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This is off the beaten path of political discourse, but this may hit a nerve.  As a 37 year old who married a divorced man with two girls 18 and 12, I've come to realize in the short few years of "step-motherhood" the trials, tribulations, and frightening enough, lack of knowledge pertaining to basic things.  I may be an etiquette, education snob in the end, but I must protest.  The frustrating part is, as a "Step-Mom", my educational guidance is severely restricted, basically, sit back, stay silent, observe the mayhem, and walk away.

Follow me... Top 10

Okay, simple and straight forward, things that I have noticed that our youth can't quantify or comprehend.

1.  Basic table setting and manners:
     -  Know how to properly set a table:  Forks on left over napkin, knives and spoons on right.  Concept:  Place knives and spoons on left and work inward with silverware.  Glass on right.   Remove napkin and place on lap.  No go!   No concept of "napkins on lap"?  Wow.

2.  Telling time:
     -  Yes, digital is the age, but when you say 20 til 4 or quarter after 1, they look at you like your from outer space.  Since when, do schools not teach them basic time methods using the quarter, half method?  My 12 yr. old step-daughter cannot grasp this concept.

3.  Phones:
     -  Concept, phones can also be used for talking with one another, vs. texting.  

4.  Cooking:
     -  Does anyone reach out and teach kids how to cook anymore, or we in the age of microwave and pre-cooked meals.  The 18 year old was terrified of flipping an egg.  Come on now.  She actually has interest, and I taught her how to bake potatoes.  Wow!

5.  History:
     -  When was the Civil War?  I dunno!  Did you know there was segregation?  What is segregation?  Why did we invade Iraq?  Oil?  Why was Nixon impeached?  Who's Nixon?  Where's Paris?  France.  Where's France?  Huh?

6.  Music:
     -  The Beatles.  I can say no more, other than when they only listen to Top 20 on the satellite radio, if you say "Love Me Do", they say "Huh, who's who, what?"  But, hey, they took 3 weeks of violin lessons, right?

7.  Politics:
     -  Okay, simple.  Question:  "Obama, is he republican or democrat?"  Where I come from it's, "Well, either way, he's bad"!

8.  Literature:
     -  Okay, I'll read "Hunger Games" and "Twilight", but if you even think about asking me to read anything else, forget it.  How great is Tolkien's trilogy?  Why is that not amusing enough?  Okay, so you got romance, death, and vampires.  Can't compete, right?

9.  Social Skills:
     -  "How are you?" - "Fine".  "How's Grandpa?" - "Fine".  Although, he's suffering from cancer?  "Who's playing at the arena next week?" - "blah, blah,blah, I have to get tickets and can you pay?"

10.  Responsibility:
     -  "I think that I need a MAC laptop for Christmas."  Okay, so we have the chore list on the refrigerator from last year.  Vacuuming, tidying up the room, clear the table, set the table (that's if they can master #1).  So the dishwasher gets loaded, in a very creative way.  All silverware is creatively placed, and the last phrase is, "Do we have a vacuum?  I can't figure this out!"

Okay, just a vent, but maybe fun for folks.   I'm sure there are people here who can relate and are suffering from a challenging time of teaching basic things, or not being able to, in my case.  Adieu.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    "People are only as happy as they make up their minds to be" Abraham Lincoln

    by carolh11 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:05:13 PM PDT

  •  Kids these days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    They have nothing in their entire arsenal to break one man who refuses to be broken.

    by MattYellingAtTheMoon on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:10:12 PM PDT

  •  Sorry you're (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slowbutsure, BachFan, BYw

    not enjoying your kids more.

    FWIW, none of this sounds odd to me. They are not interested in table settings and politics? Not shocking.

    A pleasant experience that results in knowing how to cook basic items -- sounds good. The rest of it? Irrelevant -- at least for now.

    What do you enjoy doing with your kids?

  •  I've also noticed ... (4+ / 0-)

    ... that many kids (and too many adults, too) think music-making is for the professionals.  If they haven't heard Christina Aguilera or Katy Perry or the like sing it, they don't know it.  Try leading them in a rousing rendition of  "I've Been Working On the Railroad" -- they look at you like you're nuts.

    Singing just for the fun of it seems more and more to be an alien concept to more and more American kids.

    "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

    by JBL55 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:33:59 PM PDT

    •  Not enough music instruction in elementary school (6+ / 0-)

      When I was a kid, we wuz drug through 1.5 centuries of the American Songbook by a small army of women armed with autoharps and high ideals. "Eeeeeeast Siiiiiiiiide Wesssssst Siiiiiiide, aaaaaalll arounnnnd the towwwwwn...!"

      My favorite is still "White Coral Bells," sung in round.

      White coral bells
      Upon a slender stalk
      Lilies of the valley deck my garden walk
      Oh, don't you wish that you could hear them ring?
      That will happen only when the fairies sing.
    •  glad my teenagers are/were in band in school. (5+ / 0-)

      They learned to appreciate different kinds of music.  Band, IMO, is one of the very best character-building experiences in middle & high school.  Teaches discipline, music skills, teamwork.  I'm not just saying this because I was a band nerd myself...

      •  Bands, choruses, theater ... (5+ / 0-)

        ... all provide team-building experience, superior to team sports IMHO in part because the kids learn skills they can use for a lifetime.

        "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

        by JBL55 on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:45:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  At least in our school, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          slowbutsure, historys mysteries

          the band & orchestra kids are way above the athletes as far as grades, test scores, and behavior.  The athletes are more likely to get in trouble for drinking & drugs.  I won't speculate on why that is.  Actually I will.  I think one factor is that the band directors expect more from their kids, where the athletic coaches just want to win and will overlook bad behavior.  My daughter also plays varsity volleyball, and we've seen some examples of that.

  •  Sounds like you're indicting their parenting (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slowbutsure, BachFan, raincrow, BYw

    and you married half of that.

    I agree about the music, history and politics.  A rude awakening is coming in college.

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:43:31 PM PDT

  •  Well, as the girl who was that 12 year old (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nance, skohayes, BachFan, raincrow, BYw

    when my dad remarried, I can tell you what it's like on the other side when you're suddenly immersed into a culture of homelife that's no more valid than the one you came from, but is so different you feel like a total outcast.  My stepmom dealt with it by telling me we didn't live in a barn, and calling me a savage.  On the other hand, she's a clean freak who scrubs her toilet every day.  Every day people, with cleanser and a brush.  Whatever.

    As an adult, I am and educated and culturally aware extrovert.  My friends enjoy spending time at my house. I throw complex dinner parties with my full set of lennox china.  I have awesome manners.   Not because my step mom yelled at me, but because my agemates and I eventually learned that these things were useful and fun and led to improved social interactions.

    To this day I still laugh silently as I watch my her.  She does things to perfection, and she makes everyone around her unspeakably uncomfortable in the process.  I don't want to live in a hotel.  I don't want to lose my shit at the dinner table and make my guests cring when the pie crust is soggy .  I don't want to spend my fabulous days on earth cleaning my toilet.  

    These kids don't need your scorn.  They probably have enough self doubt to go around.  They need a calm, patient, persistent positive example.  And maybe you won't see the benefit until they have kids of their own.  That's this thing we call parenting.

    For every vengeance there is an equal but opposite revengeance

    by mothnflame on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 01:52:12 PM PDT

    •  I expect carolh11 is sharing with us so (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      she will not share with her kids.  But thanks for sharing your experience - sounds like you turned out ok in the end!

      ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

      by slowbutsure on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:16:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why would you think that? (0+ / 0-)

        It sounds like she treats her kids just the way she describes them here -- with disdain. These kids didn't grow up with her and now she doesn't approve of them or know where they are coming from. How could they possibly fail to get that message?

        Or is slowbutsure right, carol? Are you keeping all these feelings from the kids and just sharing here?

        What do you like about them? Do you spend most of your time with your kids focusing on those things or on these negative things?

        •  In the post: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raincrow, BYw
          my educational guidance is severely restricted, basically, sit back, stay silent, observe the mayhem, and walk away.

          ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

          by slowbutsure on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:42:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah -- good catch, (0+ / 0-)

            So, what about it, carol? Is that the plan? Sit back and stew? What does their father think of all this? Resentment like this is in the air whether you think you are saying anything or not. How's this going to get better?

            •  Wow. (0+ / 0-)

              It must be nice to be perfect!

              •  Really? You think (0+ / 0-)

                that's what I'm saying? No, what I'm saying is that it doesn't like Carol has gotten to know and appreciate these kids. And/or she just feels fine venting about them.

                And I'm saying that's not OK. Neither one is OK.

                I'm saying these kids probably have wonderful characteristics but she has focused on these niggling complaints instead. Or maybe she hasn't. Maybe she spends most of her time enjoying them but thought this was a funny bit or something.

                Which it isn't.

                I am far from perfect but I try not to post anything about my kids that I wouldn't want them to read now or in the future.

                Instead of sitting back and cataloging these failings and harboring these resentments, I asked if there was a plan to do better than this. I would love to hear that this was a one off and that the relationship Carol is working toward with her children is built on respect and love.

                •  She might already feel respect and love (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  slowbutsure, gfv6800

                  and not be exactly like you, or speak in exactly the terms you would speak.

                  AND her stepkids might completely agree with her, and they might not care a single bit.

                  AND they might be resilient enough that they are not psychologically maimed for life if someone doesn't think them 100% wonderful 100% of the time and has niggling complaints about them.

                  AND they all just might have a sense of humor about the difficulties of "blending."

        •  I thought it was darkly humorous and SPOT ON!! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          slowbutsure, chimene, BYw

          having done my time as a long-suffering, shut-up-and-let-her-dad-discipline-her, step-into-the-adjoining-room-to-roll-my-eyes-or-smack-my-gob, bitch-about-her-to-my-coworkers-to-let-off-steam stepmom.

          The stepdaughter who used to leave greasy Hardees biscuit wrappers on her dad's upholstered furniture now keeps a house almost clean enough to use as a surgery (without oppressing her kids and only partially oppressing her husband).

          Yes, the very same stepdaughter who had to be frog-marched through high school, but eventually caught academic fire, graduated with honors, and got a masters degree (the latter while pregnant and working 40 hrs a week).

          She still has no clue how to set a formal table but she can cook like nobody's business, so who cares if the fork is on the right??

          "Oh Susanna" who??? Rolling Stones GAWD!!!! Somehow we survive even though we can't sing together in the kitchen as we do the holiday cooking.

          If I handed her a globe she probably couldn't find our part of the planet, but she by-god knows how to make state-of-the-art coal scrubbers run, and helps keep my region in electricity.

          And I'm the one who would FAR prefer to text than talk.

          •  So at some point (0+ / 0-)

            you stopped hiding in the next room and participated in your stepdaugher's life? Or it was all her Dad? Or she got to this wonderful place herself?

            It does sound like she turned out to be someone who would be handy to have around! I'll take electricity over place settings any day. :)

            •  Gosh, I'll bet you're insightful once in awhile. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              denise b

              And sometimes perhaps even a little bit of fun. In fact, I almost feel sure of it!

                •  Chocolate Mousse (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Nance, LinSea

                   Chocolate Mousse Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

                                    Recipe Summary
                                    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

                              1 3/4 cups whipping cream
                              12 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate chips
                              3 ounces espresso or strong coffee
                              1 tablespoon dark rum
                              4 tablespoons butter
                              1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin

                              Chill 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing
                              bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.

                              In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and
                              butter. Melt over barely simmering water, stirring constantly.
                              Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still visible. Cool,
                              stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.

                              Pour remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and
                              sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to "bloom" for 10 minutes.
                              Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low gas
                              flame or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir
                              mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.

                              In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/4 of
                              the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in
                              the remaining whipped cream in two doses. There may be streaks of
                              whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work
                              the mousse.

                              Spoon into bowls or martini glasses and chill for at least 1 hour.
                              Garnish with fruit and serve.

                              (If mousses are to be refrigerated overnight, chill for 1 hour and
                              then cover each with plastic wrap)

                  ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

                  by slowbutsure on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 04:13:23 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  I was in sort of (5+ / 0-)

      the same situation, my mother died when I was 12 (my brother was 13, my sister was 15) and my newly married father and his wife (16 years younger than he) took over. My mother was an alcoholic, so we were kind of used to taking care of ourselves. We could cook enough to feed ourselves, we got ourselves out of bed and to school, and we were very good at hiding how bad things were that last year of her life.
      Looking back, I don't know how my stepmother was able to handle it. She was only 27, she worked full time and my 15 year old sister was a real handful.  Life was hell.
      Now, decades later, we're best friends and she's still married to my Dad (45 years this year).

      “We are not a nation that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘out of many, we are one.’” -Barack Obama

      by skohayes on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:43:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I like your story (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        my dad's dying even as I type this, but he and my stepmom had 38 years.  Even though she drove me nuts at times, I still love her for being the woman who made him happy.  

        Blended families, they're complicated!  Bless my new husband who drove me to the police station last week to fetch my 15 yr old daughter when she'd been arrested with her friends for breaking into a school.  Cool as a cucumber and solid as a rock, he's the thing that holds me together so I can parent them.  He in return is grateful because he never had the opportunity to be a parent.

        Blessings are where you find them!

        For every vengeance there is an equal but opposite revengeance

        by mothnflame on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 09:59:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sorry about your Dad (0+ / 0-)

          Mine is 85 and I worry about him every day. My stepmother is a saint for putting up with him this long!

          “We are not a nation that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘out of many, we are one.’” -Barack Obama

          by skohayes on Sat Jul 14, 2012 at 03:52:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Never, ever write "Tricky Dick" as a (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skohayes, a gilas girl, chimene, BYw

    nickname for Nixon on a middle school whiteboard!

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:11:21 PM PDT

  •  "The Primal Teen" by Strauch is an (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, BYw

    easy-to-read update on teen brain development.  It may make you feel better...

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 02:18:03 PM PDT

  •  You sound like my stepmother (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nance, a gilas girl

    when I was growing up. Nothing was ever good enough for her, when we cleaned the house, she'd make us do it over again if it wasn't clean enough for her. 40 years later, she's a terrible housekeeper, and so am I.
    These days we're best friends, but it took a lot of years to get through the resentment and bad feelings.
    You're sweating over tiny little things like how to set a table for gods sakes, aren't there more important things to worry about? Like is the 18 year old sexually active and taking birth control?
    If it's for dinner where you'll have guests, how about setting one place and showing them that's how you want it done?
    The Beatles? Really? you're bent out of shape because they don't appreciate music from 50 years ago?
    As for the laptop, if it's your 12 yr old step-daughter, she doesn't need one. If it's your 18 year old, tell her to get a J-O-B and buy one.
    I'm assuming you're only a part time step mother, and you only see the kids on the weekends, but you could be a positive influence on these girls if you would stop criticizing them and start thinking of creative ways to get them interested in what you're interested in.
    And really, I don't mean to be critical of you, I have so much respect for my stepmom and what she had to deal with, while working full time and still being a newlywed.
    I know how tough it was and I hope you're able to adapt to having step-children.

    “We are not a nation that says ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘out of many, we are one.’” -Barack Obama

    by skohayes on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 03:00:44 PM PDT

  •  Just make sure they stay off my lawn. :) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Easy for an old bachelor to snark--but you have my sympathy and admiration for your effort!

  •  I agree with the concept of this post (0+ / 0-)

    We adopted 4 of our grandchildren.  Yes they text.
    BUT...they know the basic principles of social etiquette.
    They know not to interrupt without correction when adults are speaking.  They know about history and civics..If it isn't taught in school and it isn't.  Then the parent first of all has to teach responsibility and accountability.  We teach our children how to add and subtract the old fashion way..
    We teach manners...our way which is southern.
    We teach standing firm on one's belief in politics or ideals..Their's and not to be swayed by media.
    We teach against following the crows and emhasize accountability and truth.
    We teach independence.
    We teach nature and the stewadship of the land.
    We teach about the universe and the oceans and seas.
    We believe in learning and not accepting without question.
    We teach basic socialism... The b attitudes.
    We teach the states and capitols.  The different branches of service.  We teach honor to whom honor is due.
    We put time limits on technology
    We emphasize social awaeness.
    These kids are not perfect but they are really good kids with parents who love them who know they have leadership qualities and their destiny is limitless .  They know knowledge is power and it is not obtained fully in schools but begins at home.
    They know no means no.
    They are given the opportunity to screw up and then learn.  
    they are sponges.
    They are the future,  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 05:33:10 PM PDT

  •  crowds not crows lol (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Seriously..sounds like a lot of miscommunication between you guys as parents.   Need to sit down and talk to each other about what you expect from the children.   The table etiquette is mute to me.. If they don't wipe their hands on the table cloth be happy.
    Or chew with their mouths open.  Parenting in certain aspects does not start at 12.  Be patient and try to set an example is my advice.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 06:49:45 PM PDT

  •  I had 6 foster children (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I empathize.  My fosters all wanted me as a parent, and I wanted them as my kids.  And we still clashed over chores (the youngest is 40 - and sometimes we still clash over chores).

    You forgot basic clothing skills - sewing on a button, sewing on patches (Scouts, Camp Fire, Civil Air Patrol...lots and lots of patches to sew on!), iron clothes, do laundry including stain removal, hang up or fold clothes, storing away seasonal clothes, shoe polishing, sock darning, repairing a torn seam or hem.

    By the time all my kids left my house they knew all this stuff and more.  They may not have used it while living with me, but I see the signs of my lessons all over their homes now. And They're passing it all on to their friends and kids.

    All knowledge is worth having, so consider supporting OctopodiCon's Kickstarter

    by Noddy on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 06:52:13 PM PDT

  •  As an 18-yr-old (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Does it give you any hope in the younger generations that I know that Nixon wasn't actually impeached, but instead resigned so as to escape that label?

    The only peeve I had a problem with was the one regarding social skills. I, for one, am not particularly good at communicating, but I think that is a problem teens have had since the concept of the teenager was invented. Otherwise, sadly spot on for many the youngest of the teens I know. (music I'm also not sure I agree with, but I could just hang out with cultured people...)

    Also, an excellent way to remember which side implements go on regarding table setting: the side and the implement have the same number of letters. Right has 5 letters, as do knife, spoon, and glass. Same rule with left and fork.

    "Am I making myself clear?" "Clear as vodka, Dave."

    by kateofkatehall on Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 07:57:58 PM PDT

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