“I got grounded from my TV, iPad, and iPhone.”
Those were the words that came out of my seven-year-old stepdaughter’s mouth. Seems more in line with a seventeen-year-old’s punishment, than a seven-year-old, doesn’t it?
I’ve written before about the vastly different lifestyles that are promoted in each of her two homes. Part of being a stepparent is knowing and accepting what is out of your control to change. Do we support the materialistic morals she is adopting in her other home? No. But we also can’t change it.
My stepdaughter had a top of the line video gaming system at four years old. An iPhone at five. An iPad at six. A flat screen TV in her bedroom at seven. She’s been to Disney World more times than she can count on all her fingers and all her toes. She’s flown first class. She went to her first music concert before she entered first grade.
Sound excessive? You bet. While it makes us happy to see Stepdaughter happy, it’s also sad to watch unfold.
She only gets one childhood, and it’s being fast-forwarded through.
A trip to Disney World now gets about the same amount of excitement as a trip to the grocery store. It’s just expected. It’s no longer special. It’s lost its magical feeling, and that is gone forever. We are taking her for the first time this spring and have bent over backwards trying to ensure our trip is still “special,” and have spent time researching new attractions to visit so it’s not the “same old Disney experience” she’s had two dozen times. That to me, is sad.
This past summer, we taught her how to ride a bike without training wheels. Less than six months later, she unwrapped a top of the line, seven speed mountain bike on Christmas morning in her other home. Talk about fast-forward! We want her to be a little girl as long as she can, she has the rest of her life to be an adult. Her bike at our home is staying a rolling advertisement for Hello Kitty, complete with handlebar streamers, a kitty basket, and a hot pink bell.
Her iPhone is not allowed in our home, because we feel it is inappropriate for her to have at her age. She will never have a television in her bedroom. And if she wants an iPad one day, she will get a job and save the money for it herself. We will not participate in the precocious life she is being handed, and hopefully our way of parenting will instill some positive morals and values in her. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re easy on your kids, their life will be hard. If you’re hard on your kids, their life will be easy.” Whether it makes a difference or not, we will continue to do things our way and hopefully teach Stepdaughter that the finer things in life take hard work and determination.
More importantly, we are trying to preserve her childhood. Playtime in our home revolves around board games and make-believe, not screens and headphones. We get outside as much as we can and write with chalk, fly kites, and roller blade to the nearest ice cream shop. Every family is different; and her other family has every right to parent how they see fit. What they do is out of our control, the same as what we do is out of their control. As stepparents, all we can do is support our spouse and help give their kids the life they want to provide them. Their Ex is an Ex for a reason, and parenting strategies are usually high up on the list of differences that caused their divide. Instead of trying to get all parents to adopt similar rules and regulations, accept the differences. The kids will adapt themselves to match the culture of each home. Do you fall in our category? Great. Do you fall in her Mom’s category? That’s great, too. Different lifestyles come with different pros and cons. We enjoy our way of doing things because while a childhood can be fast-forwarded, it can never be rewinded. So for now, this summer we’ll stick to hide and seek, hula-hoops, and popsicles. And the only screen Stepdaughter will see is on the door leading to our backyard.