My partner Karol and I have been together for 10 years. We have lived apart and we have lived together. When we first decided to take the plunge and be a couple she was about to move to Pennsylvania and I was staying here in Virginia. We knew it was going to be difficult, especially since we were a new couple, but we knew we could do it. And we did! Looking back, I actually think it made our relationship better to be apart the first two years. We were careful not to fight, because we couldn’t see each other much. However, we did manage to see each other at least once every month. She would bring her kids down to Virginia to see their father who lived in a town near me, and then we would spend the weekend together.
This separation went on for two years, and then she received orders to move back to Virginia. Thank God!! We purchased a house and then began the daunting task of “blending” our families. Bluebell has two kids and I have two kids. They already knew each other as we visited with them and had vacationed with them over the two year period that we lived apart. However, it was still a worrisome thing to move in together. Would they get along well? Would our one girl be okay living with three boys? How would we handle discipline, etc? As much as we tried to make sure we had a plan for each of these things, as you can imagine, we couldn’t plan for everything.
Karol and I had very different child rearing styles. Mine was/is tough love, and loving firmness. Hers was a laid back, “let them be kids” attitude. Well friends, those different styles made for some rocky times initially. However, I loosened up , and Bluebell toughened up, and we soon settled into a sort of routine. It was like a “Good Cop, Bad Cop” thing.
It has always been very important to me that we treat the kids equally. Especially since we are a step family it has always been a priority to me that no kid feels like things are not “fair”. This is not always possible, and at any given point (especially in the beginning) we heard many comments of “Why does _____ get to do/go/have ____ that I don’t to do/go/have?” Our answer varied depending ion the specific incident. With 4 kids of varying ages it is not always possible to be totally fair, but we have always done our best. We don’t hear the “unfair” statements anymore.
Interestingly, as we stepped into our “Good Cop, Bad Cop” schtick, we never played the same character all the time. Sometimes I was the meanie, sometimes it was Karol. And we didn’t even plan it. It just sort of evolved. We tried all kinds of things.
One of our most interesting ideas was what we referred to as “Kid Court”. We put the “accused” on trial of a jury of their peers. Bluebell and I served as the judges. We told the jury the crime committed by the accused and they would discuss the punishment to Be given to the accused. Of course as the judges we would decide if the punishment fit the crime. When we first started this, the kids would come up with very harsh punishments… (Absolute power corrupts absolutely), but we would gently remind the jury that it could be them in the “hot seat”, so be cautious about the severity of the punishment. That usually gave them pause and they would adjust their punishment. To be fair, the accused was always given an opportunity to explain why they chose to make the decision and ask for leniency. This actually worked for about a year. Then Karol’s daughter Katarina decided she wanted to go live with her dad, and we didn’t have enough kids left to be an adequate jury, so we had to change tactics.
Over the years, our parenting styles have adapted as our kids have gotten older, and their “crimes” have evolved from tween things like not doing chores or fibbing to teen things like missing curfew, computer impropriety (another post for another day), and being downright sneaky. However, we still fall back into our familiar Good Cop Bad Cop roles with ease, and it seems to work well for us.
We are NOT perfect parents, but we continue to do our best to raise our boys to be responsible, effective, reasonable, thoughtful adults. So far, they are coming along nicely.