Two Worlds Collide: A lesson in step-parenting
"You know better!"
The words are out of my mouth before I think it through. I register the shock on my step-son's face and only then realize, truly, fully realize, that he doesn't.
Let's back up a bit. Brandon lost video game privileges over at his mom's place, because he'd refused to get off his game in time to go to school. *sigh*
What was he doing on the game in the first place? Just turn off the game and tell him to get ready! Are just a few of the words I didn't let slip out of my mouth when I'd heard. I had to bite my tongue (almost literally), but I didn't say it. There's just no use to it and I've come to terms with that, sort of. After all, I still haven't been able to convince the woman that "shithead" is not an appropriate nickname for a child. Nor that for disciplinary measures to work you can't just tell the child what you're going to do...you have to actually do it.
But that's neither here nor there. My husband chose not to uphold the decision for punishment completely, allowing Brandon the privilege to play his video games during their weekend together at our home if he behaved himself. To say the least, he didn't.
Now, the next day, he was repentant and asked his father if he could have the privilege back. Mark left that up to me.
So, what did Brandon do...? He turned on his puppy dog face, pushed out his pouty lip, and tried to manipulate me. Sure, it's cute and developmentally appropriate for a two year...the thing is, he's nine!
"You don't do that, Brandon! You don't try to manipulate people like that! Now, you definitely DON'T get to play any games! You know better!"
Shock...pain...tears. The sudden realization that, no, he doesn't know better. His mother does it to anyone who'll fall for it. He does it to her habitually. Sure, he doesn't get away with that at our house, but she has the advantage of quantity over quality. HE DOESN'T KNOW BETTER.
*sigh* Luckily for me, I learned rather early on in this parenting gig that saving face is not nearly as important as teaching appropriate behavior. So, I apologized and explained, within the realm of his ability to understand, why I got so upset and why what he did was wrong and why he will not get away with it at our house and I even recommended he not do that to his mother. Then, of course, he asked if this meant he could play his video games....no.
Being a step-parent is never easy. Nor is being a step-child. When two radically different households are involved we get more than our share of trouble. Maybe someday I'll learn how to bridge that gap. Maybe someday my husband and I will be able to teach Brandon the things he needs to know and appreciate so that he doesn't follow the same path as his older brother. Right now, I've just got to accept that Brandon really doesn't know what I think he should. The only way for that to change is for his father and I to teach him...without alienating him first. And, I also have to accept that as hard as this is for us, it's even more difficult for Brandon who has to live and try to function in these two radically different environments where, sadly, he doesn't always understand the rules.