Maureen Turner: We Are Family


You're Not My Dad

Enforcing Rules

This morning, I had a little reminder of how our decisions affect our children’s lives.

We were having breakfast, Tom, Rebecca and I, and Rebecca didn’t want to finish her breakfast. Now, don’t think we were forcing her to eat something she didn’t like, not that that would be a first. No, we were having chocolate chip pancakes, as per her request.

So, when Tom told her she needed to eat what was on her plate, she looked at him and said “You’re not my dad”. The words that step parents assume they will hear one day, but always hope they won’t.

I was astonished. My immediate reaction was to be very stern. In my best mom voice, I said “Rebecca! Tom is your step dad, and that means he makes rules. He and I own this house together, and we make the rules, together.”

I could see the embarrassment on her face. I asked her to say sorry, and her hands went over her face.

That’s when I softened. I told her it was okay to cry and that she was probably feeling uncomfortable because she said something mean. I told her that she needed to take her hands away from her face so she could talk about it and asked her, once again, to apologize.

She wouldn’t budge, so Tom used an example. He said that if he were going to get ice cream, and Rebecca asked for some, he would never say “no, you’re not my daughter”.

That’s when the tears started. We knew she felt bad for what she had said, but sometimes sorry is such a difficult word to say. At our house though, sorry is a must... and it has to be said nicely.

We talked some more about being rude, and how emotions can make us say things we don’t really mean. She still wasn’t responding. So, I enforced the rule and told her that she had one minute to say sorry, and if she couldn’t do it then she could go to her room. Her pancake would be waiting for her when she came down.

Finally, her hands came away from her face (at the very last second). She said a very unconvincing “sorry” that wasn’t gonna cut it. So, she said it again. Although it wasn’t great, we accepted it.

Now, she just had to finish her breakfast. There was no argument, she just ate.

Afterwards, when we were away from the table, I asked if she needed a hug. She came to me and we talked. She told me she missed her dad, and we talked about how hard it is not to see him every day.

I always feel guilty during these conversations, and I know that my decisions have put her in this position, but I never let that dictate how we will deal with the situation. There are rules for a reason, and although it’s hard sometimes, structure is needed... perhaps even more so in a blended family.