A lot less drama overall. Why is that?
Partly because our kids are now a lot more independent. One can drive. She usually drives her sibling. They're doing less "activities," which means there's less stress and we have less involvement with their mom.
(Less involvement meaning: Less time sitting for hours with her in the stands at a ball game, less time fearing intimidation, less time watching my back, less anxiety attacks, less time purposely moving around fields in a way that keeps me from being mocked, glared at, or blocked.)
My s'kids are now also starting to realize that they have the ability to ignore mom, when needed, also. I have waited so long for them to be real teenagers, wiggling for independence... It's about time. It has been a relief to hear that one is giving equal, and and maybe even more, amounts of grief to the other parent- finally. We have had way too many years of alienation against us, effective bullying, and continuous lying to the kids about us. Our relationship with them was repeatedly hurt by manipulation, and one seemed to truly hate us for many years (despite simultaneously clearly craving her dad's love, time, and affection).
I'm sure I wrote at some point, maybe more than once, that if you teach your kids to disrespect the other parent, one day that will backfire on you. Well, that has come true. I wish I could elaborate.
The teenage metamorphosis is not complete, though. They still definitely fear their mom. They fear upsetting her, and although both are old enough to be given the time share they want, they are not willing to be even a few minutes late when returning to Mom's. We know there is a continuation of control going on, and not in a way that would be healthy for teenagers- as it is only against another parent, the target. It's very sad to me that an-almost-adult is not able to choose when she comes over or leaves her own dad's house and cannot see our side of the family when she wants to. It's of course also sad that they are not being listened to, but we don't think they are even being asked or considered. Can't say that your kids requested something if you refuse to hear it or have scared them enough to know that broaching the subject isn't even possible without fearing a number of frightening reactions.
I know that a lot of stepmoms, and regular parents, struggle with the tough teenaged years. It is a bit confusing, but it has ultimately been nice for us. It's a little bit scary for us to not know what the rules are at the other house and watch a daughter walk out the door on her own accord, with her own vehicle, to a supposed location...But she seems happier, and both are doing very well with friends. We would prefer they flourish than remain under complete parental control...And they appreciate this greatly now. (We tried to show them that we greatly supported them, more so than the other household, in social activities before, but I guess the realization/truth didn't really ever stick...)
I wasn't convinced that the teenaged years would work out for us. I have met plenty of stepmoms who have had a worst time during this time period, especially when kids are still strongly manipulated. So whenever someone told me they would grow up and be more independent in high school, I had very valid doubts.
I have also been lucky to not endure what more and more stepmoms are enduring:
- Got married. Kids were somewhere far away- Saw them for holidays, but they lived with mom.
- During or right after the honeymoon, teens with major behavioral/drug/legal problems simply dropped off at Dad's.
- Suddenly, you're a
wardenmom to teens with loads of problems that your new husband doesn't know how to deal with because he hasn't been their actual parent in many, many years.
Yeah, that's real. It's entirely possible I would have handled that situation better than having sudden-children, but it obviously would be a massive strain on a brand new marriage. (understatement) I watched as these poor ladies tore their hair out week after week, coming up with new
battle action plans for dealing with drug use in the home, sex in the house, kids dropping out of school.
Yeah, some of you are now happy you started out with toddlers now, aren't ya?