Friday, June 25, 2010
We let them do a ton of stuff, sign them up for things they love, and organize all kinds of things with their friends. But thanks to actions on Father's Day, they were grounded for their first week of summer with us. My saying previously was that only cats get grounded in our house (when they fight), but now we've had to move past that. Our grounding isn't ridiculous, though. The kids' mom, when she grounds, takes away the only things the kids do in their house. They're basically left with their room and cut out of family activities, and I think that's pretty cruel. I told my youngest stepdaughter once that we would never do the same as their mom because punishments are too harsh and cut the kid out of family life and routine.
This, on the other hand, is literally a grounding in which they're doing TONS of fun stuff still, but just can't do a sleep over or play date at a friends house. We had planned for them to go to Vacation Bible School every morning and then get picked up by friends or dropped off at friends' houses most afternoons. But instead, they ruined Father's Day for their Dad so we took the afternoon stuff away, meaning they'd get to go to work with me instead. It hasn't been so terrible at all, since they've been able to still go to one of the most fun things all year everyday, plus other church events with tons of people and best friends. And I arranged to have one of their favorite babysitters over yesterday, which they loved because she took them out. We never give them boring weeks, ever. That's just unnecessary. Even if they're not thankful.
But they're asking to go to friends houses now that it's the end of the week. Yet my husband realized- they still haven't even said sorry for what they did on Father's Day. Not once. So they're starting to make comments about their friends longingly, and he is going to have to sit down and tell them not a chance. Not only do we let them see their friends constantly and set up all kinds of events and activities for them and the friends, with their parents even, they never say thank you. They don't get it. We go the extra mile in arranging playdates, sleepovers, and lots of activities to allow them to associate with their peers more and be more rounded and positive, and active, than what they're being taught in their other family: Judgement, rudeness, criticism of others, desire to do less and fester.
But I'm not sure they even realize that their mom hardly ever does anything, and that they expect such things from us. Their friends have started to call my husband and I for playdates and not their mom. More than once now, when a friend has asked to see one of the kids to my husband and I, they'd expressed disappointment, like a failed attempt, when we've said that they're with their mom that week. So, even their friends get it. (Or, it has something to do with the weirdness, negativity, and overt Satanism at the other house that we can tell other parents are now finally picking up on.)
Somehow, this "grounding" of minor proportions will turn into "cruelty". Their mom yells, screams, throws, severely punishes (and other extreme antics). But somehow us taking away sleepovers during one week, while also doing special activities every single day (including a half-birthday celebration at a nice restaurant and another made-up "special occasion" another night) and letting them play with friends everyday at VBS with games and crafts, will somehow turn into unusual cruelty and punishment. Somehow, whatever Dad does with Stepmom is worse than anything Mom does that makes them cry in fear before they even see her.
And that's our reality. We just accept it now. We try to fight it with the kids by explaining and comparing, aka logic, but I'm sure many of you know how that goes with kids. Throw in manipulation and fear, and it has even less impact.
Oh, summer. Thanks mediator for giving us every other week with the kids this summer, but before we know it...Everything will be forgotten.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Kids getting treated to special stuff for the family Father's Day outing. Blatantly lied to Dad about serious issue, led to long discussion, and even worse revelations. Then, at the event we attended, a fight in the crowds broke out and the kids themselves were traumatized.
This year's Father's Day:
Agreements were made ahead of time about certain things being said and done on Father's Day. I told both kids last night to be happy all day, do everything for Dad, and remember it's Father's Day. Oldest kid got a lesson about Father's Day in Sunday School. Yet, just as we got to the family outing for this year, we find out both kids are lying and hiding stuff.
This holiday sucks. We get custody of them for Father's Day, but they ruin it. Their mom has so much control over them, that it even manages to infect his one and only day where Father's are honored. I got him gifts and cards, from the kids to him, and I feel like it was all a waste. What matters is how they are, who his kids are, and how they treat him and love him. Gifts lose all meaning and importance when the actions with them show that you don't mean much.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The weirdest holiday for stepparents.
I almost wish it didn't happen. I love giving attention to my parents, but being a stepparent on those holidays generally makes you feel like crap.
And, being the actual bio parent can make you feel like crap, too. That would be because it really ever isn't just Father's Day or Mother's Day when you have two sets of parents. There's always some sort of split, some sort of favoritism. There's possessive parents who refuse to let children recognize the stepparent as anything in their childrens' lives, and then there's hurt parents who struggle with how much their kids are forced to be taken care of by the stepparent- and not by the actual parent who wants to see them more.
It's always a somewhat sad thing- because you know they're being "returned." For us, we go a little over the top with Father's Day on purpose to accentuate the fact that he is actually their Father and deserves the love and respect, like a father- Even if the courts decided their stepdad, who was forbidden to see his own kids without direct supervision, would take care of them more because he's with the mom.
We're always split and confused as well. We want things to at least be tolerable and everybody to accept and respect each other. But because we are absolutely not respected and the kids are told to completely disrespect us and treat the other parents as the main parents...We end up hurt, naturally jealous, and, it seems like, fighting for their attention. If "the other side" could simply let things exist in a normal way for the kids, there wouldn't be the hurt, confused kids, and anger. But because one side maintains a war, we maintain a defense. As long as one wages attacks, we must do what we can to bounce it back- some and somehow in a humane way that doesn't show us as bad examples to the kids.
It's frustrating. It's hard. We're all in a tough situation- not just the kids. The kids often whittle it down to making their mom happy at all costs. She scares them, so that's what is most important to them. They fear the repercussions and her not liking them. So they do acts of favor to their other family. The courts set this up by letting kids primarily be with one parent, which only makes sense when there's a real safety concern or a great distance between the parents.
We tried in court to be "equal". So we're left with trying to teach the kids about how to think about fairness and treating others equally. We use examples about their friends, their situations, or their feelings first and then try to segue into a discussion about how it relates to our family situation.
One kid always feels bad, but she almost never changes her actions afterward. She sincerely says she's sorry and looks guilty. That's about it. Sometimes she makes some extra effort a couple of times that feels good, but she always goes back to only pleasing her mom. The other kid couldn't care less. Sometimes she strains herself to make her face look like she cares. Would be amusing if you just studied her. But really, she knows she gets stuff from us no matter what because we want her to learn and grow and do cool things to experience life outside of her bubble. We bend over backwards for her, and she pretty much knows that won't change- But most of all, she knows she barely needs to live with us. Like we're a cold. We come for a while, you get some perks like some special treatment, and then it goes away and you go back to life as normal.
And those are some of the things we have in mind every year on Father's Day.
May you part-time fathers out there who have never hurt a fly, let alone your very own children, yet who are told you can't see them- May you be treated with as much love and affection as the court papers allow this next Father's Day.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It's been so many years since my oldest stepdaughter sincerely liked me. I'm afraid to say this, but I think it's coming back.
My proof: She actually is immediately wearing hand-me down clothes from me rather than tossing them behind something so she doesn't have to see it until I find it a month later and ask how it got back there. She is laughing at jokes I make. And she's even repeating funny things I say and laughing, like she enjoyed what I said.
It's shocking. Unusual. Strange. Confusing. Cool. But I'm still wary.
I'd like to say it's new, but it's not. When she was about 8 or so, she treated me like the cool babysitter or the "older" girl. She would wear my stuff, especially when I didn't offer it… And I wasn't always so happy about that, because I'm pretty clear on how gross kids are. Though, I recognized that she was trying to emulate me and wanted to share my things. And my husband knew it was a sign that she really liked me. She would follow me around, too closely often. She would touch me, like by bugging me somehow or play with my hair. She'd lean against me whenever the opportunity arose,despite the fact that I didn't have a clue what to do in response and felt very awkward about it. She'd listen to me earnestly and copy what I said. She would beg me to stay over, stay longer, and try to talk me out of my obligations and reasons for getting back to my life, and my cute apartment.
That all stopped abruptly a few months after my husband and I were married and living together. There's lots of theories about why, but primarily there was strong and steadfast anger and hate flowing from her mother.
You'd think that a child does not simply change how they act. In fact, most people believe that. That children are innocent and pure and never hide their true feelings or quickly and completely change how they act and who they like or hate. Especially when it comes to their only parents. I could see someone thinking that that's much more of a Junior High thing laced with adolescence or High School angst. Sure.
Anyone remotely in my situation knows how quickly a child's affections for you or one biological parent can change. Instantly, as a matter of fact.
Have you ever seen a child change their entire behavior the moment someone else walks into the room? Most children are distracted, playing, busy, something- being themselves in their own little world. But a child who's been convinced that affection from one parent wanes if the child cares about the other parent as well causes that child to change everything instantaneously. Even if the other parent is simply in eyesight. Even their car or other family members of that parent can change their entire demeanor in one second. Their mood immediately changes, their facial expressions, their words, their actions. Imagine a child in the middle of play and laughter suddenly dropping her shoulders, changing her face to a full glare, and suddenly ignoring whatever they were doing. Even being a little violent in their actions. It's maybe hard to believe unless you've seen it.
Things they want even change. They aren't "themselves". But one day, that version can turn into the only version you see.
And that's who my stepdaughter was for about 2 or 3 years. She sometimes goes back into it, and I have a very hard time trusting her. I know that we can have tons of fun and they'll give me hugs before bed, but then the next time I see them, they could be spitting venom. We used to think that consistent behavior was a sign that things changed. Oh, totally wrong. Totally, totally, totally wrong. Consistent children come from consistent parents. If one parent is unstable… Well, you see where that's going. Children can be healthy in divorce situations, but not if their primary example(s) in life is completely or emotionally unhealthy. Especially if the child is of the same sex of the parent who is unstable. Who do they emulate most during the childhood years, before they turn to their peers?
She's now in the pre-teen years, and I forgot that she hasn't even hit 13. She's easier to deal with, work with, and talk with. She's either realized that things aren't changing and acceptance is sinking in, or she has a split personality. Which, is entirely possible. I'm not just being mean. She has tried to maintain more than one version of herself since she was 9. This is her coping mechanism, although it's extremely dangerous. She thinks that in order to get through the differences in the two houses, she needs to be two different people. But I don't know if she realizes that her other side slips out regularly, because she's really not that good at hiding anything. (That training and perfection comes in the teenage years.)
But these new things, or I should say the comeback, is much more encouraging than previous "comebacks". The signs I listed at the beginning of this post are special and herald back to that first year I knew her.
I sure hope it's not just because I'm super sick. My stepkids are always much more caring about sick and elderly people, and a therapist once told me that maybe I could resolve all of the issues with my stepkids by being sick all of the time or acting like it. Ha. No thanks. I make my stepmom title by being adventurous, active, special, and different. Sick, weak, and needy… Aren't my things, ain't my game. Plus, they already have that example…