I think I may be suffering from “nobody better mess with my baby” syndrome.
This weekend, Boyfriend 4.0 and I took the girls — his is 13, mine is 12 — to Dave & Buster’s for a little frenzied fun after I made them go on a boat tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s sprawling estate in Virginia. I love that kind of stuff. They don’t. So the trip to D&B was an equalizer.
They had just cashed in a million worthless tickets that yielded them a few pieces of piddly candy when Tween Princess asked me if she could eat one of her pixie sticks. I shut her down. She asked why. I think we went back and forth for a minute when my man abruptly snatched one of them out of her hand and ate it.
I was shocked, and Skylar’s face screamed pure preteen pissed-off-ness. She didn’t say anything — she knows better than to pop off to an adult regardless — but I know she was irked. And honestly, so was I.
I’ll call the blending of parenting styles an interesting dynamic. ‘Interesting’ is such a wimpy word. In most cases, when people use it, it’s a euphemism for something much stronger. Like when you see someone in a wool sweater in the summer, you say their outfit choice is ‘interesting’ (if you are in fact not trying to get your teeth knocked down your throat). Or if your dad decides to dye his hair jet black after being gray for 10 years, you tell him it’s ‘interesting’ when he asks you what you think.
But in this case, it really does fit. It really is interesting, like being in one of those life-sized mazes they cut into cornfields in the fall. It’s like weaving and turning through your own personal sociopsychological study.
First of all, our styles are going to be way different because he’s a man and I’m a woman and, for the most part, we’re naturally going to have different approaches to problems and situations. True to convention, I’m a talker-outer while he’s more introspective — and definitely a “what I say is final” kind of parent. I can be swayed with a good presentation and reasoning which, bless my poor baby’s heart, doesn’t happen that often. But it has happened.
The eating of the pixie stick apparently was his way of shutting down her ‘why’ asking, which he felt was unnecessary because I had already told her ‘no’ and explained why she couldn’t one time. It didn’t need to go any further than that, in his opinion, so to alleviate all of the chitter chatter about the offending object of her intention, he just ate it.
Now, if I couldn’t understand why he did it when it first happened, how in the world was a 12-year-old kid supposed to get the point? I didn’t see the light bulb go off over her head like, “ahhh, perhaps I pushed it too far. My mother did say ‘no’ once.” Instead, we just stood there, confused.
There are a thousand examples of how he and I handle the raising of our youngins completely differently. But there are a lot of similarities, too. We were both young parents and we’re both single parents, so we’ve shared a lot of the same sacrifices and maturity processes. I’ve gotta tell ya that that part is a blessing. To have someone understand what you’ve been through because they’ve been through it themselves is awesome, especially in male form.
Still, figuring out how to blend the households of a mega strong-willed single mother and a super stubborn single father — who both also happen to be only children who grew up having things go their way — is going to be what? Interesting. He thinks his way has produced what pretty much boils down to the perfect child. Of course he never came out and said as much, but I sense it.
The Harris machine is more than a little offbeat and scatterbrained, the antithesis of the well-oiled operation he’s got going on over there. We dance and skip around to the beat of our baseline, but that’s going to have to change if The Man and I decide to make it official. I’m hoping we do. And I’m hoping these almost years of dating will make the transition into a blended family as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Here’s to hoping.
Are you part of a blended family? How did you merge parenting styles?
Image via Generationbass.com/Flickr