My definition of a teenager: a struggle between baby brain and adult brain. The adult brain is there, but it's struggling to get out of the haze of the baby brain.
My boyfriend and I have been working on sticking to our non-negotiable kid-schedule. It is now clear that he understands the importance of this schedule, not just for my sanity but to create a structure for his kids and to keep our relationship healthy. The struggle now is to get the rest of the family on board to understand and respect what we're doing. One of the people who doesn't quite get it yet is our 17 yr old. In the past, she had the freedom to arbitrarily change her visitation weekends between her parents. From my boyfriend's point of view, it was important for him to let his daughter feel like she could come over any time she wanted. He wanted to maintain this flexibility because he wanted to allow her to have a lifestyle where she could be a teenager and hang out with her friends on the weekends. Over time, however, he started to feel like his oldest daughter would only want to hang out with her friends on his weekends, as opposed to balancing it out and having some of her playdates on her mom's weekends. He started getting irked about constantly having to sacrifice his visitation time. Then adding me to the mix just emphasized how he needed to be firm about consistency. Now that my boyfriend and I are buckling down on a routine, we're both trying to nicely explain why she needs to have a little more balance between her social activities and visitation weekends. Her weekends with us are more than just about her spending time with her dad. I can see the way her mind is currently working: "I want to go to my friend's birthday party this weekend. So I'll go to that and make up time with my dad next weekend". She isn't aware that her weekends bear so much more weight outside of just her; if we were to change our schedule for her, it wouldn't just be grandma, dad and I having to move things around, we'd also have to coordinate with our 5 yr old and #3, who in turn has her own family and routines.
I don't think our teenager gets it ... yet.
She is coming over on an unscheduled weekend due to hanging out with friends on her most recent dad's weekend. We've explained to her again that this change is a slight imposition. I want her to feel that she is welcome in my home at any time so we are letting her come. However, it isn't exactly the way she wants to do it. She would like to come over on Friday evening and stay until Saturday evening. We didn't tell her "yes" right away when she proposed this (although we told her that her ideas would always be welcomed and heard) and told her we'd have to check our schedule. Then we compromised and told her she could come on Saturday morning and would have to leave that evening. This is all in a bid to let her know that she's welcome because she should always have access to her dad, but she also needs to realize that he is an individual who is building a new life, and that when she wants to make schedule changes she needs to approach us like any other human would: plan ahead of time, be communicative and be intentional (because of course, emergencies will happen) - do not just change things on a whim because there are other people in our formula besides just her. Hopefully she understands now (or soon!). We'll see how things go after this.