One of the things that I find most challenging as an only parent is maintaining lines and boundaries – not just between my kids and me but as it pertains to the running of our house with just about everyone. From the outside looking in, two parent households seem to have an advantage because there is the concept of good cop/bad cop and no one person has to play both roles all the time.
In our house, I bump into this with the girls when it comes to feminine hygiene and product issues. I admit I am in way over my head for most of it, and rely on the girls to take the lead, and I usually show up with a credit card. This leads to broader issues with shopping – things that as a boy growing up I never had to deal with. 12.5 needs a specific bikini for camp because everyone in her bunk is getting one. 13.5 needs specific shirts and shorts because her group is the oldest campers this year.
The line is what do you need and we’ll talk about the rest. The boundary though moves into a social sphere though – and their acceptance and ability to be comfortable in their surroundings. Issues I can’t control, and boundaries I have to cross.
Having a second parent in the house to sound that out to is a luxury I don’t enjoy. I am sure there are reasons why it’s not as simple as it appears with two people sharing in decisions, but it certainly looks easier to not have to be the one to make every ruling and then enforce each directive.
Added to the mix in our house now is my brother, and that dynamic helps keep the lines and boundaries blurred. I have set up rules for my brother in living with us, and have promised my girls its temporary. But the reality is, it feels more permanent that I want it too….
And then there is my brother not following the rules in place that I use to govern my house. It’s that house guest who won’t use a coaster, but your children do all the time. I don’t want to have to “scold” my older brother and point out what he is doing that violates the house norms. But I also have to maintain the lines and boundaries that keep the house afloat.
It’s a fine line to walk. But why should I have to clean up after my brother when I don’t clean up after my kids? Why should I have to unplug a smoking space heater from my brother’s room when my kids can’t even have a space heater in their room?
As any parent has – I’ve invested a lot emotionally, physically and financially in my house and family. Since I still expect to reap an ROI (return on investment) at some point, I need to protect it. That’s becoming increasingly difficult to do though when I am not only maintaining two sets of lines and boundaries – but apparently two sets of rules.
When my brother moved in, the agreement was he would leave by the end of February. Now its the end of April. Do I have the cachet left with my kids to maintain the boundaries I’ve set up while they see they can be flexible?
So, we’ll go shopping for 12.5’s bikini. And 13.5 will get the senior camp wear she needs. And feminine hygiene products will continue to befuddle me. But I will maintain the lines and boundaries to protect my investment in my girls.