Step Parenting

A while back, my step cousin added me to The Unapologetic Stepmom group on Facebook. I’m not a huge fan of social media and whatnot, but she thought it would be beneficial for me to have a support group to lean on just in case.

I’ve never made a post in the group. Every now and again, I pop into the group and skim over the posts. Usually it’s when my significant other’s ex has her head lodged up her rectum, leaving me frustrated because I’m trying to advocate what’s best for the children and getting nowhere. Going through the group posts give me a moment of “We may be struggling with our situation, but at least we’re not dealing with that.” It reminds me to breathe on occasion. Today, I stumbled across a term that I’d never heard before, googled it, and had a major wtf moment. Nacho Parenting Theory.

The Nacho Parenting Theory basically boils down to “not your kids, not your problem.” It encourages a step-parent to approach being in a child’s life by means of friendship or a “cool aunt” sort of way in lieu of as an additional parental figure. It forces the bio parents to talk to each other in lieu of the step parent having any part of the communication process. The step parent has responsibility similar to that of a babysitter.

What?

Now the communication thing I get. One of my closest friends has to do all of the communicating for her partner. It gets ugly with his ex and stresses her out to no end sometimes. I feel that a step parent has no place in the communication cycle between bio parents whom have a lot of conflict. A group text to stay in-the-know perhaps, assuming step parents and bio parents can get along and can coparent. Otherwise that’s bio parents’ realm. My step kids’ bio mother loathes the ground I walk on and the air I breathe, so I’ll never have to worry about communication with her anyway. But to take a backseat to everything else?? Nu uh. What’s the point in even marrying a person then? When you marry someone, you marry into their situation. You marry into their family. You marry into their whole life, not just part of it. “But I was stressed out because my spouse wouldn’t take up for me against his ex. My spouse let’s his ex treat me like crap. My step kids hate me. My step kids don’t do blah blah blah.” Okay you know what? Your problems with your spouse shouldn’t have a reflection on how you treat your step kids. It’s not their fault they got dealt a crap sandwich in the parental pairing department. Your step kids hate you? Guess what, it happens to every biological, adoptive, and step parent alike. It’ll pass. They don’t listen to you? That’s a parenting problem, not a problem with your step kids.

I feel like if you’re not going to take an active part in the (step) parenting roles and responsibilities of a child’s life, then you have no room or right to rejoice or participate in the good moments. Babysitters don’t do that. You can’t eat your cake and have it too. And it’s tough. Finding a balance between being supportive and defending versus not overstepping certain boundaries is hard. Step parenting is just like biological parenting, but with none of the credit and all of the blame.

“A step parent is so much more than just a parent. They made a choice to love when they didn’t have to.”

He Listens

My [future] stepson has had some behavioral issues in his handful of years on this Earth so far. He’s not a bad kid at all. In my opinion he’s just had way too much energy, has been bored, and lacked one on one attention. Due to these, he tends to be challenging at school and in both of his homes.

What goes on in his mother’s home is none of our business. However my fiance and I have been giving his son challenges to not get into trouble at school or with his mother when he’s there. (He rarely acts out when he’s with us.) We give him the floor to express himself freely. When he gets frustrated or angry, we talk him through it and give him some alternative ways to express himself more appropriately. We also try to give him positive reinforcement and incentives to behave how he’s supposed to and to not get into trouble.

Last night, my fiance received word that his son’s teacher reported a signficant improvement with his behavior. Holy crap, he listened!!!!! When he got here, I called him into their room where I was supervising his sister and unpacking their bag. I pulled him into my arms, gave him the biggest hug, and just showered him with love. I told him that his dad and I were super proud of him and thanked him for minding his behavior. Man. I am so proud. He looked a little embarrassed, but you couldn’t have slapped the smile off of his face. You could see it in his eyes that he appreciated the acknowledgement of his actions. These are the moments that mean the most.

And for this, tomorrow he gets an extra special super hero birthday party tomorrow instead of just a regular birthday party. Tomorrow he gets two cakes. (Ice cream cake + carrot cake.) He gets to pick who dresses up as what super hero while he gets to be black panther. Not only does he get waffles (per his request,) but he gets fancy waffles from a Marvel waffle iron! We didn’t have a huge budget to work with, but it didn’t matter — what he loves is the interaction and acknowledgement of his interests. I can’t wait ❤️

Of Water and Blood

I haven’t felt like writing much the past week. Not because I dislike writing or grew tired of it, but because I’ve been emotionally and mentally exhausted. The words just simply wouldn’t come.

Since my grandfather’s passing, I’ve sorta been expected to be a behind the scenes mediator from two thousand miles away. A daunting and uneasy task. A task that I haven’t been willing to complete. You see, my father is a bit of (a lot of) an ass. He’s a narcissist. I knew that once my grandfather passed away, something would happen, I just wasn’t sure what. Either my father was going to snap or he was going to wake up. And while yes, my father is frequently insufferable, I couldn’t argue with his crusade. Based on the information of the conflicts presented to me, the man was being fairly reasonable and level headed. A shock. While he’s still an ass and a narcissist, he’s at least starting to see beyond himself a little bit. I’m not sure how long it will last, but we shall see.

During this time or turmoil, I wouldn’t be right side up without the help of my better half. That man has mopped up buckets of angry tears. He’s held my hand through every step of my way through my conflicted feelings. He’s baked cookies and given them to me with ice cold milk. He’s dragged me out of the house and into the light of day. He’s given me hope. He’s made me laugh. He’s been my light. And it hasn’t been just him. A couple of close friends have checked in as well, which is more than I can say for family.  Who is there for you the most is not always who you might expect.

For the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.

Of Life and Death

Back in May, my fiance and I travelled to my home town to visit my family for my birthday. The trip wasn’t as nice as I’d hoped and I was on edge the whole time, however he got to meet my family and see what I grew up with. For some strange reason, even through all of that, he still wants to marry me.

I’ll never forget sitting at my grandfather’s bedside, clinging to what I figured would be some of the last words he’d speak to me. Somehow I knew it would be the last time I’d see his face. After telling him about my other half and letting them meet, he smiled and said “Gal, maybe you should think about running off to Canada and marrying that boy.” Well, grandpa, that’s the plan. In hindsight, I sometimes wonder if he knew how isolated the family made me feel spmetimes. According to another family member, he did know, stating he was thankful that my father didn’t have any children other than me, noting that my father didn’t treat me the best.

Apparently my grandfather passed away last night. Not hearing from anyone (aside from my stepmom) about the news until much later than the occurrence made me realize just how disconnected from my family I have been, despite my best efforts. I had just spoke to family members hours prior, asking how things were going. I got little response, per the usual. It just gets frustrating. I understand it’s an upsetting situation, but that’s no reason to leave immediate family out of the loop. I get it, my father can be a real challenge most of the time. I don’t deserve to be the black sheep because of it.

I’ve been expecting my grandfather’s death for as long as I can remember. He saw his 85th birthday at the start of this year. I’ve heard the phrase “this will likely be Grandpa’s last Christmas” for almost two decades. He’s seen wars, multiple medical catastrophies, and a lifetime of chaos. It’s been a roller coaster. The last several years of his life have been grim, lacking a great deal of quality of life. I’m thankful he’s no longer suffering. I’ve always had a different perspective on life and death than most.

Then I was faced with a conundrum: did I want to go to the funeral? Most of my family would expect me to support them, yet has hardly done the same for me. Plus plane tickets on short notice are almost $3,000 USD. And that’s assuming that I’d get clearance to be admitted back into Canada since I’m not supposed to leave until all of my visa stuff is finalized. Surprisingly my father suggested to not worry myself with it. I’d made peace with my grandfather’s passing years before it happened. I had closure already. He didn’t want me to travel down there to the chaos going on, potentially jeopardizing my future and my life. And ya know? That may have been the most loving and wholesome thing he’s ever said. And while no, I probably won’t make it to the funeral, at least it’ll be in part because I’m out doing what my grandfather suggested for me to do.

Regardless, my grandfather hung around for a lot longer than any man in his condition should have. I’m happy that he’s no longer confined to the pain that the end of this life brought him, and may he find peace in wherever the next life takes him.

Housewifery

Dear Housewives, Stay-at-home moms, self employed people, etc:

How in the hell do you do it?

When my housing future was uncertain due to the mold in my apartment, I made sure that I had enough funding to take care of myself and have a little cushion just in case. What I didn’t prepare for was the cabin fever.

I haven’t worked in a month now and I’m going crazy. I’ve had more conversations with my dog than any normal person should. I started blogging. I started snacking (and in turn, started working out.) I started bullet journaling again. I’ve gotten pretty good at applying gel nail polish. I’ve cleaned the house and rearranged it. Over. And over. And over. I’ve groomed the dog several times. I’ve fished a whole lot in WoW. I’ve read books. I’ve gotten to a point where I’m considering telecommute freelance work. Omgimsoflippingbored.

How do you guys do it? How do you keep from going nuts?

Sincerely,

Desperate Workaholic

Molded Misery

My apartment tried to kill me.

I don’t mean that in a funny sort of lighthearted manner. Sometime back in the spring, the maintenance manager showed up at my apartment while I was at work. He told my fiance that there was a leak downstairs and that it was coming from my shower. He simply put new sealant around everything. Good as new. Sorta.

Fast forward to early summer. Mr. Maintenance Man comes back again. Leaking again. Re-seal. Good as new. Sorta.

Fast forward to late summer. Email from Mr. Property Manager. Leak is really bad. They’ll have to tear out part of my bathroom to fix it. When can it be done? Oh, next week the apartment will be empty for nearly two weeks? Perfect.

I arrived to my humble abode after my summer trip to Canada to find that my bathroom’s repairs were not completed while I was gone. My bathroom wasn’t even touched. Needless to say, I was angry. After bantering back and forth with the property manager for almost 2 weeks, someone was hired to make the repairs. Years ago apparently a pipe in my wall had a leak. Instead of repairing the pipe, a clamp was put around it and a nail into the hole. Eventually the clamp failed. So it’s been slowly leaking for YEARS. A few more weeks pass. Come to find out, the apartment below me was the same apartment that a friend of mine rented years upon years ago before she moved out of state. They had to move her out of her apartment. For what reason, you may ask? Because the apartment above hers had a leak, flooding her apartment and causing her ceiling to cave in. Years. They finally start on the repair work needed in the apartment below mine. The years of leaks reared their ugly heads. A ton of mold spores were released with great fury.

Most of this year, I’d been getting unexplained migraines that were getting progressively worse. I double checked ailments, diabetes was still under control, there wasn’t any explanation that jumped out to anyone. Cutting out the caffeine perhaps? But I didn’t consume enough caffeine to warrant withdrawal migraines….. and the migraines took ages to get rid of. Then came the allergy symptoms. That got worse. And worse. And worse. Everyone in Kentucky gets the crud. It’s inevitable. Mine usually went away within a few days. But a few weeks passed. Weeks turned into a few months. It wasn’t going away. Then the ick really hit me. One Sunday morning I woke up and I couldn’t breathe.

As an EMT, it takes a lot for me to consider going to an Emergency Department. Like. I have to be almost dying for me to step foot in there unless it’s someone else that’s close to dying. I compromised with myself and opted for the fancy new walk-in clinic associated with my regular doctor’s office. “Honey…. you look pretty bad…. we may need to call an ambulance….” NOPE. Nope. Nope. I had an EKG, chest x-ray, breathing treatments, and a slew of other just-in-case tests. Due to the results of the EKG, they were concerned with a pulmonary embolism. Why? Because there’s a type of black mold that can cause blood clots, and my EKG reading + symptoms = a dead ringer for it. After everything was said and done and I improved with a breathing treatment, they at least released me instead of sending me to the hospital, so long as I followed up with my regular physician in the morning. I was sent home with a handful of prescriptions to deal with the mold-induced asthma and fungal pneumonia. Steroids! Inhalers! Antibiotics! Oh boy!

I was cleared from the pulmonary embolism fear. Thank goodness. I was, however, told to get out of my apartment asap. Mr. Property Manager didn’t have another unit available to move me in to. According to Mr. Maintenance Man there were open units…..just none that didn’t also have complaints of mold. My temporary residences weren’t working out one by one. Trying to find a short-term rental was nearly impossible. My renter’s insurance was only going to cover so much. So I arranged to go back to Canada as a visitor for an undetermined amount of time until everything got sorted out. It was a damn long drive, and a terrifying craps shoot on if the Canadian Border Patrol would be satisfied that I’d leave at the end of my unplanned stay, especially since it was so close to when I was originally supposed to move to Canada anyways. Whelp. Here I am.

Now that I’ve been out of my apartment for almost a month, I’ve noticed a significant difference in my health. Within days, I could breathe again and was able to clear out the infection in my lungs. I’ve had two headaches since I left my apartment, But there are other weird things that I’ve noticed as well. My hair isn’t falling out anymore. I thought that perhaps I was just shedding quite a bit at the apartment, but over the past month, I’ve been experiencing significantly less hair loss. My fingernails haven’t been splitting and have actually been growing. They’re stronger and less bendy. I’m sleeping better (which can also be attributed to being with the fiance instead of being 1500 miles away.) I systematically feel better. And I can breathe again!!!

Moral of the story: If you’re feeling like crap and can’t figure out why, you might be in a mold induced misery as well.

A Mended Heart

Last weekend, when reminding my fiance to tell his kids’ mother about his daughter’s complaints, she snapped back with a hateful and snarky “I’m her mother, I know about her foot.” Really? Then why haven’t you done anything about it or treated the wound? Also my fiance is not the person you should have issued that apology to; it should have been to the kids that you said it in front of.

It hurt.  Mainly because it was said in front of the kids.  But also for reasons that you’re not aware of.  I get it. I know you’re their mother and I’m not. I know you’re intimidated by my presence. I know you’re pissed off that I’m marrying your ex. (Which btw, you still need to start accepting responsibility for the demise of your marriage. I’m not the cause of that; you are.) I know you hate seeing that the kids are excited to see me and give me a giant hug and kiss. (Which btw, you need to stop telling people that you’re concerned about how they’re treated while in our care. If they were treated poorly, you wouldn’t see them jump out of the car and into our arms.) I know you’re angry. But you need to start treating other people how you want to be treated before you even think about barking orders at someone.  And maybe you should be thankful that the new person in their life actually treats them really really well.

You want to gripe about compassion when we tell your son yes, that we will go to his hockey game, when he asks us both to attend. Both of us. Not just his father. Compassion because you don’t want to see me or be around me. Grow up. This life isn’t about you. It’s about the kids. During games, dances, events, etc we’re not going to sit beside you. We’re not going to stop in and say hi. We won’t even speak to you. What we will do, however, is exactly what we did today: show up and cheer our hearts out for the boy. The boy that you toss to the wayside for the baby. The boy that you use dog training methods on. The boy that you constantly fuss at and rarely give positive reinforcement. (And the girl that you allow to have hissy fits when she doesn’t get her way.  And when the youngest starts activities, we’ll show up and cheer for him, the one you stick on a pedestal and regard as your “savior.”  He who you are setting up for failure from the start.)  You want to gripe about the oldest’s relationship with me and your jealousy? Maybe you should evaluate how you treat him.  You want to gripe about what’s normal and what isn’t?  Getting angry in front of him and everyone because he gives his stepmom a hug is absurd.  Sending your daughter back out into the cold (after you didn’t know where she was in the first place) with nothing more than a windbreaker on to return her stepmother’s extra pair of gloves that she put on your daughter simply because they’re her stepmother’s gloves is absurd.

I signed up for this. I knew entering this relationship would mean dealing with a high conflict narcissist for almost two decades. It doesn’t mean that I’m completely impervious to the bullshit.  I get angry for the kids.  My heart breaks for the kids.  I wish there was more I could to do make their lives about them.  Alas, I can not control what doesn’t take place in our home.

And while no, I am not their mother and I did not bring them into this world, I am their bonus mom whether you like it or not.  One of two terms that THEY chose.  It takes a little over nine months to be a mother. It takes a whole lot to be a mom. And while you may say that I’m not a mom to them, I am. And that’s wasn’t your decision. It wasn’t my decision. It was their decision.

You can try to continue to hurt my fiance and I as much as you’d like.  The children that you and he brought into this world love us whether you like it or not.  The holes you continue to try to poke in our hearts will forever be mended by their love.  Love heals everything.

Photo by Mara Ket