It’s not what you thought it would look like

Adulthood is full of times where you realize things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would. Some of those are good and some are disappointing.

Step-parenting is full of those kinds of moments and most of them are the disappointing kind. I’ve grown lots of alligator skin over the years and have lowered my expectations several times.

When I got married, I envisioned a happy family. I imagined creating an environment where we taught the kids values and morals, respect and selflessness. That vision has slowly whittled away to dreading coming home on days they’re with us, using deep yoga breaths to extend patience with rude selfish behavior and hoping that maybe if they witness a healthy marriage and people communicating with respect it will somehow make its way deep into their subconscious and be available to them in adulthood.

Like the ocean carrying sand from the shore, the disappointments have slowly undermined my spirit.

Last night at dinner with a friend, I joked that if my marriage and sanity survives the next few years I will consider this a success.

And then I realized sadly, that I wasn’t kidding.

After being in my stepchildrens’ lives for over six years I am seriously entertaining the idea of quitting step-parenting. You can quit that right? I mean good step-parenting is a choice, not a vocation. All the hugs, tears wiped away, shoulders cried on, meals cooked, laundry cleaned and folded, hours spent driving them around (including hundreds of miserable school pick-up hours) that I’ve done have apparently put me no closer to their hearts than six and a half years ago when I met the wonderful man I married. I chose to do all of those things because I love them. But they’ll never love me back. Especially because loving me back would hurt their birth mom.

Its odd, once you develop the alligator skin and learn to know what to expect, you think you’re safe. But, like I’ve recently come to realize, even the toughest gator skin has weak spots. And it’s surprising! I’ve been cruising along, head held high, thinking I’ve got this pretty well figured out.

So, now that it looks nothing like what I thought it would, I find myself questioning my choices……continue to lower my expectations? Or quit?

 

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Walls

So, I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I seem to have ideas for writing while riding my bike and then completely forget them once I get home. I’ve also been having trouble with the wordpress app on my iPad which has kept me from publishing things once they’re written. Anyway, I’m back!

I recently realized that I have built up some pretty sturdy walls to protect myself. They’re not completely impenetrable, but pretty sturdy nonetheless.

I feel like I live in a beautiful world but have a walled-in yard. There are many, many cool, fun, rewarding adventures on the other side of that wall. But danger also lies out there, like a sleeping dragon waiting for me to let my guard down to enjoy life outside the walls. I find myself standing at the gate looking out, afraid to venture far from the safety of my yard.

You see, I’ve been burned by the dragon several times over the last few years and I’ve vowed to not be surprised by it ever again.

The obvious problem with that is that I’m missing out. I’m afraid. Afraid to care too much, to get too involved. I don’t want to get caught with my guard down. Again.

So, what to do……

Continue to miss out on some of the sunshine and flowers?
Tear down the wall and turn it into a fence, leaving me more vulnerable but available?
Throw caution to the wind and venture out again?

Each choice has its potential downfall.

My instincts keep telling me to hide out until it’s over. But my heart urges me to stop watching my family from behind the walls.

The independent woman in me says protect yourself first and don’t get lost out there. The woman who promised to love his girls like they were my own feels guilty.

I wish there was some way of knowing when the last time I’ll be used or hurt or manipulated or discarded so I could then venture out and enjoy all the beauty around me.

What a difference a year makes

It’s been about a year now since I’ve overhauled my role as a stepmom and I’m so incredibly grateful for the place I’m in now.

The things that used to stress me out no longer have that effect.
I no longer allow the drama to affect my marriage.
I put myself first more.
I am much happier.

What have I learned?

#1 I cannot undo the negative influences in their lives no matter how hard I try, how much I care, or how much I do for them.
#2 Their mom will always undermine my efforts, the kids don’t know that and I should not get my feelings hurt.
#3 My feelings are ok. No matter what they are.
#4 By putting my health/fitness and marriage before them, I am making all of our lives better.
#5 My marriage will exist longer than these teenage years and investments in it will keep it healthy.
#6 Guard date night at all costs, this includes thoughts and conversations during the date.
#7 My husband is a saint.

It Helps to Help

When I first became a stepmom, I went into it all-in. It was my job to love and mother the girls like they were my own when they’re here. I knew I wasn’t their mother, but I wanted to treat them like I was. I thought that was what they deserved, for them to feel like I loved them as my own.
When that didn’t work out the way I thought it would, I was heartbroken. And I had no one to talk to that understood my position. It didn’t help me to talk to my friends and sisters who are mothers. They all felt for me but could not understand. Even my counselor couldn’t know….I walked around with this heartbreak that no one could understand.
I got through it, like all people do. But I wish I had reached out to a group or blog to help me.

Which is why I am so excited that a good friend of mine recommended to his girlfriend that she talk to me as she begins to integrate into the family which includes his two kids and an ex-wife with some serious mental health issues. I am looking forward to providing that understanding that I could not find. In doing so, I hope to further my healing process.

I am no angel

So, I know it’s talked about in the books, and I don’t feel super guilty about feeling this way…but there are times when I wish I didn’t care and could just worry about myself because, Lord knows I am not an angel and so I will never be able to feel/act like one.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about being happy for my step-daughters. Now, I am happy when they’re happy and proud of their accomplishments. But I cannot bring myself to be happy for them every week when they come back from their visit with their mother toting some new “thing.” It is always something, gadgets, shoes, clothing, accessories, make-up etc….

Is it because she stood up in front of the judge in court demanding child support because she “lives below the poverty line?”

Is it because she stood in front of that same judge and said she could not afford her half of the health and dental and therefore we should have to pay for it? (and we do)

Is it because she hid IRS debts from my husband for years and now that his half is taken care of, the IRS took my return to pay towards the balance because of some community property code?

Is it because it makes us look bad that we don’t spoil the kids with garbage?

Is it all of those things?

Now, because I’m no angel I do not expect myself to get excited about all the new crap they’re constantly getting. It’s ok that I’m not happy for them.

But what I really wish is that I didn’t care…..why do I get annoyed every week when this happens? Why do I wish karma to catch up with someone I consider to be a criminal? Why waste time and effort being upset?
Because I’m not an angel…..God has got some work to do with me.

Serving Self

Does anyone ever wonder at times if things you say or do as a step-parent are self serving?

I do. I actually wonder that a lot…How important is it that my teenage step-daughters know where I’m coming from? Or when I attempt to get them to see all that I do for them. Why am I putting a guilt trip on them? Do all parents do that?

Everyone knows teenagers listen to little that their parents say and probably even less of what a step-parent might say. So when I’m explaining why I can’t afford to drop her off at the mall with $100 because we pay the important things that your mother does not, like health and dental insurance, co-pays and orthodontist, etc, etc….. Am I doing that for me? Am I serving myself by making sure she knows that we spend lots of money on her, just not the fun stuff?

I ask because that is a grudge I carry around. It’s another potato in my backpack of issues. Every month, whether we feel like it or not, whether we can afford to or not, we pay those bills. And all the while, their mother is ensuring they have the latest iPhone, device or stylish clothing. And I’ll admit it….I am a bit childish about it because I want to spend money on fun things! I want to be the cool parents who say, “here you go, have fun.”

Now, I’m not and never will advocate dropping a 14 year old off at the mall with $100.

But when I lay on the guilt trip about the needs we provide for, I feel like I am doing it to make myself feel better. I feel better when I lay out all those “invisible” things we take care of. And in some deep, underlying way, point the finger at their mother, who would rather be cool, than actually parent.

Afterwards, it feels like it wasn’t the right thing to do. Someday, whether I’ve explained it to them or not, they’ll see it all…..

How do we know where the line is between being self serving and simply explaining our perspective?

Weary Ramble

Oh Lord, am I weary.

I mean, I am tired!

Tired of putting so much time and energy, love, worry, missed sleep and missed intimacy with my husband into a teenager who’s mother must take pleasure in ruining her daughters chance of being a normal, contributing member of society and have normal healthy relationships.

 

What mother befriends their 14 year old and says that it is ok to sleep around and do drugs? And since we have no control over the 50% of her life when she’s not with us and obviously cannot get her mother to do the right thing, what can we do? We’ve gone the court route many times now and her mom is just too good at faking being a real mom so I have no faith in the system to be able to handle this.

Its like swimming upstream all the time. We need a break or I’m afraid we’ll give up on swimming and let the current take us out to the ocean.