Father's Day. Mother's Day.
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.