Holy addiction Batman!!!

Don’t let the photo fool you, this blog is anything but sweet. In one of the many rants I listened to from my good friend Jane this week,  she mentioned that Mary, the older of her two stepdaughters, has a “sugar addiction”.  At first I took this to be Jane exaggerating yet another flaw in Mary’s unpleasant personality, as we have reached a point where Jane can not stand this girl. Everything she says and does sets Jane off and while I do feel much of her frustration is warranted, there are times I just let her vent, say I understand and move on. While I knew that Mary’s diet was less than  ideal, at 16 she has the palette of toddler, living mostly on white foods (pasta, bread, rice) and very little protein aside from hot dogs, but I had never heard of this sugar addiction.

Apparently Mary drinks nothing but iced tea, very sweet iced tea. Now, I am a Southern girl and sweet tea is the “house wine of the South”, but once I pushed for more details, there is nothing sweet about what is going on here. Seems in a one month period, being at their house every other week, Mary consumed an entire FIVE POUND bag of sugar. Since no one else in the house uses sugar other than to bake or cook, this was not found out until Jane went to bake and found the new bag she bought the month before was empty. Dick had a talk with Mary, who of course denied using that much sugar. Within the next two weeks the brown sugar, coconut sugar and Stevia all depleted as well, as no addition regular sugar was purchased. By any standard this is a HUGE problem. But when you take into consideration this is a girl suffering from depression and anxiety, who has been seeing a therapist and started anti-depressant medications in the past six months, my next question was: has Dick mentioned her sugar addiction to Mary’s doctors/therapist. i was shocked to find the answer was “no”.

I have never been a huge consumer of sugar, not in the way Mary is, I prefer my sweets in the form of a tasty pastry, so looked up just how serious sugar in-take on this level can be.  I found that “Scientists have found that sugar is addictive and stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine or heroin. Just like those hard-core drugs, getting off sugar leads to withdrawal and cravings, requiring an actual detox process to wean off.” (Dailyburn.com). When you pair consuming that much granulated white sugar along with the diet of mostly carbs that also convert to sugar, this girl may be better off sorting coke! Ok, maybe she wouldn’t be “better”, but if she were doing “drugs” her parents would actually work to get her off of them, where as this sugar thing is not being taken as serious as it should, in my opinion.

I asked what they did about this, a I know Dick handles things much differently than my husband does with “the girl”, mostly because his daughters have some pretty big issues that we are lucky not to deal with and my husband is a bit better at the role of parent than Dick. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Dick and I love how much he loves my friend Jane and the four of us have a great time together. However, Dick parents out of fear. Fear of his kids being angry or upset with him and fear he will have to deal with his ex-wife. I asked my hubby how, if this had somehow happened at our house, would he have handled it. He said “no more sugar, period”. I tend to agree, yet Dick went online, looked up what the recommended daily sugar intake was and gave Mary a two month “supply”. Now, keep in mind, he gave her the recommended amount  for ALL sugar in one’s diet, so her mostly carb filled diet, which also is heavy in hidden sugars, was not factored in, so she would still be consuming well over the recommended limit. That two month supply was gone in less than two weeks. Once again other sugar products started disappearing  and the rant about Mary that brought this addiction to light was when Dick took the Splenda away from her and she had a breakdown. And all the while, nothing has been said to her therapist about this, which really shocks me since Dick reports back to the doctor on everything. This could explain why Mary reports she is happier at her mom’s house, where she has unlimited access to all her sugar she wants. She complains that her father “controls her”, well, he certainly attempts to control her sugar intake.

This situation got to me thinking, on a few topics actually. Yes, we all know that American’s face soaring obesity rate, due in large part to the consumption sugar and sugary foods, but many younger people have horrible diets, in my option due to the “chicken nugget” culture. When I was growing up there was not the convenience of chicken nuggets at the ready for every meal. Our parents made dinner and we were expected to eat it or, hold on to your seats, we ate nothing. My grandfather had a rule, you try something before you say you don’t like it. I credit he and my grandmother for my love of all kinds of foods and my love of cooking. However, kids today are given the option of a special, convenient meal to avoid meal time tantrums. Yes, there are more single parent household and yes, everyone is busy. But I was raised by a single mom and she only cooked one meal at a time. Much like Mary, these chicken nugget kids crave  processed foods, well beyond the toddler years. If children are not taught about nutrition and balanced diets at a young age and in their homes, where are they expected to learn? While I have no doubt that at 16 Mary fully knows that consuming BAGS of sugar in a few weeks time is not normal nor healthy, no one until now has told her no or why it should not be an option.

Aside from the obvious issue of the long term affects of a sugar addiction, the parenting out of fear and adolescents feelings they are in a position of power is wearing thin on me. We faced and addressed this in our home with the girl, but I feel now, at 13, we have it well in hand and the roles are clearly defined and respected. She is a good and respectful young lady, we are very lucky, but even when the child is more of a challenge, a parent can’t just give up and turn the power over to the kids. I see this so often with my fellow step-parents, the struggle to seeing their spouse cower to a child. Jane’s therapist pointed out that seeing Dick emasculated by his daughter must make him very unattractive in Jane’s eyes. She finally admitted that was true, a revelation she was no prepared to make. But it is only logical and can only be ignored for so long.

I hope Mary gets the help she needs, we joke about being sugar sweet in the South, but this is taking it a bit too far.

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!

Back to School Shopping HELL

Let’s start by clearing up one southern belle myth:  not all belles believe in the power of the flea market or thrift store. Personally, I’m not a fan. I love a good bargain and refuse to pay full price unless it’s an emergency situation. I’m a BIG fan of stores like TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Home Goods, unique and/or designer items at greatly reduced prices. I don’t much care if its last year’s style, I tend to be more of a basics girl who adds flare with accessories, makes keeping the work wardrobe fresh. When it comes to shopping for “The Girl”, Target is one of her favorite stores, so it’s fairly easy to stretch your shopping dollar. For a girl who claims to love going to Target and the mall and who will shake us down for every penny she can to “shop”, trying to get her to commit too and actually purchase while school shopping over the weekend was nothing short of torture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about her seemingly thrifty ways. Apparently her price point is around $15, anything more than that she wouldn’t even consider. With the weather still summer warm and with the school allowing shorts, provided they are long enough to cover ones ass when they bend over, I informed her that we were not going to get much in the way of warm weather clothing just yet. She recently went shopping with her mom, so perhaps in her mind she has plenty of clothes for school. The issue is, they are at mom’s house and anyone in a blended family knows, the back and forth of clothes, sports gear, school items or anything a kid needs/wants with them can be a nightmare. In the past we have had to reach out and ask for clothing to be sent back, as with the sleepover and leaving in school clothes returning in play clothes, we would end up with no inventory and vice versa for her mom. She had gotten a pair of sweatpants while shopping with her mom that she LOVES, so I suggested maybe a couple of more pairs- seems totally logical to me. The eye roll alone was priceless, but no, she didn’t see a need for another pair. Same when the suggestion of leggings or jeans or shorts. I am still not sure why it took me so long to give up making any suggestions, but I know she needed clothes and I wasn’t giving up so easily.

Every dress or skirt I touched was met with a grunt or “it’s cute, but I would never wear it”. That phrase repeated countless times. I did talk her into a cute pair of casual sneakers, my guess is they will never get worn and she will outgrown them and they will end up in the donation bag as clean as they are today. At the end of the day, she got the shoes, 4 t-shirts, a pair of leggings, a few pair of socks and a pack of panties (which I believe is the law when back to school shopping- socks and underwear). This small haul took hours and trips to a few retail establishments. She was happy, I was exhausted and I told her, do not let me hear you say you have nothing to wear to school, as if I do, I will kill you.

What I find funny and I mentioned to her, she will not spend money, MY money, on clothes, but she has no problem asking, whining and almost crying for a beverage from Starbucks (at $5 each) every time we go anywhere.  I think it’s a waste of money and given what she orders is nothing more than a milkshake, it’s not something one should have daily, much less more than once a day.  She had money to go to the mall with friends, where she could have shopped for items for school- all but a $1 that was spent on a bracelet was spent on Starbucks and Chinese food at the food court. She is 13 and has chores to earn the money she has for those outings, so I wasn’t about to tell her she was wrong, but she is at the age where she knows the value of money and that she won’t be given handouts for anything she wants without her earning it, at least in part. The rules are not the same at her mom’s, which does make it a challenge at times, but they have been divorced at this point longer than they were together as a family, so she is used to life in two houses with differing rules at times.

So, that was my back to school shopping hell. I have a short list of things in mind for Christmas as a result of this adventure, but I believe we have officially reached the point where the girl will be getting mostly money and/or gift cards to Christmas so she can do her own shopping. Likely gift cards, as I can’t stomach the idea of her entire Christmas being donated to Starbucks…one beverage at a time.

Don’t like your teen’s mood, wait 5 minutes, it will change.

Actual texts with “The Girl”:

10:05 am: Girl: sends a picture of sleeping dog “Your cow is sleeping with her eyes open and dreaming”
Me: Sleepy cow
Girl: Yes. LOL

10:10am: Girl: I am literally crying rn (right now)
Me: Why? (fearing something is wrong with said dog/cow from texts minutes before)
Girl: Riley isn’t coming back next year
Me: I’m sorry,  why?
Girl: She is going to Barrett (another school). What am I going to do?

Me: That sucks, I’m sorry.

10:12am: Girl: sends another picture of sleeping dog “You do you moo” (yes, my dog’s name is Moo)
Me: Wow, she is sleepy
Girl: LOL. She’s under my comforter . Lol

Seven minutes. Seven minutes and we went from happy-go-lucky girl, in bed (from the photos) playing with the dog to a crying mess and back again. I have said it many times, I love my stepdaughter, but life with a 13-year-old girl is not for the faint of heart. At the same time I was receiving these play-by-play updates on her emotional well-being, I came across a video on Facebook by a blogger mom who showed what life with her teen son is like. The emotional roller-coaster that life with a teen is for those who live with them, but with the reminder that, however hard it is on us, it so much harder for them. I sent the video to my husband, just a digital reminder that we are by no means alone.

We have all been there, we were teens and we survived. Each generation has their own struggles, but some issues of the teenage years are universal. Hormones and emotions go hand-in-hand. I always assumed that girls were worse, one because of  my own experience, followed by living in the same house with my younger sister- I’m still shocked our house was still standing by the time she left for college. Some argue that today’s teens have it worse, that puberty starts earlier due in part to the food we eat (meat and dairy with added hormones). I don’t know, I think it sucked for us and it sucks for the girl and her friends.

When I was a teen my room was a mess, always. I hated to clean it and would always find a way around doing it until threatened with life and limb to clean it up. My stepdaughter is no different, daily chores are an ongoing battle. I know that the daily request via text to let her know when I leave work is so she can rush around getting everything done before we get home, never mind she has been home all day. Few teens make cleanliness a priority, but one thing I am very grateful for is the girl is not one that lets personal hygiene slip. My friend Jane’s oldest stepdaughter, Mary, will go days without showering and longer without washing her hair. It will get to the embarrassing point when her father will have to let her know she smells and teachers have reached out to them about this problem. Dick and Jane have money, so that is not an issue, yet Mary not only will not bathe, she will wear dirty clothes for an entire week. To me this is bizarre and something I only thought parent’s of teen boys dealt with, as we all know, boys are gross.

One thing I do think is harder for teens today is dealing with constant contact via electronics and social media. Yes, I spent hours on the phone with my friends at her age, but now they are doing face to face chats, often in groups- while she may be in her room alone, by stepdaughter has very little true “alone” time during her waking hours. This constant contact has made it so that she is dependent upon it. I can see the anxiety in her when a friend doesn’t reply instantly to a message or she is has the rare occasion of being disconnected from her peers. While it hasn’t been a major issue for us, cyber bullying is a real problem, with kids her age or younger committing suicide due to the pressures they face online, as well as in real life. They are unable to escape, the bullies at school literally come into their homes via social media. I know the girl has shared with me more than one instance of someone who she felt was as friend sending her nasty texts or excluding her from things- exclusion is one the most effective way teens bully each other.

My stepdaughter is  loving and gets  attached very quickly to her friends. I love this about her, but also see how these attachments cause her to be a target of mean girl behaviors for her “friends”. Teen girls can only have a pack that is so big, just one extra body and the balance is thrown completely off. Randomly girls will be cast out for whatever reason, when it is the girl, it crushes her and she struggles to rationalize it. Within day, if not sooner, she is back in the fold, happy to be there and quickly forgets the pain inflected upon her by her “friends”. I want to tell her to drop them like a bad habit, but while I may be old in her eyes, I still remember the delicate balance that is middle school. Recently I had an issue with a mean girl at work, I was able to share that with the girl, part to prove to that some mean girls never grow out of that bullying behavior and let her know that when I say I understand, I really do.

We, my husband and myself as well as Ursula (the girl’s mother), are very lucky that she is open to talk with all of us about what is going on in her world. I hope that continues and she knows that we always there for her. She is 13, so I fully realize that however hard we feel it has been thus far, we have only just begun and the road is going to get far more bumpy before it smooths out. I fear what it is going to be like when boys become a real issue, not sure who that is going to be harder on, the girl or her father…stay tuned.

 

Lord help that child

I have said it before and I mean it, I love my stepdaughter. That being said, there are things she does that drive me crazy and from what I can tell, they are pretty typical behaviors for her age (13) and they drive all parental types crazy. Today’s example: not being able to find something that is literally right in front of her.

My stepdaughter has a fairly full summer agenda for a 13-year-old. She had camp, sports practices and meets, sleepovers and outings with friends. Many of these things cost money and at our house there are a chores/responsibilities that must be completed to earn the funds to have the fun. To help her manage her time and responsibilities,  we leave a list daily of what needs to be accomplished before she leaves. This has been a struggle for her, as she, like many of her peers, would prefer to sleep late and watch YouTube until the very last second before walking out the door.  Her list today included cleaning the windows on the kitchen doors. Knowing this would be met with texts and likely a call as to what she needed to use to clean said windows and where it could be located (all cleaning supplied are under the kitchen sink, yet she asks, EVERY SINGLE TIME), I put the window cleaner on the kitchen counter, next to the sink, by the paper towels were it could not be missed.

I did not hear from her, so so around lunch time  I asked my husband if he had heard from her. He said he had, and I quote “she couldn’t find the window cleaner”. What? How is that remotely possible?  When I say it was in plain view, I mean it could not have been in a more obvious location. I told him “I put it on the counter, how did she miss it?” Being her loving father, he looks for some logical answer to my sarcastic question, “I guess she was looking under the sink”. What? Did she walk into the kitchen and approach the sink with her eyes closed? Had she not eaten or had anything to drink (trust me, this is NOT the case, at 13, girls eat as much as boys)? There is literally no way humanly possible for her to have missed the large bottle of blue liquid staring at her from the kitchen counter.

“If it had been a snake, it would have bit you”- I could hear my grandfather’s voice in my head. We have all lazily looked for something, throwing our hands up and asking for help when the task of looking seems too much, only to be made to feel silly that whatever it was could be found in plain sight. This drove my grandfather insane, as he had no patience for whiny, needy children, a trait I have inherited from him. God love her, my stepdaughter gets to assume my role as I have now assumed my grandfather’s. But like he was with me, I want to help her become independent and able to think and do for herself.  Yes, she found the cleaner and I can only assume she used it to accomplish her task, but I can’t help laugh at the fact that in trying to make it easier for her, somehow it became more difficult.