After my parents divorce, my dad never remarried. He did however have a few long terms girlfriends.
When I started dating my husband Darren, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the things that my dad’s girlfriends did that triggered me. From wearing his shirts around the house, to changing our dinner time routine, to too much PDA way too soon, to sitting in my spot at the dinner table, I took note of the things that my 10-year-old self found cringeworthy.
The one that really sticks out is about cutting meat.
Yes, cutting meat.
My dad cut my steak until I was about 12 years old. Maybe even after that.
Looking back, it wasn’t the best way to encourage independence and table etiquette, but it’s what we did.
We had a thing.
(Spoiler alert, I turned out just fine. I now have great steak cutting skills. It wasn’t that big of a deal).
He had this new girlfriend and she was over for dinner.
She was new.
As we got ready for dinner (with her drink sitting at my spot at the table), my dad began to cut my meat.
“Don’t you think she’s old enough to be cutting her own meat?” Girlfriend said to my dad.
“SHE IS RIGHT HERE” I thought to myself.
“Yes Jamie, she’s right, you can cut this yourself” he replied and proceeded to hand me my plate.
You ^#*&” I thought in my head.
(actually I may have said a portion of that out-loud)
She was right. I should be cutting my own meat.
But here’s where she went wrong. She shared her opinion in front of me.
YES my dad was coddling me and wasn’t doing me any favours in life.
BUT… she was new. She didn’t get a say in how he parented me. She certainly didn’t do herself any favours by saying it when I was right there.
We could have had a lovely steak dinner together (as long as she got out of my chair), but instead, the vibe was ruined and our relationship got off on the wrong foot.
Here’s what she should of done:
If she felt so passionate about my inability to cut my meat, later that night when the time was right, she could have brought it up to my dad.
Then, if he agreed, the next time we had steak, he could show me how to do it on my own.
It would have felt like a parenting moment, coming from him.
Instead… I didn’t like her and I resented him for how he changed when she was around.
I’m sharing this because I think as stepmoms we can all take something from this story.
If you’re wondering… they ultimately broke up and we never did connect.
Sometimes our partners need some guidance from us when it comes to their parenting. Sometimes they need to hear another parenting point of view.
BUT sharing this in front of the kids, especially at the beginning, is not a good move.
If you haven’t established that parent-like relationship, pour yourself a glass, bite your tongue and bring it up later.
Play the long game.
You’ll thank me for it.