~Welcome to my personal story as a first time wife and stepmom. I use this space to share real life happenings in a blended family, funny stories, my personal frustrations, failures, and occasional victories as I journey through this life with two beautiful and challenging stepdaughters. Thanks for reading, and I hope you find something to help you have a better day!~

Monday, December 9, 2013


I've been thinking lately... what is it that makes us stepparents so insecure? Why do such little glitches in our blended families' routines send us into a frenzy with a thousand different "what if's" running through our heads? I've read enough from other stepmoms to know that I'm not alone in this, and I keep coming back to one thought: unconditional love. Do we have that from our stepkids? Do we give it to our stepkids?

We all know 99% of kids will love their bio mom throughout life, forgiving her faults, and always knowing that she is "home" and will be there no matter what. What about us? Every little mistake I make with the kids, I worry if they can forgive me and still like me. Why? Is it just in my head that their love for me is conditional, or is it in fact a love only there based on my actions and behavior towards them? Are children capable of loving two sets of parents equally and unconditionally? It seems a lot easier for my younger one. If I lose my temper with her, she is over it and forgiving me and cuddling five minutes later. The older one, I'm not so sure about. I wonder sometimes if she is keeping track of all my mistakes in her head to use them against me one day! Maybe I'm paranoid.

Then, there is also the fact that they will always have another mom to run to if they decide they have had enough of me and can't put up with me any more. Children with only bio parents don't have that luxury. I think that knowledge sometimes makes stepmoms more insecure; the fact that our kids don't really NEED us. So the question is, are we judging ourselves too much and assuming our kids do the same? Or do stepkids love stepparents conditionally? It seems every answer these days is, "Well, each case is unique and different." (I guess that is another way of leaving questions unanswered).

Now for the second question: Do we love our stepkids unconditionally? How dare I even ask, right? But let's be honest. The minute they start talking about "My other mom isn't this mean. She doesn't make us do this. She let's us...", don't you hear those ugly thoughts pop in your head too? You know what I'm talking about. "Well fine then. Maybe you should just stay with her all the time." Or "Really? If she is so nice, why did she cheat on your dad?" Also "Well if she is so great and I am so mean, maybe I'll just stop doing ALL the things I do for you, and then maybe you'll see. I'll stop buying you stupid little trinkets. I'll stop doing your laundry and fixing your dinner and getting you treats and bending over backwards to make sure you are happy at our house!" Tell me you've thought it too! Is this exhibiting unconditional love? Do we only love them when we are sure of their love for us? Are we so scared of being hurt by them that we hold back? If one day they do decide to stay with their mom, will I still feel the same towards them? These are answers I need to figure out of myself before I can expect unconditional love from them. I have to make sure I'm giving them some "no strings attached, I love you whether you like me or not, no matter who you live with later, I'll always be here for you" kind of love first.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Quick update

I've got a million things going on right now, but who doesn't at this time of year? I just wanted to take a second to get on here real quick before I blink and it's the new year, and realize I haven't posted in 3 months! November has been great. We have had the girls with us 75% of the month, and the entire week of Thanksgiving, and for Kate's 8th birthday! It was marvelous, and I felt like we had a real family. Jane even came out of her shell and opened up quite a bit. She told me one day she is glad now for her step families, because having two moms makes getting to all her activities easier. It was so reassuring for her to tell me that. Now I've got to hold on to these feelings and relive these November moments over and over, because December will be the opposite story. They will be at their mom's 60-70% of the month until we get them for the 2nd week of winter break. It will be a good bonding time for me and J though, during our first Christmas as a married couple. Time and weekends will go by so quickly with all the shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, etc. Have Happy Holidays, Blogger world, and may all the step families receive a special blessing! Cheers XOXO, K

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Greater Joy, Greater Pain

"Kids say the darndest things." Isn't that the truth? Some things are profoundly more amusing as a step parent. Here's some things Kate has said in the past couple weeks:

"I'm so glad I don't have a wicked stepmom like Cinderella and Snow White did."

"I'm happy Daddy found you. It would be awful if I had a Mom and Dad at one house and just a Dad at the other house. Daddy is probably glad he found you too so he wouldn't have to pay a maid or babysitter anymore."

"You're the best mom ever. I would never want anyone else. You're pretty, and you love me, and Daddy loves you, and you take care of me. We really needed you when it was just Daddy and us. He couldn't ever fix my hair right!"

"I'm going to live with you until I'm 30. Then I'm going to buy the house next door to you. And if you and Daddy retire to live on an island like you say you are, then I'll live on the island with you. My husband will be there to take care of my kids and drive them around, but I'm staying with you. Wherever you move, I'm going too." Okay, Kate. Whatever you say! =)

These little things she says just make my day! Isn't it ironic how the more you love someone, the greater the joy they can bring you? But with that, the greater pain you feel in disappointments.

I love their innocent perspectives now as children, but a fear of mine is what their perspectives will be as adults. Will I just be "daddy's wife", or "that really strict stepmom we had growing up"? An even greater fear is, what will happen to me if something happens to J? I know I shouldn't think like that, but sometimes, I go there. I will no longer have kids or anyone close to me. Yeah, I was right--shouldn't think about that. Total downer.

Anyway, my method is to treasure each special moment I have with them now, so I can draw on the memories later to get me through the darker moments.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Never-ending List

Being a stepmom requires a lot of patience and the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes I get so consumed with tiny day-to-day details that I miss watching these children grow up right in front of our eyes. As I am going through this experience, I have noticed the need to remind myself of certain things over and over. We all KNOW these things, but it takes constant reminding to actually put them into practice. Perhaps you can relate:

1. Look for the good in all situations... yes, even with the ex.

2. Don't worry about what I cannot control. Let it be.

3. Work on bettering myself, instead of trying to fix or find fault with everyone around me.

4. Accept my own short comings. I am not perfect. Don't expect others to be perfect either.

5. Look at the bigger picture. Does it really matter if they forgot to bring something back that I bought them? Will it matter 6 months from now?

6. The kids WILL turn out okay!! They are surrounded by love and have all their needs and wants met. Don't sweat the small stuff....

7. My priority is my husband. Don't lose sight of that with all this "mom" stuff. The kids need me to be a good wife to their daddy first and foremost.

8. Set a good example--in maturity, attitude, positivity, honesty, love, kindness, etc... They watch what I do more than they listen to what I say.

9. Let them be kids! Relax and stop being so demanding.

10. Focus on making our home loving and fun. Don't get consumed with the dynamics of their mom's home life, and don't make anything between our blended families a competition.

11. Go back through numbers 1 through 10 again!

Feel free to add your own reminders!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just another day in the life of a stepmom...

Sometimes there are no right answers.

Sometimes all the counseling and therapy in the world cannot help.

Sometimes killing with kindness is no longer an option.

Sometimes all the good intentions in the world fall short.

And sometimes, unfortunately the kids are caught in the middle.

What do you do? How do you protect the kids?

Apparently, for the past 3 or 4 weeks, the kids now get the guilt trip for to talking/texting me while at their mother's. The mother has even stopped responding to any emails or texts from me, but will respond right away to J. Kate informed me that their mother will cry and throw fits that "her feelings are hurt" if communication is made. I'm hurt for the kids, not myself. How can they learn the value of maturity or communication with this example? It hurts. And I'm left once again having to retreat into the shadows and pretend I'm non-existent until this little fit has blown over. The funny thing is, I don't even have a clue what started it or what I did to upset her this time. What makes me more sad is that Jane is too scared of upsetting her mom to even talk/text her daddy. It's just not fair to these girls.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Roller Coasters

I'm learning that in blended families there are lots and lots of additional opportunities for sudden and/or gradual "mood swings". Let me explain. We have the kids with us for a few days and everyone is clicking, routines are followed, and we excitedly plan the next few weeks out. The kids can't wait to come back. So we're happy, feeling like things are going well with the kids. And then, something comes up with the ex (because she hears how happily the kids are talking about their time at dad's and wants to sabotage it to bring the focus to herself). And then we get the "Oh my gosh, I just realized I need the girls with me on your day or weekend because of this or that." Never fails. It's like that every time something big is going on at either house. When we got a puppy, got the beach house, got married, the girls were always wanting to be with us and she would try to find ways to trump it. Then their mom got a puppy, got a new car, got a new house, had a baby--so at those times, they always want to be over there. I may buy them a single headband, and their mom then rushes them off on a "bribery-scapade" and gets them each hundreds of dollars worth of jewelry and accessories that they just bring over and never wear or take back to their mom's. It's back and forth, back and forth, each house always wanting the momentum of kid's affections swinging their way. What it boils down to is insecure and immature adults each craving the affirmation that "Yes, my kid loves me and won't stop just because they love their other family too."

I found out over this weekend that their mom cried and cried for hours last week just because Jane sent me a text that she had finished her book and was bored on a road trip with her mom. Her mom took that text to mean that Jane was blaming her for not having something to do. She said it hurt her feelings that Jane would text me about that. How ridiculous! First of all, the text said NOTHING about her mother. It just said "I finished my book and I'm bored in the car." How insecure must you be to get your feelings hurt over that? How sad for your kids that everything is always about YOU. Anyways, it is sad she is so emotionally immature, but I'm feeling pretty good that I am not nearly that insecure any more. I can tell I've made progress in that department, and it feels good. I actually just had my hair in a ponytail and wore an old sweatshirt around her this weekend and didn't care what she thought! (Okay, done tooting my own horn.)

The lesson is, I think that we in blended families need to learn to maintain a consistent, balanced energy in our homes with and without the kids, whether something big is happening that they are excited about, or whether it is just normal hum-drum stuff. If we teach them to be emotional roller-coasters by our own moods, it is only going to hinder them later in life. J and I have started telling them about all the fun things we do together even when they are not home, to show them we are happy and content. They may act upset and jealous that they miss certain things, but deep down I know they are happy to see us happy. We love having them with us, but life doesn't stop when they are not, and we want them to feel the same way too, no matter which family they are with.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Getting inside Jane's Head...

Okay, so I'm no head doctor, but sometimes I do like to try to get inside people's heads to figure out what makes them tick--especially people I have interpersonal relationships with, or who I know I'll be around for a long time. I like to observe and analyze actions, reactions, body language, cause and effect, behavioral patterns, et cetera. So here are some observations on Jane.

Lately, I have felt as though Jane is slipping away into a closed-off space. I'm not sure how to describe it exactly, but things just haven't felt "right" since the beginning of this school year (middle school). It is as if she is distancing herself a little, not getting quite as involved, not showing as much care for those around her. She is drifting off into her own little world, only coming out when she wants, and closing the virtual door behind her a little bit more each week. What I'm not sure of yet is if this behavior is directed towards me individually, or all of her parents as a whole.

I can name a handful of possible reasons for this behavior right off the bat. She is going through puberty, and is so focused on her changing body and emotions, that there is no room for others right now, not to mention the embarrassment and self-esteem issues that come along with that. She has been getting into trouble lately with age-appropriateness, and feelings of guilt could be causing her to be unwilling to connect with us. She has recently seen a lot of things online where she threw her innocent mind away, and could be bothered by the idea of what adults actually do, and doesn't want to think of her father and I in that way. Maybe she is in a stage of resenting the whole "two families" thing. She has been going back and forth, back and forth from Mom's to Dad's, Dad's to Mom's every few days for 4 years already, and has to face another 7. I can understand how that could be very overwhelming and exhausting.

I've tried a few things to pull her out of this funk. We went shopping to buy an outfit for her first Middle School Dance, but she was pretty quiet the whole time. I put some new music and games on her iPad, but that didn't generate much interaction. We picked out Halloween costumes, and the first one I said I liked, she picked right away. That was very unusual for her, because decisiveness is definitely not one of her strong points. She can agonize over the smallest decision such as what game to play, for hours! But as the stepmom, I don't want to try too hard. I feel like I should go about my business and not force anything. I'm going to be watching her with her dad this weekend to see if I sense the same thing with him, or if she's more open with him still.

Another pattern I have noticed with Jane is the "blame game". She literally idolizes the time in her life where her Mom and Dad and her were together living "the fairytale life." She cannot yet bring herself to admit that maybe things weren't as perfect as her fabricated memories make her think. Her mom or dad could neither do any wrong in her eyes (which is truthfully an admirable trait in a kid). However, since neither her mom or dad could have messed up the fairytale, she looks around trying to blame someone or something else.

For a long time, I have personally felt that this is at the root of her conflicts and dislike for Kate. My opinion is that she subconsciously equalizes Kate's existence and presence with the demise of her own princess-hood. Here she was, only child, living in a great big house, with anything she could ever wish for, and then along comes Kate. And then along comes divorce. So in her mind, her memories of "life with Mom and Dad" were sans Kate. And everything thereafter, all the problems, and conflict, and moving, and new family... is with Kate. I honestly think she could very well relate the two in her mind. So now, every time she doesn't agree with her Mother's treatment of Kate and herself, she blames Kate. She says "Kate was pitching such a fit, Mom just had to". Or "Kate got x and y and I didn't because she was crying and being a baby and said she felt sick." So instead of blaming her Mom for unfair treatment, she blames Kate. One day I explained to Jane that Kate's behavior is so different at her mom's than with us because she is allowed to act that way. Any kid who can get away with being bad will do it. Kate doesn't behave differently because she is such an awful kid. I explained that different parents have different styles, and if Kate doesn't get in trouble or face any consequences, it is not Kate's fault necessarily, but an allowed behavior by the parent. Jane seemed to understand, so now instead of blaming Kate for everything she doesn't like, she has started blaming her step-grandma who stays with them over at her mom's. Every time she comes over now, she has a new story of "guess what horrible thing Mary did now?" One day when she's older and wants to know the true story of what happened to her "fairytale" she will learn the truth of her mother's affair and drug addictions. Until then, it's hard sometimes, but necessary to let her keep believing her mother is a perfect saint.

The last observation I want to mention is Jane's "clinginess". She constantly hovers, has to be holding hands 24/7, touching in some way, or sitting almost right on top of J or I at all times. Now I don't mind holding her hand now and then or giving a random hug and kiss, but I have to be honest--I get annoyed by this. She is by nature a very "hot-blooded" girl--her skin is always hot and sweaty and she still wants to be so close and touchy. She's not cuddly; she's clingy. I don't know if people will understand this difference. Kate is a cuddler. She curls right up under my arm and cuddles. I love that. What Jane does for some reason, I don't accept as well. I don't like someone following me all over every step I take like a little shadow, to the point where if I step backwards or turn around, I run right into her. I like my space. She likes my space. How do I tell her to go away without hurting her feelings? The other day, we made a quick stop at a store, and were literally parked 5 steps from the door. She came around and tried to hold my hand while I'm putting my keys in my purse, and purse on my shoulder. She couldn't go five steps without holding my hand! I was thinking, "Is this normal for an 11-year old?" J told me he thinks it stems from abandonment issues. Although she was never abandoned, her family split up, and the ADHD compounds her reaction to it. J thinks she is so clingy as an emotional coping mechanism. I get that. So most the time I bite my lip and hold her hot, sweaty hands and let her be my shadow. Certain times though, I just cannot handle it and tell her to go do this or that to get her out of my hair. Sounds awful, but I'm being completely honest here.

So those are some of my latest thoughts on Jane. I'm preparing myself for some crazy teen years to come!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Humiliating Stepmom Moments

So, as all stepparents know, there are moments with stepchildren or ex's that aren't so smooth, especially in the beginning. I've had a few myself, and maybe you can relate, or it will make you feel better about yours. (Pretty much all the examples involve Kate, the younger daughter, because Jane is old enough to have a realization about the situation and actually tries very hard not to make anyone uncomfortable.)

1. Out at restaurant with the girls back as "just dad's girlfriend":

Waitress: "Mom, we'll sit you here by your girls."

Both girls together: "That's not our mom!"

Me: *Embarrassed. Don't have a reply.*

2. First time meeting J's parents--they are at our house for Christmas. Kate is sitting on my lap while everyone is around the table playing a game.

Kate: "Do you like my Mom?"

Me: (Secretly embarrassed she brought this up in front of J's parents, but trying to act cool) "Yes, of course I do. She's your mom, and I like anyone who loves you so much."

Kate: "Well, she doesn't like you. She told me so."

Everyone: Awkward, uncomfortable silence while J sends an angry text to the mother that no matter what her personal feelings are to never, ever talk negatively about me to his kids!

3. Another one involving the in-laws: J's mother called me the ex-wife's name in front of the kids three times! Awkward.

4. Picking up Kate from dance and she throws the "baby card" and curls up in her mom's car acting like she doesn't want to come with me. The Mom looking at me smugly like "Ha ha ha."

5. Daisy is the name of a dog that J and his ex-wife had, and the dog stayed with the ex-wife after the divorce. I was picking up Kate from dance once again, in front of her Mom.

Kate to me: "Do you miss Daisy?"

Me: "Well, I never lived with Daisy, so no, not really." Her mom and I actually shared confused glances on that one, not really sure what was going through her head. But I wasn't comfortable bringing up the fact that her dad and mom lived together with Daisy, with her mom standing right there either!

6. Both the Mom and I were standing in the area after a recital.

Kate: "Momma, look what I made."

The Mom: Turns to look, just to be horrified that Kate is speaking to Me!

Me: "Very nice, Kate!" (pretending I didn't notice what just happened)

7. At a wedding rehearsal, one of the relatives of the bride comes over to chit-chat.

Kate: "Guess what, I'm having a baby brother!"

Lady turning to me: "Oh, congratulations! When are you due?"

Me: (Probably thoroughly red in the face and wanting to crawl in a hole somewhere) "Oh no, it's not me. I'm her stepmom. Her mother is actually the one who is pregnant. No, no, really. Don't apologize. It's okay. This happens a lot." Blah, blah, blah...

8. At a birthday party of a classmate of Kate's:

Another mom: "Are you with...? Wait... I thought I already met Kate's mom? I'm sorry... I think I'm confused..."

Me: "No, no, it's okay. You probably did. I'm her Stepmom."

Lady: "Oh, Stepmom. Yeah."(Turns and walks away because who would want to socialize and gossip with a stepmom? C'mon!)

These moments used to really hurt and get me down for days. Now, I've learned to expect them and even manage to laugh about them. Oh, the joys of being a "Step"!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My OCD drives even me crazy!

Some days I hear myself talking and see myself running around like a busy-body, and I wonder how it is possible that my family tolerates me at all, much less even likes me! I feel like there are days where I am constantly correcting, getting after, nagging--whatever you wish to call it. I can feel myself being constantly upset, and I wish I would just relax and be happy. If I notice it, I'm sure my husband and stepkids do also! So I try to just sit back and have the attitude that "anything goes", and that drives me even more crazy!! I can only sit down and be at ease when everything around me is in order. Yes, I suffer from a major case of OCD. I'm always going around behind my family, picking up, closing doors, hanging up, folding, putting away, turning off lights, wiping up, straightening--and I have to seriously wonder if having a clean, orderly house is worth all the effort. What am I losing in the process? Does everyone view me as a complete nag who cannot relax? Would they rather have me not giving a care, and just be there only for fun and giggles? If so, I'm in need of a major personality makeover. I don't know if I can pick up one of those at the local Target or Wal-Mart.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It's that time again...

It is getting closer to the time of year now where we have to get together several times as a "blended family" for different events. After not having any combined interaction for about 5 months with our kids' mother and stepdad, now we have volleyball games, basketball games, birthday parties, parent meetings at school, programs, recitals, and on and on for the next 3 months. In the past, I have always dreaded these events, and made myself so nervous for no reason. I would obsess about what to wear, what to say, how to act, and how the kids will treat me in front of them. This year, I'm pledging to change. I will not give it a second thought. I will act normally, just as I would if it were just our family going to the event. I have realized it doesn't matter what they think of me, and I probably will seem like a much nicer person if I am just cool and relaxed anyway. I am sure the girls have sensed the tension in the past, and I do not want that anymore. We can do this together and stop being so "fake friendly". This time I am honestly going to try to be genuinely friendly. I hope I'm not setting myself up for failure or disappointment. My husband will probably reap the biggest benefit from this change, because he won't have to blame himself for having me in this awkward situation anymore. He can relax knowing that I am relaxed. That is the plan anyway. Let's see how it works!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Am I a mom?

So, there's something that has been nagging me lately... Am I a mom? I have been doing a lot of reading and research on being a stepmom lately, and have been exposed to several different, and some conflicting mindsets of other stepmoms out there. I have read all the way from one extreme of "Yes, you're a mom. They are your kids too. You can refer to yourself as 'mom' and discipline and make decisions for them" etc., all the way to the other extreme of "No. You are not a mom. You are their father's wife and that is all. You have no right to be an authority, be respected, correct, or be involved in their lives" etc., and about every position in between. So naturally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, with a good balance of the two mindsets, but where exactly? I'm a person who likes to have rules and regulations drawn out in black and white for me so I know where to fit in, and where to stay away. I suppose every stepfamily has its own unique dynamic, which makes "where the stepmom fits in" a decision based on one's individual family's needs.

Certain days I feel like a total mom--running the kids around, helping with school work, fixing dinners, buying clothes, going to birthday parties, etc. Then, the kids are suddenly not here for a few days, and I look around at the empty house and think, "Okay, who am I now? I'm suddenly not mom anymore." So I go back to just being me the "wifey" and become comfortable with that, when suddenly--BAM!--the kids are back and I must become "mom" again. Having part-time kids is so confusing and wonderful and exhausting. I just feel like a tennis ball some days, being bounced around from one side of the court to the other.

Maybe the label of "mom" just isn't quite as important as the person I actually am. Maybe it shouldn't matter to me what label I give myself, and just focus on being the best wife I can and best stepmom I can, and just stop trying to figure it all out!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Inflated ego one second...then deflated the next.

Is this a typical phenomena in parenting? One second your kid says something so genuinely sweet and kind, that it sends you walking on clouds, and the next second, they do something so horribly rude and disrespectful, you find yourself falling so hard and landing flat on your face? Well, it happened to me, and I get the feeling I'm not alone.

Yesterday after school, the subject of a parenting seminar offered at school came up. Jane asked if I was going.

Me: "No."

Jane: "Good."

Me: "Why good? Don't you think I should go learn how to be a better parent?"

Jane: "NO! I like you just the way you are. Don't change."

Ahhh! What sweet words to my little stepmom ego. "She actually likes the way I parent!! Who woulda thought?"

Well fast forward a couple hours, and POP goes my ego. Remember, she is still on electronics restrictions at our house. Well, I found on her phone this new game she had been playing at her mom's involving male and female characters with quests to become "romantically involved with three other characters" and "have babies"! WILL SHE EVER LEARN?? I'm literally pulling my hair out at this point. J and I are on the way to ask her mother to PLEASE downgrade her phone to an old kind that just texts and calls... no internet or games! We'll see how this goes over! You can bet we will not be making the same mistake of trusting Kate with internet privileges at too young of an age. Maybe in five years, we'll try again!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm so confused....

I received a twitter follower from a user a few days ago whose profile was all about "Step mothers". I thought that was interesting, so I followed her back, and found out she has an entire website, blog, book, etc. about the struggles of being a stepmom, practical advice, and so on. I never even knew that stuff existed! So I was reading through her blog, and now I'm afraid I have been going about the stepmom thing all wrong. I need to start over!

So I shouldn't discipline? I shouldn't try so hard to be a "parent"? Maybe I'm supposed to be just a fun, loving, non-authority figure? What? She has so many articles that hit so close to home for me. My kids have parents who can discipline them. It is NOT a contest to see who is a better Mom or who can get the most affection from the kids, or who the kids talk about more negatively... I realized all these things that circle through my head are NORMAL! Come to find out, all stepmoms struggle with that. All of us struggle to find our place in our family's life. Am I Mom? Am I like an Aunt? Am I a nanny? Am I dad's wife? Who am I and what is my role? Yes, I pick up from school, go to activities, do homework, cook, do laundry, buy them clothes... but where does it end? If I do all that, should I not also be able to correct when wrong is done? I should just stand by and let them mess up over and over? What about when their "Real parents" aren't around for any of the wrong-doing? Is it okay then to correct? Their was a phrase I read in one of the blog articles that stated "Connect, don't correct." That is actually a new concept for me. Yes, I feel connected to my stepkids, but I also correct them, and they take it well because of our connection. So, how do I handle all this new advice? I feel like I've been doing everything wrong, and I need a fresh start. I read so many helpful tips, but how do I digress to that silent, un-involved in anything other than "my business" partner? I am feeling like I have way overstepped my role in my new family. I have no answers right now... only questions. I encourage you to click on the link and check out her website. I may need to buy this book now!

Friday, September 20, 2013

So why should kids have internet access, again?

So this is when it all starts--the confrontations as your child gets older and the line between what is appropriate for their age and inappropriate is constantly being moved around. The "battle round" has begun already? We're going to be doing this for the next seven to ten years with Jane? UUggghhh! Here we go.

So we're having a good ol' time in Galveston with some friends for the weekend. Jane had just had a pretty bad week with grumpiness, bad grades, and snapping at adults, myself included. Now, I mentioned previously her mother had gotten her an iPhone for Christmas. (I still don't know why an iPhone, equipped with internet access was necessary! If she just wanted to be able to call and text her child, a regular non-smart phone would have served all the purposes of a 10 year old!) Okay, back to the point. So, yes, I will say it--I don't trust her with the internet! She is 11 now. She is a very curious child. She has been caught not once, or twice, but already three times since the age of 7 googling questions about sex. So, No, I don't trust her, and with good reason. I check her history from time to time to see what she's been up to. Well, I opened her history, and BOOM--like a ton of bricks, I knew right then my day was ruined. I became short of breath and started shaking uncontrollably, scrolling through pages and pages of you tube videos she had watched all night Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.... Well, no wonder she was so grumpy and getting bad grades! She hadn't slept. She took her phone with her to bed at her mother's (never would have been allowed at our house, by the way) and just went you tube crazy apparently. I guess the restriction settings are not strict enough on her phone, because she watched all sorts of "Nude scenes", "strippers" "hot girls private show", etc, etc... You get the point. I can't even type them all out, because it gets my blood boiling all over again.

Anyways, I called J in to see it, and Jane got into so much trouble. She has completely lost all electronics and privileges. She can only read and do schoolwork basically all day until she can gain our trust back. What makes me the saddest though, is that she can't "unsee" it. Her little immature 11-year-old mind is now forever filled with this garbage. When we talked about it after we both calmed down, and I was trying to get her to explain to me why she did it, I asked if she enjoyed what she saw. She said "NO." So I responded, "Well, then guess what? You should have hit the "Stop" button, or "Off" button, or anything except to KEEP watching these filthy things."

While she was back at school the next day, I sat down and wrote her a long "Lecture letter" like I used to get from my mom, and she got from her mom.... But I had Jane read it when she got home, and we were able to discuss a lot of things and talk calmly, knowing there would always be love between us, and that I'm not perfect and have made plenty of mistakes too, and that's why I'm here--is to help her through her mistakes. I had already had the sex talk with her about 6 months before, and we have discussed periods, and all that. So I reminded her again, if she's curious about something or has a question, come ask me. I've been very open with her. So, we're getting over that big event and she seems to be doing well with all the punishments.

Okay. Now for my BIGGEST frustration over the whole thing? GET THIS! You will not believe what you are about to read! Jane's mother, her own MOTHER says, "Oh, I can't take her phone away from her--she'll get mad at me." EXACT QUOTE!! Can you believe that? "Oh sure, I'd rather have my 11 year old girl watch porn on her phone, than to have her get upset with me." And you call yourself a mom? Get real. YOU ARE A JOKE! You are doing your daughter absolutely ZERO favors by being scared of her! You will have ZERO respect from her when she is older. Seriously??!! I have to stop. I'll go on and on. But I'm not out of line for that to bother me, am I?

Back in the groove...this time officially as a "parent"

Wow, what a summer! I haven't written in so long, because everything got crazy there in May with all the end of school year activities and recitals, and then of course June was our big wedding day. Summer got away from us so fast, and now we are back in another school year with a second and sixth grader!

Our wedding was beautiful. The girls walked their daddy down the aisle--it was so precious. They were both a big part of our day and we danced the night away together.

I had a great summer with the girls. They stayed home with me quite a bit in between camps. I prepared some lessons on character traits. So for about 30 minutes each day, we would sit down, learn a new trait, and review the old ones. We learned about Gratitude, Kindness, Diligence, Selflessness, Honesty, Patience, Self-control, Respect, and Obedience. We discussed the definitions of each, examples, benefits of possessing that trait, and the opposites of each. It really went over much better than I expected. I've never done anything like that before, and I thought they might just hate it. Jane ate it up...she loves learning things like this, loves chapel time at school, and sacred studies. Kate participated well, but it was a struggle to hold her attention at times and get her to remember definitions. So all summer long I was watching for them to show these traits themselves, and would write down their name each time they were "caught" showing good character traits. Then, they got treats on the last day of summer for how many times their names were written down. It was really fun, and Jane is already asking if we can do it again next summer. I have to admit, it felt like we were bonding even closer during those times, and it helped the girls get along better, because they wanted to have their names written down.

One really special thing that happened was Jane sent J and I a letter from camp one week, and addressed it "Dad and Mom". That was the first time she has referred to me as Mom. I loved it! Well, now they are back at school and we officially have a middle schooler! Scary. She has started wearing a little makeup to school, and cares about her appearance more and more. Their school has these little "dances" every few months, and it's really just a time for the kids to get together and have snacks in a completely safe, chaperoned atmosphere. Jane is excited and can't wait to get all dressed up for them.

Since school has started, I've been really bothered by the seeming lack of care they are receiving at their mother's house. It is actually breaking my heart. I picked them up on a Wednesday after school, and had last seen them when I dropped them off Monday at school. Both were wearing the exact same uniforms and undergarments! As I was picking up their clothes after showers that evening, I asked why they hadn't changed panties, and why they were wearing dirty clothes. They really didn't have an answer for me. Well, then this week when I picked them up, Kate's uniform dress was filthy and she didn't have any playground shorts on with it. So I asked again, and she told me she wore that dress 3 days in a row, and couldn't find any clean shorts to wear. So I asked if she could have her mom or grandma help her set out clothes the night before like we do, and she said "Mom's always too tired. She just sits on the couch and won't do anything because she's tired. Mary (the step-grandma) won't help me get ready in the mornings because she's too rushed and busy with Jack (their baby half-brother)." It killed me to hear that! I just held her and said "Oh Kate, I wish I could take care of you every morning. I know it's not your fault your clothes are all dirty. I just wish I could help." So now after this happening two weeks in a row, I'm really wondering if I should say something to the mother. I really, really want to, but I know she will probably take it wrong coming from me. J is worried about it too. He may be convinced to say something if it keeps happening. It's just so sad. Jane's school picture day is again on a day she's coming from her mother's, and she's really upset because no one will help fix her hair or make her look special for picture day. Kate's pictures have been on our days the last few years, and I always curl her hair and let her wear lip gloss, and special things like that. It just doesn't seem fair sometimes to only have them part-time! Other times, the break from kids is a God-send.... So I'm torn, but just have to keep loving and doing what I can.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Highlights with Kate

Let me go back and catch you up to the present. I'll just briefly touch on some highlights in my experience of learning to be a stepmom.

We'll start with Kate this time. Kate and I get along great. We've had several "talks" and she still cries almost every time she is "in trouble", but she recovers quickly. Five minutes later she'll be singing and dancing and saying "I love you" and "I'm sorry." She went through a phase of peeing accidents between 5 and 6 and that was a big obstacle for her to cross. I still don't know what the problem was, but even now at 7, she waits until it is an emergency to go. I have talked to her and talked to her until I'm blue in the face about going right away as soon as you feel it and not waiting so long. But I never get mad at her, because I remember being the exact same way when I was little. I remember having some accidents when I was embarrassingly too old for that. So I just send her as soon as I see a wiggle out of her and remind myself "She will grow out of it. It can't last forever." We've had to talk about grooming also. There was a long stretch of time when I picked them up from school on days they had been dropped off from their mother's house and she would just look so raggedy. Her hair would never be brushed. She would have on mismatched socks. She would be missing part of her uniform and have stains all over. A lot of those things, she can't do anything about. But I talked with her about at least brushing her hair and brushing her teeth and letting somebody fix her hair. It was getting so long, and she pitched a fit about getting it cut, but then she wouldn't let anyone fix it, so she looked like a homeless child. So we talked about taking some pride in how she looks, and that how you look is a reflection of who you are. Most of that went over her head, but she did start looking better when I picked her up.

In the summer that Kate was 6, J and I got engaged. Kate was so excited! She kept asking me how happy I was and telling everyone she had a new mom. (She already called me "mom" a lot before that, but started calling me "mom" even more now.) She kept saying that I better not say "no" to daddy when we get married. She would draw pictures of our family and daddy and I getting married. It made me so happy that she was that excited! If the girls weren't happy, I'm not sure it would have ever worked out. Kate asked me soon after that where I was going to put all my bigger clothes because my closet was already full. I asked her what she meant, and she said that I'm going to need pregnant clothes for when I get married. I told her I'm not going to get pregnant, but she insisted if you get married, you get pregnant, because she just knows.

I was worried for a while that Kate may not like me very much because I don't baby her like her mother does. Her mother still pushes her in the grocery cart and even a stroller to this day--and Kate is not a small girl! She is a 70 pound 7 year old! But because I have seen first hand and heard many shocking stories about the degree to which Kate is babied, it worried me a bit that maybe I treat her to the other extreme. Maybe I'm too hard on her or expect too much, or push her to be older than she is. But it has just proven over and over not to be true. She still loves me very much. She likes to be independent and do things for herself. And she never asks me to baby her. The only thing she likes to do that is sort of babyish is sit in my lap and cuddle while we watch TV or something. She'll realize one day that the way we make her behave at daddy's house is going to be much more beneficial to her in life than how she behaves at her mother's. So I'm not worried about that any more. She has told me on several different occassions that she wanted to stay with us and not go back to her mom's. Of course that breaks my heart and I just tell her I wish she could stay too.

Overall, our relationship is great. She accepts me unconditionally and says she is so glad "daddy picked you". We have a lot of fun together talking about her day and her friends, and everything her little mind thinks of. The biggest thing we still have to conquer and work on every day is the relationship between her and Jane. Kate gets so hurt, and used to just cry and cry. But now that she's gotten older, she has started retaliating and being mean right back. It is such a constant battle. Jane can be very mean, and pretty much a bully. So we tell Kate to stand up for herself and just not to let Jane treat her that way. But on the other hand, we don't want Kate to turn into a mean bully either. So it is a very fine line trying to advise her how to handle Jane. Don't get me wrong--they have some good moments, and even some good days where they play together nicely. It's not always bad. But when it starts, it seems like it never ends. Constant fighting and bickering and tattle telling and on and on. That is the stuff that will drive a parent crazy! I try to think of new and inventive ways to handle it, like I'm some genius parent, but so far, we're still not over that hurdle. So that pretty much catches you up with Kate. We'll catch you up on Jane in the next post.

A Rough Week

I know I said I would get back to the story line, but I need to talk about the events of last week while they are fresh in my mind.

First we will talk about Jane. Jane now has an iPad at our house and an iPhone at her mom's. The iPad is hooked up to my account, so I have to put in my password if she wants to download everything, and I can check her browsing history and so forth. She has gotten to the age where she is curious about a lot of "adult things", so I have to keep an eye on it. (This is actually how we had the period and sex talk a few months ago which I still need to write about). So anyways, a couple weeks ago, Jane was playing on her iPad and mentioned a game called "campus life". J and I both immediately were alert. "Campus life"? I asked, "as in a college campus"? She said "Yeah". So we proceeded to ask her questions about what the game was about to try to understand if there might be any partying, drinking, sex, etc. She acted all innocent and said no, it's just about chosing your outfit and going to class. That's all. So after she went to bed, we checked the description of the game in the Apple Store. It actually involved dating and flirting and kissing your boyfriend, etc. So we deleted it and checked on some of her other games. She had three more games that were just inappropriate for a 10 year old, talking about "dressing up in the hottest, sexiest fashions and going to the hottest clubs to flirt with the hottest boys." The age levels on some were marked as 4+! Ridiculous! Anyways, we deleted them all and asked her mother to be more aware of what she plays on her phone also. We talked to Jane the next day and explained that games like this are too mature for her and we better not find anything like that again on her iPad.

So fast forward one week, and what do I find? Another game about dancing on the beach in your hottest bikini with the hottest guys, and flirting it up to win a date! What part of our talk last week did she not understand? This is what gets me sometimes. I am totally cool and calm and collected during the first talk, because it is something we have never sat down and discussed before, and she just doesn't understand. But NOW it's different. We HAVE talked about it, and she DOES understand. She is now directly disregarding our rule. So what do I do? I let J handle it. =) He took her to the store with him and discussed it in the car and she apologized to me when they got home. I've been finding some other games for her that she has really enjoyed and they are actually educational and good for her!

Now, let's discuss last week with Kate. I was upstairs cleaning when I noticed her journal on the floor with a pen by it. It wasn't there the day before, so I figured she must have been up writing in it the night before. She had drawn a lot of pictures and written some sentences. Then I turned a page and read something that made me sick to my stomach. "I am here and I will kill you dead. Whaaa-ha-ha." At that moment, I had a choice. I could ignore that and act like I never saw it. But that would make me no better than the Newtown shooter's mom. Or I could confront the issue and find out why she wrote this. The rest of the day I was plagued with thoughts about how kids that feel bullied, picked on, and made fun of are way more likely to resort to violent acts, either on themselves or others. Then I kept thinking about how Kate is constantly upset because she feels bullied by Jane. (Again, something I still need to write about). Then we have all these kids committing suicide these days due to bullying, and shootings by people who were made fun of a lot. So my mind is in high gear, and I started putting all these things together. Kate several months ago got in trouble with me for repeatedly looking at a picture of a bloodied up little boy on a movie cover in Blockbuster. She also said something once about not getting scared anymore during movies and that she doesn't mind if she sees someone's head get cut off. Then she was playing the game bubble bust, where you just pop bubbles with other bubbles--completely non-violent--but she kept saying that she was "shooting people's faces" while playing that. Another incident came to my mind where she mentioned watching the news with her mother and saw a boys face get burned off. All these isolated incidents came back to me and I began to get very sick thinking that Kate has a violence problem. Maybe she does feel more picked on than we realize, and it makes her feel like she needs to lash out with violence. Maybe we have exposed her to too violent of movies at a young age. Maybe even J and I tease her too much even though we do it in good-natured fun. She is such an emotional child, it could be that she hasn't learned how to take teasing.

So later that evening after J and I had talked it over, we brought Kate in and made sure she knew we just need to tell her about a new plan. (If she feels like she is "in trouble", the girl will completely shut down and just cry and not absorb anything you say or give you any answers to questions.) So we brought up the journal and what we saw in it and asked her why she wrote it or what it was about. We got nothing. She just sat there and played dumb and acted like she didn't remember. So that angle didn't work. So then I asked her if she ever felt picked on. She said "Yes." I asked her where she feels that way the most--at school, at home, and she immediately answered "By Jane." I asked her how it made her feel other than sad. She said it makes her want to hurt Jane, physically. So now we are getting somewhere. So then we talked to both girls and established a "stop word". If either of them feels made fun of or picked on or bullied by each other or even us, before they start to feel angry, they just say the word "red" and it stops immediately. We explained we are going to have zero tolerance from now on for violence or for bullying. We will be more careful about movies we watch and games they play. So far the "stop word" has been working well. Kate has used it a handful of times, and everyone immediately stopped. We still have a lot of improvement needed in the "getting along" department, but hopefully this incident is a baby step in that direction.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What is a stepmom?

I'm going to interject with some present day thoughts. I'll pick back up with the story line in the next post. I read on Facebook the other day a quote that said "Stepparents are wonderful people. They choose to love someone else's kids as their own." Now, while I know that all stepparents are NOT wonderful, there is a truth hidden in this statement. It is found in the word "choose." Being a good stepmom definitely begins with a choice. You must indeed choose to love someone else's children as your own. That one choice has multitudes of implications that become evident as you live this choice out.

Now I understand that there is a connection and feeling that only exists between a biological mother and child which cannot be duplicated. But that is a gift. A mother doesn't choose to have that connection. The kind of sacrificial love I am writing about today is acquired by choice. A stepmom chooses to do, do, do for her children, knowing she will never receive any praise or recognition on Mother's Day. In fact, her children won't even be with her, and will not think to give a card or notice her. That day is for their mother. A stepmom chooses to love her children not as her "husband's kids", but as her own, knowing that while they will love back, they will never love her back as their own mother. A stepmom feels hurt and pain with every failure or disappointment that comes to her children. She rejoices in their happiness and achievements. She is overjoyed and wants so bad to shower them with praise and love after a performance, but must hold back in the shadows, because that place is for their mother. She is content to be overlooked in the crowd at recitals or school plays, just happy to be there to witness these events. She knows this is just the beginning as it will be repeated at graduations, weddings, new births, and on and on throughout life. Their mother will always have the spotlight. Yet, stepmom continues to give and be all that she has to their well-being and happiness. She chooses to call them "my children" even if they never call her "my mom". She chooses to be there and make herself available in case they ever need her, knowing that nine times out of ten, they will run to their mother, yet she stays for that one time they actually do come to her for help. She chooses to spend hours teaching valuable life lessons, responsibility, maturity, and manners knowing she will never get the credit for how wonderfully they turn out. She will wipe tears, fix hair, go shopping, clean clothes, hold them in sadness, dance with them in happiness--all the while knowing that they will never fully appreciate the sacrifice. She will never wear the "mother of the bride" pin, or help pick out the dress, or get the "Best Mom" charm bracelet or birthstone rings.

Being a stepmom is a choice to never expect anything in return. It is a choice to be taken for granted. It is a choice to be overlooked. Yet it is a choice she makes anyway because she loves. She gives. She is selfless. She is stepmom.

I chose years ago not to have my own children because I was told that I was a "very selfish person". Knowing firsthand how devastating a selfish parent can be, I decided to never become a parent. Now, as fate would have it, I'm in a position that requires even MORE selflessness than a parent--a stepparent--and I pray every day that I can live up to this challenge and be okay with loving unselfishly from the shadows. Most days it seems like an indomitable mountain, but every once in a while, I'm given the grace to move that mountain stone by stone.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I have to learn a lesson

As Kate turned five and started kindergarten, she became more aware of the fact that she was expected to behave and be more responsible for her actions at daddy's house. She already figured out that daddy doesn't fall for the tears trick, and now she was being held accountable for other things. Yes, J does lay down the law and expect obedience. Yes, he is stricter than their mother, and always comes through on his word. If he threatens with a certain disciplinary action, you can bet it will happen. If he promises a reward, they get it. It took Kate a little while to figure this all out and understand that if daddy says "Stop playing with your food and eat it" that he means it. The same held true for "Go upstairs and brush your teeth" or "Pick up your toys", and the big one "Don't lie to me--I already know the truth." So Kate went through this phase of saying "Daddy is mean." This made me angry. Yes, angry. There were so many times I had to bite my tongue and count to ten, but you better believe she got a lecture every time I heard this out of her mouth. "You have the BEST daddy in the world, Kate. He loves you so much. He buys so many nice things for you. He takes you on really nice trips. He cooks for you, cleans, does your laundry, irons your clothes, brushes your hair, plays games! And so he wants you to listen. Does that make him MEAN? You are such a lucky girl to have this daddy. You don't understand it yet, but there are some really, really bad dads out there. Some kids don't even have a dad. Some kids have a dad that is in jail. Some kids get beaten by their dads. Some kids have a dad that ignores them and doesn't love them. YOUR dad is NONE of those things. I wish I had a dad like yours! He helps you with homework every night. He is at every single school function whether he has to take off work or not. He tucks you in bed every night and gives you kisses and hugs and tells you he loves you all throughout the day. How in the world can you think he is MEAN? If you don't listen to a dad like that, then something is wrong with YOU, not HIM!" Okay, yes, these lectures were a bit much for a five year old, I know. But like I said, it really, really gets me to hear her say that. The next time I heard her call him mean, I was in tears. I got so emotional and upset trying to explain to her how lucky she is, that I just gave up. A five year old just doesn't get it. I had to keep telling myself that she is too young to understand. I would have to let this battle go. It's not her fault that I have daddy issues. One day she will get it. I was overreacting and worried that this meant she would start resenting him and end up choosing later just to live with her mom and I know that would hurt J so much. But my going all psycho wouldn't help either. It's between Kate and J, not me, and I know that there is no way the love between them will ever go away. That's the security there is in being such a good dad. Your kids may wander for a time, but they will always come back because they KNOW there is acceptance and love there. I guess it was my turn to learn the lesson. Thanks, Kate.

Understanding Jane

Jane has been a bit more of a challenge to figure out. I must say right up front though, the reward of satisfaction when you actually do something right that "clicks" with her is so much sweeter. Jane was seven, going on eight when I was introduced as "Daddy's girlfriend". Now the very first thing to know is that Jane is very much a daddy's girl. She of course was more aware of her parents getting divorced than Kate. She always talks about her memories of her life with them together with such a superior air, like she was a princess living in a castle, and now she has to live as a "commoner". Jane doesn't like change. She doesn't have an open mind toward new things or ideas. So, I was a bit more shut out with her. She was always nice enough, but I had a feeling she was just tolerating my presence.

Another thing to understand about Jane is that she has ADHD. She has been on medication since she was five years old. Now at the time, all I "knew" about ADHD was that those kids are "wild and misbehaved and just need strong discipline". That's what I had been brainwashed to believe by the Christian school I grew up in. They taught that conditions like this are not even real, but that psychologists make up a lot of stuff to make money and sell drugs. Now of course, I know first hand that kind of teaching was a bunch of hogwash by people who don't want to believe that there are actual conditions that "spanking" doesn't fix. Okay, I'll step down from that soapbox now. So obviously, I had a lot to learn about ADHD in order to understand Jane. I came to find out over time (after several mistakes and apologies) that this condition is a lot more complex than I realized. It causes impulsiveness, fidgetiness, mood swings, inability to focus on one thing, disorganization, forgetfulness, low self esteem, need for constant reassurance, difficulty making friends and interacting socially--to name a few, and I'm still learning to this day more about it. Yes, the medication curbs a lot of that in Jane, but some things she will always have, and as she becomes more aware of how it affects her personally and how to control it, she will possibly be able to get off of medication as an adult one day.

I was very unsure of how to connect with Jane. My first approach was just to try to be a friend. I would play games and color and watch movies with her, but I felt like we weren't connecting. We never talked about anything more than what we were doing at the moment. Maybe that time was helpful for here to grow to trust me or accept me. I don't know. But I finally realized that I couldn't make her open up to me. When she is ready, she would. So until then, I happily kept playing and coloring. I also realized that being older, she was more aware of the fact that my role wasn't really a "friend". Perhaps she felt threatened that I was trying to take her mom's place. Now while she is a daddy's girl and has constant "fights" with her mom, she is very defensive of her. (One rule J and I established from the very beginning was to never talk negatively of their mom in front of the girls, no matter what she does.) So we never say anything bad openly about her, but sometimes we question something they told us happened at their house, or question why or what or where... and Jane is very quick to cover up anything negative or possibly incriminating. So I knew immediately that Jane wouldn't take well to my being a "mom" to her.

After thinking about what to say for a few days, one day while helping with her homework, I casually started a little "talk." I mentioned that I just wanted her to know that while I may do a lot of things for her that a mom does, I'm not trying to be her mom. I'm not trying to take anyone's place because I know she already has a mom that she loves very much. I also explained to her that I'm not necessarily just a friend either, and that I'm just as confused in figuring out my place in her life as she is, and maybe we could help each other learn together the best way for this to work. Yes I'm an adult and an authority in this house that she has to respect and listen to, but where does it end? It's very gray. Where do you draw the line? What are the boundaries of a stepmom? Where do I stop being just "friendly" and start being an authority? At what times is it okay for me to correct, and when do I need to take a step back and let her get away with bad behavior and let someone else correct it if they care to? She promised me that day that she DID love me and that she would try to not be resistant towards me any more. Like I started this post, because she is more of a challenge, the reward is so much sweeter. Just hearing that one sentence from her had me floating on clouds for probably a week!

First lesson with Kate

Kate was just 4 when she became part of my life. She accepted me so warmly and without any question or judgment. That was so reassuring for me. She was on the tail end of pull-ups and sippy cups. The first thing that impressed me about her was how much of a cuddler and snuggler she was. I felt like she barely knew me, but she was perfectly content to grab her blankey and curl up with me on the couch to watch a movie. At first, I felt like I was overstepping my place. "I shouldn't be snuggling with this girl. Surely she can't trust me yet. This feels way too much like a mom for me." But once glance over at J's face let me know he was perfectly okay with it, even emotional over the sight of Kate curled up with me. So I had to swallow the big lump of insecurity and fear, and the "mom" feeling that was completely foreign to me, and just hold her and snuggle. Even to this day, that is one of Kate's favorite things to do.

My first "teaching time" with Kate was over her constant fake crying. It was at least a full five or six months of us eating together before I can remember one time that she didn't cry at the dinner table. Every little thing that happened, she just made herself cry to either get out of something or get some extra attention. Being raised myself by a complete "no-nonsense" drill sergeant mom, this really bothered me. J would try to talk to her, but he would lose his patience after a while and just end up yelling, which made her cry more. I just started by saying a few things here and there in a non-chanlant way such as "Why are you crying? You're not hurt. You should only cry if you are hurt." As time when on, I added a few more lines like "Crying all the time means you are acting like a baby." And then the bribing started. Ok, Kate, if you can make it through this whole day with no tears, you can have a special treat. The first time she did it, we celebrated like it was a birthday! She eventually got through it with a lot of encouragement, prodding, and pushing on our part. The worst part was, I would feel like I made a lot of progress, and then she would go to her mom's for five days, and when she came back, it was like reprogramming. One step forward for two steps back, right? (She was consistently very babied and favored at her mom's until the age of seven when their mom had another baby. So that just made our job even harder!) She got it though, and now she is always happy and smiling and talking and singing. She hardly ever cries, and has turned to less exhausting tactics to get attention!

So with my first lesson finally a success, I thought maybe I really could do this stepmom thing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Beginning

June 5, 2009 (Little did I know or could ever have imagined, 3 years later on this exact day, J would ask me to marry him!) I worked as a surgery technician for several ophthalmologists, and did some babysitting on weekends for them for some extra cash. I got a call from newly single (of 6 months) Dr. J to come babysit on Friday night, June 5, 2009. He has two daughters. I had babysat before when he was married, but it had been over a year since I had seen them. We'll call the older one "Jane" here on the internet and the younger "Kate". Jane was one month away from turning 7 and Kate was 3 1/2. When Dr. J got home that evening after a night out with some friends, his intentions of pursuing more than a professional relationship with me became evident from his flirtatiousness... But this story isn't about he and I. It's about the kids. So, moving on...

December 25, 2010 Dr. J and I hadn't seen each other outside of the office because of a strict no fraternization policy. He had gone on to date some other women, and I had dated another guy for a couple months. But we both found ourselves alone and bored on Christmas day, so we met up to play some darts and eat Thai food. From that day, we knew we wanted to see each other more, policy or no policy. So eventually i found another job and we made the dating thing official. He told me lots about the girls, and at this point I was really unsure about him having kids, but I didn't want it to stop me from giving our relationship a chance. I quietly observed how much he had to do by himself for these girls, and fell more and more in love with him for being such an awesome dad. He would take them shopping, get all their school clothes ready, iron, help with homework, cook for them, take them to movies, plan fun activities--I mean, this guys was Super Dad or something.

May 2010 Around this time, I started to gradually spend more and more time with the girls. At first I would stay at their house and "babysit" one while J took the other one on a daddy/daughter date so they could get to know me better. Eventually, they would invite me over for movie night or pizza. Once they became more comfortable with me being around, J told them we were dating, and they could expect to see more and more of me. They were 7 and 4 now, and didn't fully grasp what it meant until they saw their daddy kiss me one night. (Jane told me later she wondered why daddy was kissing the babysitter!)

Evertything seems peachy, right? Well, I left out one little detail: the girls' mother. Yes, that complicates this little fairy tale a bit. They were divorced in 2008 after she had an affair. They got shared custody, which means they each have the girls 50/50. So yes, the girls already have a mom who is involved in their lives. Things between us got off to a bit of a rocky start. She first found out J and I were dating around March and immediately sent J a very spiteful and probably drunk text. It was along the lines of this: "Kristi? Really? How could you? Don't you know the rumors of her and Dr. D? Don't you know she is super religious? It will never work. You're making a bad decision." Of course J showed me this text because he never keeps anything from me, not even in the beginning, even if it might be hurtful. Yes, I was hurt. I felt like she was judging me, and she barely even knew me. She had met me a few times before, but never said more than "Hi" or "Bye". How dare SHE--the one who tore his life apart and made it a living hell, and hurt him more than anyone--SHE warn him about ME? I'M the bad decision?? No, lady! YOU were the bad decision! So, from the beginning, she and I were less than friends. It took a while to get over this, but over time, she had to get used to the idea that I wasn't going anywhere. Now my concern was not how she felt about me, but whether she would voice her negative feelings about me to the girls. That wouldn't be healthy or in anyone's best interest.

Over time, I became more and more involved with these two sweet girls, and they really started growing on me. It wasn't long before we started exchanging "I Love You's" and hugs and kisses. I knew it was going to be tough to figure out my place in their lives, but I knew I had to try.


Stepmom. Me? I never would have dreamed it. But here I am, 75 days away from marrying the love of my life, and officially becoming a stepmom. The word itself carries such negative connotations in today's society, thanks mainly to Hollywood and reality TV, but also the ugly human nature of so many failing stepmoms in real life. So how do I possibly step into this role with a positive outlook, and have any ambition at all to turn this word stepmom around in at least one household of America? Wouldn't it be easier to just be selfish, focus only on myself and my husband, and let the kids just tolerate me or hate me or act like I don't exist? Yes. That would be much easier. But that's not me. I love my fiance too much to act like that. I love these girls too much already. My heart is too full of things I yearn to teach them, things I need to show them, things they aren't getting from anyone else, to just stand by and not care. As much as I have already and will continue to get hurt along the way by getting so emotionally involved, if I can influence them to be better people and make their lives better in any small way, it will be worth it.

So here is my story from the beginning and leading up to the present. It won't be easy to write, or to read. I will have to admit so many mistakes and failures. I will have to relive intense pain. But I'm hoping it will be therapeutic in a way to get all these thoughts and feelings down on paper, and maybe someone else will benefit. Who knows? So let's go back to when it all started.