredibly patient with our kids. When there is a moment when we feel compelled to force feed them a ‘values’ lesson, we try to remind ourselves that what we do for the kids WILL endure. It will be something they are grateful for, someday. It might take until their mid-twenties (they are boys after all), but it WILL happen.
So be patient and don’t get caught up in a competition that doesn’t exist.