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.


New Year, same drama

It has been a while since I’ve given an update on Dick and Jane. Not much has changed with regards to Dick’s girls, Mary and Sue. The younger, Sue, still refused to spend any time with her father, with the exception of a Christmas dinner with him and her sister, but I maintain that was simply to get whatever gift he was giving, it was Christmas after all. Jane was sure there was more to it, as he always does. Just before the holidays Dick’s lawyer suggested that a “friend of the court” be appointed on the girls’ behalf. This would be someone who could advise the court as to the what is in the best interest of the girls, without an emotional attachment or financial bias. A motion was submitted in mid-December, with notice of the hearing date in early January received just before Christmas. Jane was sure that Medusa had told the girls and convinced Sue to see her father for Christmas as a way to prove that things were fine and no appointment by the court for the kids was needed. Personally, it think Jane gives Medusa way too much credit, this was a selfish act by a manipulative girl to get “stuff” after months of refusing to see or even speak to her father, going so far as to run and hide when she sees him.

At this point I truly feel that both parents have failed these girls. I can understand why Dick felt that living with their mother full time was best, given the emotional outbursts, threats of self harm, lack of communication from either child, that doesn’t mean you just stop being involved. Mary, the older daughter, had seemed to open up and engage with her father once she wasn’t made to stay in his home. She talked to him daily and spent more time with him than she had in months. Mary maintains that while life at mom’s house is not perfect, not having to go back and forth, with two very different sets of rules and expectations was much better and made her life easier. Because Mary was willing to spend time with Dick, he maintained responsibility for taking her to her weekly therapy sessions and any other appoints she had, in addition to weekly dinners and hanging out on most weekends However, while he has done well with Mary, Sue is a very different situation. Aside from sending texts that are not replied to or calls that are not answered, Dick has done little to keep involved in Sue’s life. She has a medical condition which she often uses as an excuse to miss school, therapy appointments, pretty much anything she doesn’t want to do. Mary would mention that Sue had missed school, yet he made no effort to check with school on her attendance or academic progress (its a small private school with no online reporting for parents) or check with the doctors as to her treatment plans.

After comments Mary made about Medusa having no control over Sue to make her attended school and given the courts are now involved since the advocate for the girls was approved, Dick is looking into things. This school year there have been 86 school days, Sue has missed over 30 days. She also missed a shadow day/entrance exam, at the high school she is expected to attend next year.  The reason for all of the absences  is her health, however upon checking into that, her primary doctor has not seen in her in months and the new treatment she started just prior to the living arrangement was stopped with no explanation. By all accounts Medusa has no control over Sue, she tries to be her friend, not her parent and with Dick out of the picture, that leaves this troubled girl with no parents to look out for her.

Jane has been pushing Dick to check with Sue’s school and doctors, but Dick has once gain become resentful of anything Jane has to say about his kids. My thought is Dick never thought things would turn out like this. He likely thought the girls would find life with mom was not as ideal as they had hoped and they would be willing to discuss the issues that to got them to that place, resume family therapy and go back to the old visitation where he would be able to monitor things like school attendance and work as well as Sue’s medical issues. But that has not been the case and now I feel he blames Jane for the situation.

This morning Jane shared with me that she informed Dick that since Sue is part of their family plan for internet usage, she could tell that she had not been at school last Thursday, as she was logged in online for over 6 hours. She could also see her internet search history, given the parental controls they had put in place. Dick became angry, said that was an invasion of Sue’s privacy. Really? Your 14 refuses to speak to you unless you are giving her gift, she has missed over a month of school and is not following her treatment plan, yet you have no interest in using the tools available to you to get some insight into what might be going on with your kid? Sorry Dick, lame. For all of Jane’s faults, she’s is not to blame for any of this. Dick and Medusa have always been more focused on their hatred for each other than what is in the best interest for their kids. The girls know this, they have used it to manipulate their parents, now to the point that Sue is not made to attend school or take care of herself as the doctors have suggested.

This is a textbook example of how being a friend to your kids fails them. Kids need parents and structure. Without those things they are left to learn on their own, which many simply don’t. I have no idea what will end up happening. I can only hope the friend of the court will be able to help get both girls into a better place developmentally, as neither is prepared for the next phase of life.

Adventures in babysitting and other teen financial woes

“The Girl” has gotten to the age were she is being asked to babysit, she will be 14 soon. While she is responsible, she can barely do for herself most of the time, so I’m leery of her caring for others, but hey, she’s not my kid nor is she watching my kids (although she does watch my babies, aka dogs, for a few hours after school when she is home).

As a teen she also has a need for funds to buy the things she wants and do the things with her friends she wants to do. At our house those funds need to be earned, for the most part, as she needs to learn the value of money and responsibility. This has been an ongoing battle, which I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. We had a list of routine chores for her and if completed each week, she received an allowance. This worked for a while, but honestly, managing the list was more work for me than just doing the work myself. I typed up the list, on a grid so she could easily check the items off. She had to be reminded constantly and the excuses and arguments were endless. The system was designed for her to complete her daily tasks before we got home so we could start dinner eat and spend time together as a family. This rarely happened. Then the weekend would roll around and she would be mad that she was not getting her money since she did little or nothing. Finally she got to a point were she just didn’t do the chores when she didn’t need money, so we did away with the system.

Over the past several months the deal has been, the chores she used to get an allowance for are to be done, without argument or payment, these are things that members of a family do. There are larger jobs that she can do for larger sums of money. Most are undesirable: yard work mostly. At the beginning of each week she is told what extra chores are available for her and how much she will be paid upon completion (no payment in advance, learned that lesson the hard way). She can decide when making her plans if she wants to earn the money, use money she may have from her moms or babysitting or plan things with friends that don’t cost money. On our end, nothing is last-minute or unclear.

Last week, the above happened as always. She was told she could remove the leaves from the back patio (they collect under the stairs, in the corners and under the table) and the three flower beds around the house. She put it off all week, then Saturday when her plans changed, she needed cash, fast. Full disclosure, she didn’t NEED cash, she had plenty, but calmed she had that “spent” and couldn’t use it. She had two options: use her cash or get to work. In typical teen fashion she waited until after 2:00pm on Saturday to start (she was supposed to leave at 6:00) and for the first hour she maybe worked 20 minutes. Then whining started. “This is hard”, “How long have I been working?”, my personal favorite, “I need a raise”.  I wasn’t getting involved. I have very little patience for the entitled brat behavior. Long story short: she completed a 4th of the work. She was given part of the money for the evening, only because her father was taking some of her friends, so he wasn’t going to ruin everyone’s night. The next time she is home she has to finish the other 3/4 and with no payment. She screwed herself, I don’t feel sorry for her.

Next up, babysitting on New Years Eve.
Seems a family two doors down from her mom’s house asked her to babysit NYE. She is with us that weekend, so she asked us. She was told they would have to bring her home when they got in, which she was SHOCKED we would suggest such a thing. I told her that was very typical and we were not planning our evening around the plans of people we don’t even know (but her mom does). She wasn’t happy, again, she wants the money. I told her we were willing to drop her at her mom’s house *(who will be out of town for the holiday) on our way to our dinner, then could walk down and they could bring her home. She said she could not ask them that, so she just declined the job.

What the hell? How is it our responsibility to shuttle her around, on NYE no less? She is starting high school in the fall, its well past time for her to think the world revolves solely around her and that we are expected to do what she wants, when we want, no questions asked. She asked for money for Christmas, which I’m not keen on , more so now since money is really becoming the hot button in our house. Do you think getting her Monopoly and pointing out that there is “money” in the game will work? 😉

Well, they finally did it

In my many blogs about my friends, Dick and Jane, the running theme has been dad always gives in. While I’m not a parent, I get why, even if I don’t agree with it. They are his kids. No matter what they do or say, he wants to be part of their lives, and them in his, and he has to believe they are better than the behavior they have exhibited. In my last blog things had taken a turn for the worst with his younger daughter, Sue. Dick allowed her a “mental health day” home from school after she threw what was nothing more than a tantrum over a question about a school project being asked at the dinner table. Dick has admitted that was a mistake, especially given how things got so much worse after. My guess is many of Dick’s decisions are made in hopes that his daughters will see the effort he is making to “hear them” and given them some say in their lives, as they claim he is controlling (you know, with making them bathe and attend school- insert eye roll here).

Much of last week the girls were allowed to come and go between their parents’ homes as they pleased- something that had not been allowed in the past, but given how unhappy they both have expressed being in Dick and Jane’s home, why not allow them extra time with mom (aka Medusa). After giving them that control and buying a small fortune in art supplies for Mary to do portraits at a local art fair, Dick hoped for a peaceful weekend. Poor delusional man. After taking Mary to the art fair Saturday morning he returned home to have a talk with Sue about events over the week. She had not been open to talking to him earlier, which led to her stress and need for the aforementioned “mental health day”. Sue said she didn’t want to talk if Jane was going to present, to his credit, Dick told her no, it was Jane’s home too and this affected her as much as anyone, so she was most certainly being part of the discussion. Acting more like a 3-year-old vs. a 13-year-old, she sat with her hands over her face refusing to talk. When she finally did speak it was to say that her mom was there. Yep, Sue had texted mommy and without conferring with Dick, Medusa showed up at their house to take Sue with her. Dick went out and sent his ex-wife away, returning to the house to FINALLY take back some of the parental power he handed over to his girls on a silver platter long ago.

Things escalated quickly with Sue making wild claims as to why she is so unhappy in their home and when they didn’t just except her crazy lies about Jane forcing her only wear clothes she picks out for her and how her father controls every aspect of her life, she ran (yes, RAN) from the house saying she was going to kill herself. Dick went after her, but rather than coddle her and give her whatever she wanted to make her stop saying such hurtful things, he called her mother and told her to come get her- however if she did, she was to keep her. Medusa, not one to give up her social life freely pushed back that she couldn’t keep her overnight, but could spend the afternoon claiming her down. Dick stood firm, if she took her from his house, she was not to return. Being backed in a corner, not wanting to say no in from of her daughter, Medusa agreed.

In the past Dick has said he would never allow the girls to live with Medusa full-time, that it was giving in to both their mother’s coddling and the girls desire to live with no rules or responsibility. I guess with the realization that Sue had been lying for months about being happy with him and Jane only to find out she hates them both and the time in their home is torture, causing her to threaten to kill herself rather than stay there, on top of the journal in with Mary said pretty much the same, he hit that point. He sent an email to their mother saying, on a temporary basis, he feels the girls should stay with her full-time given the threats of self harm, or worse. He also said they will be returning to family therapy to work on these issues. Family therapy had been set aside after both girls expressed the desire to have individual therapy on their own.  Medusa agreed, in theory, but she was pushing for more details regarding the arrangement, all self-serving, not about the girls. He told her that he was meeting with the family therapist on Friday to discuss details and he would meet with the girls over the weekend to explain it to them.

I’m sure what Medusa is concerned with is money, plain and simple. I know a lot of divorced parents and let me say, Medusa has the sweetest deal by far, especially considering infidelity on HER part was the final nail in their marriage’s coffin. She got a lump sum settlement that was enough for her buy her home outright, so no mortgage. Dick paid of the car she had at the time and still has, so no car payment. Dick carries the kids on his insurance and pays ALL out-of-pocket for medical/dental- every co-pay, prescription, EVERYTHING. He pays for tuition for both private schools and any extra school fees. The only expenses Medusa has for her kids is half of any extra curricular activities (which at this time neither girl does) and their needs when in her home (food, clothing, etc). In addition, to all that, she gets $2000 per month in child support, which comes out to $1000  per week that she has them with their 50/50 arrangement. Dick was more than generous when they divorced, for the sake of his kids, kids who treat him like dirt, in large part because their mom has made him out to be the villain at a every opportunity. So now, they have done it, they finally pushed him to cave and give them exactly what they want- but what they didn’t count on is what they will be giving up. Medusa claims to be broke, so all the luxuries the girls enjoyed while in Dick’s care will be gone. No more trips to the coffee shop.  No more cable tv with every channel. No more shopping for expensive art supplies, clothes or make-up. No more vacations to tropical locations. Dick will continue to pay for their cell phones service, however if their phones break or go missing, it will be on mom to figure out a replacement. Same for the fancy laptop Mary enjoys, mom will need to figure out a way to extend the photo editing software when the year is up that dad paid for. But they will be free of their horrible father, evil stepmonster and the prison like environment they made life in their house to be.

And Medusa will not get another cent. In our state child support is not based on the amount of time the children are with each parent. Doubling the time she has with the kids will not translate into double the support. Based on the state calculations, Medusa is currently receiving more than what is typically awarded- so she needs to consider herself lucky and figure out how to live within her means. My guess is that will mean a lot of using the word “no”, which the girls hate to hear, but this is what THEY wanted, all three of them. They will not be happy however. The reason family therapy was put aside was the therapist suggested that they make more effort and change to make their situations better. For years Dick and Jane had been the ones making all the changes, doing everything the therapists suggested to make the girls happier in their home- nothing worked. So they will go back, my guess is the girls will not speak, they will sick in silence for each session. At this point I don’t know if these girls are capable of being happy, which is sad.

Dick is heartbroken, but feels he has done all he can and its time to take this drastic step. His marriage was on the line, as well as the safety of both daughters if their threats were to be believed. He is  good man, with a good heart and the best of intentions, but you can only be pushed so far…. Dick has been pushed past that point.

Wow…. just WOW!

For those who have followed my blog, the endless drama with my friend Jane, her husband Dick and his daughters, Mary and Sue provide an endless supply of blog worthy material. When last we checked in on the family Mary’s journal had been left in plan sight and was filled with dark thoughts and talk of death. For the better part of the past year, all attention has been focused on Mary and her anxiety and depression, which does not seem to be getting better, so much so the girls’ mother, Medusa, reached out to Dick for a meeting with Mary’s psychiatrist. Medusa has gone out of her way to work against Dick when it comes to parenting and their children, so it’s a rare thing for her to suggest a united front. They met and very little came of it;  more therapy, encourage her to be more open (which to this point she has not been, at all) and a possible evaluation in a few months if that doesn’t help.

During this time, Sue, the younger daughter, has become closer with Jane and expressed on numerous occasions that she is happier in her father’s home than at her mom’s. One reason is she feels that her mom let Mary get away with doing what she wants; no chores, be mean to Sue, not attend school if she is stressed. Sue has a medical condition that causes her great pain and other issues, so she too misses a great deal of school (over 30 days last year, so much so both parents were called in multiple times to discuss). Part of me felt that Mary was being over dramatic with her issues to gain some of the attention that Sue had been getting for years due to her medical condition, as it is normal for kids to compete for parents’ attention. Now the tables have turned, Mary is getting the bulk of the parental attention and concern, and it seems Sue is not happy.

The girls returned to Dick and Jane’s home on Sunday. Monday was Jane’s birthday and neither girl made mention of that fact until Sue came down just before bed to wish her a happy birthday. Sue said she had not forgotten, but had not been feeling well. My guess was she was laying the ground work to miss yet another day of school (she has already missed 4 days this year, this is her 3rd week of classes). Tuesday was the meeting with Mary’s team of therapists and Wednesday Sue had a meltdown at dinner. Out of the blue she got angry when discussing a school project that had been discussed multiple times. At first it appeared to be a typical hormonal teen outburst, but shortly after while in a full sobbing breakdown she told her father she had been pretending to be happy at his house, that she felt she had to be the perfect child to be loved because Mary was so messed up and only her mother understood her. Wow… just WOW. Literally the week before this same girl was texting Jane telling her how her mom and her were once again arguing and she really wanted to live with her father full-time. This has been going on for months , yet NOW she claims it was all lies? I am not buying it. To add to the WOW factor, she woke up this morning and told her father she needed a “mental health” day off from school. That she just couldn’t deal with it and she was stressed over her father trying to control her life. WHAT THE HELL?!?!!? Keep in mind, this kid has missed 4 days in less than 3 weeks and with the holiday she already has had an extra day off this week. She is 13, it not “controlling”, it’s called GOING TO SCHOOL!

Sadly, Dick let her stay home. WOW

There is so much about all  this that makes me go WOW. Personally, given that every member of this family has their own therapist, as well as a family therapist, they need have come real talk, together. Dick needs to take control back from his kids. I say call their bluffs. Tell them that they need to deal with the reality of life in his house. Go to school, treat the other members of the house with respect and civility and do the minimal household chores they have been asked to do (which is pretty much limited to cleaning up after themselves). If they are so unhappy and only mommy understands them, let them try living with her full-time. My guess is they will miss the nice home and all that comes along with it. But Dick will never do that, he parents out of fear and this will continue, sadly until Jane leaves most likely. So, WOW to a grown man being afraid to stand up to his kids.

Jane is now actively looking at job opportunities out-of-state. WOW. I really never thought it would come this, but I can’t say I blame her. Literally EVERYDAY it is something else, and not a small something, but big major shit. She’s not an evil stepmother. She has done her very best to be a positive influence in these girls’ lives, only to have it thrown in her face and be told any kindness showed her was faked. While I know Dick loves her, at what point do you see that your kids are jerks who are looking to ruin your life for no real reason, not like mom and dad will get back together if Jane were to be out of the picture. It’s all so sad, for everyone, but Dick is doing no one any favors by allowing this behavior to continue.

So, wow… just WOW.

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.” ( 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!