The Step Parent

My library card gives me the ability to check out e-books in lieu of going to the library. Which is convenient since I live 1500 miles from my home branch. So every week I check out a new book and give it a whirl.

I saw a book about how to be a better stepmom. Sold! Sign me up! I follow several blogs and social media accounts that are supportive of step-parents, so I figured a book would be pretty awesome. I’m not a mom by biology, I’m a mom by choice. I didn’t get 9 months to start a relationship with my kids before they got here. I didn’t have the ability to figure things out before they came into this world. I fell in love with a man that already had children and just have to figure it all out as I go. Thankfully I do an amazing job, (mostly because I lived with what NOT to do growing up,) and reading how to blend families and how to navigate this role is always helpful.

Except that book.

I mean sure, maybe it’s helpful to some folks, but holy negativity, Batman! I was reading about problems where men weren’t considering the feelings of their current wives. Issues where expectations were never clear, and the unit didn’t actually work together. Disagreements about parenting. Not standing up for their beliefs, not setting or respecting boundaries. A whole slew of problems that I couldn’t wrap my head around. If you’re not on the same page, why get married? I can understand friction if say 5 years in someone decides against having kids, but you went into the marriage understanding you were eventually going to have children together. But this book sorta focused on fairly new marriages and problems incurred as a step parent in said newer marriage.

I do think it’s unfair to tell a step parent that they shouldn’t complain because they knew what they were signing up for. Yes, I fell in love with a man with kids. Yes, I knew I’d have to be a step mom. Yes, I knew there would be times that we would struggle. I knew my life would have constraints of custody orders and parenting time schedules. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have room to complain when something is happening that isn’t in the best interest of the kids, something is unexpected, or something unfair. Life isn’t always lemonade and sunshine ya know?

Anywho, before you marry someone, before you make the choice to be a step parent, before you make life long commitments, do your homework. Have discussions about serious topics and hypothetical situations. Maybe even consider going to couples counseling beforehand. Find means to communicate together, understand your struggles and strengths. Learn how to be each other’s rock. Your relationship with your spouse that has children isn’t just about you.

I think I’ll skip this book and move forward to my selection about bullet journaling….

Christmas Conundrums

Parts of this past weekend were rough. At some points I wished that I could bring myself to participate in the idea of Nacho Parenting. I just can’t.

With kids, you have to take a lot of things at face value and sometimes get more information before forming an opinion or jumping the gun. My step childrens’ biological mother misunderstood part of their Christmas activities in our home and got upset about it before asking for clarification. And after clarification is still being pretty immature. It’s sad. It breaks my heart for them.

With being on one income + a budgeted savings, we are being frugal with Christmas this year. My fiance and I got each other a pre-discussed gift each, then purchased a modest, but meaningful, set of gifts for the kids. For friends and family, however, the kids have been making home made gifts. My step daughter has been “helping” me crochet mug cozies and stockings for weeks. All of the kids helped make a home made cocoa mix and filled Mason jars with it, along with pouches of marshmallows and crushed candy canes. After, they got to taste test their hard work. We’ve also made gift tags for them to color to pin to the cozies. It’s not much, but each was hand made with love, and the cozies + jars can be reused. The kids had a great time assembling them and it helps teach them that sometimes work goes into giving, that not everything has to come from a store. It also teaches the importance of spending time on something.

Anywho, even after some clarification, there was conflict. The kids wanted to make one for their mother as well. Even though I don’t particularly like the woman, I’m not going to stop them from making her a gift. He didn’t have to do this…. Her parents are taking the kids out to buy her a gift… She doesn’t have the money to get my fiance a gift…. She didn’t want one. It boils down to the kids get excited because we actually do things with them instead of just planting them in front of a screen. As they talk about those activities, she probably realizes that I spearhead a lot of them. Given that she hates me and wishes to have absolutely nothing to do with me whatsoever, not even a cordial hello for the sake of the kids…. Yeah. I can’t fathom not ever wanting a hand made gift from my children, no matter who helped make it.

Pair this Christmas Conundrum with hypocritical arguments about nutrition in addition to a fight about car seat safety, I’m just exhausted from standing up for what’s best for the kids and producing accurate and factual information to clear up misconstrued advice or misinformation. And I don’t even have to communicate with their mother.

Maturity is a thing. Maybe I’m being immature by venting on a public blog, however it’s my means of processing my disbelief and sorting my thoughts, but whatever. I can’t control or change other people, I can only control and change myself and how I react to things. I should do a better job at just letting the nonsense roll off of my back, but that’s SO hard to do when your stepkids sometimes mention things that have been done or said outside of your home that have really hurt their feelings. And while I want them to grow up being well rounded and cognizant that life sometimes isn’t fair and sometimes people can be hurtful, I want to put them in a warm bubble of protection and rip off anyone’s face that tries to hurt them.

I hope we can get through the rest of the Christmas season without any conflicts.

/sigh

Sailing Away

I’d like to think that I’m at a point beyond anger, but I’m not yet, and that’s okay.  Sometimes you need to just turn around and walk away.  Or sail.  Or fly.  Or whatever.  Sometimes you need to just say “You know what?  I’m done here.”  Then once you make that decision, sometimes it takes a little bit to process the emotions, the hurt, the anger.  And that’s okay.

I’d like to say that I’m past the point of anger, but I’m not.  Yet.  I’m getting there.  Most of my life has been spent keeping to myself for the most part.  I had a few years of chaos, where I spiraled out of control to get some kind of attention.  Even negative attention was at least something.  But I digress.  For the most part, I’ve done everything on my own.  I’ve not asked for much.  No one was there for me much either.  It created a monster of stubbornness and independence.

After the passing of my grandfather last month, my entire family has been treating each other like crap.  Or everyone is just against my father.  I’m not really sure.  I don’t really care.  Recently, they’ve tried to drag me into the mix.  I think they’re trying to get me on their side so that my father is completely isolated, but things don’t work that way.  The only side I will pick is the side that benefits my immediate surroundings…. myself, my fiance, my step children.  

Don’t get me wrong, my father is a piece of crap.  But he’s my piece of crap.  And while no, it doesn’t give him an excuse or hall pass to act like a piece of crap, at least my father admits to who he is and is open about his shortcomings.  What gets me is that the rest of my family is acting exactly like they expect him to act.  The difference is, they try to hide it and try to make it seem like they have the best intentions at heart.  No.  I’d rather deal with a wolf that knows he’s a wolf than to deal with a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  At least I can bop a wolf on the nose with a newspaper and tell it no.  The wolves in the sheep’s clothing don’t even realize they’re wolves.

So to the wolves with wool over their eyes: I’m not going to play your games.  I don’t care if you cut me out of the family because I was never truly a part of it to begin with.  I don’t need you.  I wanted you there, I wanted you in my life.  I tried to put forth effort into the relationships with all of you.  It was like bouncing a ball off of a brick wall.  I got nowhere.  And that’s okay.  I can’t expect everyone in this world to give back the efforts that I put into them.  So yes, I did give up.  I gave up on all of you.  It wasn’t for lack of trying though, I grew tired of the one-sided nonsense.  I got tired of hearing that you’re so disappointed in yourselves and that you were going to try to be a part of my life “because I deserve better,” then did nothing to act on that disappointment.  You did nothing to try to change your habits.  You didn’t try to be there for me at all.  And you know what?  That’s fine.  I can at least in good conscience say that I tried.  I called.  I wrote.  I sent Facebook messages and texts.  I rarely got the same.  In fact, out of all of you, I can count two occasions that any of you made attempts to contact me without me reaching out first.  Two.  Shame on you.  And what’s sad is that my narcissistic father, devoid of most emotion or ability to look beyond himself, is actually able to learn a lesson out of all of this.  

So by all means, try to isolate my father.  I will welcome him with open arms into my domain  of solitude.  While yes, it may be lonely from time to time, at least it’s peaceful.  At least my dark corner of the ocean isn’t filled with deception and lies.  And now that he, too, sees that blood isn’t always everything, I can mold him into a decent human being.  So…. thank you?  I’m able to show him a different light in life.  It’ll take time to undo decades of nonsense that you all created, encouraged, and enabled, but it is I who has the strength to redo it.  

You came to me in hopes that I will control and bend my father to your will.  Don’t knock on my proverbial door again.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep my old man on a leash.  It won’t be for you, though.  It’ll be for him.  It’ll be to show him that he doesn’t need you either.  That he, too, can be independent.  That he doesn’t need you.  That he doesn’t have to buy into your BS.  

I’ll teach him how to sail away.

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.

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

Dear Narcissist,

Unfortunately we still have to deal with you, however we will not engage in your games. We know that you’ll continue to manipulate everything around you to try to get your way, get a response, or get ahead in any way that you can. We know that you care more about yourself than the people that should matter more. We know that you’re going to keep painting yourself as a victim and that you’re going to continue to attempt to create high conflict. Aside from this notice of intent, we will no longer respond to those situations. Furthermore we will begin to teach others and give them the strength to dismantle the narcissists in their own lives. You no longer have the ability to cause any pain or discomfort in ours. In time, people will see who you really are.

Sincerely,

Fed Up