Monday, July 29, 2013

Are you needed? Is he?

Where are you needed?

Where is your husband needed?

Like really, really needed. As in your husband has to be present or both of you must be there for your step daughter or son?

More and more couples have 50/50 custody of the kids, so I fear that my blog posts will start to become passe! But I know there are still some of you out there- many of you- who are like us. You got a crap custody order from a court that still believed in the mom-parenting bias ("kids must be with mom"). And if you're also still like us, you've given up. We could go back and try our shot at the family court roulette, knowing full well that the courts are finally starting to move towards more even, fair agreements to fully capable parents (though not all, not all states, and not all counties...Who knows which way the winds will blow!)  But our kids are older and they are to the point where no matter how much money (and our lives) we spent on a lawyer, court prep, and the court mediation joke, the kids will make the decision based on their age and the level of manipulation they've sustained. One word: Pointless.

We are seen as unneeded, and nearly nonexistent, a majority of the time. My husband and I are extras in my stepdaughters' lives, though when with us, its clear that my husband is very important to them (well, off and on...they're teens, after all). Overall though, through many years, we're very aware that life would go on without him in their lives, which is very painful. Despite that, he didn't focus on his career, a new family, and move away as many dads do when they realize they are no longer allowed to be a part of the picture. He just maintained that he would be there, present, continuing the visits and every-other-weekends, despite our lack of necessity.

So imagine our surprise when he gets frantic calls and texts from his ex that he is needed for a signature!

That is shocking. For years, especially on forms that required "both parents' signatures," my husband, who lives locally and sees the kids about every other day (and has joint legal custody....), was not asked to sign a damn thing. We literally see them almost every other day, so there has always been opportunity for "both parents" to sign nearly every single school and sport form that ever crossed their mom's path. But, the kids never mentioned such forms, their mom never gave them, and we usually saw them after the trip, event, or registration. When it was too late, we had the joy of pointing out to the kids "Hey, um, so when a form says "both parents must sign"...That means your Dad. Did you know this is your Dad?" (Ok, well that last part wasn't in there, but he and I both honestly wonder if they really know that sometimes. For many years there, they were being convinced that their stepdad replaced their useless, real dad, and stepdad signed all forms despite joint legal custody and joint physical custody. There were, sadly, many conversations about what a Dad is, what he can do for them, and why he was still there. Very, very sad.)

So, can you now imagine our surprise? Can you glean our shock?

Turns out that in our state, it is a REQUIREMENT that both physical, actual, biological, official, government-recognized parents MUST sign before a 16 year old takes the drivers permit test.

Both of us had the exact same reaction: Oh. are needed. You are necessary. I sort of wish he'd returned the form and said something to the effect of, "I'm glad my local presence turned out to be useful."

Side note: If you haven't figured out by now, this blog is depressing if you're not in this situation. If you are, you totally relate and you laughed at some of this. You're just happy to read someone else's discovery and moment of slight importance.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything to sign. There aren't any forms that ask for stepmom's signature, that I know of. It's probably better that way, as I wouldn't want a paper trail. =)

But in the meantime, it was actually quite wonderful for my husband to be requested and HIS signature needed, even for something so trivial. That is how much your parenting-self-esteem is diminished in this lifestyle. Maybe there will be more required signatures, that will require his presence and ability to use a pen.

I would now like to thank the state of California for being so gender inclusive on their official documentation. This is the second instance I've heard of recently in which the state has made it a requirement for both parents to sign documentation. (Don't try to ship your kids off to publicly-paid-for military school without the ex's signature...And no, I wasn't the one who tried it!)

Minor Mistakes

I've made mistakes.
We've all made mistakes.
You make a lot of "mistakes" as a stepmom.
As I've heard from the considerate and compassionate, you also make a lot of mistakes as a parent.

Are they really mistakes if you didn't really know, have never done it before, and you're just trying things out? In retrospect they are mistakes, but at the time you were doing what you thought would work. Knowing you made a mistake does not send you into the bad stepmom category, just like mistakes as a parent or spouse, adult or child are a part of life.

I know of my "mistakes" even though I know that it was just what I knew what to do. It's who I was, or it is who I am. I was a different person back then, back when I first started my marriage and stepmom life. I am a different person now, as we all age and grow, whether we're parents or stepparents.

My mistakes weren't really that bad. They were just judged as horrible by people who had no right to judge, and by kids who really don't know what a stepmom should or shouldn't be themselves. Every kid would like to dictate to their parent how they would like their parent to be, but I'm fairly certain that even if a kid was able to do control their parent in that way, they still wouldn't be happy. It's just common to not like your parents, and it is even more common to not like extra parents you never expected to have. And if you do like your parents, you still wish something would change or they could be different in some way... There's always that. It's a part of growing up and the development of independent thinking.

My mistakes were not pivotal. Sometimes I wonder if they were, and after discussion with my husband or friends, realize that they were choices or mistakes made with others in tow (a joint decision with my husband, the real parent), with others in agreement, or with others providing the feedback that they also wouldn't know what to do. Frankly, most stepparenting decisions, although they have been encountered by many others in some way shape or form, do not have step-by-step guides. Some people post things of that nature out there (thanks, stepmom life coaches for finding that niche market...) but nearly any time I read a "how-to-stepparent/mom" list out there, there are fatal holes in it that just do-not-apply to me. My actions truly related to whatever was happening at the time, whatever my stepkids were like at the time, whatever my spouse wanted at the time, and our general environment. So, that's just the way it went.

I've mentioned some of these historical mistakes with apologies to my husband. He usually laughs them off, immediately stating that it was either a mistake that was called for or not a mistake at all. He used to often say statements of "it was what we needed to do at the time." He's right, and we need to keep that in perspective. My minor mistakes (yes, they were minor) were without future information that no one would have. No one would guess or know what would happen 1 year, 2 years, 3 years down the line. We're still guessing, and we still have no idea.

We have to keep living in the world we're living in, and not living in a past world of choices we couldn't know the result of.