Fast forward 10 years. Every Thursday night and every other weekend, my boys (from a previous marriage) get to spend time with Bio dad. Fortunately, he is actively involved in their lives. He attends parent teacher conferences and sports games. Unfortunately for me, he spoils them rotten. The boys run the house at their dads. They climb on counters to get suckers, start fires in the grill just to put them out with a water hose (grr...so much for us teaching fire safety!), and eat dinner in separate beds while watching their iPads. They tell their dad and step-mom how the weekend will go. "I want to do this. I want to go here. I want a Red Bull..."( I was livid when I got that phone call!) Then, they get every single request granted. They get every over-sized plush toy and trendy accessory out there. When one of their pillow pets breaks, the Bio's reply "Oh, we'll just get you another one" I can't forget their birthday presents? Kasen got an iPhone at 3, and Sean got a digital camera at 5. (Eye roll) My boys get to spend their summers at theme parks with wind in their hair, daily mall visits, and swimming pools at water parks. Every year, it's season passes to a theme park just to visit the pool. No doubt a great way for them to cool off on these hot summer days! The repercussion? Sean loves repetition and has anxiety when something isn't in his normal daily schedule. When we all try to make a day of Sea World to see the animal shows and eventually land in the water park, Sean freaks out the moment we walk in the gates. He repeats "We go to the water" from the instant we get there, and doesn't understand "Not right now". Even "First, 3 animal shows, then the water" doesn't work. This causes more anxiety and over stimulates his senses. He goes into sensory overload, and nothing can calm him down. We usually end up leaving the park shortly after. Meh.
When they come home even from a weekend of free reign, it's usually a 48 hour adjustment period. Their manners are out the window. They don't want to follow our rules. Just because they don't 'want' to do somethings at our house...doesn't mean JACK. For example, bringing toys to the dinner table just isn't allowed at our house. That time is family time. No TV, no phones, and definitely no toys at the table. But, they always try to sneak them by. Our lives are busy enough with picking up and dropping off kids at sports, ROTC practice, Choir camp, and boy scouts. (Hello taxi Mom!) This is the one time a day to gather, pray and get quality time in. After all, it's our job is to raise smart and productive children. Therefore, we have to be the mean ones. I don't let them forgot how to use 'sir' and 'ma'am'. I say no to TV watching for more than an hour at a time. I tell them to go make the outdoors be their iPad. (Just plain mean right?) They are reminded to put their plates in the dishwasher, pick up their toys, clean their rooms and make their beds. Chores? Yes, they have them. Mowing the grass, taking out the compost (for the garden), and sweeping the floor are all done once a week. They don't get daily shopping trips, or new toys because they were 'a good boy today'. They get weekend trips to the beach, and family vacations to Disney World for having integrity throughout the year.
It must be hard to live with two sets of rules as a child. Knowing that you get everything you ask for at one place, and getting everything to sustain you at another. Hearing 'I want to go to dads' from my kids when they are in trouble is rough. It breaks my heart because we can't be the 24/7 fun house. Our home has to be structured, have rules and I have to be more than just their friend. Mike and I provide love, encourage creativity and teach them how to entertain themselves. We are truly the lucky ones. While someone else can only buy the memories, we get to create them.
What experiences have you overcome while trying to co-parent from separate households?