I had to ground my step-son for the first time and it made me feel like a "real" parent

November 16 | Guest post by Emily
Photo by picstout, used under Creative Commons license.
I love my little man. He's seven, and while not mine by birth, he sure as hell is mine by love. The four of us parents, (mom, step dad, dad, and me — step mom) get along pretty well, and while we disagree on some things, we try to compromise and present a united front. Usually, this isn't too hard — he's a good kid, hardly ever misbehaves, and for the most part a good talk will prevent any major infractions of the rules. That is, it was easy until yesterday.

Yesterday, I went to pick him up from his mother's house for our weekend with him. Little man was all packed up and ready to go, waving a sword in hand, a football in his back pack, and shouting "It's adventure time!" as they opened the door. My claim that it was indeed adventure time, so let's go on an adventure, was met with barely concealed glee until the fated words fell from his mother's mouth.

"We are grounded."

His face fell.

My heart broke.

Instead of pushing this aside, I adopted the sort of voice I remember my mother using on me and said "Oh really? And what did WE do?"

Apparently, he had made his mother late to work two days in a row because he wouldn't take his medicine. The third day, he spit it out on her. Then he got a very bad grade in conduct at school. Then, as the cherry on top, he hit his grandmother.

He also had the audacity to say "It doesn't matter if you ground me, I'm going to daddy and Emmy's house this weekend." All of these things had piled up over the past four days, and had gotten him grounded from TV, and I felt that just taking away TV was getting off too lightly.

"Oh I do NOT think so, young man. TV, video games, movies, computer, my phone, YouTube, anything not having to do with imagination, school, reading, or playing outside, you're grounded from. Is that understood? That type of behavior is unacceptable."

He began to tear up, nodded mournfully, and went to put away his movies he had packed to bring with him. I talked with his mom, the two of us discussing that learning videos such as the History Channel were acceptable.

On the way home, I asked him why these things had happened, giving him a chance to explain himself and myself a chance to explain that I understood how some things can happen (like the bad conduct at school) but others (like hitting his grandmother, or anyone really) there was absolutely no excuse for.

He accepted my judgment, but was still mad at me for betraying him and agreeing with his mother. When he refused to give me a hug, opting instead to carry some light groceries up to our apartment, I let it go. His Dad was woken, and filled in on the happenings, which prompted more discussion of behavior.

We came up with some new ways of expressing feelings and upset. Along with that, we discussed ways to get the teacher to come over if someone was punching him at school (the origin of the bad mark for conduct), instead of lashing out.

Despite the heartache and drama that's come with the grounding, this was the first time I have really felt like a serious parent to him, and I wanted to shout to the skies and cry all at the same time.