Dealing with parental envy

I always thought it would be the boys mom that I would be jealous of. They adore her and I know I will just never be their mom. And I’m ok with that. I think I have a pretty healthy view of what my role in their life is.

Today, it’s Curtis I’m jealous of. I would never begrudge him a close relationship with his kids. I love how much his kids adore him. And he deserves it because he is a great father. I wish he could see how much they love him. 

While I think the kids all like me well enough (most of the time, anyway), I’ve really only developed a palpable bond with one of them. Reegan (7) wants me to read to him. So every night I read to him. It started because Curtis always fell asleep while reading to him but it became our little thing. Until tonight. Curtis has been asking Reegan for a little while to read to him and Reegan finally agreed. So out I go. Taitum only wants Daddy and Nolan gets both of us. I feel like he crushed the one parenting win I had. I have spent two and a half years trying to build that bond. That was our thing, and now it’s not. Not that the bond is gone, it still exists, of course. But he won, he gets to have that, too. I’m hurt and I’m sad and I’m full of envy. It’s one of those moments where it’s very apparent that I’m not a real parent.

Too Good to be True

Well, we knew it wouldn’t last. She needs money and if her favourite ATM won’t give it to her, she’s going to stop letting the kids go to sports until she gets what she wants. She sent her message through Nolan last night. He’s 10 and said to Curtis that ‘Mom said you owe her money and she’s going to stop the sports thing if you don’t pay her tomorrow.’ The thing is… we don’t actually owe her money. She wants more in child support and, technically, she has to go to court to get that. She’s threatening court now, and we might beat her to the punch after how she’s crossed the line. We put this verbiage in the agreement about how the parent will not have adult conversations with the kids or use the kids to communicate a parenting issue, but she just ignores the agreement. I can’t even imagine the effect this is having on Nolan. The very thought makes me feel sick. How can she be ok with putting that poor kid in the middle of this? Just let him be a kid. Don’t punish him to get a couple hundred dollars from your ex. It makes my heart hurt so much. I had no idea. He didn’t say anything to me. I shared my prize for the hat he helped me make (for the contest at my recital)… I let him stay up to watch his hockey team in the playoffs… he made his own strawberries… I thought he was good, but Curtis said it was like he was waiting to tell him, said he wanted him to know. It all makes me sad. I’m hoping it means he understands how much it means to Curtis for the kids to go to sports and how hard he tries… it all sucks…

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The award-winning hat that Nolan helped me make.

So here’s the thing… how can we protect them if she ignores a court order? How can even a judge enforce that if she just doesn’t care what it says? She ignores it all… She ignores the fact that is clearly states that sports are an outstanding issue and tries to bully us into doing it her way, she ignores the fact that she can’t change doctor’s appointments without Curtis’ permission, she ignores the fact that he’s allowed to talk to doctors and goes so far as to remove his name from the kids’ files, she ignores the fact that she’s supposed to turn over the kids birth certificates and the fact that she’s not supposed to bad mouth him to the kids, she takes the kids to the US without telling him… and she’s ignoring the fact that the agreement does not call for them to review child support every year, it just says that this is the amount to be paid. Well, the agreement is about as good as toilet paper as she will continue to do what she wants, no matter the damage done to those kids. So what are we to do? We’ve said we’re ready to go to court… but what can a judge do? Can someone make her do the right thing, or just obey the court order? We’ve been afraid of the emotional cost paid by the kids as she tries to exact her revenge on Curtis, but she’s already doing it… How do we know when the good outweighs the bad? Curtis is so angry at her right now, he’s ready to take a stand. We are ready to take a stand.

We Step-Moms Have to Stick Together

I joined a few “Step-Mom” groups on Facebook and that’s been really nice for me. While I agree with one particular poster that sometimes it’s a little too sunshine and rainbows for those of us in the trenches, I find it really helpful to hear other step-moms with the same issues as me. Today one talked about feeling like an outsider and, while it’s MUCH better than it was, I still can’t help but feel like that sometimes. Especially when you want to be a mother yourself, as she said. So true. On the other hand, it’s also nice not to wallow in the mud. Nothing good comes out of dwelling on negative feelings.

Our situation hasn’t changed, really. BM (as they call her) is her awesome, cheerful self, demanding money and not compromising with sports. We still haven’t heard back from our lawyer (which is definitely frustrating) so the worst of that is still to come… stressful times. We are also pretty sure our child support offset payment is going up so we have to figure out how to pay for that. My father-in-law is still in the hospital after complications from his kidney transplant and that’s really brought our family together. For the most part, I’ve managed to keep any petty feelings at bay. It’s been good for us. My back went up when his sister started asking for pictures again (which I HATE), but I’m going to send it today. Other than that, it’s been good. Curtis has been lovely and supportive and things are better as we go through a lot together. I’m really hopeful that we have turned a corner and things will be good for us. Karma has to have our back eventually, right?

My favourite part of the weekend was when I found an app that lets you photoshop the Easter Bunny into a photo. I added him to a photo of our kitchen and then sent it to Nolan (SS10) – I should probably go back and make all of these without names – saying that he “stole Katrina’s phone”. The boys were really excited about that, although Taitum was surprised the Easter Bunny was so big, he thought he was little. It was a fun Easter with the kids, for sure. I already miss them since they’re with their mother today. With everything going on, I wish they were there today.

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Off to NYC in a couple of days with friends for a much-needed getaway. I’m wishing a little now I had chosen a trip with Curtis instead of the girls, but I couldn’t have known where we would be now. Just have to enjoy the time, enjoy the friendship, enjoy the theatre… And breathe.

 

It’s Family First and Family Last and Family By-and-By

It’s been an eventful few weeks in our house, being topped off this weekend with Curtis’ dad getting the call for his kidney transplant. It was already a crazy, crazy weekend. Another two hockey tournaments (one B winner and one A runner-up) and a practice, the fireman’s breakfast, two hockey parties, laundry, taking the ice rink down, taking the Christmas light down, grocery shopping, plus we brought our dog to his new home (all on top of Curtis being on call). When we got the call, we finished Nolan’s hockey game and arranged for the kids to stay at the neighbour’s house for a sleepover, got coverage for Curtis’ on-call shift, and off to the hospital we went. His sister came the next day to stay the night. I’m happy to say that the surgery went well, and Gary is recovering very well. We made cards for him to put up in his room and brought the kids to see him last night (with a stop at the movies after to see the movie that Reegan wanted to see this weekend). Actually, we got it all done except taking the kids to see Curtis play hockey on Sunday morning. It amazes me how much we can accomplish together. I always get the impression that they don’t have the crazy runaround life with their mom and I sometimes wonder which they prefer. I never ask, but I wonder. Do they like all the stuff we do?

Normally, that much family stuff stresses me out. I’ve been super snappy about Easter with my mom because it’s so hard for me to deal with. And my mom is really hard for me to deal with. And I have to admit I had my (internal) catty moments, but fewer than I expected. I have a lot of my own stuff going on now , but we really managed to pull together. That’s the thing about family, you come together when things get rough. I may have warped feelings on family sometimes, but that’s what you do. What’s funny to me is how his family keeps thanking me… I don’t need a thank you, that’s just what you do. Gary is family so there was no question where’d we be. It’s one of those things that makes you see how they really don’t see me as family.

The highlight of my weekend was my bonding time with Reegan. I wouldn’t say he’s my favourite, but we have our own special relationship. It causes me problems when we go grocery shopping because I always buy too much because of him, but it means a lot to me. Worth the sunglasses he talked us into. lol. He even came home in the car with me last night after the movie. These little moments are the things that makes everything worth it. He chose to come with me. All the stuff with their mom (and with her mom this weekend, apparently it’s genetic), all the craziness… it’s all worth it, when Reegan asks me to read to him.

No kids tonight… off to the gym. Gotta find a way to keep up with them somehow ūüėČ

A New Perspective

I haven’t posted much lately. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy when being a step-mom is such a great thing. Things with his ex are increasingly difficult and I don’t want this to be a daily rant on how I think his ex is a horrible person. That’s as unproductive as it is boring to read.

I had an interesting weekend, which, unfortunately, ended with me losing my patience with the kids. Our hockey weekend was pretty normal, 4 games and 2 practices. Taitum didn’t end up playing hockey because he was still sick. That was a tough choice because he REEEEEEALLLLLYY wanted to play. Curtis eventually had to tell him he got the week off because of his tournament because he was determined to play. (So much for the theory that they don’t like hockey). We all went to watch Nolan’s early-morning game and the ex’s sister was at the arena. She started talking to Reegan and said that her son was supposed to play Nolan’s team last week but Nolan wasn’t there. Reegan looked at her and said, ‘oh yeah, because we were with our mom’. This is her sister. I couldn’t hide the look on my face, so I’m glad she didn’t look at me. I wonder what she thought of that. We signed the kids up for summer sports and for hockey next year and I toed the company line. I never lied, but I expressed that we hope they’ll be able to play more than half the time and I also hope they’ll get the opportunity to play travel (which will be limited if they can’t make it every other week). I hope at least one person sees the truth of what is going on. And I hope that we can make it work so the kids can go.

Sunday Curtis was sick with the same illness that took down the kids. Really sick. Couldn’t get out of bed sick. I just want to express my appreciation for single parents, and for how well Curtis handled everything when I was out entire days¬†for the show. I took all 3 kids to Reegan’s practice to give Curtis some peace and quiet. Now, I think I caused some of my own problems by telling them they could have a treat at the arena, but it got them in the car and us to the arena early. We were the first ones¬†ready to go out on the ice and they were mostly pretty good while we were there. It all went downhill when Nolan bought chips and they had sharing issues. Then we went to get gravol for Curtis and they all wanted junk. When we got home, they all jumped out of the car, leaving all the hockey gear and such in the car,¬†and it was the last straw, I lost my patience with them. I think it all ended up ok. I didn’t lose my mind on them or anything, but Curtis (in his sick state) was a little like ‘whoa… what just happened here’. He even managed to drag his sick butt upstairs and take the reins during bath time when they all climbed in the bathtub and it ended in tears. I appreciated his firm hand there.

You know… I got it all done. Laundry, dinner, lunches, hockey practice. I was completely wiped, but I got it all done. I realized, though, that I take for granted how hands-on Curtis is and how much he is able to handle on his own. Nothing but respect for all those single parents out there. I’ve glibly said that I would be able to do it, and I probably would if I had to, but I don’t know that I would fare so well with 3 kids as a single parent. I’m still exhausted today. It was an eye-opening weekend. I’m very grateful that Curtis is such a great, hands-on dad… and I will learn not to take single-parenting so lightly.

Kids caught in the line of fire

What do you do, as a step-parent, when your step-kids real parent is a bad parent?¬†Ok, so that’s unfair…¬†I can’t say that Kim is entirely a bad parent. She’s not a negligent parent. She clearly cares about the kids, even¬†when they’re not with her. She made all 3 kids valentines when they were with us,¬†(hopefully) so she could spend time with them when they were with her. I also suspect it’s so she can look like the better parent, but there’s no law against that.¬†It wouldn’t be our choice, we would have done them with the kids, but it’s still not bad parenting. The reason I say that she is a bad parent is because¬†she punishes the kids to hurt Curtis.

Kim won’t take the kids to ‘our sports’ on ‘her days’. I understand that’s a bit of a grey area, legally.¬†Her time is her time and she shouldn’t be required to take the kids to things that we sign them up for. The things is …¬†the kids¬†WANT to play and ask her if they can play and she says no. Similarly, she signs them up for ‘her sports’ and says that we are not allowed to take them on ‘our days’, even if the kids want to play and we are willing to take them. She will also not allow us to watch them play ‘her sports’ on ‘her time’. That issue is still outstanding on their custody agreement and has to go back to court. She had said that the kids playing sports was entirely dependent on how well she and Curtis got along. He took that to heart and¬†naively believed they were making headway. (I never believed it).

So, here’s the latest… Today, she found out that¬†Curtis called Taitum’s dentist to confirm some things about his appointment and the charges, insurance, etc. It’s sad that we had to put in their agreement that he has the right to contact any doctors, teachers, etc., but we put it in there so there would be no question as to his rights as an equal parent.¬†Still, when she found out, she has said that he is no longer ‘allowed’ to take Nolan to basketball at the school on ‘our time’ because it is ‘her sport’. She also said summer sports are a no go. All because he called the dentist to ask a question. Curtis has to call their family doctor every few weeks to find out what appointments he didn’t know about. I can only imagine how bad it would be if she knew that.

She seems to need to have all the power, all the control, and to look like the sole parent. She went so far as to lie to get government-funded insurance so she could control that, too.¬†(We have her application, this is not speculation). The moment she feels any perceived power struggle, she lashes out in the only way she knows to get to Curtis, and that’s to use the kids.¬†I could go on and on about the things the kids tell Curtis’ mom about her saying and the things they’re told to keep secret from us and the lies she tells them and other people.

How is this ok? How does the system allow this to happen? What can I do, as a step-parent, to help him and the kids through this? It causes strain on our family, it affects our mental well-being (I know my anxiety is through the roof right now and Curtis has to deal with way more than I can even fathom.) And, forgetting about us… let her do her worst to us… how do we get the kids out of the line of fire. I am so afraid of the long-term damage being¬†caused here.¬†How do we stop her from hurting them to hurt us? Is there anything I can do, is there anything we can do to help this? It looks like we’re headed back to court, but we can’t make her follow the agreement we have now, so how will that even help? What can we do… ?

#ihatevalentinesday

I have no use for Valentine’s Day. They jack the prices up on stuff for a ridiculous holiday made up by advertisers to help people assuage some kind of obligation or guilt. Ugh. Curtis and I went for a very nice date (because I think he can’t get past the obligation), but we didn’t do anything fancy or overpriced. It was a nice date. I wouldn’t dream of turning down a date with my man. And, to his eternal credit, he did manage to make my Valentine’s Day. He got the kids to make me lovely cards and he had picked up some of my favourite chocolates to support a coworker’s kid and save them so each of them could give me one. Reegan’s card almost made me cry. I love these kids.

We didn’t do anything for them for Valentine’s Day, we didn’t even do anything for their classes. We had every intention of doing it, we even asked the kids about what they wanted to do so I could collect all the pieces and we could do it together… and Reegan vehemently insisted he didn’t want to do them and Nolan said that their mom had already done all of them for each of them so we didn’t need to (explaining Reegan’s reaction). So… we didn’t. And part of me was sad. I’m sure hers were lovely, but she did it when we had the kids so the kids had no part of it. I was also looking forward to doing that with them. There was also something liberating about just not doing them. We weren’t fighting with her for the recognition or the shared experience… whatever it is we fight for (sometimes it’s hard to tell). If the kids had still wanted to do them, done, that’s worth fighting for, but I think we chose our battle this time. With all the other junk she is currently pulling each and every day… I kind of feel like one less fight is a win. Not a bad Valentine’s Day at all.

 

Some days are hard

I am struggling with step-motherhood today and I’m not sure why… nothing in particular was said or done, I had a good night with the kids…  it’s just a feeling of helplessness in my situation. The one where Curtis is a man who does not want to have a child with me. I will have to choose whether to be ok with being a step-mother to those boys I love, or being a mother on my own, something I want so desperately. At what point do I have a responsibility to those boys to put them first? At what point am I a parent who makes decisions with their best interests in mind? Is it in their best interest to give up my dream of motherhood for the sake of our family? I don’t feel responsible to Curtis, he knew where I stood going in and it’s his mind that has changed. Ugh. I really need Curtis to get back on board the kid train. I know what I have to do. I just don’t know how long I should give him to realize how this family is worth saving. Or for me to realize that. 

I find that I just have walls up against everyone right now as I retreat into myself. I see familiar behaviour that should act as a warning sign that I’m going to do something dumb as a result of the frustration I’m feeling. Not sure what yet, but I’m on the lookout for destructive behaviours. (More in the picking fights realm than, say, getting into serious trouble). I found this on Facebook… I’m looking at it for inspiration today. Today is one of the hard days. I don’t feel like a fearless warrior, but I want to. 

About This Weekend

It was an interesting weekend, full of ups and downs. First, it was my first show weekend as a step-parent and I’m not sure I nailed it. I stayed out late on Friday night with the director, Tina, and then I missed Nolan’s game in the morning. And he asked why I wasn’t there. Parent fail. I feel pretty crummy about it. Curtis was clearly upset with me, and so he should have been. I didn’t go because I was exhausted, and that was my own fault. I’ve never tried to balance both before, my show weekends have always been about me, about the show, and I need to do better. The show itself was excellent. The kids came on Saturday night and, for the most part, really liked it. Taitum fell asleep, but Nolan and Reegan liked it. I took Reegan up to the booth after and let Nolan and Reegan go on stage to check things out, which they seemed to enjoy. His sister and her husband were also down for the weekend and enjoyed it. And it was great because I was out for most of the weekend so I couldn’t get stressed by having houseguests. Cathy told me this morning that the kids talk about me “all of the time” to their mom. I guess they told Cathy that they told Kim they were going to see my show and her response was ‘don’t talk about her’. That was interesting for me. Kind of threw me off, really. I know they talk about her a little, but I didn’t really think about them talking about me. Or that she would say that. Or maybe that sounds exactly right.

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Nolan and Reegan sword-fighting backstage

I do think having kids and learning to change my approach has made me a better SM. I only had one person tell me that I was mean, and more may have thought it, but mostly I got really nice compliments. And I have the kids to thank for that.

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Me in the booth

After the craziness of the show weekend, we also had a house full of people for the superbowl party, lots of food, lots of kids running around. I think everyone had a good time. It looked like the kids did, which is the only thing we want. I’ve definitely lost them for good as Steelers fans as Curtis’ Patriots won again. That’s all I will say about that, lol. Yuck. An interesting conversation came up at the party, we invited neighbours we don’t know that well, who also know Kim’s sister. She asked specifically about how we handle the kids not being there, do we go to all their games, or whatnot? I answered her honestly, without saying anything bad about Kim, that Kim doesn’t take them so they only play half the time. She said if it was her, she would be showing up at her ex’s house demanding that they would go, I said that Kim would call the cops if we did that. (True story, she’s threatened before). I also told her that Curtis went to court for that and got nowhere. All of those felt like calculated questions, although not presented like that at all so maybe I’m wrong. It’ll be interesting to see what the small town gossip train makes of that if she did ask on purpose.

Speaking of Kim, the lock broke on our front door (while Curtis was on call, I was at the show, and we had a house full of people… eep!). Our neighbour picked up a new one for us and it’s one of those key code locks. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I feel like that’s an invitation for Kim to get in my house. I’m sure she can get the kids to tell her the code and I worry about that… a lot. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of anxious paranoia, or if she’s really capable of that. Our dog is the worst guard dog ever and would love to let her in to our house. If we ever go away, I wonder if we could change the code… the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. But… it will be better for the kids, so here we go…

The new lock led to a conversation about money, of course. We’re struggling right now and Curtis wants to move to a smaller house. In theory, I support that, but I can’t move until everything is settled about us and where we’re going. I need to know we’re on the same page about kids and marriage (because now, apparently, he doesn’t think we need to get married), and that we’re moving towards that. I can’t move, only to move again and break up the family. I think I’ll have an answer soon, although not as soon as I would like. It was a good conversation, and I think will give him some motivation to make a decision – once his therapist comes back from her month off. I went in thinking I was in the same place, but I feel a tiny glimmer like maybe things are a little better. He asked me if he had said “No” to kids, to which I replied, “Yes”. So he clarified that he had not said no since he started therapy and that maybe I wasn’t in exactly the same place as before.

The money thing is a problem. I have a bonus coming and there are a million things I could spend it on and I really want to go to NYC with my friends. I should spend it all on debt payment, but I want to get away, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to go with my friends in case this doesn’t work out and I end up even angrier at him for missing out on things. I know I hurt his feelings when I said that because he wanted us to go away together, so I feel like a giant jerk for that, and now he won’t take any of the money for bills because it’s “my money”. I’m exhausted today. It was a long weekend.

In the words of the great Gomez Addams, let’s be happy, completely happy, and a tiny bit sad.

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The Addams Family Cast

No one is alone

I feel a little better. Funny how a kid throwing up and asking you to rub their back makes you feel like a parent. First vomit experience, btw. It was…gross, lol. Poor Taitum. It’s another helpless feeling when you can’t help stop a kid from throwing up. It’s funny, the thought did enter my mind that he was faking a tummy ache when he didn’t want to eat dinner (it’s a somewhat frequent occurrence in our house), but I did actually believe that this time was for real because he had been saying that all day. I’m glad I didn’t try to force him to eat supper. And I can’t really complain, Curtis did all the heavy lifting. I was on washing machine duty… crap, I think those sheets are still in the wash… Dammit.

The lawyer got back to us and said, basically, that there is nothing we can do. So Kim gets to go on being her awesome self and we have no recourse but for Curtis to call the doctors and dentists and the school and find out what’s happened behind our back that we’ve not been told about and to remind them that it’s 50/50 custody. And somehow she’s spun it to make Curtis look bad. She just gets to keep on lying and no one will stop her.

I also had a really good chat with a friend this morning who said that all parents go through many of the things we go through (even when they’re not divorced – without all the custody stuff). I’m not just saying that because she’s pretty much the only one who reads this… but it made me feel better, not so alone. So thank you, my friend xo. 2017 has been a rough year so far and it makes me both sad and relieved to know that someone else understands.