Monday, February 4, 2013

breaking all the (no)rules

Being a stepmom is like living inside a gigantic, doctorate-level text book - without an answer key. There's no cute professor with hipster glasses to give out sound advice (though there are plenty of people with less than a 3rd grade IQ that are happy to offer the unsolicited variety). There's no red buzzer going off if you make the wrong rule, or even a big green happy *ding ding* that goes off when you make the right one. Granted, this sentiment goes for parenting in general, but as a step parent, you're stuck juggling both sides of the equation. What would Mama Ex do? What would Hubs do? And, hey, what about what  I would like to do? Does that even matter? No text book in the world has the answers. 

(Trust me, if there was, Amazon would've jumped on it years ago.)

A stepmom has to make choices and rules using what knowledge she has at the time she has it. So, the question for today is this: Have you ever had to override a rule (or lack thereof) that your steps have at their mom's?

Let me explain what I mean. Some rules aren't created, they're just born our of necessity.  You live it every day without thinking about it, like breathing.

Example: After you eat a meal, wipe your mouth with a napkin.

Easy peasy. Not a YOU MUST DO THIS, but it's expected and understood.

Occasionally, the issue isn't rules, but a lack thereof. A NoRule, as I like to call it. A NoRule is something that would potentially be a set rule in most, say, average households, but doesn't apply in your home because you have chosen to make it a non-issue.

Example: Eating a totally healthy breakfast in our house every morning is a NoRule.

That's right. We will occasionally let the kids eat a cookie or a brownie with their breakfast.

*did someone just faint?*

(Calm down, really. Have you seen how many calories are in a Krispy Kreme? Let's not call Child Services just yet.)

Everybody has NoRules. It's part of the fun of being a grown up and letting your step kiddos get away with something that's a little taboo. But sometimes, a NoRule from Mama Ex's shows up in our house, and it directly conflicts with one of our "set in stone" rules. We may not notice right away. It could take weeks or months. Then one day, I walk by the bathroom as my SD exits and I'm all DID YOU JUST TAKE A POOP AND NOT WASH YOUR HANDS AFTERWARDS???

I mean, gross. 

I totally disagree with 90% of Mama Ex's NoRules. For example:

Neither of my step children (they are 9 and 12) have ever run a dishwasher. Paper plates are the way to go, Ruby. Get with it. *Washing the dishes is a NoRule.*

Neither of my step children particularly cares if they wear the same underwear three days in a row. Washing clothes is expensive, Ruby. Get with it. *Clean underwear is a NoRule*.

My step kids don't know how to vacuum, much less put awa a vacuum. Messes are the way to go, Ruby. Get with it. So our vacuum gets put away looking like this because *Tidiness in the utility closet is a NoRule.* And therefore our vacuum looks like this.

For the most part, Hubs and I can veto a Mama Ex NoRule lickety split. We often have the conversation with the kids that, look, we are clean in this house. Teeth brushed, underwear clean, floors clean, dishes clean. Deal with it. At Mama Ex's, you obviously don't have to brush your teeth. Over here? That dog won't hunt.

Last weekend, though, we hit a road block.

Bonus Daughters 1 and 2 are very, very quickly outgrowing their clothing at Mama Ex's. I don't mean outgrowing like, "my shoes are sort of tight." I mean outgrowing like, "I cut a hole in the tops of my shoes so my toes can hang over and DON'T THEY LOOK COOL?"

*Wearing clothes that fit has become a NoRule at Mama Ex's.*

A year ago, I would have just run out to Target and bought them new duds. After all, clothes fly back and forth between houses all the time; it's part of co-parenting. However, lately we've noticed a strange occurence. Let's say on Saturday we notice the girls need new pants. So we buy three new pairs of jeans/tights per kid and send them home to Mama Ex's, thus ensuring the kids aren't rocking the Salvation Army Chic look at school on Monday. But magically, the next time we pick up the girls for our parenting time, they're wearing the EXACT SAME Barbie sized clothes they wore the previous weekend.

Where did the new clothes go? Aren't new threads supposed to replace old ones? And aren't we paying a sizable amount of money each month to Mama Ex each month to assist her in buying clothes?

Something's amiss, yo.

Hubs and I are not okay with a nine year old sausaging herself into a 5T dress while a 12 year old is wearing her jeans as capri's in -8 degree weather. Both kids are at an age where how they dress and feel about themselves is increasingly important. Besides, when an otherwise fashionable kid suddenly shows up at school looking homeless, red flags go up. Teachers, principals, bus drivers...they notice these things. 

So, while it is clear that Mama Ex is using the kids to act out some sort of weird power play, I don't know how appropriate it is for us to give in. It's like we're in some weird game of Child Custody Chicken. Mama Ex is just seeing how long it takes to make us blink. 

Look, Hubs and I have the money to provide the girls nice clothes at both homes and Mama Ex knows it. But isn't this just setting the stage for future problems if we bend? On the other hand, if we don't bend, are we willing to watch the kids suffer knowing we have the power to do something about it? Where's the line? I don't want to spend my life with Mama Ex dangling the well-being of the kids out in front of us like a sadistic carrot. 

Mama Ex's NoRules are quickly becoming a corner we can't paint ourselves out of. Help, bloggies. Help, help, help.

And if you find that textbook that gives away all those step parenting answers, feel free to send it my way. 

What NoRules do you have at your house? What NoRules does your hubby's Ex allow that make you want to rip your hair out?



  1. We have the kids during the school week and they spend most weekend at their moms. The no rules at her house for the most part should be fun because its the weekend. No real bedtimes, snacking instead of full out meals, tv/cell/DS in bed that kind of thing. But when they come back to our house on a weeknight none of those things are allowed. It used to be a weekend vs weekday thing. Now it is a you are too strict, I deserve my privacy, yah yah just a minute. Their Friday/Sunday personalities are so different. Ugh we aren't sure who is coming back on Sunday we need them to go through some kind of Star Trek biofilter before they come in the door.

  2. Hubs and I say the same thing! We will say to each other before the girls arrive, "Which personality are we getting today?"

    It's always nice when it's the good one.