The moment hell froze over

Do you feel it, the unexplained chill in the air. Yes, it’s still winter, since the ground-hog saw his shadow and we are looking at six more weeks of winter, but the chill I’m talking about is not weather related, my friends, hell has frozen over! For the past six and a half years, I have co-existed with Ursula, “The Girl”‘s mom, usually doing all I can to avoid her. She has always been that “fake nice” for show when we are in public, but 1:1 dealings have been short, judgmental and  self-serving, at that is the nicest way I can put it. As “The Girl” has gotten older, things have eased some, mostly because contact with Ursula is less frequent and when it happens it has an actual purpose, not just a way to maintain her control over my now husband and our lives.

However, over the past week thing have taken a rare turn in the blended family world. First Ursula was at my office meeting with a group completely unrelated to me, I actually had no idea she was here. She sent me a text, upfront admitted it was shameless and asked if I could validate parking for and a few co-workers. I told her sure, they work for a non-profit, I didn’t consider it a favor to her as much as a good deed for a good cause. Plus, when I meet her in the lobby, she was very kind in noticing and complimenting my weight loss, which was very nice to hear, especially from her given her history with struggling with her own weight issues.

The next day I got a call from her on my cell, which NEVER happens unless The Girl is with her and her phone is not handy. Also, The Girl was in school, so there was no reason to be calling me, but I answered thinking maybe it was an emergency of some sort and she couldn’t contact my husband. To my surprise, it was a very nice and civil heads up. The organization she works for is having a fundraising event and when The Girl was with Ursula at a planning meeting she mentioned to her mom that the work they were doing for the vent was right up my alley and that I was very good with the creative parts they need to finish. She asked Ursula if she could invite me to join the team or if that would be too awkward. Ursula, who for all her faults has always acknowledged how much her daughter loves me and the nice things I do for her, she said that was fine. The call was to let me know The Girl would be inviting me and that she had no issues at all, they would welcome my help.

I agreed to go. One, for The Girl, she was very excited I accepted and also thanked me for being so nice in helping with the parking. Second, I need to volunteer for a cause for my company’s wellness program, so this was an easy way to do that. Last night I picked the The Girl up after school and headed to her mom’s office. Ursula as very nice, made me feel welcomed and that my assistance was appreciated. Then, just when she thought I had let my guard down or become numb due to hell freezing over, she hit me with a zinger, her backhand way of insulting others with a sugar sweet spin or in a joking manner thinking people don’t notice. Some may not, I do. After complimenting my input, she added “too bad you have horrible taste in men”- a very obvious dig as my husband. I did not miss a beat, two belles can play this game, I smiled with a slight tilt of my head and said “Just following your lead Ursula”. We both gave a fake laugh and moved on. The rest of the evening was productive and dare I say, pleasant. I enjoyed the project and would do it again if asked.

When I got home I shared with my husband how the night went, horrible taste in men and all. I told him I really hope this is the new path we are on, for The Girl mostly, as it has to be nice to have your blended family together peacefully, and for the adult. Six years of tension is a lot to deal with and sometimes you just have to LET IT GO!  Yes, the song from Frozen is running through my head, guess it just goes with the icy territory.


Bitch, advice, ignore…repeat

This morning I woke up to a string of texts from my friend Jane, as I do most mornings. The topic, as it is most morning, Jane’s on-going frustration with Mary, Dick’s oldest daughter. It is Thursday and this is the third morning this week, because they have the girls, that I have had the same discussion with Jane. And not just this week, pretty much every other week for as long as I can recall. To be clear, I totally understand Jane’s frustration, if I were in her place I don’t think I would have lasted as long.  While the life of a step-parent is difficult, Jane’s is damn near impossible, especially when it comes to Mary.

I have touched on Mary in previous blogs, but let’s give this girl a deep-dive, shall we. She is about to turn 16 years old and while most “normal” girls her age are all about boys, shopping, spending time with friends and getting their driver’s license, Mary has no interest, in any of those things. She has told Dick she has no interest getting her license, hates to shop, and she has no real friends. Now, before anyone get all sappy feeling sorry for poor little Mary, she has no friends because she chooses not to. She is artistic, very talented in fact, but she has zero interest in taking classes to develop those talents. She makes zero effort to socialize and when she does, it is more with her sister’s friends who are a few years younger. She is smart and can told a conversation on a variety of topics, I know this for a fact, I’ve had conversations with her, but unless she is 100% engaged and in control of the discussion, she will sit, not just quietly, but uncomfortably awkward, to the point the at others are uncomfortable as well. She is hateful and rude to her sister, Jane and Dick, and due to her recent diagnosis of depression, no one will say anything to upset her. Now, I am not making light of depression or mental illness. I myself have suffered with bouts of depression and anxiety and have a family history of other mental health issues- but with Mary, I see more a manipulative teen working her parents and therapists against each other to keep anyone from really making her do anything to improve her situation and relationships.

For the past year Mary has been openly dismissive (at best), rude and hateful to Jane. The reasons have been analyzed in countless discussion between Jane and I, between Dick and the therapist, between Dick and Jane, even between Dick, Jane, myself and my husband- literally nothing has changed, other than Mary is more brazen and feels more in control of the adults in her life. Dick has voiced his frustrations with the main therapist that Mary has been working with, telling her that the suggestions to rebuild the relationship with his daughter are falling short and expressing concern for behaviors he is witnessing. Just last week in fact, he sent a detailed email about his concerns, to which the therapist replied that the process takes time and to be patient. This week, she tells him that Mary can cut back sessions to twice a month vs. weekly. Hmmmm, how odd that Dick sees no improvement, actually in some areas things are worse and now they are going to cut back on sessions. I have told Jane and Dick that I feel Mary is manipulating the therapist, telling her what she feels is the “right thing to say” to convince her that she is fine and doesn’t need therapy (which she has been against from the start, but it was ordered by the court due to the uncooperative nature of the family dynamic between the girls’ parents).

I feel like Jane is on a merry-go-round, an endless loop of bitching about Mary, asking for advice, ignoring the advice and repeating the same pattern day after day. I want to be there for Jane, as I know she has few, if any, other friends who understand the life of a stepmom, but it’s getting exhausting. I have told Jane to disengage. Mary is old enough to take care of herself, make her own meals, do her laundry and whatever else she needs. Anything more, she  needs to ask her father. If Mary can not be civil, then there is no reason for Jane to be her chauffeur or maid. I’ve suggested focusing solely on her relationship with the younger daughter, Sue. Make plans to do things outside of the house with Sue on the weeks the girls are home (as Jane does not work) vs. feeling you are a hostage in your own home. I said that maybe seeing the benefit Sue is getting from being decent may make Mary rethink her choices with regards to her attitude. Nope- day in and day out Jane sits at home fuming over how Mary will grunt if spoken to or literally hide to avoid engaging with Jane in any way (yes, Mary hid in the pantry the other day thinking Jane had left the house!). I couldn’t live that way. Life with “the girl” hasn’t always been easy, but there has always been civility in our home and my husband has always made sure I was treated with respect.

So, I’m at a loss. I want to be a good friend, but I’m literally worn out. I know that sounds selfish, Jane is actually living this nightmare, not just dealing with texts, calls and late nights with lots of talk and even more adult beverages. I guess I will continue to do as I have been, listen, offer encouragement and suggestions, then vent to you fine folks to I can purge until the next round. Cheers!

The summertime blues

I’m not a fan of summer. There, I said it. Once you are past the point of a three-month vacation, the magic of summer quickly fades. I’m a fair-skinned ginger, so the sun has never been my friend. My ideal temperature is 72 degrees, maybe a bit warmer if you have a nice breeze, but once the temperature reaches upwards of 80 and stays there for days on end, I’m happy to stay in the comfort of the air conditioning.

Another reason I dislike summer, as a stepmom, are the endless summer scheduling battles. During the school year there is structure and no need to worry about the day-to-day plans for “the girl”, who is now 13 and not in a regular camp or childcare situation. My husband and I work in offices, with normal 8-5 office hours. We have some flexibility here and there, but can’t take off early every day for swim practice runs or other activities her mom signs her up for.  Then you have the scheduling of vacations, which never neatly work out on the scheduled weeks, we must always juggle. This battle is endless and while I should be used to it now, after all these years, the dread looms as the last day of school approaches.

I guess I should be grateful that we have gotten to a point in this blended family nightmare where summer is really the only time of year were constant communication with “the ex” is necessary, well, summer and holidays I should say. In the past it was endless and constant. And 97% was unnecessary. The ex is a controlling sort- no matter what my husband says she will twist it into an argument for no reason other than to control the situation, even if in the end she agrees with him, she has to take the longest route possible. I honestly think what she misses most about being married is making him miserable, so she takes her opportunities where she can get them these days.

In addition to the nightmare of dealing with the ex, we have teen drama and “I’m bored”. Heaven help me if I had said I was bored growing up. A list of chores to keep me busy all summer would fall from the sky. No suggestion is good enough, unless it requires us to take time off work to provide transportation to half the kids in town or a bank loan to fund an event. We are not wealthy and even if we were I’m not of the thinking that kids should be given everything without earning it. My stepdaughter has responsibilities around the house and when she wants money to do special things, we come up with additional chores for her to earn the money. I’m still shocked she didn’t call CPS on us for the suggestion she earn money for things she wants to do- how horrible we are!

I know I sound old when I say “kids today….”, but I do see a huge difference in the way kids are both treated and how they behave compared to when I was growing up. I didn’t expect the adults in my life to entertain me 24/7 nor did I expect to have activities planned for me. Summers were spent playing with my friends. We had family trips for a week or two and there were the occasional special outings with friends, but for the most part it was three months of heading out after breakfast, maybe coming home for lunch and back in for dinner. Often we would head back out after until dark. Yes, times have changed and many folks don’t have the same connection to their community we had growing up, however the suggestion of my stepdaughter to even sit outside or take the dog for a walk is met with shock and disdain. She has a phone, a laptop, every cable channel known to man and yet, she is BORED. Oh, and starving. House full of food and she is starving and thinks we should leave her money so she can walk to get fast food (that she will leave the house and walk for).

So, while some do countdowns for the start of summer vacation, I’m counting down to the start of school for next year…. 79 days 🙂