Being a parent is hard. A parent of a teenager is extra hard. Try adding “step” in front of the parent and you know it can just be so much more challenging. That’s where I find myself now. Our situation is even a little more complicated than the average one, so most of the resources I’ve found don’t quite apply. My stepdaughter is 20 years old/I’m young enough to remember 20 and it’s a special age. You really think you’re an adult and you’re responsible. She has moved back in with us though so that might not have been as true as she thought.
This morning, I had a real revelation. I was in the middle of an argument with my mother and I realized that most of the same issues I have my mother, my stepdaughter shared in a conversation with me the other night. And I got it. I realized just how frustrated she must be. Granted, I’m in a different situation because my mother doesn’t support me but I get it. I’ve been praying on both relationships and these are the things I get.
“You don’t listen to me.”
I told my mother that she didn’t listen to what I’m fully saying; she just hears a keyword and then hears everything else through her lens based on that one word. I admit I’m guilty of doing the same thing with my stepdaughter. I just hear how ridiculous her requests are and kind of zone out from there. I’m not going to go back on saying that painting one wall turquoise, one pink and the other two zebra print is ridiculous (especially since the plan is to move out soon) but it’s not unreasonable for me to listen and help with maybe picking out a zebra comforter with pink and turquoise pillows.
“You always pick on me.”
She says that and I tell my mother, “You’re so critical of how I make decisions.” I think both perceptions are true. My stepdaughter was not raised in my house, so she doesn’t always have the same expectations that I do. I believe that you don’t walk over something dirty; you pick it up. She says, “I didn’t make the mess and everyone else walked over it, too.” That difference is a prime area for conflict. My husband and I have tried to communicate our standards but there’s a gap. I have been working on gently sharing our expectations but she feels like it’s always something.
The Ah-Ha Moment!
What I hope my revelation will do is help me think more about how to parent her. I spend a lot of time doing but not as much listening. This is true with her and the boys. I’m going to listen more. I am not going to apologize or relax my standards but I will give her a justification for why I demand certain things. The things we demand from her are really basic in my mind. They’re about accountability for yourself and others. Hopefully, that will help her get the big picture and mature into the responsible person she thought she was. If nothing else, I hope I can think about what I thought I knew at 20 and see things from her lens.
Seeing things made me call my mother and the argument has ended. Tell me how you parent or step-parent. Any advice would be welcomed.