Tue 30 Aug 2011
Back to School time means form time. You know those pieces of paper where parents and/or guardians are to be listed. Or not.
Nothing seems to bring more angst at the onset of school like those dreaded forms. Actually, it’s not the forms themselves but being left off of them that can fuel an emotional fire deep within a stepmom’s heart.
The first day of school each of my six kids brought home an inch of forms to be filled out; basic information sheet, emergency contact form, medical form, lunch and transportation forms, photo release form, code of conduct form, just to name a few.
I poured myself a cup of Joe and started to fill them out aiming to have them done when my husband got home to save him the agony.
Our school system is progressive and acknowledges the role parents and stepparents play in the lives of children. Having said that, I was surprised to find only three boxes to list the parents/ guardians on the general info sheet.
That works fine for our family as my ex-husband is not remarried. But what if he were? Would I write her name on the back and draw an arrow to the front? Would her feelings be hurt if she were left off due to space? The questions could go on and on.
I tweeted early last week about the angst that these forms seem to have on co-parents and within minutes I had over five stepmoms tweet back about how their husbands were left off the form. One stepmom even said that not only was her husband left off the form but his children’s stepdad was listed as the bio dad.
When that happens you have to think about motive. And that’s why it’s best to go straight to the source if you are left off of a form – go to the school. Don’t engage the other parent. If you have legal rights to your child then the school legally has to make information available to you and include you in all communcations.
If the husband is left off the form, you can guarentee that the stepmom will not be listed. Sometimes as stepmoms we can feel like a used text book. We are good enough to take care of our stepkids but not good enough to be included on the school forms or attend open house. It can really hurt.
These types of events are tangible reminders of our position in the family. Reminders of how little control we can have over situations regarding our stepkids. A reminder that we are expected to take care of our stepkids but that we shouldn’t expect any recognition for it. WE are good enough to buy the supplies, help our stepkids with school projects and study for tests but for some of us, we don’t count when pen meets paper. Ouch. That stings. But don’t despair. Regardless of what a piece of paper says… YOU are a very IMPORTANT person in the lives of your stepchildren.
Five Tips When You or Your Husband are Left Off the Form:
First, Don’t Take it Personally. You may not be on a piece of paper but that does not negate the role you play in the child’s life. Sometimes when a parent or stepparent is intentionally left off a form or out of a school function it has more to do with the insecurity of the other parent than it does with the parent not included.
Second, Go to the Source. Unless a court says you have no rights to a child, the school must under the law, give you access to the child’s information and list you on the forms. The tech age has made it easy for co-parents to stay in the loop. Most schools have the school calendar online and the teachers are easily accessible via the school website.
Third, Don’t Put the Kids in the Middle – When kids are put in the middle of any co-parenting issue there is a great chance for anxiety to set in for the child. When a child is anxious, he takes that into the classroom and it impacts his ability to learn and socialize. It also can impact the teacher, her ability to teach and the other classmates.
The children don’t make co-parenting choices and they shouldn’t have to pay the price when one parent makes a bad one.
Fourth, Examine the Motivation. It seems like our culture loves to pit ex-wife against stepmom. Sometimes these two roles don’t get along but often times they do peacefully co-exist. If you and/or your husband has been left out, examine the motive. Could it be a mistake or oversight? Could it have something to do with the form itself? If you truly believe you and/or your husband was left off intetionally then my all means DO NOT ENGAGE THE OTHER HOUSEHOLD ON THIS MATTER.
If the true intent was to get you upset and you do get angry and call/email/text a nasty message then you have just given the other household what they want and you have validated their behavior. It’s natural to get upset but be cautious in letting them know how upset they have made you.
Every behavior has a motivation behind it. If your husband’s ex truly left your stepkid’s father off a form to spite him or you and you get all bent out of shape then you just satisfied her desire to hurt you. If you go directly to the school and don’t mutter a word to her, she may not feel that same motivation next year when the back to school forms start back up. She’s found out she can’t get to you that way. She also knows that she has no legal right to do what she did and that you and the school will right her wrong.
Fifth, Focus on What Really Matters. It is important that you know the teacher, the important phone numbers for the school (attendance, school nurse, principal,etc…), drop off and pick up procedures, alternative transporation rules, school hours, homework policy, etc…..
You can get all that information directly from the school office. Go there for the info if the other home isn’t working with you. Try your hardest not to get the kids involved.
I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment if you and/or your husband has been left off a school form or not included in some type of school open house or activity. What’s your take on this situation? How has it impacted your husband? You? Your kids and stepkids? Thanks as always for sharing.