Posts Tagged With: loving your stepchild

What’s best for children?

Y’all my husband is hurting.
And mad. I’m talking about a ferocity written all over his face before he even finished a full sentence!
It takes a great deal to make him angry.
This deal came in the form of an email from the mother of his children.

Thing G starts college in less than two weeks.
Thing G plans to commute to NOVA for two years before transferring to another school. This was a decision he made on his own and shared with us the whys and wherefores. We supported his decision.
Thing G does not have his license and cannot drive without one of us with him in the car.
His mom began planning who could drive him to college which days without discussing it with anyone. She sent an email to YBW while we were in New Orleans outlining said plan. YBW scoffed and ignored it.
You see, YBW already told Thing G that neither he nor I would drive the boy to college and he needed a plan to get back and forth to school if he didn’t have his license by the time school started. Kid gets on the internet and finds there’s a local bus that will carry him from a stop 1.3 miles from this house to the mall where he will then switch to a bus that will take him to NOVA.
Done and done.
He comes to me with questions of how much time did I think it would take him to walk the distance and we decided he could practice and I’d come pick him up and bring him home. I told him we could do it as many times as he liked until he was comfortable with his timing.
Either Thing G has not volunteered this information to his mother, or his mother never asked, hence the email.

Well, the day we came home from New Orleans, YBW took him to meet with his adviser. (Thing G specifically requested YBW for this task.) Then they went back to his mom’s house to share the information.
Turns out Thing G also drops the bomb that he will no longer be going back and forth between his parents houses now that he’s eighteen and starting college. He has decided to live in this house with YBW and me full time.
And his reasons are as follows:
Mom’s house is 1.5 miles further away from the bus stop.
There is no sidewalk between Mom’s house and our house.

I was not present during this discussion but YBW relayed it in great detail when he got home.
The kid was clear. The kid looked his mother in the face and told her these were his plans. His ideas. The kid stood his ground when the tears came. He loves his mom and doesn’t want to hurt her, but God love him, he doesn’t want to walk that much further on a fairly rural road that isn’t really safe. He’s completely practical. If his mother lived in this house and we lived in the other one, it would be the same house, different parent. The kid is even leaving his dog.

So that’s the story.
Here’s where it gets interesting.

YBW got an email yesterday from Thing G’s mom in which she shares her dissatisfaction with this arrangement. In this email, she accuses YBW and me of going behind her back and making choices for her sons. She blames YBW for the changes in the way their family functions. She closes with something to the effect of she wanted him to know how she felt, but isn’t sure he cares.

I only read it once and I know I’m missing things, but this is the gist.
She’s mad that she’s no longer in control of what their family does.
She’s blaming him (and me) for changing that.
She’s being manipulative with questioning if he cares how she feels.

I ask if he wants to respond.
Emphatically no.

The more he talks about this email, the madder he becomes. Never raises his voice, but his face, and body language, and tightness in his throat express his anger.
He worries she’ll try to manipulate Thing G to stay with her or continue to go back and forth.
He’s mad she’s pissy about me.
(Honestly, I’ve been waiting for that to rear it’s head, and I’m surprised I’m not more of the ‘lightening rod of hate’.)
He’s hurt and angry that she questioned whether or not he cares about how she feels.
Y’all my husband was bent!

We continued to talk about it, and he cooled down a bit.
We discussed that the difference between the way she runs her house and the way we run this one is that we ask questions and she gives commands.
YBW asks his son, What do you think? How would you like it to be? How can you solve this problem?
YBW is actively working to treat his son like an adult. He’s willing to let him fall on his face and get bloodied up. Instead of rescuing him, or fixing things for him, he wants to show his son that it’s OK to fail once in a while. Failure is simply a learning process. One every human needs to experience.
He told their mother this and she went on about how Thing G is not neurotypical and he needs support. YBW reminded her that neurotypical or not, he had to learn to become a self-sufficient adult.
Everyone agrees he shouldn’t be a thirty year old man living in his parents basement. Yet only one of his parents is actively doing anything to prohibit that.

Listen, I understand how hard it is to be away from one’s children. But it is only natural that they eventually fly the nest. And all the blaming and passive aggression, and temper fit throwing has nothing to do with what’s best for the child and everything to do with the parent desperately clinging to the desire to control.

What it comes down to is that she wants her current husband, her former husband, and her sons to be figures on a chess board that she can move around as she sees fit.
She did it that way for so long.
And in the last five years, there has been a shift in YBW. He’s no longer on her chess board. He’s living his life.
In my heart of hearts, I believe she’s more frustrated that she no longer controls what YBW does than what’s going on with her sons.

She was very clear that YBW and I are making decisions for her sons and she doesn’t like it.
And I’m over here like, your sons are making these decisions, they’re just not talking with you about it.
Is it because she doesn’t ask? Absolutely.
But another factor is that I truly believe they’re frightened by her. That if they share their plans with her she’ll be reactive instead of receptive.
YBW has remarked something to the effect that you can only play devil’s advocate for so long before you suck the passion from people.

Here’s the thing that kills me. She’s his mom. But I’m asking, What’s best for Thing G, and trying to make that happen.
While his own mother rails and spits and blames because she can no longer control them. I’m sacrificing my freedom for a child that isn’t technically mine.
Why?
Because I love him.
I treat him the same way I treated my girls.
I want him to be the best possible version of himself he can. But that won’t happen if we continue to baby him. To rescue him, and fix things for him. To treat him as though he is his diagnosis.
I trust that Thing G will become a self-sufficient adult because we’re going to help him learn how to be. We’re going to have his back but let him fall. We’re going to continue to ask him how, and what he wants to choose for his life.

I committed to YBW’s sons when I committed to him. Just as he did with my girls.
They’re all our kids. Doesn’t matter that DNA doesn’t match. We’re committed to each other and our collective children because we want to be. Because we made the choice to be. They’re not yours and mine, they’re ours.
He does things for the girls that their father doesn’t.
I do things for the boys that their mother won’t.

We want our kids to be the best possible versions of themselves!
We want to help them get there.
We know that means sometimes we’ll have to step back and watch them falter.
We know we can’t dictate how they should do it.

People’s lives cannot be lived out on a chess board controlled by someone that thinks they know best.
Children must be given the best possible foundation with which to build their own lives.
Chess boards aren’t a solid enough foundation.
YBW knows that.
Thing G knows that.
They’ve begun making their own moves.
Thing G is trying to bolster his own foundation even though he’s not sure how to go about it.

YBW worries that Thing G’s mom will attempt to manipulate him to change his mind.
I said, We have to trust Thing G.
YBW said, I do.

You gotta trust your kids.
You gotta trust that what you’ve given them will get them through.
You gotta expect those “Mommie I need you!” phone calls, or late night knocks on the door, “Dad, help!”
I know the girls are going to be successful. I know they’re going to fall, going to fail. But the fact they get back up and keep at it is what it’s all about.
I’m looking forward to experiencing that with the boys too.

As parents we have no choice but to trust our kids as they take flight.
It’s so f**king hard and scary!
But it’s what’s best for those kids.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? What’s best for children…

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Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

being his mom for a little while

Late last night there was a timid knock on our bedroom door.
YBW was dead asleep.
I went over to the door and Thing G was standing there.
Me: Are you OK bud?
Thing G: I just threw up.
Me: Are you OK now?
Thing G: I threw up in my bed.
Me: OH!
We stripped his bed, started the laundry and I got him set up in the guest bed. (After I removed the quilt my grandmother made and replaced it with a old blanket just in case of more vomit.)

What y’all don’t know about me is that I absolutely don’t do vomit. That’s why my kids had a dad…to handle the vomiting. It’s the only bodily fluid I just can’t handle.
So what I did last night was a pretty big deal.
But I’m a mom…that’s what we do…mom stuff.
Even though I’m not his mom, I had Thing G’s back when he needed me.
That’s what moms do.

YBW emailed me this morning: Thank you for taking care of him last night.
I replied: You’re welcome. That sounds dumb to say because you shouldn’t have to thank me. I was just being his mom for a little while.

I love that kid.
He needed love last night. He needed someone to take care of him.
I was on it.

Thing G is right as rain this afternoon…I think he ate too much junk yesterday.
We’re snuggled up on the sofa catching up on all the MLP episodes in the DVR right now.
That’s what moms do.

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

it’s all about your point of view

I’m eavesdropping on a conversation between Thing G and his mother. Apparently something happened at school today and she called to talk with him about it.
She got an email and has one version of the story and asked him to her his version.
He immediately gets defensive and says: I can’t really explain it.
She reads the email verbatim. (I know this because I can hear her clearly.)
He says: That’s not what happened.
She asks to be told what happened.
He repeats that he can’t really explain it.
She explains if he can’t explain his version how will she understand.
He gives a HUGE exasperated sigh.
She asks him not to get mad at her for trying to help him.
He says: I’m not mad. I’m just frustrated. You go on and on.
She pauses. (I can hear her pause.) Then she explains she’s trying to help him by understanding his point of view, how he was feeling at the time.
He sighs again.
She tells him she loves him.
He tells her he loves her too.
The call ends.
He returns to watching videos on his phone.

This exchange fascinated me. She’s a tough mom. She takes no prisoners. She calls him on his BS straight away. BUT she’s the first one making sure he’s getting everything he needs when it comes to his education. She needs his input to know how to respond to the teacher. She needs his input to make sure his particular educational needs are being met as laid out by his IEP.

YBW will come home and ask about this incident. He’ll say I got an email. He’ll say I know Mom already talked to you. He’ll clarify he just wants to hear what Thing G has to say.
Thing G will present with the same defensive attitude.

We’ve been working on trying to help him see what it is he presents to the world. His perception of his behavior is vastly different than how it’s viewed from the outside. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all like that. But in the case of this particular individual, he cannot seem to take the outside perception into account.
We’ve been talking to him about how his actions look. We’ve been trying to explain to him what is expected behavior of a fifteen year old boy. (Honestly, he behaves like my three and four year old preschoolers a great deal of the time.)
He’s too smart for his own good. He’s been accommodated in life and in school since he can remember. He manipulates it to his advantage.
He has so many excellent qualities and I absolutely adore him.
Sometimes it’s hard to get past the roadblocks. Some of these roadblocks are naturally occurring based on his diagnosis of ADHD and Aspergers, but some of these roadblocks he creates. He is literally his own worst enemy.

YBW and I were talking with him the last time he was at this house about how what he does and says looks to other people. He simply can’t see it. Whether he chooses not to see it or really can’t, is the question and none of us have the answer.
I found what I considered a perfect example on the fb page of a local community theater. We were at one of the performances and they shot a preshow photo of the audience. In the photo you can clearly see Thing C, me, Thing G, and YBW in the second row. YBW and I were reading the playbill, Thing C was smiling because he noticed the photo being taken. But Thing G, who had complained about going to the show since he got in the car was bent over at the waist with his head in his lap.
So I asked him what did he notice when he looked at that photo.
He told me he thought that guy looked tired.
I agreed and told him that he knew he was tired. (An excuse, because the moment the play started he was COMPLETELY engaged.) But then I pushed further, I asked him about the other audience members. I asked him to pretend he didn’t know that guy with his head in his lap. I asked him what he thought then. He repeated that he thought he looked tired.

I don’t know how to help him realize how he looks to the rest of the world.
I don’t believe he has to care all that much. He’s his own person, etc. BUT by behaving the way he behaves, he’s not presenting the complete picture of who he is.
Most of us strive to put our “best face forward”, it’s like he’s working hard to put his “worst face forward”. I understand not caring what the world thinks of you…to an extent.

He has been accommodated for so long that he utterly lacks skills to cope when things don’t go his way.
I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m stating fact.
He’s great as long as things bend to his will, but the moment he has to make accommodations…well, all bets are off. But that’s the way of the world. We all spend our days accommodating and being accommodated. It’s a delicate give and take.

I want the absolute best for this kid.
Helping raise other people’s kids is so much harder than raising your own. I can pinpoint each thing I did or did not do that buggered my girls. Where I failed, where I was successful. So it’s not that I think I’m the perfect mom and should be able to raise this kid who isn’t really mine.
It’s tricky. I love him. He is part of my brood. But I don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to him.

It’s hard to help someone that simply isn’t interested in being helped.
I experience it with him fairly regularly, but witnessing it today while he was on the phone with his mom was an entirely new way of seeing.

Categories: on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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