~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!~

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!

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