I'd love some perspectives on this.
I don't have much of a relationship with my stepson's mom. But, from what I can tell, she's a good mom with her own strengths and weaknesses. One of her weaknesses, similar to my husband, is promptness!
My stepson started middle school this year, and they are really strict on the arrival time. Because of my husband's weakness in this area, I set up a system at family meeting. Stepson brainstormed on everything he needs to do to get ready for school. We estimated the leaving time and the wake-up time. Dad also got his list of things to do. The rule, which stepson loves!, was set up that no one is allowed to nag anyone about their chores until the other is ready to go.
This system has worked well for about a month, and stepson has never been late on our time. Yeah!
Ok, I'm sure this is obvious where this is going. Stepson came to me upset today because he has detension for having 6 tardies in a month. The tardies list is online, so its clear that these are all on his moms time.
I really feel for him. I think it stinks that he is being penalized because his mom is late in the morning. He wants advice, but I really dont want to overstep my bounds by offering too much advice about his moms household. (Im sure she could have many complaints about our house)
How would people navigate this?
Maybe this is something your husband could approach her with? Or you could ask your stepson if he's mentioned his concern to his mom so they can talk about it directly?
I think you're right to be cautious; you don't want to step on her toes with it or get in the middle of an "issue" in their mother/son relationship.
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Maybe stepson could print out the tardies and show to mom. Sometimes I feel like I'm hardly late, but seeing it printed out might and knowing there is a consequence might get me out the door quicker.
If it is an issue of mom having a hard time getting herself ready and out the door on time, I would consider asking your husband to talk to the school because I also think it is unfair to make a child responsible for a parent's actions. If a child rides the bus and it is a matter of getting from the bus to class without dawdling, that is one thing. But if they are relying on their parent for transportation, that is quite another. Perhaps they can set up a system internally in the school to acknowledge that your stepson shouldn't be held accountable.
On the other hand, if it is more an issue of your stepson not having a system in place at mom's house to help him get ready on time, you may be able to brainstorm with him what he can do differently there. Are there things he can apply from your system that would work there as well? Are there other things he can add (like if he has his own bathroom at your house, but shares one at mom's, he could shower the night before or rearrange his routine so he isn't waiting around for the bathroom). You or dad might be able to coach him on talking with his mom about it, once he knows if there are things he need her cooperation with (like working out a bathroom schedule or a breakfast routine, or suggesting to mom that she choose her clothes the night before like he does).
First he asked you for advice. Pat on back, steps don't always do well together. Second, there is no reason why you can not call the school on his behalf. However they tend to stick to their guns on this one.
Maybe DH could call her and ask if she needs help getting him to school? Crud I don't know, it's hard since you kind of need to tread lightly in these situations. She needs to be held accountable though.
Maybe have your stepson write down the process he goes through at your house? He could present it to his Mom respectfully, as his own idea: "Obviously I don't want any more detentions. I know you've been doing the best you can, Mom, and you don't want me to get any more tardies, either. But we need a new system. Can we try this one for a month and see if it works for us?"
Then it's not, "Dad has a better system than you and he wants us to do it his way." or - worse yet - "Step-Mom has it all figured out and thinks we should do things her way." (...even if it's true!)