How do You Handle Step-Kids Who Don’t Like You?

How do You Handle Step-Kids Who Don’t Like You?

From time to time readers send me some complicated issue they are dealing with to see if I might be able to help them through it. This is one such question from somebody who is having struggles with alien creature children who have married into her life, and they don’t like her. So ya, that never happens right? Here it is in her own words: What do you do when your step kids don’t like you? They don’t like rules. They don’t like change. They want to be entertained every second of the day and won’t free play. They and their mom blame me for there being rules and tie behaviour to identity and behavioural corrections are seen as character attacks. They want to go back to visiting only their dad at their grandma’s house and not participate in the family we have that’s been in place for over a year. They think they can choose where their dad lives. They did the same to their mom but it was not tolerated but this is being indulged because she is mad her ex isn’t miserable. Signed: The Stepmonster Wow lady, you are fighting a war on many fronts, which any military strategist will tell you is akin to a battlefield disaster. Fear not however, it isn’t your fault. Honestly, you could be any new partner for your dude, and they would hate you because their Mother is clearly being an asshole and feeding them the bitterness of her cold black heart. More precisely, she, or even possibly your dude, may be the suffering from a low EQ and is bestowing that on the kids. As for the former wife, maybe she can’t get over herself (which often comes with the whole EX anything situation). Sadly, the children have bought in, and everybody is locked in their own funk. All troops have taken their positions, and your ass is hanging out in the wind as the only reasonable person who will inevitably take a bullet in the butt. So now that we kind of have the dynamic figured out, what to do? I will start with advice that I get from my own circle of friends, who are far nicer people than me. They always say not to go to my “scorch the earth” default, and try reacting with kindness instead. What they aren’t putting into words (because they are kind) is this: “Don’t be an asshole when you are mad.” Huh. OK so now I try it, and although sometimes responding with calm kindness feels a bit like I am attempting to contain a spiky cactus in my mouth, I do make the effort to respond to strife and drama without using a flame...
Crap, I Think I Might Be Sexist

Crap, I Think I Might Be Sexist

I consider myself a bit of an armchair feminist. I tut-tut news stories about Hijabs, the glass ceiling and systemic limitations of women’s ambitions. I am not the protesting and bra burning sort, however I stand strong when faced with overt sexism wherever I see it. I do something about it with ferocity, even if I wouldn’t march in a topless gathering of angry women. Having one of each gender as children, I am raising them in an equitable manner. I tell them both that they can be whatever they want, but they can count on dealing with assholes of both sexes their whole lives. I explain that they are best not to participate in the monkey games, don’t put up with any crap and just treat everybody decently, full stop. As for my own private thoughts, I do like men, truly. They are fun and differently smart and mostly reliable, the good ones anyway. Through my career I have encountered great mentors and colleagues who encouraged me. I have also dealt with malicious schemers who would undermine me at every opportunity. Both types have come in both genders so it isn’t that. Really, I would like to think that I view the sexes equally. Or at least I thought I did until I peeked in to my mental box of biases and had an honest look at them. It dawned on me that I might be a hypocrite. I hate when I figure out some aspect of myself is an asshole…. dammit. I started to have a clue during recent vacations and business travel. When flying, I would board the plane, and as you do (or at least I do) I check the cockpit to see if the pilots look like they know what they are doing. I started to notice that I would have a subconscious calming of my nerves if there was a female pilot. Seriously, a palpable sense of relief would wash over me to see a woman at the helm. Then I noticed, when driving through border crossings between countries, if I had an option to, I would try to pick the line by the gender of the border guard. My thundering bias that the women were tougher and might call for a search of my car suddenly struck me and I would try for the more potentially amenable dude. I feel the same way about police officers, and I have no idea why. When lining up for a customer service agent, I pick the women if I can. Are they going to try harder to help me than a dude would? Probably not, but apparently my secret sexist has the illusion that she will...
Thanksgiving Weekend – My Guilty Pleasure

Thanksgiving Weekend – My Guilty Pleasure

No, it’s not because it happens to be the “all pleather weekend” in our bedroom… I appreciate  Thanksgiving weekend for a whole other reason. Don’t hate me for this, okay? I love it because I don’t do ANYTHING. Seriously… we have no relatives where we live. So that sad and onerous “who is cooking the bird this year?” conversation NEVER happens at our house. If it did, the answer would be “not me.” As I sit and swish wine around in my glass, I listen to my friends losing their shit over family-pressured weekend arrangements. To explain how this goes down, here is a comparative schedule of a typical thanksgiving long weekend: Thursday: My friends are menu planning and running to get groceries between soccer and dance. I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Friday: My friends are cleaning their homes or packing the kids for the road trip to the Mother-in-Law’s (who is anxiously waiting for them to arrive so she can disapprove of something). My phone will ring a number of times that evening and I will listen to the girls complain about flopped pies or husbands who can’t match two socks in to their overnight bag. As for me, I check the larder and bar shelf to make sure we won’t run out of essentials (i.e. chips and wine). Saturday: By this time, friends who are expected to have the whole family over are now hitting critical overload. The phone is ringing at my house. I don’t  mind chatting, since I am having a  leisurely breakfast in my dirty kitchen, and all I have to accomplish is downloading the movie choices for the weekend. Sunday: My phone is silent, but I know what my friends are doing. The ones out of town visiting are just about done trying to keep the kids quiet at some Aunt’s house while thinking of ways to kill me. The cooking friends, up since five, are up to their elbows in turkey ass. They too are thinking of ways to kill me with the silverware as they polish it. My Sunday feels like a Saturday because I don’t have to go to work on Monday. Ahhh. Stretch, yawn, turnover, repeat . . . Bonus: this night we feed the kids pizza and go see a movie. My friends, on the other hand, are drunk, sweaty, have not enjoyed their meals, and are counting the hours until it is over. Monday: The travelling families begin to make their way home. Their rides are quiet, because . . . well, this: “You just couldn’t keep your mouth shut, did you have to goad uncle Joe, you knew he was already drunk, God I don’t know why we do this every...
8 Slang Terms Your Teen Uses – Do You Know What Fleek Means?

8 Slang Terms Your Teen Uses – Do You Know What Fleek Means?

Do you know what OTP means? How about fleek? Yeah, me neither…. You know why? Because we are old, my friends… Ancient. As. Hell. As adults, our internal vault of slang fills up over the decades, but we rarely hit the “refresh” button on that list to add the latest lingo. Maybe we fear looking like we are trying too hard to be modern by talking like the kids at the bus stop. But modernize we must, we can’t keep using the word “groovy” like Cheech and Chong and not be a mockery. My personal jargon vault has somewhat refreshed since I no longer describe something worth remarking as “Totally Tubular.” Suzanne Summers and I both had to move on without our headbands and leg warmers. I was hanging with my daughter and her teen friends (or maybe I was chillaxin’ – whatever) and I used the term “word.” Apparently this should have been ejected from my vault too. That expression, and posse poses were so 90’s apparently. Mom fail. What’s a Mom to do? We overcome and adapt like the bad-asses we are. So I decided to dive in and save y’all from the humiliating lesson I had to learn in researching this piece, but first I have to tell you how it happened. It started when I said “Oh that’s cool” to the gaggle of female juveniles on our pool deck. They snickered quietly and a brave one said “like, nobody says ‘like cool’ anymore, it is so, like, old school.” At which point I wanted to reach over and flick her nose piercing. Do they all have to say “like” in every sentence? I keep waiting for one of them to get stuck in a loop and just stand there saying “like, like, like, like, like” as a record scratch. Oh wait… record scratch. So vintage. It was time to figure this shit out. Determined to document this properly, I pulled out more evidence of my age and slammed my readers on, prepared my notebook and pen, ready to begin the lesson. Defined with usage examples, I present you with my findings about teen slang that will crown you as coolest of the Momsters: Goals When something looks good. Use like this: “Your outfit/hair/purse is goals.” (The grammar murder in the usage of this term is a travesty but stick with me… it gets worse.) On Point Anything that looks good, which is somehow different from goals. Use like this: “Your outfit is on point today.” (Pointy outfit – check.) On Fleek When something looks good. Use like this: “Your eyebrows are on fleek and your hair is goals.” (I will now run to the mirror to see if...
If You Are a Mom, You Should Vote

If You Are a Mom, You Should Vote

Listen up all of you who are the owners of uteruses (even if you haven’t used yours), we have a job to do that goes well beyond diapers and helping our kids with homework. We need to use our Mom voices (you know the one, where you address your child with their full name) and make them heard by the politicians. This post is for Moms in America, and really everywhere, and the message is simple. “Vote: because you can!” In particular, women’s issues in any elections are important and we all need to know what they are. For instance: Which candidate will ensure your girl child has the same rights as your boy? If they think women should be barefoot and pregnant and don’t belong in University or the workplace, write a big “L” on their forehead and move on. Which elected person will steer the bus and keep it moving forward, and who will crash it into a fuel tanker and burn it all to the ground? I think we all know women are better drivers, so think about that. Who will take away rights and freedoms of vulnerable women, or limit their ability to make decisions about their own bodies? If you don’t know which candidates stand where on these issues, don’t ask your pastor or your local white dude who runs the business association, they have agendas. Do the research yourself. Who will pander to the extremists and get mowed down by special interest groups? Don’t know what I am talking about? Think Westboro Baptists and the NRA. As a Mother, knowing the facts and voting accordingly should be all of our concern. We have 50% of the voice in society and this is how we can use it. Your children should see you voting, your country needs you to vote, and if you have not been fooled by the bluster, your vote should count for something. Women for generations fought to have the right to tick the box for their preferred candidate, so it makes you kind of a jackass if you don’t use your voice and make a choice. The whole circus is going to get louder leading up to the Presidential elections. Mothers of the US must step up with megaphones, armed with the facts, and vote like the powerhouses that we are.   This post was originally published on...
Yes, Tell Me Your Story Baby

Yes, Tell Me Your Story Baby

Yesterday I was in a store line up. A woman with a four year old girl was in line ahead of me. The child didn’t seem to require oxygen in order to speak, because I am sure I never heard her breathe once between sentences. That little girl was explaining an extraordinarily complex game she had made up, with a set of rules that would rival Dungeons and Dragons. The Mother was trying to pay, and wrangle a younger sibling along with shopping bags, and the little girl chattered on.  I listened with great amusement because it has been a few years since my kids have spoken in marathons like that. I think back now, there were times when their stories seemingly went on for ages. When every small thing they did resulted in a full voice below of “MOMMY COME SEE WHAT I DID“. That was back when they wanted to show me everything, and tell me everything. I am now entering a different phase of our lives. Their stories are less frequent, but much more interesting. They tell their tales with the same feverish enthusiasm and it seems like they just couldn’t wait to tell me, but it doesn’t happen too often. Children, from the day we have them start to pull away from us. I thought it was hard sending them to school full time, or letting them go places without me. That was easy. This part is getting hard. When they keep their stories more to themselves, and have that shared understanding with their friends. They have stories I don’t know about, or that they keep to themselves to build their own internal archive. I just hope those secret stories are mostly happy, and are memories of achievement, or resilience, or love. I sometimes sit and watch my beautiful babies laugh and practice being teenagers or grown ups and wish they would tell me one of their stories, or show me what they did. Tell me your stories baby, and Mama will hold them in her heart.   This post originally ran on BluntMoms.com...
Mom, Can I Have a Gay Best Friend?

Mom, Can I Have a Gay Best Friend?

Things can change so much over the course of a single human generation. It gives me hope for the world. My Grandparents and Parents were intolerant of people who were different, and had old world views about people from different cultures, who had a skin colour that wasn’t white, and who were gay. The saving grace is that I know of a number of gay people who were in our family circle, and nobody realized it, they just couldn’t see it. Flash forward to my younger years. In university, I had gay friends, punk rocker friends, flexisexual lovers and everybody, male and female, wore eyeliner. I held friends as they wept with deep grief when they tried to come out to their families and their world exploded. I knew that would have been my fate if I was gay and told my family. Nobody “different” would be tolerated. My family even warned me not to date the black guy in town. WTF? Of course I dated him… first thing I did was make damned sure I found out why this would be so bad. It wasn’t bad, turns out he was an asshole, but that isn’t about colour. Now I have children. My eldest child and her friend decided that when they get to high school they want to be sure to have at least one gay friend. When asked why, my girl replied “because your gay friends are so fun”. I smiled and had to agree with that one. She doesn’t realize that their being fun is not so much about being homosexual, it is just that I pick fun people generally. I wouldn’t want to generalize that any group of people is any certain way, except for maybe Republicans, but that is another post entirely. We explored the conversation quite a bit. I had to explain to my gobsmacked child that often in high school somebody who is gay will likely hide it. She couldn’t understand that. I explained that many of their parents might hold a dim view of homosexuality, and that they may not feel safe to come out, heck they may not even have fully figured it out yet. Then she asked “how do they know?”. (Sidebar: can you picture the quagmire I had waded into on that day? Picture Mom pouring herself a little snifter to try to explain the fundamental ignorance of homophobes) I explained that currently, at her age, she is pretty comfortable around girls, but boys make her giggle and nervous? She agreed. Well, if you are gay, you are probably more nervous around your own gender because that is who you will eventually be attracted to as you grow up....
There is no HO HO HO in Halloween

There is no HO HO HO in Halloween

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid back when the earth was cooling, we dressed up as nasty witches or snow white for Halloween. The fanciest we ever got was cutting holes in a bed sheet and shouting “trick or treat” while trying to see through the ever shifting fabric and fogged up glasses. Flash forward 30 years or so, the world of Halloween costumes have changed a whole lot. Young girls have precious little to choose from that isn’t streetwalker chic. Teens are invited to Pimp and Ho parties. AAAARGH!! Parents of little girls now have to wade through teeny tiny little bits of fabric labelled “sexy police woman” or “red hot firefighter babe”.  For 6 year olds. Much has been made of this appalling trend, and I am so glad to see parents everywhere are speaking out. I would like to add this perspective to the public conversation of sexual Halloween costumes for children. There is an organization called Children of the Street Society  which has made some strong points on the topic. Here is a quote from a notice that went to schools in their area: Halloween is fast approaching and we’re once again reminding parents and schools about Halloween costumes which glamorize human trafficking, gangster life and sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are devastating forms of child abuse. Dressing up as a “pimp” or “ho” glamorizes the sexual exploitation of children and youth, an issue which has been likened to modern day slavery. Youth are lured into exploitative situations for a variety of reasons including false promises, gifts, addiction and coercion. The reality of their situation falls far short of the image that is portrayed in the media. Rather than a glamorous life style, the victim faces multiple barriers and challenges including addiction, mental illness, homelessness, sexually transmitted infections, barriers to employment and long lasting trauma from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. With the increase in online activity, more youth are vulnerable to exploitation and recruitment. Statistics show that 1 in 5 youth are sexually solicited online and 75% do not tell a parent. Executive Director Diane Sowden says, “Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are crimes that rely on individuals being unaware or misinformed on the issue. Wearing Halloween costumes that stereotype or make light of these harmful forms of exploitation, only contributes to the problem.” The message is simple: it’s not socially acceptable to dress up as a ‘pimp’, gangster, or sex trade worker this Halloween. Glamorizing or normalizing the sex trade and gangster life, adds to the false perceptions of these harsh realities. Surely we are more creative than putting a 10 year old in a sexy flight...
My Hair Dresser Thinks I Am Cantankerous Old Doll

My Hair Dresser Thinks I Am Cantankerous Old Doll

Everybody under the age of 30 looks 12 to me. Honestly, are there even any actual adults working in banks or stores anymore? Even the dude selling me a car doesn’t look old enough to vote. Being on the cusp of the jaunty decade that will be my fifties, I understand, at least theoretically, that I look my age. It’s not like I have any horse anesthetic injected in my forehead crinkles, nor is there any bit of me worth tattooing. (I understand you need at least a few square inches of taught skin for the artist not to produce a Salvador Dali creation that jiggles when you walk.) So really, I get it that the under 30 set views me as practically a geriatric. I don’t have any real issue with being viewed as old and harmless. There are advantages to being a stealth 30 year old in a 50 year old costume. For instance, when I ask for help carrying a heavy purchase from some young buck at the hardware store just so I can look at his ass, he has no idea of my ploy. Dirty old ladies are real, just ask my friends. Where the friction point between generations is for me, a late Gen Ex, and my Millennial hairdresser (or is it stylist, I am never sure) is my haircuts. When my usual hair artist went on maternity leave, I kind of bounced around trying to find a new home for my locks. Apparently, there is nobody over 40 doing hair, so I went with a series of young people to see what new style I could rock the world with. I mean these youngsters set the standard for music, social media, fashion and coffee shops… can they not help one grouchy old girl with her hair? I started with an appointment at a local trendy salon. I was assigned to this diminutive hottie from the Philippines.  He had funky hair and was not afraid of multi coloured spikes. He had promise. As he stepped on his stool and put the cape over my head, it felt like Edward Scissorhands was grooving through my hair. This was going to be the one… I knew it. Alas, it was a mediocre haircut and I waddled out of the salon with no spikes of my own. Apparently I am not spike worthy. The next three young women disregarded my requests for interesting colour combinations and a modern cut. Nope, I left all of their salons looking like Mama from the Carol Burnett Show. I used some decidedly unladylike language each time I grumbled my way into the car. Have I gotten to the point where I...
The Front Seat Smackdown

The Front Seat Smackdown

“Oh for shit’s sake, will you two knock it off?!” “But Mooooom… she ALWAYS gets the front seat!” And 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . we count down to older sister eye rolling followed by the smackdown with a rapier sharp-cut to the solar plexus, gutting her little brother. Now she is mad, and he is crying inconsolably in the back seat – and we aren’t even out of the driveway. I need some help with this “front seat privilege” issue. The boy has recently become heavy and tall enough to technically be allowed safely in the front seat of our airbag enabled vehicles. The girl is a solid 20 pounds over the safety weight and is very tall for her age at 13. She has had front seat exclusivity for over a year.  He feels he should be able to step into his birthright and have it at least half the time. There was peace in the land until recently, because he would never consider breaking the laws of the land when I told him the police would give me a ticket for letting somebody too light in the front seat. I hooped myself with that one. Here is the groaning conundrum: She is older, well behaved, a straight A student, helpful and generally owns her position as queen of the house, but a good Queen, more like Elizabeth, not like Maleficent. The boy is, um . . . harder to raise. He argues about every . . . single . . . fucking . . . thing. With me, with his Dad, and particularly with his sister.  He fights getting out of bed in the morning for school, and it seems like a continuation of the hairy fit he threw when he had to go to bed the night before. Every night, every morning. This is the kid who loses a full wheelbarrow of privileges at least once a week. There are days when he is lucky he gets to eat with the family and not out in the dog house. When it comes to the car, it would gall his sister, and frankly, me, to relegate him to anything but the trunk on some days. I have been letting him have the front seat when she isn’t in the car with us. Maybe that established the wrong precedent by giving him a taste of the throne of power. Either way, we seem to be locked in this endless debate and I am tempted to let her drive so I can curl up in a fetal ball in the back seat and we can just ride in silence. Three years . . . in three short years we will hand her a set of...