The real-talk kind of mom.

I’m not in the parenting business to make friends, and I am okay not doing what other parents do. My children need to know that sometimes the right thing, is not what Susie and everyone else is doing. Sometimes the right thing is the least cool thing to do.

Personally, I envision my children as adults rather regularly, and some of those days are full of confidence and some of those days are frightening! I mean, let’s be honest here. Gage can cook a full meal, yet become annoyed with the task of sweeping the hallway. Cole loves to be in the mix with adults and young children, yet making him go outside and play with friends his own age – can literally open Pandora’s box. And, Gracie, she can basically do anything, and do it well, like really well – but failure, making mistakes, not understanding something, will throw her into a tailspin.

They may be teenagers today, but I’m raising more than that, I’m raising someone’s future spouse, parent, employee, friend etc. And, sometimes I think that our job in preparing them for success in these areas is forgotten.

Uncomfortable or not, I answer their questions.

The first time Gage asked as he giggled from the backseat if I liked hot dogs or tacos when he was younger, or when Gracie asked what rape was, I learned to be prepared to be uncomfortable. Gracie and Gage are two years apart, and their questions kept me (still, actually) on my toes. Some were silly, some were good, some were completely inappropriate, some I didn’t know and had to research, and some were embarrassing to answer, and took an act of god in keeping my composure. But, I did it because if they were comfortable enough to come to me and ask the question, there was a reason they were, and I had better be comfortable enough to answer it, honestly. Trust me, three teenagers keep the questions ever flowing and super awkward.

We talk about everything – ev-er-y-thing!

When Matt and Cole moved in, they didn’t talk about anything, and I do mean anything. The first time Gracie talked about her period, Matt was squirming and unsure if he should run out the door, or throw up. It was hilarious because for us it was second nature. Cole had at one point made a flippant comment about being among the kids in the world with one testicle. Matt laughed it off and told him he had two testicles, and they went on about their day. Literally, went on like nothing. I was in shock, telling him he needed to check, do something, but he swore he was certain he had two testicles. In his defense I remember that Gage had two testicles from changing his diapers, and that super awkward moment when he was two or three years old and called me in during bath time to inquire as to what that dot was between his legs – it was just a mole. It was also the last time I saw that area, thank goodness! But, I could see how seeing it once would make you assume it was still the same.

Now, while Cole is now every bit my son, then the idea of asking him to drop trou so his stepmom could investigate his nether regions was not appealing to either of us and he adamantly refused to let his dad. So… with football coming up and his need for a sports physical – I did what every other mom not wanting to see that region does, I took him to our pediatrician! One uncomfortable appointment with the pediatrician later, led to an even more uncomfortable visit to a urologist, and then a subsequent surgery retrieving an undescended testicle. You want to guess who talks to me about everything now? Yep, you guessed it, Cole! And, Matt too actually.

I think before saying: “You’re only a child, you don’t know.”

In my childhood home you were raised to be seen, not heard, to be pleasant not pretentious and that respect was given, not earned. Like with most traditional norms in your family that you were raised with and despised, you counteract those in your own family life. Some households may see that as not requiring vegetables, I on the other hand require open communication. The words “you’re only a child, you don’t know, or “you are too young to understand” will never leave my mouth. Because, I wasn’t too young to understand a lot of things, and even as a child, your mind still processes feelings, and emotions such as self-worth, love and acceptance.

I’m not their mom, I’m your mom.

What Susie’s parents let her do doesn’t matter to me, aside from possibly encouraging that friendship to continue. I’m not in the parenting business to make friends, and I am okay not doing what other parents do. My children need to know that sometimes the right thing, is not what Susie and everyone else is doing. Sometimes the right thing is the least cool thing to do. It’s not going to a party where everyone will be drinking, or where a parent allows that. Sometimes, it won’t be extending a curfew just because a friends parent did. This is teaching them that it is okay to be and do different, that going with the crowd isn’t always going to be beneficial, and that thinking for their self is more important than what others think of them.

I actively choose to give them a voice.

You’ve heard the saying “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, my dad is going to kill me if he finds out” and “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, I need to call my dad” well, I could never call my dad – and I refused to let my children down by continuing that as a mother myself. That is a priority in our relationship, confidence in them knowing I’m always a call away, no matter the situation.

We as parents learn something new every day, so how does it make sense to think that while raising our children we aren’t raising ourselves as well? I try to not suppress their voice, in fact I encourage it.

Open dialogue builds confidence. I’ve never been the type of parent who thinks I know more even when I think I may. Giving them the floor so to speak and allowing them to share what is on their mind, in their hearts, in a safe environment – is colossal in developing confidence. This voice will be what protects them, asserts them, what lands that job, what saves a life, what defends themselves or a friend, what talks someone out of a bad situation and most importantly the very voice that empowers and speaks love to themselves throughout their life.

I Pick my battles.

My husband loves many things about me, but this is not one. Picking my battles and saying yes more than no, are two things he and I differ on greatly. He is a “no” first kind of parent – he even said no to the boys to going to youth group once, before he realized what they had asked. We joke that if he were offered a million dollars, he would say no without even thinking because it’s like second nature to him.

I try for the most part to live with a motto of “I say yes, unless there is a reason to say no” and it has worked. This halts a majority of lying, it fosters respect and communication, and it teaches trust. When Cole first came to live with us, I said the words “I can’t stand up for you, if I can’t trust you, and I can’t say yes to you, if you’re showing reasons I should say no” until I was blue in the face and it has changed his ways almost completely. The little things can add up, and the big things can seem so minor when you break them down. So, I’ve learned to pick and choose what battles are necessary and why I am saying no instead yes. If I am saying no just because I can, it is the wrong answer. In my opinion the more we say yes in situations, the more opportunity we have for communication, lessons, mistakes etc.

I don’t hide all my mistakes or hardships.

It is essential that our children know that we make mistakes, that we do not have everything figured out and that sometimes in life things go badly. This is where they see you work through those hard times. Especially if your mistake is with them, they need to see you take responsibility of that, to not let pride keep you from being an example. Taking ownership, compassion and making amends are key factors to healthy relationships. You are who they will mimic when life gets difficult. If all your children ever see is sunshine and roses, what are they going to do when it rains, and that flower dies? They won’t just be ill prepared for the real word, but chances are they’ll feel like their childhood was a lie.

Parents who tell their children, “do as I say, not as I do,” aren’t giving their children enough credit. Children, especially teens still see, still know and still will most likely do as you did because that is natural. You can’t say don’t, then do it, and expect them to simply listen. That is where communication comes in, the “why” before the mistake is sometimes the magical deterrent. Also, personalizing the mistake, showing them that all humans makes mistakes, and that nobody is perfect, helps too. There is great power in saying I did this…, and this happened…, it was bad because…, I wish I hadn’t because it cost this… or caused this…, so when I say don’t – it is because I don’t want that to happen to you. You’ll have much better odds that way, versus just saying “because I said so.”

Religion vs. Relationship with God.

The greatest blessing of my childhood was being taught about God. As you become older and see the bigger picture in life you also see that all the answers you need are in the bible. Being raised catholic left a bad taste in my mouth in that not all things made sense, and being forced to believe what my family believed didn’t feel right, so I made a goal to not force a religion but instead introduce a relationship with God.

Going to church now more regularly, when they are old enough to understand what a relationship with God means is important, it shows that someones struggles may not make sense to us, or be visible to us, but that we still love them without judgment, just as God does us. It shows that we will have difficult times, but we are never alone. They are old enough now to ask questions, to put his scriptures into daily life and to see what true forgiveness means. That God, forgiveness and love all are part of the bigger plan.

Age appropriate responsibility.

Teens right now get drunk to hang out and have fun, have sex to be accepted and do drugs to numb and escape life. I want my kids to see that you can have fun without having a drink. That sex is more than how to “feel” loved and to live a life that never needs to be numbed or escaped. Their life can already be difficult with a variety of outside factors, but adding in these variables, only causes worse situations. There are reasons you get a license at sixteen, it is to get to a job. There is a reason you can’t drink until twenty-one, it allows brain development. And, there is a reason you wait to have sex until you’re married, because it creates an emotional and mental connection, it seals a covenant and promise and because it causes children!

Do I think that my children will wait until they are 21 to have their first drink, or until marriage to have sex? The drinking – no, but will I try and explain the importance of why they should until I am blue in the face? Yes. Teens these days are in a rush for everything which takes away the excitement. If you drive at twelve, what fun is sixteen? If you drink at fourteen, what fun is twenty-one? If you have sex at sixteen, and meet the man/woman of your dreams at nineteen, what are you giving them that is just theirs? With age becomes responsibility and if we rush these, the lessons are nullified in a sense. It is okay to hold hands before you kiss, to practice before you excel and to take small steps before a giant leap.

A fresh (step)parent perspective.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

Have you ever felt like blending your family isn’t possible? Or, that being a stepparent is too much work for you to take on alone? That failing is your new favorite pastime and honestly you are unsure what or who you are even fighting for? Do you question if you have what it takes to be a stepparent? If your answer to any of these are yes, then know there is hope. Being a stepparent has days, months and even years where you are and will be tested and pushed. But, when you’re able to see past the step, and only see the parent, those rough days become more and more manageable.

When my husband and I blended our family seven years ago, it was rough. We’d both been divorced more than once before. We both had children and very different parenting styles. (We still have different parenting styles) There were days I was angry, days I cried, days I wanted to give up and say “no this is not my problem or my job” and truthfully a good reason behind dating for so long, well that and our failed marriages.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

When Cole first came into the mix he was struggling in school, and as harsh as it sounds it was a huge cause of friction in our home. When you blend children who’s parents have different expectations or even the lack of, it can rock even the most sturdiest of ships. Gracie and Gage were expected to come home right after school, homework was done first, playing was second. Cole had his own idea of how it should be done, which was not at all. And, to be honest there were days, weeks and months that felt like the only person in the entire universe who cared about his education, was me, and it was exhausting. My husband and I fought, the school and I fought and Cole and I fought. It was awful.

School nights consisted of tears, frustration, too many erasers and both of us going to bed defeated. Cole did not have confidence in his work or himself. Sports were his priority, and schooling was mine. It didn’t take long before I saw things differently. One of the great blessings of being a stepparent is you see things from a different perspective from your spouse who is more intimately connected to situations with their child. You are a fresh view, and that’s a blessing. I could see Cole was capable of much more than he was letting on, I could see he knew more but something was holding him back AND, I could also see how at times he was working both the school and my husband.

Admitting that you need help or that your child needs help, is no easy feat for some. With that in mind, imagine how it felt for me trying to persuade my husband into understanding (his son), our son needed help. Ours, was not a word he heard, he only heard, his, help, and failing. It was as if I was telling him Cole was damaged and it was his fault. He was against it all. Cole’s hesitance at least made sense because kids can be awful to anyone who learns differently, and he knew that. But, after my incessant pleas, we eventually approached the school about getting him into an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Coming from a place where I wasn’t directly or personally connected to a false sense of ownership, I could see this was a need not a fault, and it was in his best interest and would help him. And, luckily the school agreed.

The days of missing assignments, lies about homework, bad report cards, all the times Cole would say “I don’t know”, “I’m confused” or “I’m just dumb” were enough for all three of us to want to give up and run in separate directions. There were days I would go to work and cry because I was so frustrated, and felt like it would never change or get better. But, it did change. IT GOT BETTER. SO MUCH BETTER. The school has been incredibly instrumental and supportive along the way.

Cole was now not only getting the help he needed, but it fed his confidence and made him see he was capable of more, he did know more and understood more. He just needed to be expected to try by us, and then taught how to do things in a new way at school until eventually it all clicked. He will be a freshman next year and has all A’s and B’s this year so far. He had all D’s and F’s…even in PE. That’s how I knew this little turkey was capable of much more!

My point to this is, it may not be school you’re struggling with, and it may not be homework that your crying at work about. But whatever it is, if it’s going to benefit your child/stepchild, don’t quit advocating for it, even if it is with your spouse. The day you committed to your spouse, you committed to being a parent who looks out for and fights for the best interest of your children as a whole. You may start off as a fresh stepparent with no idea of how to parent differently than you did before blending your families. But, being new and fresh is a hidden gift in itself. You are a fresh set of eyes, ears and a fresh heart even, which is necessary when your new family may come with broken or bruised ones.

When I talked to Cole’s teacher the morning of our annual meeting she said somethings to me I will never forget, “He had such great things to say about you. He talks about you a lot and even shared you’re writing a book, he’s very proud of you, so you should know you’re doing great!” Yes, my little kiddo who used to battle me on everything was PROUD OF ME! It did feel great to know that as he’s making me proud, I’m making him proud too! And, I’m (just) his (Step)mom “technically”… So don’t think that restricts you from wanting and being more or doing better for your kiddos.

Keep fighting and love until it’s natural, you’ll be glad you did!

– Jess

Six friends we all have.

I see you on YouTube figuring out how to fix your cars, your appliances, and reading empowerment quotes to boost yourself. You are TOUGH. You show the world you got this. But, in your free “few” minutes when you take a shower, you cry, you crumble, and you are not feeling so tough.


I support you.

When was the last time someone stopped you, looked you in the eyes and I said, I support you? I’m willing to bet it has been a long while. It’s overdue and you need to know you are supported.

I also believe in you.

When was the last time you felt that someone truly believed in you? That they had your back without judgment or something to gain? Continue reading “Six friends we all have.”

Five stepfamily myths – busted!

  bustedMyths:

∗Don’t be a Mom, be their friend
∗Don’t be the disciplinarian
∗Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave
∗It is easier without the other parents involvement.
∗You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.

Chances are, if you are a stepparent, you’ve had these said to you by either a successful stepparent whose life is perfect – and possibly lives in denial, a family member or worse; your own friends. Here are five common myths, and tips to prevail.

#1 Don’t be their Mom, be their friend.
It was about a few months in when a friend of my significant other muttered this very statement. It was followed up by “He already has aunts, grandma, and me, he doesn’t need anyone else.” Those words are as fresh in my mind as the day she spoke them. What I should have said was this: Last time I checked, his mother hasn’t been in his life for years. Furthermore, Aunts are aunts, Grandmas are grandma’s and you are a friend. Therefore, looks like the Mom position is currently vacant, so I am just going to go right ahead and slip into whatever role his father and I choose. Instead of course I sat there with the deer in the headlights stare, and a broken heart. This is solely a decision that is left up to the people who it effects, your spouse, your stepchild and yourself. 

#2 Don’t be the disciplinarian.
Okay, let me get this straight, what you are saying is that if the child misbehaves with me, I need to wait until his father comes home to rectify that? Or, if I see him misbehaving even when his father is home, I am supposed to run to his father and tattle that he is doing something wrong and make him deal with it? Whoa honey, no freaking way! Sorry, not happening, uh uh. NO.  Allow me to explain why in two reasons. First, respect is built by setting expectations and firm foundations, and allowing the go around or discipline to doled about by someone else, is less effective. That simply permits the child to be disrespectful and to misbehave until dad gets home. And, the second reason is, have you ever asked your husband to take the garbage out…. it can take days!! Discipline needs to be done in the moment, direct, and efficient for it to work.

#3 Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave.
When venting to friends about the difficulties in blended families, and building a relationship with your stepchild you hear the difference in responses when the conversation of ill behaviors arise. When you are talking about your biological childs misbehavior to another parent the responses are “Oh yep they get bitchy when their periods are coming” Or, “Oh, I would have spanked her ass, and grounded her until she was 16!” But, not with stepchildren. Those responses are “Oh, she must be going through a lot. You need to love her through this phase.” Or, “Well consider how she feels, she’s angry, lost and confused, she just needs patience.” While, I can give the benefit of the doubt and show compassion like any other parent for a majority of situations – I am not an idiot! Sometimes, kids are little shits, and do bad things, and misbehave. ALL KIDS. They all need the same reaction and same treatment. No different. Same love, same discipline – same, same same.

#4 It is easier without the other parents involvement.
Really? For who? The child? Or, me? I used to believe this myth. I was wrong. My stepsons mother is not involved except maybe three times a year, by phone – if that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and all day my mind was overrun by thoughts like, will she call? Why didn’t she call? Who does that? Sure, I made sure to ask him about his first day, and I made sure to take those all important first day photographs, his father and I took care of the school clothes shopping and the school supplies, without one care or concern from her. She is not involved with him, but she and I are involved in that she lives permanently in my head, rent free. She lives as the fear I have that she will never call, or that she will call. That she will never come back for him, or that she will come back for him. That she will always be the one he wants, because he so badly wants her to want him. I worry she will let him down either way – and there will be nothing I can do to prevent that heartbreak.

#5 You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.
I’ve never been one to blow smoke up anyone’s skirt, mostly because I don’t smoke and I have no business up another woman’s skirt – but nonetheless this is not always the case. Sure there are some gloriously unified step families that just work. However, there are plenty of blended families who live to respect their parents choices, and live a life without a bond or love for their stepparent. In the same sense, there are stepparents that tolerated their stepchildren until they were old enough to live on their own. A stepparent/stepchild relationship can’t and shouldn’t be forced. If it happens naturally and effortlessly that is fantastic and makes life that much easier. But, don’t be surprised or feel doomed if it doesn’t happen for you right away, or at all. You can still foster a relationship with mutual care and respect.

Contrary to popular belief no one really has the answers on how to be the best stepparent. There are plenty of articles and advice from those that have lived it, and while those should be respected if only as a differing point of view, you don’t have to agree. You need to do what is best for you and your step-family. For me, I choose to be the mom, not the friend to all my children, step or otherwise. My significant other and I are the two leading adults in our home, we are partners in the responsibility for raising healthy, happy and well adjusted children who we chose to love, care and discipline regardless of the person or whose child is whose. Children and Stepchildren, are the same. Period. Maybe, one day the lack of involvement from the other parent will change, maybe it won’t – don’t allow that to limit your involvement. Love your stepchildren/stepparents as best as you can, if you have to fake it at first, do that. If its not there, respect them.

After all, we are all in this together.

Okay, you be the Mom and I will be the kid!

I’m willing to venture a guess that almost any adult would choose to go back to being a child in a heartbeat. No bills, less stress, maybe do better in school the second time around and ENJOY those naps! I mean, life for our kids these days is just so hard, they get bored, they need instant gratification, video games, cell phones, bedazzled jeans, and so on. Have you ever asked your child what is it about being a kid that is so hard? Well, I did! And then, I took it a step further – what if our roles switched? What would our kids make us do if they could be our parents for a day? And, what would we do to them, if we were the kids? Read below for the hilarious switch.

The hardest part about being a kid:

Allison, 5: Umm, working and working out – I have to do that at NaeNaes. My favorite part was when I asked how she spelled her name, and she said A, L, L, I, S,O,N – but I do my “S” backwards!

Pierce, 5: Dumpster diving! The look on moms face, and the adamant denial that she does not make her children dumpster dive, may have been funnier! She swears its from Sponge Bob!

Coleton, 9: That sometimes kids really don’t understand

Gracie, 11: That we makes mistakes, and parents don’t always get that!

Kaiden, 8: That we can’t play all the time, because of chores and homework.

Emma, 8: That I can’t spend the whole day with my mom – cause I have to go to school.

Nick, 15: Having to listen. You have to try to remember to listen!

So, just for the fun of it, lets switch. If you as a parent could be your child, what is the first thing you would do? Would it be enjoy a nap? Maybe sleep in, play with your friends all day? Or, would you have a little fun with some get backs?? The answers were 50/50!

Telia Fogle: Yell “I’m hungry, fix me food” and destroy the house

Jami Fernandes: Get in a bathing suit and run through the sprinkler!!

Dina Fentiman: TRASH MY ROOOOM!!!

Amber Martin: Pick my nose and wipe it on the seat of the new car. Ask them to make something special for dinner, then say I don’t like it anymore. Say I cleaned my room but really I shoved it all under my bed.

Tiffany McIntosh: Eat whatever I want & not gain a pound… & then take a nap!

Desiree Rafferty: Leave socks ALL over the house!

Kathleen Winfrey: I would eat a million lunchables and then actually enjoy a nap instead of fighting it!

Sherri Tucker Tunnell: I’d yell “Mom mom mom mom” that is what I would do.

Now your kids are your parents, what would they make you do? What rule would they change? Would they have ice cream for dinner, or buy you whatever you want? Would they have a case of the “getbacks” also? Let’s see!

Allison, 5
“ umm laundry, washing the counters, cleaning the dishes, make my bed and clean my room … pretty much everything, I’ll make you do all my house work!”

Kaiden, 8
Allow ice cream BEFORE dinner, and set bedtime to 8pm.

Riley, 8
I’d make you massage my feet, do my chores and go to school for me!

Jacoby, 15
I wouldn’t make my parents do anything, I would do everything AND buy them whatever they want.

Josh, 9
I would make my parents do everyone’s chores!

Tommy
Make you clean your room, and if it’s already clean then give you a treat!! Then take us to Rogue Air!

As for me, if I could swap places – I wouldn’t. My daughter would have way too much fun with that – but then again I could always get her back by slamming my door, flipping my hair, stomping off with attitude and knowing every thing about everything and bossing everyone around! Wait, that is kind of me now? Hey! Well played Karma, well played!