I’ve been working through some personal issues as you may have noticed.  Between an insane work schedule, kids struggling with teenage life, a husband out of work and under-employed, and with piles of debt looming, my own personal depression and struggles have been placed on the back-burners.  I’m working through my issues slowly through counseling.

That counseling is what I want to talk about right now, but not mine.  Monkey’s counselor requested a meeting with me so she could get another perspective on what’s going on with her. Or, so I thought.  That appointment was today and we spent about 10 minutes of the 45 minute appointment talking about Monkey.  The counselor then went into the next 20 minutes about what I needed to do to keep myself centered, sane and regulated to the back-burner of the family as a step-parent.

Ummm….what?

She told me she had great respect for me and the monumental task I’ve taken on with the step family, but that the standard train of thought counselors had of step-families was that I wasn’t the parent and I needed to step back and let the bio-parent(s) take over.  That I needed to have “me” time without the family and only focus on myself; get out and exercise, take a walk, take up a hobby – anything that didn’t involve anyone else in the family.

The last 10 minutes or so of the appointment involved the counselor attempting to get Monkey to talk in front of me.  I could have told her upfront that Monkey would remain closed-lipped.

I spent the rest of the day mulling over the conversation.  The more I thought about it, the more upset I became.

This counselor has only talked to Monkey, a 14 year old girl who has, among other things – abandonment issues, lack of self-esteem, and the mistaken belief that she is not wanted by her parents.  She, the counselor, knows little of the history regarding how Monkey’s come to have these issues.  I enlightened her on some of them today – she even commented that she hadn’t heard any of this before I mentioned it, that Monkey probably isn’t even aware herself of the issues I mentioned.

Now, I have no idea why this counselor felt the need to spend the appointment informing me what I needed to be doing in the family.  I can only speculate that she’s basing her opinion on things Monkey has said to her.

But the thing that really got to me was the statement, “Let the bio-parent/dad, take care of the discipline; you stay out of it.”  The marriage counselor Hun and I have been seeing has said the same thing.  The counselor today even went so far as to say, “The current thought among counselors in step-family situations is that the bio-parent should always handle the discipline.  Even if the bio-parent is lax, let them handle it.  Step back and let them handle it.”

I cannot wrap my mind around that statement.

If this was standard marriage counseling and the husband and wife were complaining that one was too easy on their bio-kids and the other was too strict, the counselor would be encouraging and teaching them ways to compromise and meet in the middle.

Why is a step-parent not worthy of this same consideration?  Just because they weren’t the sperm-donor or squirted the kid out of a vagina, they shouldn’t have equal say and authority in the household?

That doesn’t work for me.  It’s insulting and it’s wrong.

Take this concept a step further.

How do we expect kids to act in a classroom?  We expect them to listen, learn and respect the authority of the teacher.  The teacher has authority over their classroom while the children are in class.  If a child acts up in class, the teacher assigns a consequence or discipline – detention, sent to the principal, etc.  Now what would happen if we told the teacher, “You are not their parent, you cannot handle the discipline; you must wait until the parent comes to handle it”?  That’s an absurd concept – but one that is happening increasingly across our nation.

So how is that working out for us?

Taking the concept back to the blended/step-family – if we allow a teacher to have authority in their classroom to help instruct the children, why are step-parents not allowed the same authority in the household?

Would a counselor tell an adoptive parent – “sorry, you didn’t give birth to that child; you can’t discipline them, that’s their parents’ job.”  I sure hope not!!

Now, I realize that there are probably parents, both bio and step, reading my blog that strongly disagree with me.  That’s fine.  We don’t have to agree on this.  I’m not in your family and you’re not in mine.

In my family, I believe I should have equal say in how the children are treated.  How many blended-families have we heard about where the children were not treated equal because one parent didn’t insist on equal treatment of the kids from the other, non bio-parent, adult?  We hear of favoritism of bio-kids over the step-kids.  We hear of harsh discipline handed out to the step-kids, but none handed down to the bio-kids.  The reason why so many people relate to the “poor orphaned” or “poor step-child” in fairy tales is because we can all recount stories where the “evil step-parent” character was based in real-life.

But that needs to change.

Just because I didn’t give birth to three of the kids living in my house, doesn’t mean I don’t love them with all of my heart.  I refuse to be relegated to the back-burner in my family just because of “current thoughts among counselors”.

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