I think one of the biggest things that makes a parent successful, either in a nuclear family or a blended family is when we admit we are wrong. I know I write lots of articles, but when our family goes through disagreements, it’s not always easy for me to share. I don’t want to expose my kids or my co-parents unnecessarily, but in this case, I felt it could be beneficial to part the curtain and show what happens in our family during an argument. There was one particular incident with my oldest daughter that I could have handled better a couple of weeks ago.
My oldest daughter needed a new swimsuit to be able to swim in the lake for July 4th. I took her shopping by myself one night after work. I should have taken into account how exhausted from working all week and I was in mid-flare-up of some of one of my medical conditions. I had already taken my other daughter to pick out her bathing suit earlier in the week while her sister worked, and it went surprisingly well. We talked, joked, laughed, and she found something she liked quickly. This is the first bikini, not tankini, my 12-year-old has ever worn. We agreed on a fairly modest one that she felt comfortable and more grown-up in. I was glad I had time alone with her so she had the freedom to choose clothes without her sister’s opinion dominating hers, as older sisters tend to.
I hoped I would have a similar experience with my older daughter. We arrived at the first store, and disagreed about a couple of the bikinis right away. The difficult thing about co-parenting, as most who do it can relate, is when there are multiple parents involved it’s hard to please everyone. I knew both dads would be against skimpy bikini triangle-style tops, so I instantly said no to those. Not that I’m thrilled about my daughter baring so much around boys either…. Anyway, she found a couple she thought were appropriate and we headed to the dressing room. The first one was an instant no. One word: CLEVAGE. Not just a little, but we were talking, spilling everywhere cleavage. Two words: Hell no! Suit two was one that she liked. I wasn’t sure about it, so I snapped a picture and texted it to the other parents. This is what we do when we shop to make sure everyone is okay with the choices. If we don’t do it this way, what happens is one of the kids wears something and another parent disapproves, which is understandable. It is just easier in the long run for us to do it this way. I had sent pictures of my younger daughter’s suit as well, but had not received a response until after we got home. Luckily, the suit was approved, otherwise I would have taken it back or we would have negotiated.
My daughter had reached her limit and was ready to go. I remember that age and how self-conscious I felt. I understood how she felt. She was feeling uncomfortable in her own skin and swim suit shopping only makes any woman or girl feel worse about themselves. At this point, no one had texted back, although my phone was on vibrate. I wanted to find a suit she felt comfortable in, that all of us agreed on and to get her out of the store as soon as possible. It was a mom moment that my heart hurt for her and I just wanted to fix it. I suggested a cover-up. She chose one and we walked toward the check-out lines. In hindsight, I realize I should have looked at the situation from a more objective point of view.
We reached the check-out line and I glanced at my phone, wanting to make sure none of the parents had texted. If they had not, I planned to let them know we were buying something (which would have caused major issues). My huband wasn’t a fan of the suit. He thought the top left too much uncovered and the bottoms were too small, but he was ultimately leaving it up to me. Jeff and Molly also thought she should look at other suits. Other customers in Target stared at us as they walked by. My daughter stood at the end of the cart, hands on her hips, ready to go. She refused to try on anymore suits in the store. None of the parents like the one in my cart. My joints throbbed and my kidneys burned.
I texted Molly a string of texts. One of which said: I don’t know what to do now. Waste of time. She called me right away. What I didn’t know was one of her sisters was visiting from out of town and she took time out of her visit with her to call me. My daughter stood next to me during the entire conversation, which in hindsight never should have happened and I knew better. Jeff and Molly felt the suit did not fit properly and she should try another size. My daughter had refused to try any other sizes or any other suits, and we had already spent over an hour inside the store. Tears pooled in my daughter’s eyes, and my stomach twisted with anxiety. Molly even suggested she wear her old suit at their house and the new one at our house to try to accommodate me. She told me it was my money and I could do what I wanted with it, but I sent them the picture for their opinion. If I did not want an opinion, I should not have sent the picture. After we hung up I was even more confused and I knew she was irritated with me. My daughter was upset and I needed to get off of my feet as soon as possible. I bought her the cover-up and we decided to try one more store. I was off the next day, so we could always try again when we were both fresh in the morning.
While we were on our way to the next store, I received some texts from Molly that she felt they were being made out to be the bad guys in the scenario. I glanced over at my daughter, who was upset because she thought her dad and stepmom didn’t want her to get the suit she wanted. I should have never taken the call in front of her. I should have waited to hear back from the others before I acted. I let my own feelings take over my actions and now I had a tangled mess on my hands. Molly also thought I was angry with her, due to the previous texts I had sent her prior to our phone call. After a few feeble attempts to repair the situation via text message I decided the best solution was to simply stop and wait until we could talk.
The next store had nothing and the evening ended with my daughter crying in her room. Once we got home, while I was in the shower, my husband sent some additional texts to Jeff and Molly. He began that he was not trying to place blame, but Ali had refused to eat dinner. He said that he normally didn’t speak up, but he felt he should in this case. He said he hoped the events from the store didn’t turn into her starving herself, and that he was worried about her. When I got out of the shower there was a full-blown text argument happening. Molly felt the comment about placing blame was again making them the bad guys. The point was that we normally discuss things as a unit and make decisions together, presenting our decisions as a unified front to the kids, which I did not do. My husband unintentionally reiterated that from his text.
I had planned to talk to Molly on the phone the next morning, once all had calmed down to smooth everything over. I knew I was in the wrong on this one. I did make them out to be the bad guys, but I honestly never intended to do so. I was a tired mom who was worried about her daughter’s feelings, being blinded by my own personal thoughts and surroundings. I was oblivious to everyone else at the time. I realize this is not an excuse, but we are all human and are entitled to human moments. My husband wasn’t trying to make the situation worse. He was worried about our daughter and about me. Sometimes just letting something rest until the next day is the best way to handle it. With Ali and I both upset, he reacted.
I texted Molly that I was sorry things were blown so out of proportion. Unfortunately, it was too late for that, but she texted back later, asking if we could talk the next morning. Her evening had been ruined from the situation, as ours had. The rest of my night had been spent in tears on and off, mainly because I knew all of it could have been prevented, and I felt like for the first time in a long time I did exactly what I tell other people NOT to do.
We spoke the next day and talked everything out. I genuinely apologized for the way I handled the situation. I also explained to our daughter that I handled the situation poorly. My mom and I took her shopping again, and several texted pictures later, we found a suit everyone agreed upon. More importantly, she felt comfortable in it.
Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of twelve and sixteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community, and Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, www.bigblendedfamily.com, and is a regularly featured writer on www.herviewfromhome.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.