As a Step you are constantly in situations with the bioparent that requires a level self control beyond anything in a corporate board room. You must keep your cool, remain calm and NEVER open your mouth to say what you really think or feel. If you don't, not only will there most likely be hell to pay for you, but there will most certainly be retaliation on your partner, and could even cause friction between you and the children; It usually pans out as a no-win for everyone involved. Most situations have to be left up to your partner to handle, and even then it can get pretty messy.
Regardless of how differently you would approach things than Bio, it’s just better for everyone if you, as the Step, pick your battles, let pretty much everything go and, most importantly, keep your fuckin' mouth shut.
I come with the disclaimer, “I don’t do pleasantries.” Which is my polite way of saying, “I sometimes give unsolicited feedback, and don’t ask me anything if you don’t truly want to know the answer. I don't dance around topics or sugarcoat and often I am physically unable keep my feelings on certain matters locked deep inside."
I'm not good at keeping my mouth shut. Never have been.
...maybe it’s genetic.
Within my personal Step/Bio relationship it’s especially challenging. I can play nice, but sometimes it’s really, REALLY hard for me.
Kylie unapologetically beats to her own drum. She commands attention, not because she asks for it, but because people can’t help but to be drawn to her bright and cheery disposition. At 8 years old she shuffled around the backyard in high heels and an oversized prom dress like it was a normal Thursday.
When Eric and I decided it was about time that the girls get involved in sports, naturally, I recommended Kyz pursue an avenue where she could showcase her flair for the dramatic. As she was already 9 1/2, and it was far to late to really get her started in dance, I suggested competitive cheerleading.
Competitive cheer is an expensive sport, but you get what you pay for. Kylie would be practicing three times a week. She’d not only be learning stunt and dance routines but also tumbling and gymnastics as well, not to mention, supervised childcare that certainly would beat her sitting around on an electronic device or staring at a tv screen all evening.
To us, it was a no brainer.
When Eric and I presented the idea to Kylie, no surprise, she bounced around overjoyed!
Unfortunately, Biomom was a hard sell. “I don’t like the idea of cheerleading. Maybe if she was actually getting some exercise, and not just swinging her butt around. I would prefer she do something that I can relate to with her more… like tennis! I love tennis! Tennis is great exercise!”
My jaw would have hit the floor... if I hadn’t been biting down so hard on my tongue.
Is she serious?
Does she even know what competitive cheerleading is?
And when was the last time Biomom actually took the girls to a tennis court?!
Keep your mouth shut, Ashley, keep. your. mouth. shut.
It took a lot of convincing, mostly from Eric and Kylie because I was still nursing my severed and bleeding tongue, but they eventually somehow convinced Biomom to let her try cheer for a season. (I won’t get into all of the details of what we had to agree to for that to happen, but let’s just say it was going to be a very expensive and gas guzzling year for Eric and me).
Turns out, it was the right decision, as Kylie fell absolutely in love with it- so much so that she would often come home and make up her own cheerleading routines between practices. If she wasn’t at the gym with her team, she was teaching daddy how to “pinch a penny” or papa how to hold his “cinnamon buns out!” Kylie had found her spotlight, and it made Eric and I so happy to see her so happy.
Flash forward to the end of competition season, and Kylie began begging me to sign her up for a private classes, once a week, to better her cheer skills for next season (and also probably in part because all of her teammates were doing it). “I want to be a flyer next year!”
“Okay. If that’s something you really want, I’ll sign you up, but I have to talk to your mom and dad first.”
She squealed with excitement!
I didn’t think it’d be a problem,I mean what’s the difference in me taking her to a cheer class she wants to do for thirty minutes a week VS. me taking her for a bike ride in the park, roller skating or to Urban Air?
I sent a text to both Biomom and Eric that said I would personally pay for all of the private classes, take her there and bring her home and that it wouldn’t impact their work schedules at all. (So, not really much different from an earlier negotiation.)
I was working on my laptop when the text from Biomom came through. “Kylie has a lot on her plate right now, so I’m not fond of the idea.”
My eyes widened and I had to take a moment to gather myself. I reread the text a few more times.
A lot on her plate? She goes to school and then after school she goes to cheer two times a week for a couple hours and once on the weekend! That’s it! She literally has zero other obligations or hobbies! What size plate does an average 10 year old have?
My lips pursed tightly. I took a deep breath, shut my computer screen and stared at the wall.
Don’t do it, Ashley. Keep your fucking mouth shut!
A few minutes passed and the anxiety was bubbling inside me. Steam was starting to expell from my ears like a Looney Toon character after eating a stick of dynamite. I had to say something or I was going to implode.
Okay, I can refrain from responding to Biomom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t vent a bit, right?
I texted the other cheer moms my disappointment that Kylie most likely wouldn’t be taking private lessons. I didn’t say anything negative about Biomom, but I did explain that she wasn’t onboard and why. I tried really hard to diplomatically put my feelings out there by saying “her and I just see and do things a little differently.”
One of the cheer moms empathized, offering an alternative solution, “Maybe you can just take her when it’s your week.”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that, since I already asked for permission before forgiveness.”
Another chimed in, “Maybe we could do a group tumble open gym, and once Biomom sees how much she loves it, perhaps it'll change her mind.”
That would be a borderline violation Biomom’s wishes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. “That could work, maybe? I don’t know. I am hoping she’ll noodle it and come around.” I crossed my fingers, but I certainly wasn’t holding my breath.
The next day after cheer practice I received a text from Biomom “Hey, so I was talking to one of the other moms, and I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have Kylie try a private lesson and see what it’s all about.”
Wait , what?!
I immediately sent a text to my cheer mom group, “I don’t know who said what, but Biomom just gave me permission to sign up Kylie for privates!”
I received several winky face emojis.
Damn, Cheer Moms are good.
It might have taken everything out of me, but I didn't mutter a peep to Biomom about my feelings when she gave me the whole "too much on her plate" spiel. Neither did Eric. I also didn’t slam Biomom in the heat of the moment while I was venting, though to be honest, the little devil on my shoulder really wanted to. Nope, I remained cool as a cucumber, and kept my mouth shut! I still don’t know what was said to Biomom, but somehow the jedi-mind-trick wizardry of the other cheer moms me actually worked.
Kylie starts her private lessons next week, and she couldn't be more excited!
When this post was originally written Kylie went on to participate in a months worth of private lessons, and LIVED for it! However, she has since been removed from cheerleading altogether by request of Biomom. The reasoning given was that it was something that Biomom, herself, couldn’t relate to. She once again suggested that she sign up Kylie for tennis instead.
It has been 18 months.
Kylie has yet to take a single tennis lesson.
I told you, I'm just not good at keeping my mouth shut.
~names have been changed to protect the innocent~