Thanks so much to all of you for your recent comments about what it means to let a boyfriend or girlfriend step in and discipline. Your feedback has inspired some very LONG, thoughtful conversations between LG and me. This is good stuff!
Your comments also encouraged more dialogue at the Boston Globe: writer Lylah Alphonse — a mom and step-mom to five kids — wrote her own post at Boston.com from the perspective of a step mom.
“I think the answer depends on how you define ‘discipline,’ ” Lylah says.
“In my case, I was (and am) comfortable with sending the big kids to their rooms. I’ll correct manners, enforce our household rules, separate squabbling siblings, set time outs, revoke privileges…but if harsher punishment needs to be meted out when my step kids are with us, it seems like that should be up to their dad because, well, he’s their dad. I’ll back him up, I’ll support his decision, but the decision is still his, not mine.”
She also says that there’s a big gender gap with it comes to step-parents: “Step dads are often lauded as heroes for ‘saving’ the single mom in distress and ‘taking on’ her kids; few people blink if a step dad has to lay down the law.”
“Step moms, though? Our authority is always in question, if not by the kids, then by other adults. I think there are far fewer single dads out there wondering if their girlfriends should have a hand in disciplining the kids.”
Reading Lylah’s post sure makes me pause — and think hard. Sometimes I’m so enmeshed in this single mom identity that I forget about how it might feel to be on “the other side.”
Of course, LG is not a step-father — but he’s also more than a guy I’m dating. Maybe for the first time ever, I feel like I’ve met a man who’s here to stay.
LG has told with me how unsure he feels sometimes, too. This is the first time he has seriously dated a single mom. And, of course, this all has my very own Aunt Marge chiming in again:
“Give LG a chance to express to you where he is/is not comfortable in these situations.” (Thanks Marge!)
As we all grow closer, we each have lapses of insecurity. On a good day, our insecurities don’t come out at the same time. My daughter has them, too. She’s very good at communicating to me when she feels jealous — or excluded. I’m so grateful she has the words to talk about her feelings.
But no matter what — when you get beyond all the manner and rules, time outs and revoked privileges — I hope that we can all remember this:
As LG spends more time with us, our love does grow. When the three of us are together, I feel like we’re making space for all of us. As my love gets bigger, so does my daughter’s — and so does his. It is possible that this is just going to get bigger and bigger?
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