The People.com headline caught my eye. “Honey Boo Boo's Stepmom-to-Be Sabotages Her Diet & Calls Mama June a 'Toothpick with Clothes.’” Anytime, anywhere I see a caption that reads stepmom, I’m curious. Despite having little information about Honey Boo Boo, I read on. According to the article, Mama June is intent on losing weight and helping her family to do the same while stepmom-to-be Jennifer is itching for a fight as she plies Honey Boo Boo with foods not included on the new diet plan.
Let me start by saying that the comments that follow are not meant to be mommy bashing or stepmommy bashing. It probably isn't too far-fetched to believe that some of the behaviors on this reality tv show, as well as many others, are for dramatic effect. However, the headline above is so wrought with drama it provides a perfect teaching moment.
Though I didn’t watch the original series, I’ve done my research so let me catch you up on Honey Boo Boo and her clan. Child beauty pageant contestant Alana a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo and her family, most notably “Mama June,” hit reality television in a 2012 spin-off of the popular TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Mama June and her brood, including Sugar Bear (Honey Boo Boo’s dad) were not the most health conscious of families as evidenced by many of the show’s storylines which revolved around the family’s ever-expanding waistlines. Mama June and Sugar Bear eventually split and the show itself hit the skids. But Mama June returned to reality television in a series entitled “Mama June: From Hot to Not,” which followed June’s transition from a size 28 to a size 4.
After seeing the initial headline, I was promptly provided ample opportunity to watch Mama June work on her revenge body as a marathon viewing of “From Not to Hot” on We TV allowed me to see what all the fuss was about.
First, kudos to June for taking control of her health and that of her family. No matter the reasons for the change, most of us can appreciate the struggle to make good food choices and maintain a modicum of healthy rituals in our own lives. Which is why that headline grabbed my attention so quickly. Who is the stepmom who attempts to undermine the healthy behaviors being instituted by a parent? And then I remember the reality television component of this story. But I digress.
What can we learn from Honey Boo Boo and her reality tv companions?
1. Stepparents need to respect the boundaries that parents set.
Unless there appears to be cause for concern regarding the child’s health and/or safety, the legal and custodial parents are responsible for making the choices that best fit their child’s needs. Obviously, there are exceptions to every situation. However, the situation at hand is not one of them. By all accounts, June is attempted to take control of her health and that of 11 year old Alana. While Alana’s dad certainly has the power to exercise his own discretion as to her food choices, it appears that stepmom Jennifer stepped in and displaced Sugar Bear’s prerogative by inserting her own opinion.
Co-parenting, while not always easy, is the obvious solution to this situation. Alana’s parents need to set the standards that should be enforced in both households.
2. Don’t disrespect a parent in front of their child.
It bears repeating that a child is created by not one, but two parents, thus ensuring that the child embodies both parents’ genes. Therefore, when harsh words are spoken against a parent, the child takes those words to heart knowing that they are the creation of both parents. When you speak negatively about the parent, you are speaking negatively about the child. No matter the scenario, it is never okay to disparage a parent in the midst of their child. Don’t make the child question their own validity in the world or cause them to defend their parent.
3. Don’t put children in situations where they must choose loyalties.
Alana loves both her mom and her dad. Putting her in a situation where she must choose between her parents only serves the egos of the parents. Children are not psychologically prepared to understand the emotional aspects of divorce. Therefore, leave the drama behind the scenes. No child should feel compelled to choose between parents or feel guilt because of normal familial relationships.
4. It’s not ideal to introduce your partner-to-be on the eve of your wedding!
I do believe that every family is different and therefore, few hard and fast rules exist in establishing stepfamilies and blended families. BUT, I will hold fast to this one… Introducing a child to her soon to be stepparent after you have planned your wedding is a no-no if you value your child’s feelings. Moreover, the introduction should not go like this…
“Hi Alana, I’m going to be your new stepmom.”
Parent’s actions needs to be motivated not by their desire to strike at the heart of the other parent but by the best interests of the child. Let’s hope mom, dad and stepmom decide that is the reality they want to choose for Alana in the future.