I love that my kids — step and birth — carry cell phones. When I want to know how or where they are, they are never more than a text away. With a picture to prove it if my husband and I have doubts. When they need me, vice versa.
But the technology of texting has made one thing, in our home at least, more difficult: step-parenting.
When the step-child wants to criticize one of us, the birth mother is never more than a text away. When the birth mother is angry at one of us, her daughter is never more than a text away. It’s a new twist on an old phenomenon: easier access for badmouthing the ex and anything about his or her current life.
It’s like we have an angry slightly tipsy 48 year old woman sitting down to our meals, riding in our car with us, and attending family outings. Yet when we look up, all we see is a 16-year old girl sitting across the table/seat/movie seat. A girl that goes from happy and interactive to withdrawn and borderline rude toward me in the flash of a red light and a toneless vibration.
What a conundrum. We want to encourage open and frequent communication by our kids with their parents, including with us when they are with the other parent, and at the same time, it would be super nice occasionally to have a break from the hating.
The kids shouldn’t have to be the gatekeepers. They are already under enough pressure. The relationship with the other parents is, obviously, troubled (to say the least) and not subject to persuasion to consider whether some of the constant stream of texted dialogue criticizing the step-parent and custodial birth parents is in the best interests of the child.
Truly, it leaves me stymied. Our situation has festered for five years. We finally accepted defeat and decided that all would work itself out when the children were old enough to understand they were being poisoned and manipulated. We will focus on positive parenting, on instilling accountability and self sufficiency in respectful, empathetic young people (pray for us on these goals !)But sometimes I still second guess our decision.
Makes me long for the good old days of high priced long distance phone calls and “oh Dad don’t make me” handwritten letters with envelopes and stamps.
I don’t have any answers on this one. Have you faced anything similar, on either side of the proverbial fence? How do you handle it?