Monday, December 2, 2013
As I've shared before, Becca's mom broke off her relationship with Ashley many years before I came along. She took Becca with her when she left. I won't get into the details of why she left as it's not my story to tell, but let's just say this was not a case of Ashley being a big jerk and she couldn't stand living with him anymore. Of course, she never explained to Becca why she left, and Ashley did not feel it was his place to tell Becca. I vividly remember one time when Becca and I were going to the store, Becca asked me why her parents broke up. I actually remember the exact intersection I stopped at when she dropped this bombshell. I told her it wasn't my place to tell her, and she should have that discussion with her parents. She became very upset, asking why it was fair for me to know and for her not to, even asking me if the scenario that actually happened is the story. I just kept repeating it was a discussion for her to have with her mom and dad, that I knew because it was a discussion between adults in a relationship to have, but that if she wanted to know, I would not be the one to tell her.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Becca is 18 now. Hold on, I'll let that really sink in for you. Becca is an adult now. 18 years old. Legally the age of majority. It is a surreal feeling. There is no active court order anymore. Ashley's days of paying child support are done. That (literally) Bible-sized file sitting in that horrid Family Courthouse is nothing more than documentation of 15 years of hell now. Becca's mom will actually have to terrorize her husband now instead of mine. Heck, Becca's mom may actually have to get a job now since she can't live off my husband anymore. Imagine that! Some old-timer Step/Moms will tell you it's never really over, that it never really ends. There are weddings, grandchildren, etc. that mean the bio-mom will always be there, lurking, trying to cause trouble. I don't really believe that. I mean, I see the point. Evil never stops just being evil. But to not have to live through constant court sessions, threats of (more) false accusations, just hearing the shrill shrieking on the other end of the line anymore? Hey, I'll take what I can get. Because if you take away court, you take away most of the power. What's saddest to me is that 18 was no magic salve (at least yet), no truth serum for Becca to realize Dad and I are not evil people, that we're good people in fact who have continued to love her despite her mom's repeated and relentless attacks on what should be and once was a very good father-daughter relationship and stepparent-stepchild relationship. This, simply put, is not how I envisioned we would spend her high school years. I still think of her as the young teenager she was when I last saw her. It does hurt when I realize just how much we've missed - Ashley, me, and her sisters. If I could say anything to Becca now, it would be that I hope and pray she takes advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. To follow her dreams and not get sidetracked by boys, friends, and most importantly, what other people think. I would tell her that the sky really is the limit, and there's a whole big world outside her small town just dying to meet her, so she should take some time to travel and get to know herself. And, I would tell her that there are two sides to every story, and it's time to hear ours.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
I have to admit that it's difficult, to say the least, for me to cut Jade and Gabby's bio-mom any slack. I'm a Christian woman, and my own mother often tells me I should love her for the sake of the girls, or that I should feel sorry for her because addiction is a terrible thing. Addiction is a terrible thing. I'm certainly not trying to minimize the mental illness that it is. But Maggie, their bio-mom, goes so far beyond simple addiction. A pathological liar, a narcissist, a complete and total Hot Mess as I like to call it. Her latest cry for attention is her incessant posting on Facebook, and she loves to act like Mother of the Year, in between her posts filled with profanity where she likes to go on about very motherly, mature things like sleeping around and dirty lingerie. Not to be outdone, she sprinkles those posts with how much she loves Jesus and how He has saved her life. Basically, I would say she's an overgrown teenager, but I know teenagers that are better behaved than her. I think my favorite recently was her post about how she's not just a mother, but a chauffeur, an alarm clock, a waitress, a referee, etc. She hasn't seen her children in almost nine years now, but yet she reposts a picture saying "Like if you will ALWAYS be there for your kids!" I often wonder just how far detached from reality she really is. Don't worry, Maggie - you enjoy your Facebook time while I do the actual parenting. I've got it all taken care of.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I've already outed myself as a Democrat, so you probably think I am a huge supporter of our President. While I like him and agree in general with many of his policies, there's one topic where he always seems to get it wrong - fatherhood. It feels like a Dan Quayle moment, where you just want to stop him from repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth, but it seems he really does believe what he preaches. Now, I do admire him as a father and husband; he and Michelle make a great parenting team. But the reality is I think he's very biased toward fathers and the "deadbeat dad" myth that it interferes with logic. Take for example his State of the Union address this year: "...Because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.” I agree with the concept, but why not just say parent? Why the focus on dads? I could say the exact same thing about Jade and Gabby's bio-mom. Unfortunately, their bio-mom is not the only noncustodial mother who fits the "deadbeat" stereotype. I couldn't say it any better than the Fathers & Families organization, a nonprofit that promotes shared parenting, whose Facebook page asked, "How exactly are we supposed to do this with 4 days a month VISITATION?" It's a valid question. 50/50 parenting doesn't work in every scenario obviously. But when neither parent is abusive or dangerous, and they live relatively close to each other, there's no reason why Dad should only get every other weekend. However, in most family court systems around the country where according to the U.S. Census Bureau only 1 in 6 custodial parents is the father, Mom almost always winds up with more time. This is, of course, assuming Mom even informs Dad that he is a parent at all. If President Obama really wants to enact change in the United States that will encourage fatherhood, he will encourage Congress to pass federal laws that set standards for family courts across the country. Parenting doesn't differ from state to state; the laws governing families shouldn't either. Mothers should be forced to disclose paternity except for in extreme circumstances (e.g. documented domestic violence, rape victims) so that children are not illegally placed for adoption (more on that in an upcoming post). While all parents have the responsibility to support their children, custody and visitation orders should be as vigorously enforced as child support orders are in most courts. A situation like ours with Becca should never happen, where Ashley's feet are held to the fire on his child support payments but yet Becca's mother has been repeatedly charged with contempt of court for violating the custody order and she has never received more than a slap on the wrist. When you reduce a father's role to be nothing more than a paycheck, you are discouraging fatherhood rather than encouraging it. "I wish I had had a father who was around and involved." - President Obama, February 22, 2013 So do thousands of children across America, Mr. President. Stop the rampant abuse and bias in the Family Court system so fathers and their children can be reunited.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Friday, January 11, 2013
I am very pleased to announce my first post from a guest writer! My amazing friend Sarah offered to share her experience as a stepmother whose stepdaughter lives far away from her and her husband, Charlie. I share Sarah's story in hopes of reminding my fair readers that it takes all kinds of stepparenting to make the world go round (that's how the saying goes, right?! I kid, I kid.) and that each type of stepparenting has its own challenges and blessings. I also empathize with Sarah as a fellow long-distance stepmother in my situation with Oldest Belle, and I hope Sarah's story provides all of you with great insight and understanding. Thank you, dear Sarah, for sharing your story! Cheers, Southern Step/Mom We weren’t always a long distance family. When I met my husband Charlie 5 years ago, he was fully custodial to a bubbly 4 year old girl. I fell in love with both of them almost immediately. I delighted in his use of Frizz-Ease in her unruly curls and the way he could get her to dissolve into giggles even when she was in the midst of a tantrum. I thought he was a fantastic partner and father. We had sporadic Date Nights, but for the most part we just all hung out together. Being part of a “family” felt natural and we settled into an easy household routine. One thing I especially loved about my stepdaughter Bridget was that she would eat anything I cooked; I considered myself unbelievably lucky to have this great kid in my life who wasn’t a picky eater. Then Charlie, who is in the military, was temporarily moved from our city to the other side of the country for half a year. I was blessed at the time to be working from home, so I was able to accompany him. Bridget went to live 300 miles away with her mom. My relationship with Charlie deepened during that time, but my relationship with Bridget was nonexistent. I tried sending Christmas and birthday gifts to her. They were returned, unopened, with a comment passed through Charlie that Bridget’s mom was uncomfortable with it. She was also uncomfortable with me talking to Bridget on the phone. When Charlie’s assignment ended and we returned to our city I was eager to resume a normal life with him and, of course, Bridget. But Bridget was...different. Sullen. ANGRY. She was also confused. She didn’t understand that she didn’t live with us anymore, that living with her mom was permanent and she was only visiting. She acted out and Charlie allowed it. Things she NEVER would have gotten away with before were now perfectly fine. She picked at her dinners and hated anything placed in front of her, even foods she had gobbled up less than a year prior. Charlie accused me of deliberately making unusual dishes and acted as if spaghetti was haute cuisine. Any attempt I made to discipline her was undermined, often in front of her. What had happened to our easy household routine, to our family? Every night I looked forward to her bedtime so that I could sneak some quality time in with Charlie, but bedtime never came. He hadn’t seen Bridget in so long that he couldn’t bear to put her to bed at night and refused say no to any request from her, but it was coming at the cost our relationship. Charlie and I started arguing about petty household issues, about discipline, about EVERYTHING. My life was being run by a 5-year-old who demanded ice cream cones and fast food twice a day and stayed up until 1 a.m. My husband indulged every whim and shouted at me if I tried to rein them in. When Bridget returned to her mom, my husband retreated to his workshop and sulked for days, refusing to talk to me, only staring blankly at the wall and saying how awful his life was without Bridget. I felt rejected as a stepparent and dismissed as a wife. I told myself that we all just needed time to adjust to this new arrangement and that things would improve. I prayed to have my loving partner back. I prayed to have the little girl I loved so much back. I prayed to have my family back. Every other weekend, we spent 6 hours in the car on Saturday morning and another 6 hours in the car on Sunday afternoon to have her for one night. Charlie would keep her up all night trying to squeeze in every possible moment of fun time and then she’d pass out in the car on the way home. Attending a birthday party or school play required taking vacation days and a hotel stay in Bridget’s city – assuming, of course, that we were invited to attend those things at all. Sometimes we simply could not afford it and we missed important events. It started wearing all of us down so Charlie and his ex-wife agreed to decrease visitation to one weekend a month instead, usually whatever school holiday Bridget had so that we could have more time with her. I stopped going on the drive so that Charlie and Bridget could have alone time in the car and, quite honestly, I needed the time to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the hurricane of commotion in our home that comes with having a child you can't parent in a "traditional" way in your care. By that, I mean the custodial agreement didn't truly allow for us to enjoy both the normal fun and the gentle discipling that comes with traditional parenting when you have a child with you for more than an extended weekend here and there. Bridget’s mom remarried last summer. Her new husband, who is also in the military, is stationed over 1000 miles away. Our long distance family suddenly got a LOT more distant. Visits now require a plane ride, a lot of planning and a fairly substantial amount of money. One weekend a month has turned into one weekend every three to six months. Bridget has her own life in her new city and I feel like I barely know her anymore. She seemed to go from preschooler to tween in the blink of an eye and I’ve missed out on most of it. She tells me she can’t recall a time when I wasn’t a part her life, but I don’t FEEL like part of her life. I don’t feel like a family anymore. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I don’t know if we’ll ever be close to each other again, physically or emotionally. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like part of a family again, but I’m still praying for it.
Friday, January 4, 2013
Don't tell Ashley, but it seems we're about to start this rocky roller coaster called puberty at Tara. Last month, we escaped town for the weekend and while we were waltzing around a theme park, I noticed Youngest Belle looked like she might be getting ready for training bras soon. Then the other night, Middle Belle approached me with "Mom, I need to talk to you about something in private." It seems Youngest Belle may not be alone in her new wardrobe addition. It's a really weird experience to be a Step/Mom in a situation like this. I absolutely DREAD going to new doctors for this exact reason. I know way more about my husband's ex-wife's pregnancies and birthing experiences than I ever needed to know, for the record. Then the doctors ask awesome questions about bio-mom's puberty experience. Really??? Do I LOOK like I would know the answers to these questions? Hold on, lemme dial her up real quick and see what happened, even though I've only spoken to her once in the past six years. Wait, now that you mention it, she DID leave a detailed medical history before checking out. Seriously?! So, your guess is as good as mine as to what we can expect as the girls become young women and when we can expect it. It's a good thing I paid attention in my biology classes is all I have to say. It's also an entirely different experience going through this as a custodial Step/Mom than when I went through this with Oldest Belle as a noncustodial Step/Mom. Part of me is grateful that Oldest Belle trusted me enough to ask all sorts of questions, things that she blatantly admitted she did not feel comfortable asking her mom about (and of course Dad was totally off-limits), even if it was sometimes uncomfortable/awkward for both of us. But it's nice to know that I can guide the girls through this rocky road without the interference of a bio-mom, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law, all of whom thought I was totally incompetent in handling such issues and liked to question my competency in front of Oldest Belle. Of course since I was just Dad's fiancee and never gave birth to any children, I clearly don't understand basic biology, let alone be trusted to explain such issues to a preteen. Of course, with the younger belles' developmental delays (thanks, bio-mom!) and Middle Belle's...sensitive emotional psyche, shall we say, I
think know we are in for a rough ride as puberty approaches. Therefore, Southern Step/Mom is gleefully accepting any and all gifts of alcoholic refreshments that may make this road a little easier. These girls are going to give me hell, bless their hearts.