Friday 2 August 2013

Full House: Defining Step Parenthood


This is part I of II. Read part II here or follow the link at the end of this post.

Six months ago, I decided to adopt an adorable fanboy named Bruce and keep him as my roommate. We’ve done pretty well as far as roommates go, and that’s impressive because I don’t always do great with sharing my living space. One time I had a freak-out at MJ for repositioning the couch so we could sit together during movies, because I didn’t want her to always be sitting right beside me in my ‘personal space’. I should note that at the time, we were dating.

Anyway, point is I’m not easy to live with and I like things to go in a certain order. Today I tried parting my hair on the left, for example; I managed to keep it like that for about the length of time it took me to pour my cereal. I just find that life outside my home and personal space is already so chaotic and random that, when I’m in my own space, I like things to be a certain way.

So this week, I invited two children and a man to live with me. Because…well, temporary insanity is my best guess.

On move-in day, Alan’s boxes and giant sofa were piled into my tiny townhouse living room. It looked like the end screen when you lose at Tetris: stacked to the roof and nowhere to move. But Alan dealt with it quickly and efficiently, and now it just looks like a burgeoning hoarder lives here, with boxes and junk piled in the corners.


I’m getting this weird question a lot: “Oh, you’re moving in together? Will you be parenting?” What the hell does that mean, people? What exactly do you define as parenting? Yesterday Blueberry tried to pick up a glass of water and Alan and I both yelled, “Two hands!” in unison…I didn’t know I was going to say it, but I think it’s ingrained into my brain from years of my own parents yelling it at me. I think I actually still hear it when I go to grab a big tumbler. Is that parenting? If I tuck the kids in, or teach Max how to make Alfredo sauce like I did last night, is that parenting? Blueberry had a stomach flu this week; I went to the store, got her medicine and coconut water and various other natural remedies, and helped to make her feel better. Is that parenting?

When did parenting become an insular practice? I firmly believe that the most successfully-raised children are raised by the entire village. When I was a kid, I remember being harangued by any nearby adult in the neighbourhood when I was getting into trouble; do we view this as parenting?

If parenting is defined by the acts of daily living, like eating and getting dressed and peeing, then yeah—I’m parenting. But so is every adult that comes in contact with the kids. We were at a wedding last month and the entire table ended up working together to get Blueberry to eat her dinner.

How do you not parent? A few people have talked about choosing not to ‘parent’ one’s step-kids. I have no idea how you’d live in a house with children and not interact with them in a parenting fashion. Not ‘parenting’ kids in your own home seems akin to having a roommate who sits on the couch beside you, asks you how your day was, and you just stare straight forward at the telly. Then the roommate gets annoyed and starts poking you, and you still stare forward. Then he puts your Gilmore Girls DVD in the toaster because you left him unsupervised.

As far as I can tell, the part of parenting they’re suggesting I skip is the discipline part. But if I skipped that, I’d be all fun and no substance. I’d be a 31 year-old buddy. As much as I’d enjoy swinging lightsabers around the living room with impugnity until we broke a lamp and then just leave Alan to send the kids to their room…I can’t do it. Discipline is how a kid learns to shape his world for good or evil. It’s really the most fascinating part: watching children learn what is right and wrong, and how consequence works, is like having a behavioural sciences lab with live chimps in my house every day.

So yes, I’m parenting, as I consider the mini-humans to be human and to be deserving of interaction befitting their intelligence and maturity. In fact, I've been involved with the kids' upbringing for a while now (and here's a fun post from the early days). This means hearing ‘no’ sometimes, and learning boundaries. If Alan had asked me to back out and just be the fun lightsaber-wielding one, I suppose I would have tried, but honestly I’m not even that happy-go-lucky with my adult companions.

Alas, whether or not I consider myself to be parenting, a lot of the world around me doesn’t seem to be on board…read part II.

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