One of the toughest aspects of being a single parent is coping with the loss of the good cop/bad cop dynamic with your kids. Yes, traditionally kids will play their parents against one another, but just as likely and with more purpose parents will play these rolls with their kids.
From doing chores, to getting homework done to a visit to grandma’s house-in a solid working couple delivering the bad news is split so one parent does not have to be the one to take on all the gloom and doom.
For single parents, while there is no sounding board, there’s also no one to take on the opposite roll. So sometimes when a single parent needs that second voice to move a project along, get a result they want or just need to mix it up-they have to play both sides. The good cop this week, the bad cop next week and be the one cop all the time.
All of this is a little easier when time is on your side.
The case study for this was the first ski trip we took this season. Now last year (when there as actually snow) and we needed to get out of the house for the holiday break, I took the girls skiing for the first time and they loved it. We ended up skiing several times during the 2010-2011 winter. During our last trip in late March, we spend the day in a blizzard at Jimminy Peak in MA and had a great time. Except by the time we came off the mountain we were soaked and the shuttle from the lodge to the car had stopped running.
Tired, wet and in ski boots we lugged all our gear back to our car-and then 8.0 was not happy about it. In fact her hands got so cold they stung her and that was her last memory of skiing for the season. It’s also the one that set with her for the year.
Which brings us to September/October of this year when we got our skis for the season. There was some trepidation, but nothing that was unmanageable. Then two weeks after getting our gear came the proclamation from now 9.0, “I’m not going to ski this year.”
Time was on my side and 11.5 definitely was up for skiing. So it was on me to spend some time figuring out how to get 9.0 back on the slopes. The new wrinkle this year was the soon-to-be teen sister realizing she had a lever to make her little sister feel bad-so there was a lot of back and forth between the two.
For me, it was being the good cop. An understanding parent listening to the problems and helping 9.0 realize they were solvable. New gloves with liners would keep her hands warm. Warming up on the easy hills would give her a feel for the skis. Going up the night before would give her the feeling of a fun adventure.
Then there was the tougher side. We already rented your skis, if you don’t use them the money is coming out of your allowance. You’re going with us anyway and you can sit the lodge by yourself all day.
The balance is to not sound like you are schizophrenic delivering those messages-and sometimes they are in the same conversation.
It’s an art more than a discipline to have both the good cop and the bad cop rolled into one. Couples I know alternate the roles (we used to). But equally it’s about listening and knowing your subjects and the message you want to deliver.
The real win was seeing 9.0 remember how much she loves skiing and taking on the challenges. Frankly, she and her sister skied the crap out of an intermediate hill to end the day on a high note.