Sometimes love doesn’t come easy

By Mir
February 3, 2011

Otto doesn’t like it when I brag about him. I love him dearly, but on this he can suck it up because I don’t think I’m ever going to stop being amazed at how he just never, ever phones it in with these kids of mine. And I am here to tell you that—while also beautiful, talented, funny, and amazing—my kids can be GIGANTIC pains in the butt. No one would BLAME Otto for occasionally throwing his hands in the air and walking away, is my point.

Chickadee is at a magical age. One minute she is hilarious and loving and perfect and the next… uhhhh… somewhat less so. (AHEM.) (“Mom, why do all of my teachers keep saying I would make a good lawyer?” Gosh, I have no idea!) Remember when your precious snookums was two and it was a constant barrage of “ME DO IT MYSELF!”? The teenage years, it turns out, are VERY SIMILAR. Except that instead of “ME DO IT MYSELF!” it’s “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” or “JUST A MINUTE!”

(Let’s save discussion of the irony of “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” as the battle cry of the child who is EXPRESSLY DISOBEYING for another day. Preferably one when I am very, very inebriated.)

So here is what we’re currently dealing with at Casa Angry Young Teen, and feel free to stop me if you’ve heard this one before: SOMEONE has a bedtime and SOMEONE has recently decided that it’s fully permissible to view said bedtime as, I don’t know, a SUGGESTION. So SOMEONE is never ready for bed at that time, or claims to be ready but is still wearing contact lenses, or is completely ready but then comes wandering into my office fifteen minutes later “looking for a book” or “because I need you to sign this” or something else. Furthermore, when I resort—as I have, the last few nights—to refusing to engage with SOMEONE in these late-night antics, SOMEONE basically has a tantrum because “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME” and “WHY WON’T YOU HELP ME” and “I WOULD GO TO BED IF YOU WOULD JUST ANSWER ME.”

Hey, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a evening power struggle, except maybe a nice audit by the IRS. Still. I find it prudent to try to stay out of these interactions.

Now, that’s plenty of fun on its own, right? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Because you will never ever guess that this prolonged I’ll-go-to-bed-when-and-only-when-you’re-positively-furious-with-me-and-I-can-cry-about-it routine begets! For some CRAZY REASON, this same SOMEONE is having trouble getting up in the morning. WEIRD, HUH? It’s ALMOST as though we’re trying to enforce a bedtime so that SOMEONE is well-rested and able to comply with her SOMEONE’s chosen schedule, which includes an early morning team necessitating being at school 90 minutes ahead of the first bell every day.

Otto takes the kids to school in the morning. The deal is that if Chickadee is not ready to leave by an appointed time, they leave later and Monkey gets dropped off first. She misses half of her morning activity that way, so you’d think that would be plenty of motivation to get her butt in gear. But then, possibly you haven’t met… SOMEONE.

This morning Chickadee came downstairs with about a minute to spare, sniped at her brother, barked at me, insisted she needed help with her hair but then yelled at me when I tried to help, mouthed off to Otto, and when Otto informed her that she wasn’t ready on time they would now wait to leave, she continued her little rampage until Otto informed her that she’d just lost her ride altogether, she could ride the bus. This, of course, resulted in tears and stomping and complaining, and Otto calmly informed her that early rides to school are a privilege, and the way she’d been speaking to me and to him, she’d forfeited that privilege.

Otto and Monkey left, while Chickadee sat here crying in my office. I told her I was trying to work so she’d need to go somewhere else until the bus came; she picked up her stuff and stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, then sat down on the vinyl there to GLARE AT ME ANGRILY while I attempted to get some work done.

I think what Otto did this morning was good parenting, and that SOMEONE made her bed and had to lie in it. I wasn’t thrilled to be left to deal with her for the next half hour, but stuff happens.

What happened next, though, was GREAT parenting; Otto dropped Monkey off and then came back home. “I want to finish dealing with this,” he said, and then turned to Chickadee. “We’re moving your bedtime back by half an hour, starting tonight,” he said. “You will be IN BED by that time and ready to go in the morning ON TIME every day for a week before we move it forward 15 minutes, again, and then IN BED ON TIME and ready on time in the morning every night for another week before you get your old bedtime back. Screw it up and we start all over. We are not going to chase you into bed and we are not going to wake you up. You will take responsibility and you will do it without complaint. Do you understand?”

She nodded.

There was more, about the way she talks to us and her general attitude, and she sat there and glared but nodded and agreed and finally, Otto stopped talking and sighed.

“Let’s go,” he said. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“But you said I was on the bus,” she said, petulant.


“I… just… thank you? I just thought—”


And then they were gone. Otto reports that they rode to school in silence, but she did say thanks when getting out of the car.

I wouldn’t have blamed him for leaving her here today and having that conversation tonight, instead. Heck, after her behavior this morning I wouldn’t have even blamed him for telling her he’s just not going to drive her to school anymore. But he came back. He laid down the law. And then he extended the olive branch that she probably doesn’t even appreciate, because… he loves her. Even when (maybe especially when) she’s not being very lovable.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I always tell my kids I picked Otto for US, not just for me. They may not understand that for years, I know. But days like today are the reason why.


  1. CarolinaBelle

    Sniff. That is just so sweet.

    She’ll appreciate him one day. It just takes a while. I’m 26 and only in the last few years have figured out how great my dad is.

  2. the Iowa Expat

    Wow. Give Otto an extra smooch tonight for me (not from me, but as additional positive reinforcement for his mad parenting skilz.)

  3. beth s

    OMG, he is wonderful. And I LOVE the bedtime idea. We may implement something similar at our house with the only 8 year old who has been staying up later and later and getting behind on everything because of the crankiness. I especially like the being ready in the am part. Now if only I could get DH to be ready on time too. :-) no clue how many times this year i have ended up driving to school because daddy was running too late to get him there on time.

  4. Jean

    Wow, Otto is the man! What an amazing husband and an amazing parent he is. You are all lucky :) That being said, I am afraid of the teenage years!

  5. Beth R

    And THAT is a great parent. “Step” is biology. “Parent” is the important part :)

    I think we’ve all said this a few times, but you found yourself a winner in Otto!

  6. Shannon

    That was absolutely EXCELLENT parenting. I’m storing that one away for when my babies (currently 4 and 7) are at that age. :)

  7. Kristie

    Very cool.

  8. Rachel

    Honestly, Otto for DAD of the Year, my hubs can have 2nd place… =)

    Lucky kids, lucky you.

    And, thanks for the tear filled eyes at work. No, I’m not blinking back tears, I must just have something in my eye. Um I mean both eyes…

  9. parodie

    Wow. So amazing. Thanks for sharing this! Makes me feel hopeful (for myself, too) and very happy for your family.

  10. pam

    Oh Mir, thanks for starting my day with a tear…and a smile.

  11. Jodie

    Yay for Otto! He totally can suck it up on this bragging…it’s well deserved!

  12. Headless Mom

    Where’s the “Love” button?

  13. Scottsdale Girl

    I love the OTTO posts as I am struggling with being the step-parent. Well we aren’t married but living in sin with his 14 yr old son. I never had kids, but i was one and boy howdy I was raised, let’s say DIFFERENTLY. I struggle with being nurturing vs yelly all the time. Especially when it comes to the same daily argument over whether he did what he has to do on a daily basis. (how did you forget to take your meds AGAIN FORGODSAKE!) then the flailing of body parts and slamming of cabinets and remotes. OY.
    Good job OTOO, I wanna be just like you when I grow up. :)

  14. Nicole

    That is pretty impressive. Maybe he can make some progress with my mouthy four year old. Lord knows we’ve tried. :)

  15. Scottsdale Girl

    *OTTO (stupid keyboard)

  16. Jennifer Joyner

    Man, that Otto…he’s good stuff!!!

  17. Kristi

    You did good, Mir. Very, very good. (Oh, and you too Otto! Way to follow through)

    I’d like to borrow him???????

  18. Leandra

    I find this post simultaneously wonderful and downright depressing. Wonderful because you found yourself “a good one,” clearly. Depressing because I keep hoping that my interactions with my daughter (who sounds a lot like Chickie) are going to get EASIER, not HARDER as she grows up.

  19. Jen

    I…sigh…I was going to suggest an investment in an air horn for the mornings, but Otto’s method is considerably better. He is amazing.

  20. Angela

    Otto is so cool. Seriously.

  21. Kathy

    Wow! Otto is the coolest! You made a good choice. I hope I can remember his parenting techniques when I need them.

  22. Rachel

    That Otto, he’s good people! I’m fighting tears at work… Thank you so much for sharing you lives with us!!

  23. Beth

    Otto is a good man. And I’m glad you picked him for US. lol

  24. MomCat

    Such an awesome guy!

  25. Beachgal

    I so completely and utterly need an Otto. For a variety of reasons. Well done!

  26. Aimee

    Otto is THE BOMB!

  27. Carolyn


  28. elz

    Otto is the best. Great parenting. Tucking this tip away…

  29. Sharon

    When you think about the ingredients that go into making a responsible adult, good parents are at the top of the list. Your kids hit the jackpot and got two grade-A role models who love them unconditionally. If all kids were that lucky, we’d have a very different world. My sincere thanks to you and Otto for following through and putting out the word that it can be done with love and persistence…and more love.

  30. Therese

    Way to go, Otto! That was an exceptional way to handle that situation. Do you think he’s getting a handle on this parenting thing?

  31. MomQueenBee

    A husband is never sexier than when he’s being a good dad. Am I right?

  32. Tracy B

    I now understand that there is a reason for everything. I think I know the reason now. Thanks for posting this and that Otto…what a guy! Those kids are so fortunate to have such an awesome dad. (I hate step—only because I am one)

  33. Holly

    Wow. Otto totally rules.

  34. Stacy Q

    Otto is my new hero!
    In my book that is FABULOUS parenting!!!!
    When confronted with any sort of similar situation I just hope I can do something similar!

    Wahoooooo for Otto!

  35. Mamadragon

    Otto = AWESOME.

    And beautiful post, Mir. How did a post about a surly pre-teen leave me all smiling and sappy-feeling?

  36. suzie

    I always love reading your Otto parenting stories, as I also have a second marriage AND teenagers. Some days go better than others, to say the least. But I am always grateful that I finally have a true partner in this parenting thing, despite how receptive my teen may be on a given day.

  37. JC

    I think you just described my amazing Hubbs that chose to me marry me AND my 5 year old version of Monkey. We are some lucky ladies and some day our kids will look back and be amazed that there exists such amazing men.

  38. Janet

    I think I missed something. “We’re not going to chase you into bed and we’re not going to wake you up.”

    I’m unclear how Otto telling her that her bedtime would be moved back a half-hour will actually make her *get* in bed at this time, especially if she wouldn’t get in bed at her old time. Is the consequence that she will have to take the bus to school in the morning? What if she oversleeps and misses the bus? Does she get to stay home all day?

    I don’t mean to sound snippy, but what incentive does she have to follow the new bedtime and wake up by herself? I’ve gone through this with my kids and announcing the new bedtime accomplishes nothing without consequences spelled out.

  39. Brigitte

    Amazing. Better parenting technique than many of us who had them from day 1 . . or is that just me? P.S. I’ll get very, very inebriated with you anytime, well, when you’re in my neck of the woods, anyway.

    %$##@!! I just heard stupid cat barfing in some obscure corner of the house AGAIN, bye now!

  40. Janet

    Me again. I wanted to clarify that I understand that getting her old bedtime back depends on her getting to bed on time (earlier time) and waking up by herself on time. I suppose that is what one might consider an incentive. But that doesn’t seems like enough incentive. What if she continues to get in bed late, or whenever she feels like it? If she’s already had a bedtime and ignores it, why won’t she ignore this one?

    [Ed. note: Valid questions. Failure to be in bed on time leaves her with an early bedtime which will be made even earlier for repeat offenses, which she will hate. In truth we haven’t offered a solid consequence before this, so we’re hoping this is enough of a deterrent. If not, we’ll have to add another consequence. As for getting up in the morning, she’ll lose her ride if she’s not ready, and she really doesn’t want to miss her morning club, which she cannot get to if she waits for the bus. I doubt she’d oversleep much further as the rest of us are up and banging around. Hope that clarifies.]

  41. Heather

    D’awwwww! :D

  42. Jamie

    Rock on, OTTO!

  43. MamaChristy

    I’m crying! What a gem of a man.

  44. Jdub

    Great job Otto and you!!! As for the question on the incentive or reward or consequence for not doing what Otto said – I don’t question for a minute that Chicadee wont’ make that early bedtime tonight at all. Sometimes the carrot and/or the stick is simply in the eyes of the parent that the teenager looks into. Go Otto!!!

  45. Nancy

    Incredible parenting! I’ll file that one away for my soon to be 13 year old step son who is rapidly acquiring an attitude. May I please borrow Otto for my 2 year old?

  46. dad

    Good picking!

    You got yourself and the kids a saint.
    Where did he learn all that stuff.

  47. Amelia

    WOW! Great parenting, indeed. Your kids are so lucky to have you. Both of you.

  48. Sheila

    Stop me if I’ve said this before: that Otto is a keeper.

  49. Lara

    Wow. That was awesome parenting – nicely done Otto!

  50. Deirdre

    I’m printing this out and putting it in my “good ideas” file. We also struggle with bedtime. It hasn’t been horrible, but it’s gradually getting later and later. I finally said that if one or both kids could be *completely* ready for bed at official lights out time, for 7 days in a row, they would get a coupon for 1/2 an hour of extra wii time for the next weekend. The “in a row” part is the kicker–if they screw up one night, they have to start over.

    Otto is a good one. Sorry if he doesn’t like you to brag, because I think it’s way to easy for a lot of us to nitpick on the parts we don’t love so much, and this is yet another reminder that we need to celebrate the awesomeness.

  51. jetmom4

    With my youngest, now the lovely age of 12, the lament is the same. So, getting herself to bed on time is now the means to gain access to “electronics” for the next day. Not in bed = no tv, games, phone, computer for the next day. It isn’t perfect, and computer for homework is exempt. But, I got so tired of ending the day in arguing and yelling. So very tired. Now, my daughter complained that meant she was going to be punished FOREVER, rather then wanting to accept the responsibility of her own actions. I figure she’ll get that when she has her own kids… I know I did

  52. Gennie

    That is absolutely some parenting awesome right there. Bravo , Otto!

  53. Aubri

    Way to go Otto!

  54. C~

    St. Otto…no lie. You really won the lottery with that one.

  55. J from Ireland

    LOVE OTTO, thats all I have today.

  56. Varda (SquashedMom)

    That is really an inspiring story of good parenting. Sigh. I wish I could get something going like that in my house. Even though I am married and my husband is the boys’ father and we actually went through assisted fertility to get these kids? He is barely a parent. I am essentially a single parent, unless disaster strikes and then he’ll ‘help out”, briefly. He just has neither the desire nor skill to be there in the trenches with me, is mostly absent physically and/ or emotionally from the whole damn thing. You definitely picked the right guy (2nd time’s the charm).

  57. Randi

    One word: INSPIRING.

  58. Em

    I have a couple of kids here Otto could whip into shape, you know, if you wanted to rent him out. Mine are running circles around my husband and myself. Don’t worry, you’ll see us on the news in about 5 years or so (probably a story about wild children and their beaten down and bewildered parents). I’ll wink so you know it’s me.

  59. Karen

    Mir, Thank you for sharing these details of your life. I know that can’t be easy and sometimes I bet you question the sanity in it…. but, you reaffirm for me that there are wonderful men out there like your otto, that there are wonderful relationships regardless of the hurtles they face… that it is possible for couples and families to come together and work on problems in a positive way, even when the going gets ugly.

    I think Otto is a little more mature than I, even though I have atleast five years on him. I could learn a thing or two from his reaction this morning. It was a beautiful thing and I would not have risen as far up to that particular occasion.

  60. Nancy R

    I’d totally do a ninja-kick in honor of Otto’s parenting, but I’d probably pull a hammie. Way to go, Otto!

  61. The Mommy Therapy

    Fantastic parenting and wonderful use of consequences. Good job Otto.

    I have to tell you though, I know it wasn’t the mssage, but I basically the entire time I was reading this I could only think, “wait…I’m still going to have sleep issues with my kids when they are teenagers?”

    Seriously, when does the torture ever end? I was assuming that by even 6 or so we’d be done. Wishful thinking I suppose…

    Thank you for sharing!

  62. Lynette

    Awesome. I wish I had an Otto.

  63. Cran

    As a stepparent myself, I think that the most critical and effective part of parenting is the united front. So many times I did not have the support of my husband when trying to work out disciplinary/educational issues. It has been, by far, the thing we have fought over most frequently. Those were rough days!

  64. Megan

    Can;t even read the bajillion comments that are sure to be full of OTTO LOVE (as is right and proper) so I’ll just add one more to the chorus – Otto, you rock. You rock all kinds of ways, and you are going to just have to cope with everyone telling you so.

    Awe c’mon. You like it a LITTLE that you have a witty, wonderful wife (oooh, alliteration!) who writes a blog so that a few…. million…. people can look on while she tells you how wonderful you are – right? Thought so.

  65. PopC

    Otto, you’re da man. Great job!

  66. Jennifer

    I love this – what a great example of parenting. I grew up with a step-father, who, I will admit, I did not always appreciate. My own father had passed away when I was 4, so Ted had pretty big shoes to fill – didn’t matter what he did, in my mind, by ‘real’ dad would have done it better. This was espeically true when I was being punished. It took me having my own kids and being in a step-parent relationship myself before I could truly appreciate how much he did for us and how much he loved us. I am so glad that I had a chance to write him a letter and tell him just that and how proud I was that he was my dad. He passed away a year after I sent the letter and I made sure it was included with him in the casket.
    Sorry – didn’t mean to make this all about me. Just wanted to say Bravo Otto and Bravo Mir!

  67. Elena

    Ohhh. WOW. This is beautiful (my kids have a stepfather and this blog entry is…simply wonderful. Thank you for putting us thankful mothers’ thoughts as we see fabulous stepfathering into words.)

  68. Liza

    Go, Otto! Go, Otto! Go, Otto! Go, Mir!

  69. Jane

    Does Otto give lessons? Cause, I could sure use some! Very nice Thursday post, thanks!

  70. Kathy

    Good choice on Otto, Mir!
    Good parenting, Otto! You deserve a medal!!

  71. Anon

    Wow, Mir. You deserve some kudos in this too, because YOU SUPPORTED OTTO.

    I speak from experience when I say the hardest part of being a stepparent is not being allowed to parent.

    We’ve gotten past that stage in our lives, so I’m not complaining just saying: Yay, Mir. And I do think that was brilliant parenting by Otto, as well.

  72. ramblin red

    That’s an Otto Bravo. Love!

  73. Cele

    That is a wise and amazing man, she is (oh crap just like I was) – er good luck… but I turned out pretty good according to my mom.

  74. Dawn

    You’ve got a good one, Mir. I just hope my husband and I can be that awesome in dealing with our kids when we have them.

  75. amy

    Kudos to Otto!! It’s eery how similar my Punkin is to your Chickadee. Scary, similar. Sigh.

  76. Janet

    Mir, thanks for answering my questions in previous comments. When my kids (11 and 14) start extending their bedtimes I have to take the same approach as jetmom4 (comment 51) and restrict their computer time. It’s amazing how that particular consequence gets them to haul their carcasses into bed at the right time!

  77. JennyM

    Rock on, Otto!

  78. Linda C

    Parenting is such hard work and it never ends! From cradle to adulthood, the responsibilities are enormous. Otto did the right thing. And kudos to you for supporting him and staying out of the way. Partnership parenting is a must!

  79. Katie in MA

    My poor Future Someone. He just isn’t going to understand when I tell him one of my prerequisites is that he be just as Ottofabulous as the original. ;-)

  80. Tara @ ipod car dock

    Very smart kids. Don’t be surprise if time will come
    you have a lawyer.. Parenting is a long time commitment.
    nice post!

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