Tuesday, June 29, 2010


With this being "Independence Week" and all, freedom has been a topic of much debate and conversation in our home. My 13-year-old step-daughter feels we do not allow her enough freedom and claims that her biological mom (the "momster") allows her much more leeway during her custodial weeks.

While at our home on an every-other-week basis, my step-kids (ages 16, 13, and 11) are responsible for the following:
  • Bringing their dirty laundry from their upstairs bedrooms to our main floor laundry room and placing them in the correct hamper (whites, darks, or colors)
  • Collecting the clean laundry that their dad sorts and folds and hangs, and putting it away in their drawers or closets
  • Bringing their dirty dishes from the dining room to the dishwasher, and scraping leftover food into the compost bin
  • Occasionally empty the dishwasher. I'd say that my husband and I do this about 90% of the time; the kids do the rest
  • On a three week rotation, cleaning the bathroom that the three of them share. This means that every six calendar weeks they each have to clean up their own mess in the bathroom, as well as the mess left by their siblings.
  • Maintain a somewhat clean bedroom. We do expect the kids to not place wet towels on their bedroom carpets or leave food/beverages open in their rooms (to keep funky smells away).
That's it. Simple tasks that I feel are the basic minimum a person can do to keep their environment livable. My step-daughter; however, feels that this is asking too much. The momster has a cleaning service clean her home on a regular basis so the kids don't really have to do much of anything at her house. Hmmmm - I'd like to have a cleaning service, too, but we're already paying for the one at the momster's house, so we can't afford one of our own ;)

The past few weeks have been a struggle with my step-daughter. For some reason, although she has the utmost freedom to come and go (as long as she lets us know where she'll be), she feels that we're being too strict and mean. I honestly don't have a clue what she's referring to. The momster won't let her have a faceb*ok account (we allow it), the momster won't let her ride her bike farther than a couple of miles (we allow it), the momster won't let her stay home alone (we've allowed it for years), the momster won't let her attend high school sports activities (we allow it), and the momster won't let her wear a two-piece swimsuit (we allow it).

When I think about the things she's allowed to do at the momster's house but not here, I cannot think of anything except being totally lazy and not having to lift a finger and do any chores whatsoever. Which, by the way, I don't agree with at all. I think we're being a bit too lenient the way things currently are - the kids should be expected to help out around the house with chores like dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, etc...

Last night, my husband asked my step-daughter what rights she feels her biological mom offers her that we don't offer. She had nothing to say - not one example. So I have no idea what the issue is. She maintains that she doesn't like being here because we're mean, and that her mom is so much nicer than we are. All I can think is that she has a different mom than the one I've known for years - she certainly isn't talking about the momster.

To make matters worse, we've been invited to spend this weekend with another family at their cabin. The other couple has two daughters (ages 10 and 8) and my step-daughter is adamant that she will not hang out with kids all weekend. I have a feeling if we end up bringing her with us, she will make everyone's weekend miserable. Although we've had this trip to the cabin planned for over two months, she made plans last week to spend this upcoming weekend with a friend and her friend's family.

Part of me wants to let her go with her friend, but another part wants to make her come with us. We planned this as a family - we were invited and accepted an invitation from our friends - and for almost all of the other weekends during the year, my step-daughter is free to do what she wants and hang out with her friends when/where she wants. This is a family weekend and it's important that we don't set a precedence to let her know that when she throws a fit (literally bawling and yelling and acting like a two-year-old last night) she will get her way.

I'll be sure to let you know what we figure out. I have a feeling that I'll be needing a cold beverage and a day on the lake soon!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Profanity Insanity

Today marks the start of another step-mom week for me. Last week, my husband was out of town for work and I had a "single gal" week. Not exactly my ideal situation, but I did enjoy certain aspects of it. Nobody to consider but me; can't complain about that!

My 13-year-old stepdaughter recently told us she would like to spend the entire summer living with her biological mom (who lives about 8 miles away from my husband and me), instead of spending every other week with us in our home. My husband told her this was not an option and that we are not going to alter custody arrangements. I agree with him; we are not going to change our schedule (and potentially increase child support payments - which are already substantial) just to please a teenager. And as we all know, you can't really please a teenager anyway.

For as long as I've known him, my husband has had a rule - cussing/swearing/inappropriate language is not appropriate or tolerated in our home. We do not use this language and we expect that his children follow suit. It's not that we feel they aren't mature enough or free enough to express themselves using such language; it's simply that both my husband and I feel that swear words demonstrate a lack of intelligence. Therefore, we have a rule: "If we say it, you can say it", and it's been strictly upheld.

...until this week.

My step-daughter is allowed to have a faceb*ok account at our home; something her biological mom does not allow any of her children to have. I don't agree with the bio-mom's prohibition of faceb*ok, but I do respect her wishes. However, during our custodial weeks, my husband and I allow his two oldest children (ages 16 and 13) to use faceb*ok as a way to socialize with their friends. There are a few rules:
  • Appropriate behavior/language is essential
  • No using this service after 10pm on school nights
  • Homework and chores must be finished before the child(ren) access faceb*ok
  • My husband and I must have access to everything the children do/say on their and their friends pages
That's it. Simple, straightforward rules (and nothing too outlandish or controlling, if you ask me). Since I use faceb*ok more frequently than my husband, I tend to be the parent monitor the my step-kids' use of this site to ensure they are being responsible and they deserve the permissions they've been granted.

Last week, my stepdaughter posted on a friend's faceb*ok thread, and for some reason (although I can't determine the reasoning from the context of everyone's messages), she decided to post "f*ck you" on faceb*ok. I saw this, and brought it to my husband's attention. I didn't handle it or address it beyond that, but I did want him to know that his rules were being disrespected.

Tonight, at the start of our custody week, my husband told my step-daughter that he was not pleased with what she wrote, and that it was very inappropriate for her to use that language. She instantly became defensive and argumentative. I stayed out of the conversation, but observed her becoming increasingly upset and argumentative.

The bottom line: she feels she's not given enough "freedom" here to express herself and use whatever language she sees fit, and her biological mom gives her that freedom. She wants to live with her mom so she can be free to act how she wants.

Keep in mind, this is the same biological mom who allowed no freedom for this teenager to even access faceb*ok; the same woman who won't let her 13-year-old daughter to attend high school sports/functions because she's not truly a "high schooler"... it is obvious to me that we're dealing with a girl who will always see the grass as greener on the other side.

What to do? Do we hold to our values and expect her to do the same? My husband is adamant that his daughter not be allowed to live full-time with her biological mother. I agree that she's making a purely emotional/hasty request. However, part of me wants to see her move in with her mom full-time. Knowing the biological mom as I do, I have a feeling this will backfire in a matter of weeks (if not days). I'd really be curious to see how that would play out.

We're scheduled to vacation with another family over this 4th of July weekend, and my step-daughter is incredibly upset that we're making her participate in this family event, when she's been invited to another friend's house to spend the weekend. I'm absolutely dreading her attitude and the horrible demeanor she's sure to bring with us on our pleasant weekend; not to mention how she could ruin the other family's vacation.

Please say a prayer she's on her best behavior - for everyone involved.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Schedule for the Summer

It's been decided that my step-kids will be spending their summer days at their biological mom's house.

My 16-year-old and 11-year-old step-sons didn't have much of an opinion either way, so it was up to my 13-year-old step-daughter to decide where they'd spend their days. She chose their mom's house, so that will be the plan for all three kids. Their bio-mom (the "momster") lives about 8.5 miles from our home, so instead of having them bike to the momster's house every day, my husband said he'd keep their bikes locked up at his office, which is only about 3.5 miles from the momster's house. The kids can ride to work with my husband every morning and pick up their bikes, then bike the 3.5 miles to their mom's house. In the afternoons, they can bike back to his office and ride home with him.

It's actually easier/faster to have the kids bike to their mom's house from his office than it is for him to bring the kids there in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. The commute to the momster's house is horrible and takes around 30 minutes per trip, due to traffic and congestion.

The boys (who didn't have an opinion about where they spent their summers, and therefore deferred to their sister to make the decision), are a-ok with biking the 3.5 miles to their mom's house. My step-daughter is absolutely livid that we expect her to actually bike anywhere this summer. The moment the plan was determined, she called her mom and started crying and complaining about how horrible my husband (her dad) is for making her bike.

Biking a total of 7 miles a day every other week as a 13-year-old is not what I would consider to be cruel or unusual. In fact, when I was 13 years old, I willingly rode my bike upwards of 10 miles each day because I thought it was fun, and my bike was the key to my independence.

Nonetheless, my step-daughter feels differently. I think she will forever be one of those people with a victim mentality. Everything happens to her and nothing is ever her fault. She has been incapable of considering anybody but herself for as long as I've known her, and it's frustrating to see her become more and more vocal about her dissatisfaction with each and every part of her life.

She told my husband earlier this week that she'll just live at her mom's house all summer instead of having to bike back & forth to his office. She'd rather not see her dad for the summer than have to pedal a bike for a half hour every other week. Of course, she does not get to make the choice to live with one parent or the other. Believe me, if she could make that choice, she'd be flip-flopping between houses every other week, like she already does under the legal custody arrangement. Every time one of her parents did something that wasn't favorable, she'd pack up her stuff and move houses; that's just how she operates.

In any case, it's been settled. For the summer, the plan will continue as my husband laid out. The kids will bike from his office every morning, and will bike back to his office every afternoon. Of course, when it rains, he'll go out of his way to bring them to the momster's house and/or pick them up.

I'm glad this issue has been settled! We'll see what happens next summer - it's always an adventure.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Vacation

It's been a while since I've written anything, and there hasn't been too much going on in my step-momming world lately.

School ended just over a week ago, and we're ready to start another summer. I'm not quite sure what our schedule will be like for the next few months. My oldest step-son (age 16) landed a job teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding at a local pool. My 13-year-old step-daughter has hopes of sleeping in, sitting on her butt, and being as lazy as humanly possible until early September. And my 11-year-old step-son will be participating in a summer soccer program for the fourth summer in a row. Although his mom won't be bringing him, she will allow him to bike to/from practices and games during her custodial weeks. It's a 6-mile bike ride through town, but he's willing to do it, so it all worked out for him.

The big question for now is how the kids will be spending their days during our custody weeks this summer. I work from home full-time, which involves a lot phone calls/conference calls, and a heavy workload. Last summer, the kids chose to stay here during the day, and they were horribly bored. Without something constructive to occupy their time, they logged numerous hours playing video games, sitting on their butts, facebooking, and arguing with one another.

I don't want a repeat of last summer. It was difficult to have them here, making messes, begging to have friends over (although they knew I had to work, and had to have relative quiet during my office hours), and fighting. This summer, they have yet to decide what they will do during their days with us. Either they can be dropped off at their biological mom's house every day, where they have access to an outdoor pool and have friends nearby, or they can stay here and figure out something to occupy their time.

I have absolutely no say in what they do, which is frustrating. After all, it greatly affects my ability to work effectively from home. I can't handle doors slamming, shouting, screaming, singing at the tops of lungs, movies played at top volume, etc... Of course, I can continually remind them to keep the noise level to a minimum, but reminding soon becomes nagging, and then I'm the "bad guy" for ruining their fun.

Anyway, I will soon know how things will shake out. My fingers are crossed that if the kids choose to stay here every day, they are able to co-exist with me as well as with each other.

Here's hoping the next three months go smoothly!