I’m the one who is supposed to be wicked. I’m the stepmother, the one who might not have the child’s best interests at heart. The one whose motives are always going to be suspect.
I’m having one of those days. Stepmothers will know what I mean. Ladies, if you’re contemplating becoming a stepmother, better read up about it first. Especially if the ex-wife is a late wife. You are taking on more than you know. This isn’t the place to go into too much detail, much as I would like to. The bereaved child is a very serious subject and deserves more than a post on a blog. In any case, the specific issues of being stepmother to a bereaved child are not what I wish to address here. I have something much more generalized in mind.
A Facebook friend recently shared a piece about the benefits of allowing children to be bored. Some university prof had just come out with something I’ve been saying for years. If your ten-year-old is bored, let her fix it. It’s her problem, not yours. Wow! Somebody got paid to write this down?
I remember a time when Gollum Boy was little and in a strop. He wasn’t getting his own way. Father had other things to do just at that time and couldn’t do whatever it was young son wanted. Young son pouted. Young son wailed. Young son went into a tantrum because he’d learned that tantrums usually worked for him. But, on this occasion, I was in charge.
The tantrum was building into meltdown because father wasn’t available. I said, ‘Why don’t you find something to do that makes you feel better than how you feel right now?’
‘I’m BORED,’ he shouted.
‘I’m busy,’ I said and left him to it.
I went to the kitchen and clattered about doing a bit of washing dishes etc. When I went back to the living room, young son had found something to do. AND SOLVED HIS OWN PROBLEM.
Now we’re getting to the crux of this.
Here’s what I think: if you ALWAYS fix things for your kids, they never learn how to fix it themselves. In the case of the university professor and current thinking on childhood boredom, the fixing of the problem by parent figure doesn’t allow the child to use his/her own creativity. Eventually, according to the prof, children may lose the ability to use their creativity. They might forget how to imagine. So, by fixing the boredom problem, you could be doing more harm than good.
Back to this morning. As you know, the young son in my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles is now Gollum Boy, addicted to online gaming and not wanting to do much else. If you’ve read my previous posts, you will also know that we have been having an ongoing battle between the three of us which came to a head when Gollum Boy almost passed out at school.
You have probably also worked out my methods by now, too. It doesn’t take an expert tactician to see that I have employed an attack and immediate retreat modus operandi whenever these issues crop up. I have my two penny worth, say what I think needs to be said and retire from the theatre of battle to let biological parent and teenage son sort it out between them.
Still with me? Good. Here it is, then. School holidays are over. Back to school. On the third day, Gollum Boy is too tired to get up in time to catch the school bus. The last time this happened, biological parent (BP) drove to school and arrived at the same time as the bus so errant teenager didn’t get into trouble for being late. On his return, the BP said,
‘I’ve told him. This is the last time I’m getting him out of it. Next time he misses the bus, he’ll have to catch the later one and face the music when he’s late.’
Guess what happened this morning.
The alarm must not have gone off was the first excuse. There followed a volley of further excuses as BP hurriedly got into his shoes and rushed out the door to drive Gollum Boy to school.
I was waiting for BP’s return. I reminded him what he’d said the last time this happened. But I added more.
‘You’re as good as stealing from him,’ I said.
‘Don’t be dramatic.’
‘Don’t be in denial,’ I came back quick as a flash. ‘You need to hear this. You’re stealing from him. You’re robbing him of opportunities to learn from his own mistakes. We both know why he couldn’t get up this morning. He NEEDS to experience the discomfort of being in trouble for missing the start of classes.’
I went further. See, I know what I’d do if I were dealing with one of my own or one of yours or anybody’s child I was taking care of.
There would be an X-Box ban tonight. A laptop ban tonight. A tablet ban tonight. Smartphone ban tonight.
Actions and consequences, junior. We all have to face them. That would be my message.
But I’m the wicked stepmother and I’m getting tired of being the one with the tough love message.
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I’d love to hear what some of you think.