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After watching a children’s roast (last week’s post) about leaving the house, my partner decided it would be fun to share it with the girls and show them what parents go through. They are pretty mature for their age, but one never knows what children internalize as unfair and damaging. Once we finished the video, I thought it would only be fair to give the girls a chance to paint a picture of what it’s like as a kid to deal with parents. Remember, these gals have four parent figures in their lives.  I must admit, sitting through two roasts of each of the four parents made me regret my decision to be fair.

What was most glaring about their dad was his anxiety over time (pardon me I meant time consciousness).

“All we hear before going to school is: ‘Put your shoes on. Why are your shoes not on yet? We are running late. I’m leaving in 30 seconds whether you are ready or not.'” Here they even increased the volume of their voices by a few decibels.

We had a good laugh at dad’s expense.

Now it was my turn. If their nice, sweet father was experienced as loud, I couldn’t imagine how they experienced me? After all I grew up with my mom constantly reminding me to tone it down. I sounded like I was speaking into a megaphone.

The eldest started with a mousy voice. “Ok girls. I need you to wash your hands. Very good.” Wash hands. Figures. I don’t regret teaching them the basics of hygiene. But what was with the voice? I sounded like a polite British maid. Ditto for encouraging them to get dressed in the morning.  It was all said very softly.  What happened to the megaphone?

I remember how my little girl patients, who were extremely confident in grade school, would start holding back by the time they got to middle school, so that they would be liked by the opposite sex.  It used to kill me to watch them go from “I’m the smartest kid in my class,” to completely quiet.  Was I doing the same thing I repeatedly asked them not to do?

In my case, however, I’m guessing it wasn’t just the affection of this opposite sex. When we all first started living together, I worried about how I was perceived by the girls too.  I still have that feeling more than I should.  Then there is the stepmom stigma to break.

We are all learning by trial and error.  I am learning that it’s unfair to want a child’s approval.  It puts too much pressure on her.  But I also know that I’d like to have an amicable relationship with the girls. It’s a balance we are trying to achieve, one where children know most direction comes from their primary parents, but where the secondary parents have some say as well.

Given all this swirling anxiety and complexity I feel as a half parent-part way in-don’t screw up-don’t over reach-don’t hang back, I’m scrambling most of the time. Since the roast, we have made some changes.  First, we helped the girls wake up earlier, so there was enough time for shoes and socks and dad wouldn’t have to freak out. To help me reclaim the megaphone without fear, my partner and I came up with a new strategy.  We finally agreed on a few important rules (some of which are the same as mom’s house), put it in writing (on a big board), and shared it with the kids. Now, everybody is on the same page. I may be able to increase my own decibels now, without being mean.

Let’s see how we do.