Sorry about the long post, just trying to explain as much as I can to get the most objective opinions.
First, the main characters for a quick overview of the implicated: *Names were changed to protect the guilty. - Me: Mexican, single mother, working full time. I was single for about 3 years after I separated from my kidís dad. And no, I do not live with my parents. I rent a place close to my mum, as she helps me a lot. - Beckie: My 6 year old girl. She is smarter than I will ever be. Not much of a backgroundÖ Her dad is rarely in contact with her, we have many issues and even though he tries, he has other priorities. - Caleb: My boyfriend of a few months. Heís English and came to live in Mexico, as we would like to someday get married and start a family. He was in the military for many years and is now an English teacher here. My friends adore him, that isnít always so great. - My mum: She is the awesomest bestest mum in the world, though even the bestest mum is the world can have some issues. She watches Beckie every day when Iím at work as sheís a retired nurse and is married for the second time to a wonderful man who loves her very much.
Before Caleb moved to Mexico, it was only Beckie and me, and due to me working full time, we spend very little time together. I would get home at about 6 pm and only be with her for a few hours before putting her to bed. I must say I do feel guilty as the reason of this whole problem comes from there, at least in part. She spends the majority of the day with my mum, who takes her to school after Iíve gone to work, picks her up and stays with her till I come home. My mum is, to say the least, a very pleasing anti-confrontation person; and since she was a divorced mum working full time while raising my brother and me, barely spending any time with us, I do believe she tries to compensate that with her grandchildren, by letting them do pretty much all they want, and rarely ever being the disciplining figure.
I know my situation as a single parent should not be an excuse to come home tired, wanting nothing to do with crying children, but it was to me, back then, and itís something I now regret. I would see Beckie, try to spend a good couple of hours with her, not really working much on her manners or discipline. On the weekends she would spend one day with her dad and the other day with me, and I tried to take her to the movies or anything fun, to compensate (there, that awful word again) for a week of absence. Then on Mondays, again with grandma. This lasted for the 3 years I was single, and even before I met Caleb, I wanted to put Beckie in a private school when she started elementary (which is later this year), so that she could spend more hours of the day in school, and not so many hours with my mum. My main reason for this was, sheís helped me enough and not getting any younger, so I want to stop being such a burden. I helped in any way I could, giving her money, and when I couldnít, at least I never asked for any. I think itís only fair that she starts being the grandma, instead of a second mumÖ Beckie sometimes even calls her mum. I donít mind at all, but my mother already had her time of dealing with kids, thatís in the past and it should stay there. I want her to enjoy Beckie without the worries, like a grandparent should. Itís now my turn to work and worry.
2 Ĺ months ago, Caleb arrived. It was all love and smiles at first, they clicked very well and Beckie was very happy to have him live with us. This arrangement is temporary, as heís rented a house of his own (weíre currently working on furnishing it, and in the meantime heís staying with us), and we think heíll be able to move there in the next month. Fortunately, he arrived with a secure job, which I helped him get at an English school, however, the immigration paperwork took a bit longer than we expected, and he was only able to start working a couple of weeks ago. Due to this, he will start to see the money coming in March (the school pays once a month). Itís fair to say weíre going at a good pace, and I want to avoid the whole ďletís cut expenses and live together even though we shouldnít because probably the relationship will suffer due to this in the futureĒ which would have been much easier for the time being. I must accept, if Beckie didnít exist, Iíd probably go for it, precisely because of that, but we try to do this the best way possible, within our power.
As mentioned before, Caleb is ex-military and saying heís strict would be an understatement. I would like to say, that even before he moved here, we had a talk about Beckieís upbringing. He knew what I had to deal with being on my own, with a child who is spoiled by her grandma, and a condescending dad who gives her whatever she wants so long as she doesnít throw a fit (heís never been good at the whole dealing with difficult kids thing). So, as much as this sounds like a joke, I was the only one providing some sort of discipline in her life. Also, I know she respects and listens to everything her grandpa (my mumís husband) says. He is, after all, the only respectable and constant male figure in her life. So when talking about this with Caleb, prior to his arrival, I asked him to help me in giving her more discipline, and he agreed. So after the first couple of weeks, when the novelty wore off, problems started. She noticed this guy was asking her to do things she didnít have to do before, like making her own bed, tying her laces and always saying please and thank you. The playful times were now replaced by serious talks about what she needs to do and if you donít do it, a punishment follows.
Itís important I mention his upbringing. Calebís dad was also in the military, and by the things heís told me, Caleb is a soft teddy bear in comparison with him. So, even though Caleb isnít as strict, he takes many things from his dad, whom he looks up to greatly, even though he was always disciplined (sometimes in ways that would make us want to call a social worker) he is thankful for it, and credits it for who he is now. But I donít think all the military training in the world, or visiting the worst war zones ever prepared him for what was to come, heís said it himself.
I have in my mind a few aspects that are against us in trying to change ways with Beckie: 1. This is a girl (no brothers or sisters) who pretty much has had her way always, and sheís not used to being disciplined a lot. If we get to have our own kids, it would definitely be easier as you start anew with a person who hasnít known any different. This is not the case with Beckie, we need to fix 6 years of deficiency in giving her any kind of solid structure. 2. The language barrier. He is only starting to learn Spanish and she knows very little English. Enough said. 3. His lack of flexibility. Donít get me wrong, I think heís trying really hard, and we donít ask her to do more than what she can do, but you canít ask for perfection from day one. 4. My mum. The fact that Beckie spends more time with her than with us is greatly affecting any progress we make. She is with us for the weekend, we achieve some things, and on Monday it all goes to hell, because ďgrandma lets me do whatever I want, and I donít have to follow any rules at her houseĒ. 5. Everything changed. This is a time for adapting, for the 3 of us, living together, even though itís temporary, is quite difficult. Hard for an adult, imagine for a 6 year old. And since ďstrict CalebĒ appeared, he became the bad guy.
If youíre thinking, ďthis is so going to affect their relationship as a coupleĒ, yes, it is. It does. Weíve had several talks, and the last one, yesterday, he actually told me he can see us breaking up over this. I must accept that I am to blame for a lot in this situation. He tries his best, and I donít always agree, or maybe Iím plain ignorant in the subject. He has a niece who had the same problems and with the help of his parents, made her the nicest, best behaved girl in England, within 6 months the process was a success. The key words in the last sentence are ďwith the help of his parentsĒ. That situation was quite different from the one weíre dealing with now; there was more to their favor than there is now.
Maybe it is a big change for me to try and give her all this discipline at once. Should I try and be tougher with her, or simply put my foot down with him when I donít agree? I donít always know how to act. He, on the other hand, has an unbiased perspective and goes ahead with what worked for him in the past with his niece. He believes Beckie doesnít even want to talk to him, if she calls (usually me) and he asks her whatís going on, she keeps talking to me and shields him off. This really pisses him off, and is convinced she does things on purpose to make him mad, or to let him know she considers him of no authority. I believe she has grown to see him as the bad guy, but I donít think she does mean things to him. As you can see, this whole thing has me in pain, and sometimes we canít even spend time together in peace.
We tried several approaches, to this day nothing has worked. We even started smacking her butt, which I took as a last resort after many other things, but each week we had to come up with something different. In her defense, I have seen some changes. The best example I can give is the following: at the beginning, when she had to make her bed it was crying and kicking and screaming for a good 15 minutes before she finally did it. She hated it for some reason. Now, itís the most normal thing in the world. Someone asks her to make her bed, she doesnít even blink, gets it done, voila! I suppose itís the whole getting used to new things, but how much is asking too much?