I realize that my previous post “Equal Say, Equal Authority” probably came off a little harsh.  I know of bio-parents out there that would not allow me near their children because of my beliefs – that they believe that they, and they alone as the child’s bio-parent, has the duty and authority to discipline their child without any assistance from me.  That’s okay – I respect their feelings about it as well.  That is why I had the conversation with Hun about my feelings on the subject so early – somewhere around the 4th or 5th month of us dating.  Granted, circumstances forced me to confront my own beliefs when I did, but I knew it wouldn’t be good for ME to let the subject slide either.  I knew I would not be happy in a relationship if I was not allowed equal say in ALL aspects of our relationship – including interaction with any and all children.  On the flip side, I allow Hun equal say and authority in disciplining my son Buddy, so it’s not like I’m a “do as I say, not as I do” type of person.

Now that I’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, let me continue with my musings….

One of the next challenges in our relationship came with Hun actually acting like a “Disney Dad” – giving his kids what they wanted and giving into his kids to keep them happy.  For the most part, he kept it pretty mild.  After all, when we first got together, LaLa was 5, Buddy was 4, Rowdy was 3 and Monkey had just turned 1.  There’s not much kids can demand at that age to “keep them happy” – lots of love, playing, and interaction are mostly what kids that age want.  We were happy to oblige with these “demands”.

However, the one thing that drove me nuts happened on Friday nights when we would pick them up for Hun’s visitation every other weekend.  At this point in our relationship, we were living together – about 9 months after we started dating.  Due to Hun’s work schedule, we’d get there right at dinner time (which would infuriate Jetsam for some reason….) and take all of the kids out to eat at McDonald’s.  The restaurant wasn’t what upset me, but the events after we arrived would get to me every time.  We’d order the food, get the kids settled, they’d take two bites (if we were lucky) before declaring they were full and asking to go play.  The thing was though, Buddy knew he wasn’t allowed to play until dinner was eaten – so he’d still be sitting there eating, while Hun’s kids were off blissfully playing (well, not Monkey – she was too small to begin with, but you get the picture).  Buddy would finally get done and join the others on the playground. 

By the time we were ready to go, Hun’s kids wouldn’t eat any more food – even if we took it with us, Hun wouldn’t make them finish their meal.  We’d get home (a 30 minute drive) and suddenly the kids would be starving and ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – which Hun would make for them.

ARGH!!!

What is so hard about requesting the kids eat when it is dinner time???

Hun’s response to me was always the same – I only get to see my kids 6-8 days a month….I don’t want them mad at me during that time frame.

Okay.  I get that, I really do.  However, at what point are you going to actually say no to them?  When they’re 10?  14?  18?  When are you going to insist that they have things to do first before play happens?  When are you going to teach them to respect schedules and family time?  One of the things my family did growing up was eat dinner together and I wanted that same tradition carried over into my own family’s traditions.

I guess about 6 months into this routine (so we’d been together almost a year and a half at this point), Hun either started to notice what I was pointing out or was getting tired of hearing me complain (oh come on – I know it was the first choice!!  It couldn’t possibly be that he was tired of my harping!), and decided to try it my way.  He declared to the kids that we’d be eating dinner at McDonald’s like usual, but that playing on the playground wouldn’t happen if they didn’t eat at least half of their dinner first.  You can probably guess what happened.  Yep – two bites of dinner, declarations of being full, and the next 15-20 minutes of them begging and pleading with us to allow them to go play while Hun and I attempted to coax them to eat more.  The best part of that first attempt – Buddy actually got to go play before the others for the first time ever.

We let Buddy play as the others sat there looking at him longingly and finally instructed everyone to pack up, it was time to go.  Hun looked like he was going to be sick he was so stressed out by the whole ordeal.  Telling his kids, “Let’s go” without allowing them to play was so hard on him.  Not allowing them to eat PB&J sandwiches when we got home was his next challenge (again, they refused to eat the food we brought home with us).  Sending the kids to bed “hungry” was his third.  The kids had major melt-downs and it took forever to get them to go to sleep.  We argued that night about what a horrible parent the other was.

Two weeks later, the same scenario played out on Friday night.  Only, that time Hun and I didn’t get into any arguments afterwards – we knew what to expect.  Two weeks after that, the kids ate their dinner (the majority of it anyway) before asking to go play.  Wonder of wonders, that night Buddy wasn’t cooperating, refused to eat any of his dinner and wanted to go play with the other kids.  He didn’t get to go play.  The kids got to the house, didn’t ask for more to eat, and went to bed, bellies full, tired out and content. 

Hun was shocked that it only took a total of 3 visitation cycles to get to that point.  We still had instances of the kids trying to revert back to the old ways, but Hun realized it could be done and held firm.

During the timeframe that this was going on, Hun came home from work to tell me about something he heard on the radio.  The talking heads were commenting on raising children and one phrase stuck out to Hun, “Raise your kids, spoil your grandkids.  But – spoil your kids, raise your grandkids.”  He took the advice to heart and realized his actions – not following through with discipline – was going to hurt his kids in the long run if he wasn’t careful. 

At least he was absorbing the information from somewhere – even if it wasn’t entirely for me.

It’s been 10 years since we’ve gotten together and discipline is the one area that Hun still struggles with.  We’ve talked about why he’s like this and we’re working together to try and help him with his struggles.  I’m too Type-A to allow the necessary discipline to slide, so a lot of it falls to me – with Hun’s approval, support and authority to back me up.  With the big issues (Rowdy running away), I insist Hun step up and be the parent and take the lead. 

Recognizing the signs of a “Disney Dad” (or Mom) was step #3 in our journey of growth in blending our families.  Hun realizing and attempting to correct his ways (even if it’s still a struggle for him) was step #4.  As this entry is already longer than I prefer to post, I’ll wrap it up to say I’m getting to my failings and concessions in the next post. 

Stay tuned…..I don’t admit to my own faults often….

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