A follow-up to my posting on December 4th has been requested, as well. Two posts in one day...Aren't you excited!? That's what you get when I take a break. It all builds up.
So I wrote that long letter to the kids about my feelings and their actions' impact on me. It did have an interesting result. Keep in mind that reading that letter was a week after also talking to my oldest stepdaughter and telling her I would no longer accept her lying to me. Because of the first conversation, she was already being super nice to me and trying to win back favor. She always does that. She acts like she's trying, and then I find out about more made-up stuff later even during the time she was trying to act perfect. My husband calls her mom's behavior "a show." I think this kid has completely picked that up.
Also to set the atmosphere, I had been gone for a day and a half at a retreat for all the 7th graders in my church, which my stepdaughter could not attend due to her custody schedule and their mom's disinterest in meaningful away-from-home experiences for her daughter. So yes, I'd just spent the night and 2 days with all the boys and girls she wants to be friends with, some who go to her school. (The van full of boys I drove also discussed who they like and who they want to ask out. Yeah, she missed that. Hahahaha...) We all went out to pizza afterwards, and she was able to see the kids interact with me some. Again, like soccer, another way in which she can see other kids respecting and even loving me. (I got a lot of comments from parents that their kids loved me or said I was the coolest. Pretty confusing for me considering the ones who live in my house. Makes me feel good and strange at the same time these days.)
So that night was the only time we had, before it got too close to Christmas, for me to read my letter. My husband set them up and asked them to pay attention to everything I said and then I came down when he was ready. Then I read it. I purposely didn't look at them, because I wanted them to feel like they were hearing it away from me, without needing to respond to my looks. And I didn't want to be upset by their reaction, either.
Interestingly, my younger stepdaughter is the one who cried. I don't think she'd realized. She is usually the good one and knows that we get along fine, but I also know that relationship has changed in a negative way and we've lost the closeness and trust we used to have. Something happened before court and I lost her. I miss her and our talks, and worry about whether I can trust her now. She has learned to hide and lie like her sister, though does it much less overtly and usually out of fear.
My older stepdaughter acted disinterested. My husband told me later that she continued to after I left. She acted like nothing was said, that she simply didn't like it, and didn't care. My younger stepdaughter, on the other hand, talked to him about it some. He said that when they went to bed and she saw how much her sister didn't care, she seemed to realize how wrong it was. She turned around and asked him if she could say something to me. My husband came into the bedroom where I was hiding out and asked if she could see me. When she came in, her face exploded into tears and she threw herself into me. She threw herself hard enough to nearly knock me over or bonk me in the head. She cried into me and said I'm sorry and kept crying hard. I held her hand and told her she is a wonderful and sweet girl and I know that everything is hard, and everything is hard for everybody. I don't remember if any other short things were said, but then she left and went to bed.
And the next day, my older stepdaughter continued to act like her better self and the good kid she wants us to see her as. She continued to touch me and act like my buddy, like she did the night before after I spent all that time with the other 7th graders.
I know I'll hear about what the other family thinks or has turned it into, but it is all written down. Words can be twisted but we have proof of what I said. It wasn't about how bad the kids are, but simply how I feel and how I have tried for their sake. How I wish we could have a real relationship but the lying to me and about me to others kills any trust. It wasn't about how bad they are and how I hate them, or whatever we're going to hear it turned into.
They are my family, and I have to try. If I don't try, I will continue to feel trapped. I always aim for progress and change, and I cannot handle stagnant complacency or repeated painful situations when they can be confronted and maybe even stopped. The other family can keep telling the kids that I simply don't like them and just try to make them uncomfortable and unhappy, but I have to be real and not fake. You all know that someday the truth should be known or be clear. You could even say that sometimes we avoid the truth, but eventually it wins.
Overall, it made me feel much better. It is always a release to finally tell someone your feelings and let them know where you're coming from and why you act the way you do. I felt better writing it, I felt better reading it, and I felt better finally letting them know what it has felt like for 3+ years. I'm grateful that my younger stepdaughter "got it," and I don't really care that my older stepdaughter is blocked. Not a big surprise. I hope that some of it sinks in someday or that she remembers some of it correctly. Or that when she lies about it to her other family, she'll know the truth somewhere inside.
And if anything, they learned one way in which they can communicate their deepest feelings or hurt to someone else through words and not aggression, screaming, glaring, retribution, or the silent treatment. I know they at least can take that with them.