To my own Stepmum

Dear Stepmum

I was having a think about the random path my life is going down and it has really woken me up to what you dealt with when you signed up for our dysfunctional instant-family.

I have never thanked you properly for everything you have ever done for me, and for my dad too.

I really appreciate the constant presence you are in my life, and I truly feel like you have been a very positive influence on me growing up – so thank you.

Thank you for giving me second chances. And for caring. And for our many long and random conversations in the kitchen – I loved those. Thank you for being there for dad since the beginning, even though it has been really really hard for you, too.

Thank you for being an amazing step mum and for bringing so many experiences into my life that I never would have had without you. I really respect your work ethic, and your commitment (or stubbornness, whatever you want to call it).

Thank you for being so funny! and for being honest with me, that’s important. I feel like I have always known where I stand with you.

Thank you for putting up with my crap and attitude when I was living in your home. Thank you for being so willing to open your home to me.

Thank you for my little brother. I cannot believe he is ten now. What a beautiful and thoughtful young man you have raised, I am so proud to call him my brother.

Thank you for taking such a big chance to come and be a part of our family. I love having you in my life.

I really appreciate you.

Thank you

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Que sera sera…

I recently found out that my hairdresser is friends with the mother (BM) of my fiances son. I found out through facebook so I doubt either of them know this, but it lead to a realisation about my place in step-parent land.

I try really hard not to talk badly about BM, for several reasons; firstly of course because as a stepchild myself, I know how damaging it is to hear that while growing up – it doesn’t matter what your parents did, they are still and always will be your heroes (even if it is very deep down inside). And secondly because I firmly believe that positive re-affirmation can make a world of difference – if I talk about a situation negatively, it will be negative, if I talk about a situation positively, it will be positive.

Anyway. My realisation was that I worry of what other people think of me because of our situation. From BM’s perspective, I broke up her family (unfortunately this wasn’t the case, as my fiance always told me they were never together. Messy situation.) And in fairness to her, I did betray her trust by using some emails she sent me against her in court. (On a side note, although I recognise it was a betrayal of trust, I would still do it again, I was protecting the man I love most and his son.)

But we live in a small community, everyone knows someone who grew up with someone else who talks to so and so. As evidenced by the hair dresser situation. I am way too caught up in how people might judge me, if they only know her side of the story.

My first reaction was, oh my gosh, I need to find a new hairdresser!

Sad. I don’t want to close off my community because of my choice to be with the man I love and his adorable son. I want my community to be wholesome and rich and filled with all sorts of people. Also I really like my hairdresser, she does a great job.

I need to learn to let go, I think. To accept that what will be, will be. I don’t think BM is a bad person – sure we all have our conflict from time to time, but we are also human…

So. Working on acceptance, openness and unity. Anyone got any strategies?

Creative Writing

I was lucky enough in High School to have really good English teachers, especially in my senior years, that made me want to do well in a subject that I already enjoyed and was good at and English quickly became one of my favourite subjects.

Growing up in the country, with no TV or mobile phone reception meant I read. A lot. I had finished the school library and the children’s/teens section of the town library by the time I was 12 (I moved towns shortly after so it wasn’t such a bad thing), and had a reading age of 16, when I was 10.

I have always loved to read, and to write – poetry, stories, essays, fiction, non-fiction, and most recently this blog. I love words, where they come from, what they mean, other languages, and how they all fit together in so many different ways. I love how a word can mean nothing, but if you change your tone of voice, it can mean everything.

So I want to share with you something I wrote, several years ago when I was experiencing a lot of anger over my parents lack of communication and thought in their separation.

Tear Stained Eye

The little girl sat stiffly in her chair. Tiny hands clenched at her sides, making frown like creases in the edges of her new dress. Her blonde ringlets were pulled into matching pink bows and her feet hung in mid-air, cased in small, shining black, leatherette shoes. She was the picture of innocence, a perfect angel until you saw her eyes.

Large blue orbs, the centres filled with a fathomless black, so deep, too dark to belong to a small child. They stared into nothingness, searching for the answers she needed. She blinked, just too late, unable to prevent the small, completely symmetrical tear from flowing down her cheek, pausing as it reached her chin, then slowly falling to land in her lap. Looking down, as if in total surprise, the little girl touched a finger to the damp spot, aimlessly drawing circles, concentration clear on her face.

All signs of discomfort gone, a small smile played at the corner of her lips, and she swung first one foot, then the other. The only sign of absence was her eyes, still staring blankly, in her own little world, seeing nothing, as she struggled with her task.

Two faces loomed out of the dark. That was all she could see. At that point in time, nothing else mattered; the ties between the three of them were inexplicable, twisted, a triangle of love, hate, hope and above all, manipulation.

But she was only seven and these feelings were much too complex for her understanding.  In that moment, all she felt was as if she had a rope tied around each arm, and each face was pulling, pulling… and it hurt! It hurt so badly. An emotional ache. But it didn’t matter, she was only seven and the little girl loved those faces, she didn’t realize it would ever be possible to not. That was her mummy and daddy and she loved them.

That was then. This, however, is now, and that little girl is long gone, buried underneath years of lies, anger and emotional turmoil.

The young woman lay in her bed, her heart pounding. Choices are never easy, she realised, and no matter how much thought, or therapy you put into them they would always come back to haunt you. She didn’t blame herself though, how could she? Whatever decision she had made, there would always be the feeling of guilt, the feeling that she had betrayed someone’s love. She took a breath and vowed to any gods who were listening, she would learn from the mistakes of others. Because, what kind of person would she be, to make a little girl chose between mummy and daddy?

I wrote this long before I met my Fiance, had any notion of becoming a stepmum, or even having children at all. This is where I am coming from – this is my past, and I will do everything in my power to help our Boy have an easier path than I had, one with less struggle and pain. If my experiences can help one boy have a more carefree childhood, one where he doesn’t have to grow up too fast – then that’s good enough for me. I may not be able to change the world, but I sure as hell am going to do my best to change his world.

Day Care Dilemma – The powerless step-parent?

It has taken me a little while to write about this because whenever I thought about it, I would get so charged and worked up.

My stepson’s mother informed us of her decision to go back to work almost two months ago. Although of course it would be ideal for The Boy to have a stay at home parent for as long as possible, we of course understood her decision, and had no problem with that part of the situation. Then we were informed that she had picked his daycare – and my partner was ‘welcome to go look at it’.

Well this immediately riled me up. Not only was it a direct violation of their parenting order (which clearly states that all parenting decisions are to be made jointly), in my opinion it was a massively disrespectful move on her part! Where does she get off, enrolling this child in a day care, where he will spend almost more time than he spends with his father, without discussing options!?

Of course we did go and have a look and do our own research. And compared to the other day care in the area (there are only two) it did seem to be the best. Our offers to look into home based care options or a day care a little further away though were flatly denied – her decision had been made, and apparently it was final. Grr. Strictly speaking we could have taken her to court – if she pulls something like that again though, we might make a different decision, but really that’s the last place we want to be, the parenting order was supposed to HELP the situation…

And then to make things even more enjoyable – she asks us to help pay for it. She text us saying that after paying his daycare costs, she was going to have an additional $100 a week. So now she’s got MORE money, and still wants us to pay more? excuse me. My problem with this doesn’t actually stem from the money at all – absolutely my partner should be liable for the costs of his son, and he pays his child support religiously, and if we truly felt that she wasn’t able to provide for him, we would do every thing we could to scrape the extra money to help. But it isn’t like we don’t have costs of our own… I’m a full time student, and my partner works a 60 hour week to support our family as best he can. Not to mention, if the Boy’s mother is so broke, how is she affording sky tv and a gym membership? doesn’t quite add up in my books.

Well. Day Two at Day Care, and our day to pick him up – only to pull into the car park to find two children loose, unattended, by the busy road. One of them was so distraught he wouldn’t leave my arms for a good twenty minutes after I picked him up to take inside…

I didn’t think it could get any worse. Let me just tell you, if he was my son, I never would have sent him back to that daycare… But of course he isn’t my son. How am I supposed to reconcile with this – I care for him and love him and want to protect him, but I’m not allowed a say. It got to the point where the Boy’s mother was all ‘ I’m confident they are doing everything they can that it wont happen again ‘ and my partner was just so sick of having to talk to her that he just agreed to keep him there cause it was easier. Ugh.

All other Stepmums out there – how do you cope when you feel powerless? what strategies have you got?

All Grown Up

Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is but today’s dream – Kahlil Gibran

My baby brother is turning ten tomorrow. A whole decade. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch last Monday, but those days in the hospital when he first arrived – those are vivid in my mind. The things we remember are so bizarre, especially when each moment feels like it is the MOST important…

This is a strange week for me. It is my birthday, my brothers birthday, my sisters birthday and my fiances birthday. What a way to feel old. (and broke!) I hadn’t really thought about how far we had all gotten in life until now – One sister married with a baby, the next one has a real job in the big wide world, me – engaged, the next sister old enough to drive and the littlest brother no longer in single digits. (It’s also bizarre that out of the five of us, only one of them is fully related. Oh my jumbled half siblings. Try explaining to someone that yes he is your brother and she is your sister, but no, the two of them are not related.)

And I bet in another 20 years I will read this post and laugh and laugh and laugh. We are all still babies.

Sometimes I feel like one day is longer than all of my life so far but the next day might pass so quickly. Why do we try and measure, collect, contain time? seems like a pretty fluid thing to me, it’d be easier to measure water in a sieve.

I used that website futureme.org and emailed myself five years from now. That is a cool thing! What a great idea. I guess its a similar reason to why I write this blog – I guess I am guilty of trying to capture time too! or at least moments of it. I wonder where we learn this attachment from? This need to control. Maybe it’s just my culture? Maybe it’s just me?

What next.

The F Word…

The F Word...

Fiance. Friends. Family. Fiance’s Family. Fun.

I did promise myself I would capture the important moments, that the entire point of this blog was to remember those passing flashes of time.

The night we squeezed our closest friends and family into our tiny lounge and they all danced and danced and danced. These are the memories I will hold for ever. These are the people who are dancing through my heart.

…The state of the carpet the next morning did make me think of a different kind of F word.

Which Step-parent should I be?

The last couple of days this has been something that has really stuck in my mind. I always knew my relationship with a man who already had a child wouldn’t be an EASY path, but that doesn’t bother me – what doesn’t kill you make you stronger right? and the things my partner and I have gone through together… Well lets just say it’s enough to last us a lifetime.

But it’s not about what is easy or difficult for ME that has been bothering me – its about what my little stepson will have to endure, because of the decisions we, as his parents (step or otherwise) have made now. I don’t know whether it makes me ‘luckier’ than other step-parents since my own parents are separated, because I sure as hell know what I would have preferred in the same situation that funnily enough I find myself in now, too.

Let me lay this out for you:

Option One: My step mother always told me not to be in a relationship with someone who already had children. Oops. The thing about that piece of advice though, was that it hurt me quite personally – here was a woman who had been part of my life since I was four years old, who had helped toilet train me, taken me shopping, put me to bed and watched me grow – and hadn’t she just said she resented having step children? that’s what 12 year old me understood anyway.

Option Two: On the other side, my step father treats me like his own daughter. He is a man who I don’t remember not having in my life, who changed my nappies, read me bed time stories, told me to stop being a brat when I went through that awkward pre-teen stage and watched me grow – at times, he has been much more of a dad than my biological father.

Now here I am, engaged to a man I love and cherish and will happily spend the rest of my life with, playing house and building our world together, our family together. But the thing is, we already have a family. The mother of his child was three months pregnant with their son when we met and started seeing each other – they were never officially ‘In a relationship’ – which probably makes it easier for me to deal with, since they have very little history as a ‘together’.

From the beginning I told her that I didn’t want to be a ‘Mother’ to her son. And I don’t – I’m young, still studying and not ready to have children for a very long time. Here’s the catch – I AM his fathers partner, I AM here for him, I DO love him, I WILL support him, he WILL be the older brother of my own children – so what am I supposed to be to him?

While having this dilemma I searched other ‘step-parent’ blogs. One of them really stuck with me. Like the ‘bonus mom’ in that blog, I am taking Option Three: I am not his stepmother. I am not his mother. I am his Person. I’ve also realised it’s not my decision, or his fathers decision, or his mothers decision to make. It’s actually his decision, because the relationship between myself and this little boy is a private matter, his choice, his life, and all I can do is be the best I can be – not even for him, but for me.