Monday, September 30, 2013
Sunday, September 29, 2013
This evening I watched the new show Instant Mom on Nickelodeon. And I must say, I adored it. So often in the media step moms are portrayed in a negative light. The role of a step mom is an easy part to villianize. This show did a great job of breaking that stereotype. Instead it showed a woman doing her best to be an active part of her step kids' lives. I have great hopes for this show and the future of step families in television. If anyone has any other suggestions for shows or movies that portray healthy, functional step family relationships I would love to hear them!
Saturday, September 28, 2013
3. Embrace the differences between your two families. Through out your life you will find yourself surrounded by a variety of people with different belief systems, cultures, traditions, economic status, etc. The fact that you are growing up with two unique families will only benefit your ability to adapt in the long run.
4. Your Mom and Dad made the decision to bring you in to this world. Together. No matter what anyone tells you or how hard it is to believe, at one point the three of you were a family. That's a part of your history that no one can deny you.
5. No matter how mature you are, you are not an adult. And your biggest responsibility? To be a kid as long as possible.
6. You are an equal part of our family. You may not be here everyday but that in no way makes your place in our home any less significant. One day you will have siblings and you may think because they are with us full time that makes their role in our lives more important than yours. That will never be true. And if ever you feel differently- speak up!
7. We miss you. Your mom and step-dad miss you. But never let that make you feel guilty. You didn't create this situation. Once again focus on being a kid.
8. Be yourself.. You have the very best of your mommy and daddy in you. Plus you have all of these wonderful, unique qualities that make you one of a kind. Never try to be anything other than the very best possible YOU.
9. Never let yourself be a victim. Life can suck. It has a way of twisting you inside out. Its that way for EVERYONE. Yes even kids whose parents are married and madly in love with each other. Don't let bad situations victimize you. Instead let them shape you in to a strong, compassionate person who lives every day without apology.
10. Sometimes a girl needs her mom. Sometimes she needs her dad. That's why you're blessed with two parents. In your case you are doubly blessed. Accept that there are certain times you will want a specific parent. Count on the fact that you can come to any one of us, for any thing, at any time. And if you are worried about hurting the other parent's feelings- don't. Remember #5? You're not an adult. Let us deal with our feelings. I promise we will be just fine.
Friday, September 27, 2013
So what do you do? How do you move about your weekend and feel whole? How do you get past the loneliness that comes when part of your family is not there?
Honestly, its also in these times that I most feel empathy for my stepdaughter's mother. If I struggle with the emptiness- how does she feel when its our weekend? She has had nearly ten years of the noise that comes with raising this child. And while she still has three other little ones running around to fill her days, I know the void of missing one of her children remains.
I know that we can't move through our lives wishing the days away just to get to our weekends. So how do we go about accepting the quiet and making the best of it? This question weighs heavily on me as we transition into another weekend. (Can you guess who's weekend it is?)
Thursday, September 26, 2013
After the visit with his daughter, my fiance went to our lawyer to see if there was anything we could do to try and reach an informal schedule of parenting time with his ex. After the lawyers communicated we received notification that her mom was agreeing to allow us every other Saturday from 8am-5pm. Far from what we were requesting but after only seeing her once the previous year we knew it was better than the alternative. So every other Saturday from 8am-5pm we started to build our little family. These were magical days.
March 28, 2012 we appeared in court. The judge heard testimony from both parents and myself. Interestingly enough no other witnesses were called (there was an entire list of witnesses furnished to us prior to court that we expected to hear testimony from). On April 3, 2012 we were given the best news of our lives. The judge awarded (temporary) joint legal custody. This meant my fiance had the legal rights to be involved in her schooling, medical decisions, etc. Best of all the judge awarded physical custody of every Wednesday from 5-8pm and every other weekend Friday at 6pm- Sunday at 6pm. This meant we went from 2 days per month to about 10 days. Best news ever. We still had court on the horizon for October but we both felt so blessed at receiving the temporary orders.
For so many reasons my fiance finally decided to settle outside of court with his ex. Anyone who has ever gone through court knows what stress it can cause you and although coming to an agreement with his ex meant settling for less than what my fiance wanted- it was the best thing for all involved to not have to go through that day in court. So in October of 2012 our temporary orders became official. Along with 2 additional hours a week, 2 more hours added to our weekends and a holiday/vacation schedule.
When I met my (now) stepdaughter in November of 2010, I had been dating her father for five months. By this time there was no doubt in my mind that her daddy would one day be my husband. So this meeting was especially important. I was meeting my future stepdaughter. I would love to say that we hit it off immediately but that would be a lie. During that first meeting she was sweet and warm and accepting. But I couldn't make myself reach out. Instead I spent that first day sitting on the sidelines, observing father and daughter interacting, doing my best to not intrude. And while I didn't feel like the encounter was a knock out success, I felt confident that I would have plenty of time to get to know this child and counted it as a win for having taken the step in meeting her.
January 1, 2011 we got to see her again to celebrate a belated Christmas. This time I made more of an effort to laugh and play and let her get to feel more comfortable with me. I was sure that this was the start of regular visits. By this time, her daddy and I lived together in a two bedroom, two bath apartment. So we spent part of the visit discussing how she wanted to decorate her bedroom. When she left I felt like we were on the path to creating our family.
The next several months went by with sporadic telephone contact from her. For various reasons my (then) boyfriend had never obtained a physical custody agreement with her mother. In July 2011 (after close to 7 months of not seeing her) my boyfriend finally filed for joint legal and physical custody of his daughter. In August we received back notification that her mother responded by hiring a lawyer and entering a motion to dismiss the case. We immediately responded to the motion to dismiss and requested a court hearing to have at very minimum temporary orders established. We also decided that we would need to hire a lawyer to help us proceed. We were granted a hearing with a family court judge to be held in March 2012. The rest of the year drug on and was a highly stressful time for us.
My boyfriend wouldn't get to see his daughter again in the year 2011.
And... she is five years older than me. Once again adding a whole new dynamic to my life of steps. For example how do I introduce her? My Dad's wife seems cold and distant since it removes any personal connection from myself. Yet- my stepmom? It feels so strange applying that to someone who is less than a decade older than me. Not that I have any reservations about her because of her age. You love who you love and from my first meeting with her I knew she was that person for my Dad.
Maybe its my age, and not hers, that is the problem with defining our relationship. Maybe at twenty seven gaining another "mother" seems silly because I have my own home and my own family (which I will get to in my next post). Not to mention a mother AND a former stepmother. I'm sure that a lot of people would tell me that titles are unnecessary and that a title can't properly define your relationship with another person. Still I find myself hesitating when referring to her as my Dad's wife. I still feel the need to define the relationship in some way.
The same year that my dad remarried, my mom did as well. Suddenly I had two new families. At my mom's (where I spent all of my time, other than every other weekend and alternating holidays) I had my brother (who shares both biological parents with myself), a brand new baby brother (technically a half brother- but its a term I've never felt comfortable with), two stepsisters, a stepbrother and of course the man my mother married- my new stepfather. In this family suddenly I wasn't only a daughter and a sister- I was also a stepdaughter and a stepsister. My second family (of the every other weekend variety) was my dad's- which included my brother (whom I listed earlier), a brand new baby sister (again, technically a "half") and my dad's new wife. My stepmother. Again in this family I held the title of stepdaughter. And that title was profoundly different than any other in my life. In my mother's home I never felt the word "step" in a way that applied to me. Yes I had a stepdad. Yes I was a stepdaughter (and sister). But I was still my mother's daughter and essentially my place in the world hadn't changed. However in my dad's home I was actively aware of the title of "step" and the weight of the word completely impacted my feelings of worth in the family.
I don't have many memories of my first stepfather. My mom's relationship with him didn't last long. The memories I have of him are, for lack of a better word, indifferent. He didn't make any impact on my life to speak of one way or the other. However because of him I have an amazing little brother and for that I can be grateful.
As for my dad's marriage- that one lasted seventeen years. Resulting in plenty of memories- good, bad and ugly. I can only hope that the roller coaster my family went through during that time will be the experiences I can draw upon to ensure that as an adult my relationships with people are grounded. While problems will undoubtedly arise (as they do in any relationship) I hope I can always remember to "step with care".
However we live in a vastly different reality. A world where not every relationship ends with the proverbial happily ever after. We live in a nation where we have the right to part ways with a spouse and take a second (or third) shot at that happily ever after. But what comes next is rarely black and white. This time around you may be a Mom or a Dad instead of the single and fancy free individual that met your first spouse. And what happens once you find someone that not only loves and accepts you but your child(ren) as well?
Enter the world of steps. Your children now have a new title of their own- step kids. And the new person you brought in to your ready made family? They now carry the step title as well. So how do we exist in a role that was created by the destruction of a family? How do we exist with these titles that aren't the natural ones we were born with? Being a sister, a dad, an aunt, a grandfather, a daughter... those titles are all given to us within the natural order of the world. But add a step to the mix and suddenly its a whole new set of rules, boundaries and expectations.
Being both a step daughter and a new step mother myself I'm still learning. But the most important lesson I've learned thus far came from a seemingly non related quote by none other than the wise Dr Seuss.