I had to ground my step-son for the first time and it made me feel like a "real" parent

November 16 | Guest post by Emily
By: Juliana  Coutinho - CC BY 2.0
By: Juliana CoutinhoCC BY 2.0

I love my little man. He's seven, and while not mine by birth, he sure as hell is mine by love. The four of us parents, (mom, step dad, dad, and me — step mom) get along pretty well, and while we disagree on some things, we try to compromise and present a united front. Usually, this isn't too hard — he's a good kid, hardly ever misbehaves, and for the most part a good talk will prevent any major infractions of the rules. That is, it was easy until yesterday.

Yesterday, I went to pick him up from his mother's house for our weekend with him. Little man was all packed up and ready to go, waving a sword in hand, a football in his back pack, and shouting "It's adventure time!" as they opened the door. My claim that it was indeed adventure time, so let's go on an adventure, was met with barely concealed glee until the fated words fell from his mother's mouth.

"We are grounded."

His face fell.

My heart broke.

Instead of pushing this aside, I adopted the sort of voice I remember my mother using on me and said "Oh really? And what did WE do?"

Apparently, he had made his mother late to work two days in a row because he wouldn't take his medicine. The third day, he spit it out on her. Then he got a very bad grade in conduct at school. Then, as the cherry on top, he hit his grandmother.

He also had the audacity to say "It doesn't matter if you ground me, I'm going to daddy and Emmy's house this weekend." All of these things had piled up over the past four days, and had gotten him grounded from TV, and I felt that just taking away TV was getting off too lightly.

"Oh I do NOT think so, young man. TV, video games, movies, computer, my phone, YouTube, anything not having to do with imagination, school, reading, or playing outside, you're grounded from. Is that understood? That type of behavior is unacceptable."

He began to tear up, nodded mournfully, and went to put away his movies he had packed to bring with him. I talked with his mom, the two of us discussing that learning videos such as the History Channel were acceptable.

On the way home, I asked him why these things had happened, giving him a chance to explain himself and myself a chance to explain that I understood how some things can happen (like the bad conduct at school) but others (like hitting his grandmother, or anyone really) there was absolutely no excuse for.

He accepted my judgment, but was still mad at me for betraying him and agreeing with his mother. When he refused to give me a hug, opting instead to carry some light groceries up to our apartment, I let it go. His Dad was woken, and filled in on the happenings, which prompted more discussion of behavior.

We came up with some new ways of expressing feelings and upset. Along with that, we discussed ways to get the teacher to come over if someone was punching him at school (the origin of the bad mark for conduct), instead of lashing out.

Despite the heartache and drama that's come with the grounding, this was the first time I have really felt like a serious parent to him, and I wanted to shout to the skies and cry all at the same time.

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  1. I love this! It's the strangest choices that makes parenting feel so real! Like I just realized my toddler does better if I bring out one type of toy for her. It's kind of a no brainer, but it suddenly worker to keep her occupied for a very long time! Real parenting! Woohoo!

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  2. Great story about how becoming a parent doesn't always mean trips to zoo and games of candyland! It can be especially difficult when you aren't the "REAL" parent. My husband and I worked hard to ensure that if at all possible he disciplined the kids, but when I had to do it, I did. And I am fiercely proud of the fact that in spite of everything I never once heard the words "you aren't my real mother" uttered.

    Keep on doing what you are doing, sounds like your little man is well on his way to becoming a good person.

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    • Games of Candyland what?

      Just kidding, just kidding… but now I can't see a reference to Candyland without thinking of that old post.

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      • Ariel, I wasn't sure if anyone else would get my "sly wink"

        2 agree

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  3. "I wanted to shout to the skies and cry all at the same time."
    I totally, totally, get that feeling! And it is the strangest things that bring it on when raising a child. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on being brave enough to stand up to him and teach him your values along with his other parents.

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  4. Disciplining is a rite of passage for sure. With my ex's kids, we had lots of great times together and I got to be the "fun" one usually, but of all the times I spent with them, the time I had to discipline the youngest for repeatedly misbehaving I still remember vividly. I had to give him a time out in an amusement park! You cross a line into a real authority figure with weight behind them, even if you lose a bit of the "fun" gloss, it's so worth it. Congrats!

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  5. Good for you! I'm especially glad to see all the parents banding together to raise him. Siding with his bio mother, even though he feels "betrayed" now, is the best thing you can do for him in the long run.

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  6. I love that all four of you are on board with the same discipline. We had a similar incident with my step daughter last week. She's usually an angel child, but last year she stole a game from her friend, and her mom just found it in her room last week, so she is grounded for awhile, at her house and our house. No escaping it when she comes for a sleepover, and I'm so happy that we're able to make it consistent across the board. Makes it feel like a real family affair!

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  7. I think its awesome that the four parents can get along well enough to parent together. That is so not the case in my situation which adds more frustration to my step-mom role.

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    • To be perfectly honest, it wasn't always like this. We had several arguements, and needed to get some things out of the way. Consider her position though. What if your step-child likes you better? That's a scary thought for a Bio mom. You expect the child to like the Bio parent better, but we're selfish at times. Give them time, and back her up. Also, maybe mention that you don't want to be mommy. You want to be bonus mom.
      sent from my Samsung Mobile

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  8. Your little man sounds like a very lucky boy to have 4 parents looking out for him :)

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  9. As a step-mom to an awesome 5 year old, I love reading about other blended families who all get along. We (me, the dad, the mom, and the soon-to-be-step-dad) all work hard at raising 'our' little guy, and I'm really fortunate to have been given my husband's blessing to help raise his kiddo since we met (when the little man was only 16 months). We are definitely the more disciplined house, and we frequently assist the mom in issues where respect and authority are concerned, but our friends are constantly amazed at how four people can work together to help raise a kid. We're expecting our first baby together in a few weeks, and we actually joke about how we're going to manage with "just" two parents for this one.

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