I can still remember the day I met Adam's son. I pulled up at his house to find him, Connor, and Adam's mom running around in the back yard with the dog. Connor was about 4 1/2, and his first question for me was if I was at Jessica's funeral. Ah, kids... no censor or awareness half the time about the world around them... I knew he was just trying to figure out if he'd met before.
Of course, I had no idea at the time I would become this child's step-mom. Ever since that day in June 2012 and in very different ways, I have fallen in love with this kid just as much as I have his daddy.
One of the ways I knew that Adam was the man for me was that he was an amazing dad. I could see him firsthand parenting his son, and I knew that I would never doubt what kind of a father he would be to our future children.
I remember feeling nervous in the beginning... would Connor love me? Would he enjoy me being around? Would he listen to me?
Over time, we found that half the time he minds me better than Adam... we think because he loves women, haha.
Becoming a step-parent has caused me to think about parenting styles a lot more than I ever dreamed I would be this early in a relationship. Adam and I of course had numerous conversations, and we quickly found that we have the same approach.
And I've quickly found that it's so easy to be critical of how other parents are doing it. That's something I do not want to do or to have done to me. There's no one right way... I think we're all evidence of that... But I do know that there are some key things Adam and I will teach Connor and our future children regardless of what everyone else in the world around us thinks.
Last night, we stumbled upon this article: What is Ruining Our Kids? You. Not Miley Cyrus.
When we are responsible for the rearing of a child, we have to hold ourselves accountable first before looking to anyone else that may influence that child. I'm not saying that other people can't influence our children and that we should protect them from every bad influence... but I am saying that it starts with us and what we teach them.
The article resonated with us for many reasons. Connor is closing in on 6. He's in kindergarten. He is smart. (Seriously, Adam and I both were bored in school... and we suspect the same will happen with Connor as he already reads above his level.) We have felt for a while that he is "old enough" to do a lot of things... get dressed, make his bed, clean his room, help fold laundry, help with other tasks like cooking or putting groceries away.. Sure, there are some exceptions. We're not quite ready to task him with getting out the milk and pouring his own glass. But he's getting there.
In the article, Mother Cusser says, "If you never let your child have an opportunity to make a decision, he will have no self-esteem at all. Because he will not believe in himself enough to know the right thing to do."
SO TRUE. And it's baffling to me that there are parents out there who don't get that.
Connor has some rules in our home that I'm not sure are typical. He's not allowed to talk or act like a baby, even for pretend. He's not allowed to whine. He's expected to act like a big boy. We praise him when he does things for himself or to help us out. Our conversations on the phone with him typically involve a few minutes finding out "what color he was on" at school that day and what he did wrong if he didn't stay on green. We praise him when he does a good job, and we ask him to tell us what he needs to do better on the days when he's not on a positive color. (And we also remember how much simpler life was when we were in school... you either got to play at recess or you didn't.)
Adam and I have high expectations for Connor. And he knows it. He's quickly learned how to self-correct... for about 3 weeks we had issues with back talking. We explained why it wasn't ok, and we told him what will happen if he continues to do it (doesn't get pennies to put toward a reward, loses a privilege, etc.) and then started giving warnings. It wasn't long before he'd start a sentence, stop, and then rephrase to say it correctly and not as a smart-alec.
I'm sure Adam and I will never be perfect parents - there's no such thing! But we do want for Connor and our future children to grow up knowing we believe in them and believing in themselves... that they can learn what the right thing is and how to decide how to do it... that they understand and experience consequences when they don't do the right thing... that we are not overprotective and wind up with them all living with us into their 30s!