A post by dailyrumblings, titled Is Tough Love Passé?” has had me thinking for several weeks now.  Take a moment to read her post and the comments, mine is one of the last (don’t worry, there’s not too many)…go ahead…I’ll wait right here for you.

Now that you’re back, I’m going to try and share my own thoughts on the matter.  Along with the entire post, this part of her response to my comment is what has gotten me to thinking: The “guilty-divorced-dad syndrome” is an excellent way to phrase this phenomenon – it is frustrating for a step parent, especially one who doesn’t have their own children, to fully comprehend. I understand the guilt – what I can’t grasp is why they can’t see it for what it is and understand that it is not good for their children.

I can’t answer her request for help in overcoming the “guilty-divorced-dad syndrome” or otherwise known as a “Disney Dad” – I’m not a dad, nor did I have any guilt in my first marriage ending in divorce.  Okay, that’s a HUGE lie, I felt horribly guilty because the marriage ended and I broke what I thought was a sacred vow, but I got over that pretty quickly.  I did feel horrible for my son not getting to see his father (Flotsam) as regularly as I would have preferred, but I soon realized that the failure of visitation was solely on Flotsam’s shoulders, not mine.  I have asked Hun why he changed his way of thinking, but he couldn’t answer my questions either.

Anyway, back to how Hun and I navigated the waterways during his separation, divorce and blending of our families.

While Hun and I were first dating and after we had started spending time with all of our kids together, there was an incident late one night where Hun had to run to the store for milk and cereal, leaving me at his apartment with all 4 kids.  LaLa was probably around 5 years old, Buddy would have been 4, Rowdy 3 (and already asleep), and Monkey was only 1 (also asleep).  Hun lived in an upstairs apartment, with the unit below him empty.  LaLa and Buddy were winding themselves up like only little kids can instead of settling down to rest while watching a movie.  I had put them both in time out several times for jumping on the furniture, but it just wasn’t working with them, so – frustrated – I gave them each a light pop on the bottom, turned off the movie and got them into bed.  Neither of them cried, nor did I hear another peep out of them and once Hun got back, they were both already asleep.  I told Hun about what happened, including the “spank” to his daughter and my son, and that was that.  Hun had no issue with what I had done at the time it happened.

Until Hun took his kids back to Jetsam’s house 2 days later.  LaLa basically tattled on me to her mom and Jetsam in turn called Hun to yell at him for his girlfriend “beating” their daughter.  Hun in turn called me up to “scold” me for what I had done to his daughter.  He insisted that I needed to wait for any disciple actions until he could arrive to follow through himself.  Confused at the conversation because of lack of the incident being an issue at the time it happened, I agreed with Hun that I wouldn’t do that again and would wait on him for any future discipline actions.

I thought about that phone call overnight and decided that the conversation just didn’t sit well with me.  I called Hun back and told him that if we were going to be a couple, more than just casual dating (which is what he wanted at the time – he told me he loved me WAY before I was comfortable telling him the same), then I had to have equal say in discipline.  That I would not be in a relationship where the kids knew I had no authority over them.  That kids should be taught to respect the adults around them and that couldn’t happen if my hands were tied if they were acting up in my presence.  I said that if he didn’t agree with spankings, I was fine with that, but I had to have equal say in what the discipline was and the authority to dish it out – otherwise, we were through as a serious couple.  Oh, and by the way, this conversation should have happened the night the incident happened, not after his Ex called him up telling him how horrible of a person I was.  That if he couldn’t stand up for me to his Ex and his children, our relationship was doomed as well.  I wasn’t going to back down or accept any more conversations like the one we had the night before.

Hun quickly decided that I needed to have equal say and equal authority, he saw the wisdom in my words.  Smart man.

I realize that this equal authority over the kids in a blended family goes against a lot written out there about step-families and about step-parents in particular, “Not your kid, not your problem – let the bio-parent handle the discipline”.  As you can see, I can’t accept that mantra.  This is my family, my house, my kids.  I don’t care if I didn’t give birth to them.  Would anyone have the gall to tell adoptive parents that they do not have the right to discipline their adopted child(ren)? 

Why is it okay to tell step-parents that they have no say, no input, no rights?  Why are we the villains? 

I have no answer to these questions either, only how I feel on the subject – that it is just not right.

In exploring this theme, I’m realizing as I’m typing that it’s multi-leveled.  That there were several steps in getting Hun’s and mine relationship to where it is today.  Asserting my rights as a “co-parent” was step #1.  I think Hun acknowledging my role as an equal co-parent was step #2.  There are more steps that happened along the way that I would like to explore more….

Stay tuned…..

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