being a step-parent - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-18-2019, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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being a step-parent

Hi all. I've debated on even delving into this topic, but I really just need to get it out there and hear some outside perspectives on the topic.

First some background, I was a single mom until my son was 8 and I got into a LTR who I married two years later. We separated in 2017, after a very rocky previous year trying to make things work. He is the only dad my son ever knew. My son actually still lives in Oklahoma by him and I'm eternally grateful that my ex and his family never treated my son as anything but their own.

Fast forward to now, I am in a LTR with a man who has an 8 year old daughter. I adore her. Although we aren't married I'm essentially her step-mom. She tells everyone, "That's Rhonda, she's basically my second mom." My boyfriend and his ex-wife get along well. There is communication between them and between she and I, particularly about his daughter.

We recently got his daughter a horse to ride and enrolled her in 4-H where she is doing the cavy project and the horse project. I have found the 4-H club because I am the one who is familiar with the program as I did it as a child. My own son was too busy with football, wrestling, and golf to really get into horses or 4-H, but my stepdaughter loves animals and her careers change between vet, dog trainer, and now horse trainer. Anyway, the cavy leader for the group gave her the animal. We got her everything she needs to feed and care for it. Then her mom says it can't stay at their house until they move which is fine. I did ask her prior to moving forward with any of this to get permission from her as well since it is a large commitment.

My issue is this: when step-daughter is at our house she is engaged in activities. She practices her showmanship with the cavy. She loves going to the barn and doing barn chores. She actually cleaned all three stalls the other day while I was organizing tack. She read the entire horse project 4-H handbook and determined that more than anything she wants to learn to rope. I got her a cheap kids rope and she has spent hours practicing it in the yard roping fence posts and setting up challenges for herself. Then when she goes home the only activity she does is play video games or watch tv. Let's just say that her mom is not the outdoor active type. This also drives her dad nuts that there is so much screen time at her moms.

I've never been a step-parent before, and I know that I have to learn limits of how much I can interject, and I have not overstepped at all. I am very conscientious of overstepping or making anyone uncomfortable or angry. I want to have a smooth relationship. It has gotten different since we moved closer to them. We previously lived in Oklahoma with them in Arizona, then we moved to Arizona about 2 hours away, and recently we moved to the same town. It's an adjustment for everyone coupled with my bf's adjustment to civilian life.

I guess I just need to hear from others who successfully navigated this step-parenting thing with such differing styles of parenting. And get some ideas on dealing with my own feelings on the matter. Thanks in advance everyone.

Rhonda
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post #2 of 6 Old 10-18-2019, 04:04 PM
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I have been a step parent for 25 years. I think you are going into this with your eyes wide open. The one thing I would stress to you is that you and your husband need to realize that what happens at your house is in your control and what happens at her Mom's house is out of your control (unless of course it is abusive) You pointed out one of the major issues my family had. We are outdoors people and hubbies X was not. We had horses and other livestock and the lived in town. Of course our home lives were different! You cannot project your expectations (or your husbands) onto to her life at her Mom's. As you pointed her relationship with her father has mostly been long distance - and all of the stuff you have now introduced to her is fun and exciting. What happens when it is not fun and exciting anymore? That is a distinct possibility. We went to family counseling with our step kids for a few years due to other issues the kids had (their mom had multiple "friends" and they moved 11 times in 20 years) and the one thing I will always remember the counselor telling my husband and I was - live in the moment when you have the kids - do not stress about what happened before they got to your house or what happens after they leave. And that is what we tried to do.

The Mom may be fine with all of this now but if you keep putting pressure on the daughter and on her that could fall apart fast. Take it slow and enjoy the time now when your interests align. My step daughter rode with us until she hit her teens (13 or 14) and then it all fell apart. My step son rode until about 10 or 11 and then he lost interest. We never forced it on them nor on our own kids. My son does not ride - he will help with chores and is not afraid of the horses but has no interest in riding even though he rode a lot as a young child. My daughter rode a lot until about 9 or 10 and then her pony died and she was done. Until about age 13 when she asked for a horse of her own. She is now 20 and is my best riding partner.

just try and appreciate what you have now. and go with the flow.
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-18-2019, 09:06 PM
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All in all, I think you have a pretty great situation with the bf and his ex. It's not as common as it should be that everyone gets along and is supportive on both sides. If you guys are active, outdoorsy types and she gets all that exposure with you guys, does it really matter what she does at her moms? Maybe it's just how she and her mom interact. Honestly, if the ex is being a good parent and you're all a pretty collaborative parenting team, I wouldn't care much what she does with her mom. Whether she's stays up later, spends more time with friends, watching more TV, plays more video games, eats more junk food, it's all pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. She'll still have her "active" time with you guys regardless. Heck, that's more than most kids get with both parents in one house.

I guess, at the end of the day, you'll have to figure out which battles are worth fighting and which hills are worth dying on. Screen time really isn't one of those. If she does well in school, is a respectful person, and socially well-adjusted, then that just may be her preferred way of "blowing off steam" or relaxing.

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post #4 of 6 Old 10-19-2019, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks! I do realize it's an incredible situation. I think one of the issues we have is that she does get in trouble at school, although academically she is fine. There are a lot of actual issues with that, but it's not anyone's fault. It's just some stuff with her that we all have to work through together as her team. She is immature for her age. And there are some behavioral things at school which are not being addressed the way I would address them as a parent (and former teacher), so I have to just wait until I'm asked on that which is sometimes difficult for me. I guess I just needed to write it out and take a step back for a perspective. It is a fortunate situation where everyone gets along and can discuss things to make things the best for her.

Being a step-parent is hard! I think it might be slightly harder than regular mom-ing.
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Rhonda
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post #5 of 6 Old 10-19-2019, 06:05 PM
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Yeah, divorce in and of itself implies that two people are so different from each other that marriage is no longer reasonable. Those differences appear in the lives of the kids involved. I wouldn't spend too much time reviewing differences in parenting styles, however. You'll drive yourself bonkers, and you might miss out on what positive effects those differences are having for your bf's daughter. Having screen time/rest in one setting, and exercise/outdoors in another might lend well to life balance; being both physical and cerebral. Just so long as the screen time doesn't turn into bad eating habits and behavior, maybe it's not so bad after all. I grew up horse-crazy and tech-crazy, and both have served me well.

Perhaps keep a journal of your parenting ideas that you can discuss with your bf. That might be good for both you and him. Since he's dealing with adjusting to civilian life, would he not appreciate the fact that you put your mental faculties to work on parenting? Might make his job easier when it comes to working with the ex.
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-24-2019, 12:59 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Feathers7 View Post
Yeah, divorce in and of itself implies that two people are so different from each other that marriage is no longer reasonable. Those differences appear in the lives of the kids involved. I wouldn't spend too much time reviewing differences in parenting styles, however. You'll drive yourself bonkers, and you might miss out on what positive effects those differences are having for your bf's daughter. Having screen time/rest in one setting, and exercise/outdoors in another might lend well to life balance; being both physical and cerebral. Just so long as the screen time doesn't turn into bad eating habits and behavior, maybe it's not so bad after all. I grew up horse-crazy and tech-crazy, and both have served me well.

Perhaps keep a journal of your parenting ideas that you can discuss with your bf. That might be good for both you and him. Since he's dealing with adjusting to civilian life, would he not appreciate the fact that you put your mental faculties to work on parenting? Might make his job easier when it comes to working with the ex.
Yes! He does appreciate my input especially since I've successfully raised one (I had my son young). And coupled with my education as a teacher he does ask me a ton of things. Overall, I think it's just an adjustment for everyone. The schedule has changed with us having her half the week and her being with her mom half the week. The only thing that concerns me is the behavioral issues at school. They do not happen on the days she is with us, but they do happen on the days she is with mom. Particularly on Wednesday as that is the day the switch happens!

I do get along really well with her mom. We hung out and talked while the kiddo was doing her Cavy meeting last night. It is fortunate that we can be friendly. We did talk about the behavior and how it seems to happen on days she will be with her. She asked how we handle them. I told her we do loss of privileges or time outs mostly. Like yesterday she had a legit temper tantrum in class and had to be removed to the office, so when we went to the barn she did not get to ride, but she still had to do all of her barn chores. Mom said she would try the time outs and loss of privileges.
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Rhonda
to ride on a horse, is to fly without wings
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