Step Monster

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I am so tired. Emotionally. I do not want to get out of bed because I’m not sure I have the energy to be a step mom today. I feel like every few months I’m at my wits end, sobbing in the bathroom into a glass of wine, resisting the urge to call my own step mother, and best friend to tell her I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how she managed, how in the hell she didn’t run away. I think, actually at one point she did run away. I don’t blame her. I can’t say whether it was harder for her to not have her own children, it was definitely a piece that was missing, but maybe it was a blessing for my sister and I? We needed all of her heart.

When I came into this relationship I already had my daughter, and my husband had a daughter and a son. I liked his kids immediately, and they liked me. I was thrilled to become a step mom, having been raised by one, I felt like maybe it was preparation for my future as a step mom. Not everyone is lucky enough to be raised by a step parent that they actually look up to. (It certainly wasn’t always like this, there were times that I think we hated each other, and years that I made her life miserable.) It didn’t occur to me that my life would turn into a fight. A constant fight for the impossible. I had been a stay at home mom, an attachment parenting mom. I was and am deeply connected to my daughter. I had not thought a whole lot about how I would parent her as she grew up, because I was taking it one day at a time. (When she was three I was convinced she was possessed, turns out she was just three… But I spent hours on the phone and the internet trying to figure out what to do.) Suddenly I had a 7 year old and a 5 year old, and my 3 three year old. I figured I would keep doing what I was doing, I tried to fit into their life as best I could, but there really was no place for me. The family was so used to taking care of each other that I was only really needed as a babysitter. Feeling like a fish out of water I began to make small changes in our household, there had to be a way to make us a family. Initially it was health. I threw out all the packaged, boxed and canned food and worked tirelessly on changing their diet. I wasn’t comfortable feeding my child TV dinners, and I thought it was the loving thing to nourish my new family. Well, that backfired. I ended up becoming the enemy of the in-laws and extended family. Instead of backing me up, they decided to lie, and sneak around, teaching my kids that I do not deserve respect.

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That was 3 years ago, since then we have had similar struggles, and they seem to be worse and more frequent. Between encouraging my kids to lie to me and my husband, and actually lying to us, it’s impossible. My husband is so used to his family disrespecting each other that he doesn’t see the problem. Because he doesn’t see it, he thinks I overreact. He feels I should just let it go, because they will never change. I would do that if it didn’t directly effect the way his kids treat me.

You can see, my husband is generally more relaxed, he’s not a rule enforcer. The only time he really pushes it is dependent upon his mood, or what is necessary, like if we have to go and the kids are messing around, THEN the dad voice comes out and everyone scrambles. I prefer that the children are obedient and don’t require “dad voice”. I am aware that as parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our children and teach them to be decent human beings. (The jury for me is still out on The Lord of the Flies, but watching my step son, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t hesitate to eat his friend.) It seems I worry endlessly about who these kids will be as adults and I am scared. Honestly scared. I see a child with no conscience. And I believe it’s our job (and I mean EVERY adult) to teach children empathy. We are not all born with the gift of empathy, and if you grow up in a household where it’s every man for himself… and that’s kind of the environment I see. The problem is, I seem to be the only immediate family who sees a problem and I go back and forth between just letting it be, and then being horrified and feeling a deep seeded need fix the problem.

I wonder if I didn’t have my own daughter, and actual horse in the race, maybe I would just let it go, be a babysitter, and let their lives be the way they were. The problem is that I have a little girl that I have high hopes for, I see so much promise in her, and I won’t cut comers on parenting. Not with my little girl. I have seen the products of “non parent parenting”, and I am not going to be responsible for that. The problem is, I have a hand in parenting my step children, so I will have responsibility to take. What am I gonna say? I’m sorry I fought with your dad so much and taught you that it’s OK to undermine your partner? I’m sorry I was so inconsistent? I’m sorry you think I favor my daughter– I wasn’t allowed to be your mom. I’m sorry I gave up on you….

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I don’t want to give up. I love these kids. And I love my husband. I want us to be a family, but I don’t see how we are going to get through this with out royally fucking these kids up. At some point something has got to give. I’m tired of fighting. But I feel a moral obligation to these awesome littles. I feel a deeper obligation to MY little.

I am blessed because my daughter has a wonderful step mom who has become my friend and sometimes my therapist. I have 100% support from my daughter’s father and his wife. It’s refreshingly healthy. I can’t see why I don’t have that from my husband’s family.

I know I’m not an expert parent, but my heart is in it, and I work my ass off trying to do right by my little family. Often times it’s the hardest thing to do. And way too many times it turns into a fight. Where is the balance? What battles do I pick? How can I make this work? I have fantasies that I take my daughter and we just live together, and I spend weekends with my husband and the kids… wouldn’t it be easier if I only saw them all occasionally, and didn’t have a responsibility to parent? I would miss them, but I think I would be much more relaxed. It’s a huge responsibility being a parent. I do not take it lightly… I do not want to abandon them. But I do want to run away sometimes. Like today.

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I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself

I remember very distinctly, about 9 years ago, standing in a car port in the middle of the night smoking a cigarette watching my best friend drive away. He had just essentially broken up with me. (It’s not what you think, he’s gay, so when I say best friend, I do mean a completely platonic friendship.) As his tail lights vanished around a corner I marveled in the realization that someone who I felt was just as fucked up as me… if not MORE fucked up than me, had actually called me out. He had driven 20 miles to tell me that he was worried for me, and it hurt him to see me self destruct.

I took one last puff, dropped my cigarette on the concrete, stepped on it and walked away. I didn’t think much about the conversation, not one red flag shot out at me, I was so deep in a sick and toxic place I couldn’t see love when it looked me in the eyes. I had to hit rock bottom. I didn’t know it yet, but the next 2 years would be the hardest, scariest and darkest days of my life.

Looking back I wish I had really heard what he said to me, I wish it had sunk in and impacted my decisions, but it didn’t. Over the years I have not forgotten his words, so I suppose they were waiting for me to hear them.

Believe it or not, I did learn something from that moment. You cannot help someone who is not willing to help themselves. There is one thing you can do: LOVE. And sometimes love means letting go, particularly if it hurts you when you watch someone you love circle the drain. My friend let go, but he never left. He just refused to be my savior anymore. No more drunken 2am phone calls to pick me up from who-knows-where. No more holding my hair over the toilet while I cried and apologized, promising this would be the last time. He couldn’t do it anymore.

I have this friend whom I love deeply. She’s one of my oldest friends and closest. For the last few years I have watched her destroy every chance of happiness, and every opportunity for love that has crossed her path. It is like she intentionally chose the worst, least compatible, controlling, and twisted man. And god forbid anyone points it out. If you do, be prepared for her to do something to rub it in your face, like, for instance, she secretly married him. Knowing he has anger issues, knowing he’s abusive, knowing he is a terrible parent, knowing he has no respect for women, having heard him call her two best friends c**ts, experiencing him stalk her and harass her… She married him. She didn’t tell anyone, because when you do something so effing stupid why the hell would you tell anyone? The crazy part is she thought she could keep it hidden. The sad part is I am her best friend and she lied for months. Looking back I’m realizing how many times she lied to me. She knew I didn’t approve so she hid her relationship, her pregnancy, her wedding…

And you know what? I was there through EVERYTHING. I never let go, every time a lie came out I let it roll off my back, I forgave her because that’s what you do when you love someone. But the lying never stopped. Another lie came out today. I thought we were done with this, her divorce is almost final, she has a new life, a boyfriend who loves her so completely, who flipped his entire life upside down to accommodate her, and she sabotaged it. And for the last 3 years, her lies have all revolved around this jackass. At some point you have to see that HE is a problem!!!

Just 7 months ago friend’s of mine bent over backwards to help her get into a safe place, get back on her feet, and take control of her life, this is not the first time someone had to save her… and evidently it’s not the last considering recent developments. I’m tired. I’m hurt. But how do I keep making excuses? I have been excusing her behavior for years.

This part of me feels like I owe her. She stuck around while I was living my life in ways she didn’t approve. She’s been there, she’s been my alibi too many times to count, she’s come to the rescue when I’m in over my head… but the difference is that I am honest with her. If I do something stupid, I own it, in fact, chances are I’m telling her about it before I do it! I don’t hide things from her. Because friends are supposed to be honest with each other. Wether we agree with the other person, or not.

So maybe I’m hurt that she doesn’t feel like she can be honest with me. I know… I’m opinionated. Outspoken. I don’t think before I speak… ever. But I don’t care how stupid you are, if I love you I love you.

And I love her. It’s time for her to help herself. Maybe she doesn’t want to be happy? Maybe she can’t see the big picture, the people she’s hurting, the innocent little girl that is tagging along while her mother is too busy messing up their lives. I don’t know, but… if you’re reading this: I can’t help you until you help yourself.