Posts Tagged With: loving your stepchild

uncomfy as f**k

I’ve hit the wall as it comes to the Thing G situation.

This kid.
Oh, this kid deserves so much more than he’s giving himself.
While I was wrapped firmly in the baby bubble, he rear-ended someone and cracked the radiator in the car. He flunked one college course for the second time and pulled a C and D in the remaining two classes. This is after he dropped two classes in March and told his father and me he’d get a job in April.

We’re in the last full week of June and the kid is not employed. Not actively putting forth any effort to become employed, and won’t be returning to school because of his lack of effort.
I want to do two things simultaneously. I want to shake him till his teeth rattle to get his life together, and I want to hug him tight and fix his life.
Here’s the rub, I can do neither of these things.
First of all, I have no power when it comes to the kid. I cannot lay down rules and expect them to be followed. I cannot even wait for natural consequences to fall upon him. He is immune. In all truth, this kid has never actually experienced a consequence. And if he actually has, it’s somehow been lost on him.

Both my therapist and the therapist YBW and I see together have suggested we make life less comfortable for him. That if he experiences a new level of discomfort, he’ll have to make changes to remain comfortable.
I’ve stopped buying junk for him to eat.
He solved that problem by going out and purchasing his own junk.
I asked him what happened when the money ran out. I told him his dad wasn’t going to put anymore money in his account, that the money that was in there was because he needed to eat on campus and put gas in the car to get to campus.
He said to me, “Hopefully I’ll have a job by then.”
Kid won’t have a job if he doesn’t actively seek one.
I honestly don’t know if he understands that he won’t get paid at a job until he’s been there a couple of weeks.

YBW tells me I don’t love Thing G.
That’s infuriating!
I don’t treat the kid the way YBW treats him, therefore I do not love him?
I’m so tired of fighting to prove to my husband that I love his son.
I’m over here just trying to survive in this household.

You know, I’ve been accused of not loving this kid so many times I don’t even choose to listen to it anymore.
I do love him!
If I didn’t love him, I wouldn’t give a fuck what he did or did not do, or what happens to him. I care deeply. I see a bright, capable young man absolutely avoiding his own life. I watch him get bogged down in his own fear and anxiety to the point he simply chooses to avoid life in general. It hurts my heart. I have to believe it isn’t what he wants, however, he simply cannot get himself together.

What hurts me the most is that YBW thinks I don’t see the conflict within him. That he wants to simultaneously shake the kid till his teeth rattle, and hold him close.
I see that struggle in him. I see him want more for his son. I also see him trapped by his understanding of his commitment to raising his son.
I see him torn between knowing the kid needs to get his life together and how to facilitate that, and his sacred commitment to keep his son safe.
I observe him not making the connection that sometimes keeping a child safe is actively doing the opposite. I observe him making that connection, but being powerless to act upon it because his idea of facilitating the kid getting his life together and keeping him safe seem at complete odds.
Let me be very clear, I can only use my words to describe what I see going on with my husband. He might have different words to express it.

I was fascinated by his response to a question asked by our therapist.
She asked him to describe his parenting philosophy. She was specific he limit it to five words or less.
His response was “Take care of them.”
I was not asked to respond aloud, but I too, answered the question.
My response was “Build a them foundation.”
My eyes were opened that afternoon. And in that moment I understood my husband in a completely different way.

He’s quick to point out that I think he’s a failure as a parent.
On the contrary, one of the things I love most about him is how much of a loving father he is.
In the past, I’ve asked, “Why don’t they know how to do that?” or “Why didn’t they learn that?” What he heard was, “You didn’t teach them therefore you failed as a dad.”
I don’t think he failed as a dad. I think he is a kind and loving dad. A dad who would sacrifice by any means necessary for his kids to have the life he thinks they deserve.
He’s not failed in taking care of them. He’s elevated taking care of his sons into an art form.
The love in my husband flows in his very veins. He is a nurturer of epic proportion.
He either doesn’t see my acknowledgement of that, or he chooses to ignore it. I honestly don’t know which.

I know what he thinks I think of him. And y’all, it ain’t nice.
He is wrong.
I don’t think any of the things he thinks I think of him.
I’ve figured out I can’t really do anything about that. I can only love him and go from there.

We’re so different.
It starts at our upbringing.
I was raised by my emotionally unavailable single mother, and later, my fully devoted maternal grandfather.
Before we lived with Grandaddy, we were poor. I mean poor. I had clothes to wear to school, but never enough food in my belly. I had to be helpful around the house. I had to be helpful with my little brother. I knew how to cook and clean and half-ass parent by the time I was in second grade.
I’m not sob-story-ing it. I’m just saying that was my life. I didn’t know it wasn’t the same as other kids.

YBW was raised by a stay at home mom who did everything for her family. YBW was the 1980s embodiment of 1950s Beaver Cleaver. Hot breakfast was waiting for him every morning when he woke. Clothes were washed and pressed for him. He got called in from playing to wash his hands and come to the dinner table. His mom made his bed each day after he left for school. He was next level well cared for. I don’t know if he knew it wasn’t the same for other kids.

Our upbringing shaped our parenting philosophies.
Take care of them.
Build a them foundation.

This kind of sums up our different parenting philosophies.

image source: imgur.com

However much I am the kangaroo, bear, and monkey, I too am the bird. I knew I could only keep my girls safe and warm and comfy for so long before they would have to fly.
However much I did for them, I taught them to do for themselves. I believe they would tell you they were well cared for as quickly as they would tell you I built them a strong foundation. At least I hope they would. I do know I built them strong foundations upon which they can stand as they begin their own building upon it. And that was my parenting goal.

YBW is all kangaroo, bear, and monkey. I see him working towards the concept of the bird. I see how much it goes against his idea of how to parent. I see he is conflicted. I imagine he wants to facilitate the natural course of development in helping his bird fly without having to actually let go.
These are my words for what I see in him. I don’t actually know his truth.

What I do know is this.
I can no longer stand idly by while Thing G remains disengaged from his own life.
It hurts me deep in my soul that this kid I so love is stagnant.
I can’t unstick him. I can’t help him get himself unstuck.
Nothing I do makes a difference.
I can no longer abide being powerless.

In a conversation with YBW I shared that I’d gotten to the point where I only saw three options for how I was going to deal with my feelings regarding the Thing G situation.
The first is ignore the kid completely. If I’m not engaged I won’t suffer.
YBW asked if this is really practical.
The second is to take point and facilitate his ability to fly.
YBW said he doesn’t want me to ruin my relationship with Thing G by being the ‘bad guy’.
The third is to simply walk away.
YBW accused me of threatening him.

I did not.
The third option is absolute shit. I don’t want it to be an option at all.
I am not saying it’s me or the kid.
I’m saying I am at my wit’s fucking end with this situation. With this kid. I’m tired of being powerless to change the situation. I’m tired of being powerless in the place I live.
I am uncomfortable in this house every single day when the kid is here. I hide out, or leave the house to avoid him.
I am not comfortable enough to move about freely in the place I live.
I’m so tired of feeling like this I could scream!

The kid isn’t uncomfortable enough to change.
YBW isn’t uncomfortable enough to change.
I’m over here uncomfortable as fuck with no real power to change.

How desperate does one girl have to become to create enough change to be comfortable where she lives?

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

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…

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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