~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!~

Thursday, April 18, 2013

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!

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