“Those clothes aren’t coming into my house.”
“You aren’t wearing anything bought by that person into my home.”
“Whatever they buy you, needs to stay at their place, I do not want to see it.”
The amount of times these statements and similar ones are said to children who split their time between multiple homes is absolutely mind boggling, not to mention, sad. The first time I heard of this happening was many years ago. I remember thinking to myself, wow, that person’s step mom is out of her mind. Why in the world would she put this kid through this? Why would this Mom put this child through the additional mental anguish of having to know “which” clothes are allowed and which ones are not on any different day? Call me crazy, but, don’t kids have enough to worry about? Don’t we all for that matter?
Over the years, it has become apparent to me, that this is, unfortunately, almost more normal than not. People who, with a straight face mind you, say that they care about the well-being of their child, that they would give them the world, that they would do anything for them, that their former spouse is the one who is uncaring, non-supportive and a monster, are the same people who utter these statements when their children return from their other parent’s home.
Hmmmmm…. I think it is time, and long overdue, for those of us in any shared parenting situation to step back and take a real hard look at ourselves and our actions. When we act with aggression, whether outward or passive, the only people who really suffer are the kids. Think about it. What message are you sending, when you do not let your child wear a pair of pants purchased by someone else? Does this sound rational? Does this sound mature? Does this sound supportive? Does this sound like someone who has the child’s best interest at heart? Choose to believe what you will, but the answers to all of the aforementioned questions are a large collective NO. In essence by not allowing the child to wear clothing purchased by another care giver or parent, you are not placing any value on your child’s emotions or feeling of well-being. Your divorce is about you and your former spouse, not about your child. They still have two parents, you, and the other. If the step or other care giver are the ones making said purchases, same holds true.
By not valuing your child’s emotions, you are in fact, doing the opposite of what you hoped. You are actually building a wall between you and your child, not your child and your former. Seriously, why this big deal about clothes? They are just clothes? Why do you care so much?
When I hear of these stories, all I think about is how this is essentially an adult form of passive aggressive bullying, where the intended victim is less harmed than the innocent child. You may have feelings of resentment, and dare I say hatred towards the person whom you share parenting responsibilities with. These feelings may even be justified, in your opinion. But, take a moment to think about how your hateful behavior effects your child’s well-being. What lesson are you teaching them by NOT allowing clothing? By not allowing clothing to be worn or taken into your home? You are not teaching lessons of respect, love and acceptance. You are teaching lessons of selfishness and self-centeredness. What a shame this is. You try so hard to be a good parent. You do so much for your kids. You make so many sacrifices for them. You would give them the shirt off of your back….ugh, there is that clothing reference again. You want only the best for your kids, yet you let past feelings show them only your worst.
The clothing is a symbol of control. You can change your behavior. You can teach your child that, despite your feelings, you love them and accept that they love and have a relationship with their other parent and that person’s significant other. You do not have to like the person, but it is time that you respect them. It may not be easy to make the change. You may not like their taste. But, you love your kids. You want to be a good example for them. You want them to know that treating people with respect is important. So, do that. Let them wear the pants, shorts, shoes, shirts, and jackets that are purchased from your former spouse. Your kids will appreciate it. You will eliminate another stressor in everyone’s life, which, will make everyone’s life just a bit better.
Remember…its only clothes. Give it a try. Cheers.
Anne Sleeman is the President and co-founder of Kids On Time, essential tools for co-parenting. She knew her life changed forever when she met and married her husband Joe, and became step-mom to his two children. Anne’s new found role of step-mom, friend, confident and role model led her to self-awareness and personal growth as she undertook the most important role of her life: Step-mom. Anne’s personal tag line for step-parents everywhere is that being a step-parent needs to be viewed as a privilege, not as a right. Anne is beyond proud of the co-parenting tools that she has co-created. Knowing that taking a wellness approach, as opposed to a litigation approach is viewed by some as outside the box. Anne is excited to offer her stories and expertise to all parents, step, blended and otherwise. Anne’s website is :www.kidsontime.com. Follow Anne on Twitter: @KidsOnTime and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/mykidsontime.