Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Good Stepmom

I can tell you what a good stepmom is.

There's all these books out there to help stepmoms learn, adapt and be better.

You know all it is? You want to know what it takes to be a good stepmom?

When your stepkid treats you like crap, embarrassing you in front of others- kids, adults, teachers, coaches, friends, family- You don't tell them how you really feel, you don't scream at them at the first chance to tell them how horrible they were, and in fact, you stomach nearly all of it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fight On (if the Fight will bring them Life)

So, it's summer. And it's almost over. How did that happen? Where we live, it's only been hot for about 4 days total. I'm wondering if summer can extend to October.

In our custody arrangement, we now have every other week with the kids, but only during the summer. The moment the custody changed, they were happier, looser, more normal with us. We've noticed this year after year: If they know they will be with us for a longer amount of time than those weekday "dinner visits" or the short weekends, then they become themselves. They are suddenly fine with everything. They aren't rigid anymore, aren't fighting everything. My husband has tried to tell court mediators and the therapist this, but we don't think anybody listens or believes him. And I guess they don't see that this is why experts recommended that (caring, healthy) parents have equal time, and why our legislature passed a law saying courts should make decisions in that vein.

We've seen some majors shifts in the kids this summer as well. Thank goodness that they are getting older. I've been waiting for a time like this, when I can see glimmers of hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll be aware enough to fight the extremely negative, unhealthy tendencies and habits they've learned...And just maybe, be their own people.

I have always said that I invest so much time, effort, and care into them- Not out of love, but because I want to actually like them when they're older and adults. This is my way of saying that I want them to be smart, healthy women, decent people, and help society rather than hurt it. I know that marrying my husband meant they would be in my life forever, and caring for them was a part of my vows. I do a lot of "loving" them, but it's not a normal sort of love. It's a caring love that results from the immense, unending love I have for my husband. I definitely see them as a part of him, something that comes with him with no choice, and therefore I need to do as much as I can to make the best of it. If I love him, I will do what I can for them. And for me, making the best of it involves a lot of work to hopefully show them different things in the world.

And what I've just described, whether you recognized it or not, is a war against their mom. As a stepmom, I'm not supposed to war against their mother. In the perfect world where parents are all wonderful, I am simply supposed to let her teachings be it- because she is their mom. And I only support the parents and their wishes. If only it were that easy and I didn't have any morals, values, or general obligations as a citizen and Christian....It wouldn't have to be a war, and it wasn't my choice. Their mom is mad, angry, furious that I am a part of their lives. There's jealousy and other typical ex-wife, bio-mom sentiments there. But it really boils down much more to who she is. And who she based off of her children.

Her self-esteem has always been so low, from the way she was raised. Not her fault, really. Her kids are her everything because- they will be her friends. She doesn't have many, and her friends are her family members- who only respect her to a certain degree. She has the old fashioned way of understanding kids to be who takes care of her when she's old, as well. She's never looked to a husband to do that, though she does have financial dependencies on them. Her goal has always been to have two mini-hers, without (some of) her mistakes. She was most happy when pregnant and showing off her infants, because it was the most attention she's ever had. And, she had control over others for once when for so long, her life was always out of her control. They are her pets, her prizes, and her reflection. And the reflection issue is what causes the war.

In wanting them to be her friends, caretaker, and a continuous reflection of her, they end up being- well let's make it simple: not themselves. They are (very quickly growing) children; they need to live, explore, play, question, grow, and learn. But if they are a reflection, they do not. If they're busy "stepping on eggshells" with a narcissistic parent, they will in turn lose their own self-esteem. They will end up modeling their needy parent, and unfortunately become not "like their parent" but also the full reflection. Which, in this case, is dangerous.

So, she sees me as the enemy. I pride myself on being different, learning more, being an activist, and exploring. She wants to keep them near her, to do only what she does and did, and not expose them because she might lose them. Her biggest fear is losing them, as she has openly shared in the past and continues to show in every action, email, and in the manipulation war she wages.Within the first year, I was sick of my stepdaughters' fears, inability to try things, quick judgments at such young ages, and lack of curiosity. I was scared of the nasty faces they made, which my husband recognized as their moms. And I was most alarmed by their complete lack of belief in themselves and inability to have goals. Two children, afraid to commit to themselves, afraid to believe in themselves, and unable to separate themselves from what they'd been told they were. Quite, quite literally.

Most moms would be happy that their children could try new things, visit new places, learn more and more- and not on their dime, either. We go to museums, historical parks, and teach them how to do things. They try new foods, so that they don't freak out later on when presented with it, and they change their minds about restaurants they previously claimed they "hated" because their mom and her family said they did. They were talked out of music lessons, so we signed them up with a friend- and now they're proud that they can play guitar. I have a million other examples like these, and I'm seeing their fear of the new and the world start to dissipate. We're finally seeing them be willing, jump forward to try things, and eager to leave the house. And, they've made new friends. Lots. They have an entire community at church and made special friends from camps. They have lots of family in other places that they can visit and who love them so much. What a world they (can) have.

But, don't you get it? A mom who wants her kids to be just like her- this is all her worst nightmare. Absolutely scary. I am not being facetious or sarcastic. If your world is limited and your self-esteem is low, you need your children to relate to you and still want to be with you. If they want the world and more, how can they stay with you or be there when you are alone? She wants them to be successful(ish), but not too much more than she considers herself to be. She wants them to have low goals like her, so they stay. She wants them to be friends with her, not new people or kids where she can't get to know the parents or cast her judgment on them. She doesn't want them to experience things she never experienced, because she doesn't understand it- and fears it herself. That separates them from her, ever so much. Their grades aren't important, as long as they're average- like hers were. They don't need to work towards goals, because she didn't have many- and she has goals for them, anyways.

So she hates that I entered her ex's life and then introduced him and her kids to new things, an active life, faith, and all kinds of things she doesn't understand or want for them. Pretty simple when you get it. Otherwise, you just shake your head, wondering why she's so mad and angry all the time- why she is constantly fighting us all the time. She fears what I and we offer them. She hates that we can offer these things she doesn't know about, and therefore doesn't want her kids to know about either.

My fear is that they fear life and never learn how to grow. That's what I want for any youth I encounter and work with, not just these two. (Which I believe is something they may start to understand, but their mom thinks is just my attempts to tear her children from her set lifestyle choice for them, and thereby tear them from her.) I definitely have a clear purpose in their lives, my husband supports me, and I am motivated continually by their joy and what they learn/experience. I've never been a bystander, and I've never believed that people should take on the negative habits that will hurt them later in life. I have been brought into their lives, I am not perfect, but I sure want to offer anything that I can. If anything, I want them to have the pure and simple choice between some things versus other things, this lifestyle versus that, and "good" versus "bad." You have to be informed if you're going to make decisions, and I consider myself to be an informant.

And really, this is just who I am. Fight on.

How Sabotaging Stepmoms Hurts Your Children

How Sabotaging Stepmoms Hurts Your Children