Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taken Hostage?

A psychologist informed me that my husband and I are letting ourselves be taken hostage by the kids, their mom, and our fears of court. I explained a number of different  life choices we would like to make and how we are terrified to make any of those choices a reality.

The biggest example is fostering. If we choose to foster or adopt, or even start to go down the path, the kids and their mom will use it against us. If we actually did foster or adopt, there would be some issue with it. We only went to an information session, and it caused the kids to tell a number of important, court-influence-level people that we want to replace and forget them. No matter what and how many conversations my husband had with the kids stating that he wishes they were with us much more and they would get a sibling and family out of it, this was still the result.

This is probably the most tenuous topic for a stepfamily with a severely low amount of custody. Adding more kids to the family could mean scaring off the stepkids even further, thereby deeply hurting my husband even more. And we aren't talking about typical little kid concerns or sibling jealousy...Teenagers don't want to add kids to the family, despite how it could be good for them. The oldest kid is so close to just walking out on us for good, because of the very strong message she receives from her mom's family: that she doesn't need her dad- ever.

But keeping our family in the state it is in is painful in itself- empty rooms, unused toys, and knowing that you are not really parents 75% (or so) of the time, despite your efforts to be involved in every way possible outside of that limit. This arrangement feels fake, surreal, and my husband works himself so hard to make up the time, to show two kids that he loves them as much as a full-time father. The reality is he becomes the invisible, background, after-thought father. They've been trained to consider him as such, and to value him as a lesser component of their lives. And the system, the court custody agreement default template, helps kids to see the secondary parent in this way, beyond the bitterness of the ex. Honestly, a kid is going to simply think, "I don't see you, therefore you must not want to be with me," no matter what you say, how you say it, and how much you love them. (This is why even-time shared custody solutions are proving such great results, because it cuts out the artificial confusion children experience from a primary and secondary time arrangement.)

Knowing that we would be capable, good parents and fighting for years to be that to two kids who often go to lengths to show us they just don't need or want it, hurts. We have broken hearts that have felt very empty for large swaths of time. Knowing that there are kids out there who need parents, guidance, love, homes, and everything we can offer sounds like a wonderful way to give in ways we just court-ordered can't. It is true that my stepkids do need us and need our love, but we have no power over the amount or timing of it. And that powerlessness is also what makes this all so unbelievably frustrating.

And what if said teenager did walk out on us "for good?" Well, she could come back. If we use a room for someone else and reorganize the house for a foster child, then she definitely won't come back. Keeping their rooms empty is sadly so important, "just in case." Teenagers, and young adults, change their minds and their life situations change so quickly, that we need to have the space for empty bedrooms AND additional rooms for foster kids. This just isn't possible for us, and I don't believe its possible for most families, either.

I watch the show Extreme Home Makeover. I love seeing how loving families have made homes out of near nothing. It is unfortunate that in many of the chosen cases the kids are sharing rooms (sometimes to a ridiculous point), but they're really happy or loved, prior to the new McMansion they're given. The kids always say something like "Wow! I've never had my own room!" This somewhat amuses me about the show, because the kids at some point will have to share rooms again in a short period of time- college dorms, marriage- or, in many of the cases, you can tell that the parents, if they were foster parents, can see how many MORE kids they can take in given their new massive home. Those parents know that they were blessed because they served, and they want to turn that kindness around into more generosity. They know that their new mega home will be put to good use, and that other kids will come into their home in a matter of time. But their kids know that that is what their parents do; they are loving, have a lot to give, and help others. They accept that life changes and there are others in need, like they were at one point before they were fostered or adopted. They know that the love they were given must be shared and passed on.

People say that kids get over it when another child is brought into the family. I've heard, seen, and read a number of stories about the toddler being jealous about the new baby (my stepkids included), the new sibling, or being confused about an adopted sibling. This is a part of life and family. But I don't think the average family feels such fear like we do about this topic/decision. I don't think most families have to consider their own kids literally leaving them and not coming back if they choose to foster or adopt a child in need. A typical parent or family can trust that their kids will adapt and accept. We cannot assume the same.

The psychologist mentioned at the beginning of this post stated that kids, and teenagers especially, will not like things parents will choose to do, no matter how hard you try to please them. No matter what you say, no matter what you set up for them, they will be kids and teenagers and be unhappy about something. Something could make them so angry, and you could have never seen it coming. Something could cause a teenager to leave, and you may have had no power over it. It's more that we need to accept that we need to live our lives and accept that the kids may be terribly unhappy about it- and that we may lose them even more.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

I know that we're often criticized for our "parenting."

I don't really consider most of my involvement with my stepkids as parenting any longer, because they're older now and I've severely cut back in my involvement with the kids in general. This is also primarily due to a major change in circumstances that we waited for for many years. I step in when I have to (their dad is unavailable), when my husband has asked me to, or when the kids have asked me to. Overall, my husband does the parenting now, though he often discusses things with me still and his choices are built out of years of  our parenting together.

I realized that I hear moms criticize other moms constantly. It seems like absolutely no mom agrees with any other mom's parenting. This judgement is simultaneously held as a belief that they alone are the only one in the universe that knows how to parent/mother their own child.

Believing the latter should probably actually lead to the opposite: acceptance and tolerance of other parenting/mothering styles, since it assumes that parents hold privileged knowledge of their children that none other could discern. Instead, it seems to continue the train of judgement on everyone else. This follows the post-modernist belief that we each hold our own truth, as long as your truth doesn't come in contact with my truth...

I think it's just another example of woman-to-woman hate. There was an interesting line in the most recent "The Good Wife." The main character poses that it's not really a question of whether men and women can be friends- but whether women can be friends. I have always wondered the same. There are so many unnecessary judgments, gossip fests, assumptions, grudges, and intolerances built up between women, and mothering is the most sensitive topic of them all.

I think that it is wise for all women to keep in mind that for every woman you judge based on her mothering style, you can be sure that others have judged your mothering, as well.

I even hear endless criticism of women, from small comments to entire discussions, who have extremely unique circumstances, such as bouts of serious illness, large and complicated families, mental illness, poverty, or children with special needs. We even hear and see it in the news, daily, regarding famous mothers that we don't even know...We judge single instances caught on tape with extreme superiority, as if our own parenting is perfect and we would never say something cruel to a child or make such a "hideous" mistake.

Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But some parents parent the way they do because they have to. We have a right to question the parent who is endangering the life of a child, and many of us have specifically been tasked with reporting such abuses to authorities. Beyond that, taking instances out of context, trusting someone else's word without understanding the parent or home, or coming up with your own layer of assumptions on top of a situation, just continues the cycle of mothers judging mothers.

And sadly, given the habits we have of telling too many people what we think, those judgement very likely make it back around to the judged, causing unnecessary hurt and a wall of distrust.

John 8
New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 
10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”11 “No, Lord,” she said.And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”


The majority of my blog posts are not specific to the day I write them. They bubble out of thoughts, concepts, and a conglomerate of memories, readings, and stories. If I wrote something depressing, I don't only feel that way on that day or at that time. If I write something about an event, the event may have happened years ago. Upon reflection, most likely while driving my car or in the shower, I decided to share that event (or series of events) with some commentary relating to the framework of a larger topic. I write some draft thoughts down, write some of the blog and finish it later (sometimes much later), or I only write the title. It has even been a year before I revisited an initial post draft.

This is also why sometimes there are 3 posts all in one day. It just...happens.

You Shouldn't Care...


Telling someone they "shouldn't care."

I have read a lot of Stepmom articles that if they were boiled down, the article could be summarized as "You just should't care."

Apparently, that is the secret to inner peace. Not caring.

I feel like some of the authors that write to help stepmoms are either no longer stepmoms, in an ideal situation, or lack the turmoil that the rest of us face.
This is in relation to a number of various topics. You should't care about your husband's lack of support of you, your husband's ex harassing or even stalking you, your stepkids hatred of you in the home you equally provide, or the future of your stepkids. Whatever it may be, you just shouldn't care about it. Voila! Problem solved!

Sounds lovely. There would be no need for any stepmothering literature whatsoever if this was an easy-to-accomplish mindset.

I request that anyone who authors anything that will be published step back and review what you're actually asking another stepmom to do. Is it tangible? Did you give clear advice, or generic thoughts? Were there examples that could actually be applied to the vast amount of women, or were they "ideal"? Were you limited by space for a short article and therefore didn't really get into anything of any depth?

We're craving depth, actual solutions, and constructive directions. Please don't disappoint us again.

What a Part-time Father Looks Like

He drives to other cities, flies to other states, just to see them.

He spends every last penny on them, whether its dinner out, a souvenir sweatshirt he can't afford, or a "special" trip on the last of his credit.

He travels to softball games in other counties just to talk to them for 2 minutes through a gate. Maybe they'll give him a hug, too.

He calls, texts, posts, and voicemails just hoping for a response or one pick up.

He buys them gifts for holidays he won't even see them on, hoping they'll get his intended message that he thought of them all day.

He goes to endless lengths for birthday and half birthday parties, because he wasn't invited for years.

He puts aside money for them and buys things for them, just in case.

He can't be a parenting, guiding father 75% of the time, so he has to shove all his parenting into a few hours on 2 weekends each month.

He doesn't get sleep, doesn't take a break, doesn't do anything for himself when his kids are finally with him. He exhausts himself catering to their every whim, while also trying to parent them without ruining the entire week, weekend, or night.

He sneaks out of work regularly, risking his job, career, and reputation to pick them up or see them receive a small award.

He begs their mom for more time with the kids, which will either be ignored or ridiculed.

He has to defend himself to his own children, because they "hear" so much or forgot the actual events.

He constantly walks a fine line between invisible father and a man trying to lead a new life- or any life, really.

He continues to go to his children's events despite negative reactions and comments from other parents, and even teachers and coaches, who have been told "vague" negative things about him. He shows up, smiles, and applauds anyways.

He focuses his energy on plans that will be best for his kids' healthy development, activities and trips that will  help them see beyond their circumstance and narrow lifestyle.

He puts off work trips (hurting his career), surgeries, and vacations knowing that it could cause him to miss a short, often frustrating visit with his kids. He doesn't apply for better jobs, or even try, because he knows that he can't move if he did get the job.

He knows in his heart that he can't give up, no matter what others tell him or how hatefully his kids treat him. Because if he did, he knows they will hate him that much more.