Monday, December 2, 2013

When you can't let it go......

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.

The sad thing is, Becca carried the burden of their breakup and the responsibility for her custody situation more than any child should have, because her mother put her in the role of friend and confidant rather than parent-child. Her mother openly bashed Ashley to her, allowed others to do the same, and actively cultivated relationships with members of Ashley's family that he made abundantly clear to her he did not want Becca interacting with them. Some of my in-laws are....well, difficult. That's the understatement of the century actually, but not the point of this post. Let's just say that as every family has their toxic members, Ashley has a bit more than most and we mutually agreed that these toxic members were dysfunctional and emotionally harmful enough to the girls that no contact was eventually the only option. We did not come to this decision lightly, mind you. Rather than respect Ashley's decision with his family members as he has with Becca's mom's family (we'll call her Laney from now on), Laney made it a point and has continued to do so to ensure Becca is surrounded by people who want nothing more than for Becca and Ashley's estrangement to continue because they know it is the easiest and most effective way to hurt Ashley.

I remember once Becca and I stayed up very late in deep conversation when she was at our house for one of our weekends, and she became very emotional. She confessed she blamed herself for not living with us full-time. She thought that because Laney asked her, a child too young to even be in preschool mind you, if she wanted to come with her when Laney walked out, that she chose her mom over her dad. Blinking back tears, I explained to her that she was a young child and it was no fault of her own, that Ashley did not blame her, and that we both loved her very much.

It broke my heart that Becca thought that any of it was her fault, and it also broke my heart that Laney's hatred of Ashley was and still is so deep that it actually overrides her love for their child. Of course, I have no doubt that Laney loves Becca very much, just as Ashley does. I'm sure in many ways, she is a good mother, and she certainly isn't the train wreck that Maggie is. But truth be told, I think that in many ways, Laney has done more damage to Becca than Maggie ever has to Gabby and Jade. While raising Gabby and Jade has been no walk in the park, they at least have had the benefit of being reared in a home with two parents who provide them with an example of a loving relationship. We don't badmouth Maggie to them or make them feel they should be ashamed of half of their genes or put them in a position where they feel they have to defend their other parent. They don't have to stay quiet about their positive feelings or feel that it's not OK to love their stepparent because Mom will be angry.

No, I don't care for Laney. She and I are so incredibly different from each other, we would never be friends in another life. We disagree on too many things to mention. But the difference is I never uttered an ugly word about her to her daughter. I encouraged Becca to have a good relationship with both of her parents and with her stepfather. I kept my personal opinions about Laney, her parenting style and her lifestyle choices to myself, even when Becca would occasionally bait me, because I love Becca more than I dislike Laney.

That's the message that gets lost when you can't let it go, when you continue to drag everyone in and out of family court for years, when you make snide comments about your ex in front of your child, when you scream at your ex in front of your child, all of which Laney was - and I have no doubt still is - a pro at doing. You don't have to be the Brady Bunch. No one has to be best friends or even like each other. You just have to keep that civil, business like tone. Put your child's best interests in front of your own.

That's what parenting is all about, right?