Sunday, July 31, 2011

(Step) Parenting

"Thanks for not being evil," Tori recently said to me.  This was a very nice compliment to a Step Mother!

Being a step parent is a very delicate balance between being a "friend" and being an almost-parent.  You never want to make the mistake of trying to be an actual parent -- at some point the child will remind you that you are, in fact, not her parent, and that you should mind yer own bizness.

I have been very lucky that in my relationship with Tori, it has not been too difficult to figure out what my role is in her life... and a little more difficult to determine what her role in my life is.  Contrary to popular belief, creating a blended family is not as easy as pouring water onto oatmeal, and voila:  breakfast!  The child and the step parent have to figure out what their relationship is going to look like, and how much trust and respect are to be given to each other.  Even something that seems simple, like "what are we going to call each other?" is complicated.

But this balance between being a friend and an almost parent extends well beyond the child-step parent relationship.  It is also a tough spot to be in with the other parents -- the "real" parents.  Even if all the parents work together well (which we do), there are going to be differences in what is seen as appropriate dress, music, movies, shoes, language, behavior, manners, etc.  The hard part of being the step parent, is that you never know when you should interject your own thoughts, or when you should just keep quiet and cringe when you think something isn't going as well as it could.

I have probably been too vocal in my step parenting.  I'm a pushy person (no? really?), and when I think I'm right, I am bullish about getting my way.  Not the best technique when you are wading through the choppy waters of raising a child, and are supposed to be the bystander, not the leader.  There have been many arguments because of my inability to see beyond what I feel is the "right" way.

Ultimately, it's most important for all parents/pseudo-parents to remember that the final goal is to assist a young person in becoming a balanced and productive member of society -- in spite of his or  her parents' mistakes.  And we are going to make mistakes, big ones.  And that's okay (this is the hard one to accept).

I am happy to say that, even with all the struggles I have had trying to figure out how this whole parenting thing works, and what my role as a step parent is, Tori is turning out to be a wonderful young woman, and I'd like to think that I've played a small role in that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Red Means Stop

Back in April, while on my way to pick up Tori at Whole Foods for her to spend the weekend with us, I made a right turn.  I was eager to be on time to pick her up, and the traffic heading with me had a left turn arrow.  There was no oncoming traffic, so I knew it was safe to make my turn.  Zip through it I did!


I was momentarily blinded by a bright light.  Had god suddenly come down to prove his existence to me?  Had my life just flashed before my eyes and forgot to include any of the details?  No.  It was the red light camera taking a picture of me and my FCT vehicle (the actual plate number).  Damn.  Did I mention that my light was red?

A few weeks later, after hoping and wanting the flash to be god or my blank life flash, much to my chagrin, the ticket came in the mail.  $287.00.  Seriously.  Double damn.

Now, this is a problem.  I don't have the money to pay the ticket.  And I won't have it in a month when my court date was scheduled.  Plus, I was to be out of town on the day of reckoning, so I couldn't be there to try to get the fee reduced.  The only other option, request a hearing via letter.  Which was the option I chose, after reviewing the options with my parents.  A few weeks later, I get a notice of my new court date.  July 27th at 5 p.m.

I call my parents (again) and get their advice.  Shoulder I ask the judge to reduce the fine?  Should I offer my labor to the Community for free?  Well, the other option was to ask for a trial.  My Dad (the former judge), thought that we could fight it if I asked for a trial.  This was the plan, and I was comfortable with it.

We arrive at the court on the new day of reckoning, and watch people being processed through Traffic Court like a cafeteria line. 

     "What do you plead?" 
     "How many tickets have you had?"
     "One ten years ago."
     "Do you want to pay a reduced fine or traffic school?"
     "Traffic school."

"Oh, so this is pretty easy," I think to myself.  I won't have to present the argument that my Dad was planning on trying in my trial.  I can just ask for a traffic school!

Not so fast.

After the cafeteria line was over, they wheeled in a desk that faced the judge's bench.  And the officer who had authorized my citation sat down at one end of it.  The judge called the "trial" into session!  Trial!  Trial?  But I'm not ready for trial!  My Dad isn't here to argue the fine points of law for me!  Triple damn.

Panic?  Well, no.  Change in plan.  I'm going to present my Dad's legal argument without him, and with only a preliminary understanding of what the actual argument is.  Best plan?  Probably not, but I will never know if I don't try!

I listen as other drivers try to argue that the light was "yellow when I entered the intersection...  Well, I thought it was, anyway."  And, "it was raining, and I didn't feel it would be safe to stop for the light."  And see the judge's boredom and wonder how many times he hears this.  I do not want to be another person stupidly defending himself by trying to convince the judge that the light was a different color when he drove through.  That's not my argument anyway.

Now it's my turn.  "Hope Adams."  I am sworn in.

I listen to the Officer give the accounting of his review of the video of my transgression (yes, video), and his subsequent decision to issue me a ticket.  Then the Officer, Judge, and I all watch my FCT vehicle drive right through the red light.  Not promising.

The judge asks me if I have anything to ask the Officer.  I do! 

     "Where you at the scene of the incident?"

Good.  My Dad's argument is going well so far.

     "Do you have anything you would like to add, Ms. Adams?"
     "Yes, Your Honor.  I object to the Officer's testimony as hearsay.  It's my understanding that I have a right to face my accuser in person."
     "Your objection is rejected..."  roar in my head.  Now what?  This isn't what happens on 'Law & Order'...  "there is not enough evidence to support an argument of hearsay."

Quadruple damn.

All I can do at this point is accept traffic school and court costs totaling $190.00.  Or, at least that's all I can do without 3 years of law school to fully understand my argument of hearsay and how it applies to video surveillance of intersections. 

Well, I saved $97.00, and got my day in court (as unexpected and poorly presented as it was).  I hope that there isn't a next time, and I am doing my best to ensure that there isn't.  I stop fully for all red lights (much to the annoyance of some drivers behind me).  Isn't that the purpose of the cameras anyway?  Hmmm..... I think no, but that's another topic for another day.