The Dreadful “Tide” of Step-Parenting

I wonder if I am the only step parent who feels this particular way.

I feel like the tides are changing in my relationship with my kids. Maybe in particularly my daughter, Doodle. We have been building a relationship since the moment I met her, cultivating a bond that doesn’t come naturally, because I didn’t give birth to her. I thought all was going spectacularly until here recently.

Then the tides turned. I am now faced with a little girl who hardly looks at me when she is with her mom. One that is argumentative, rude, and disinterested in our relationship. One that I am not excited to be around because of the disappointment it brings me. I don’t know if this is a result of something I have done or if it is a phase that all step parents go through- or more like, a tide we struggle with each time it approaches?

A part of me wants to recoil into myself so that I can’t be so hurt by her actions. A part of me wants to yell at her because I know she knows how to act and behave towards others…and this is not it. And yet another part of me wants to sit down and talk to her and try to figure out what is going on to cause this change in our relationship.

I am really just at a loss.

How have other step-parents approached a situation like this? Granted my daughter is 7 she is mature for her age. What strategies have you used when you have felt a feeling similar to this in your relationship with your child?

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Oh, My Soul- Casting Crowns

If you are like me at all through your child loss journey you NEED to hear this song. It is a Christian song which is something I have a very hard time listening to now because it angers me….but this…..this is something you need to listen to. It opens that window to your soul that you thought no one was looking through and speaks to it. It actually helped me feel hope in my faith and known in my circumstances. I LOVE IT!!!!!

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Knows Nothing About Baby-Loss

People warned me that life in this new category of “still motherhood” would bring about some of the worst things. One thing I heard continuously was that people would say the most atrocious things to me as it pertains to my son or our reality as a forever incomplete family now. It’s been a little over 9 months since I gave birth to Adam and I will admit I have heard some pretty dumb and insensitive things. People not thinking before they speak and thinking they have the perfect words to console me when they fall disastrously short has become a common trend. Yes, there were some looks of “what the hell?” during those moments but for the most part I let them roll off my shoulder. After all, another thing people continuously told me was that everyone will try to understand but no one has any idea what you are going through except for someone who has actually been through the exact same thing, so they really just don’t get it.

Well, I have encountered some feedback that is what everyone said it would be, atrocious. It is eating away at my happiness and filling me with an anger that is consuming my thoughts. The “feedback” which were some awful thoughts on the way my family remembers my son was posed to my husband. So initially I wanted to freak out on this woman. Then I thought I would remain respectively quiet -that respect being for myself, not the woman with the opinions. But now that it has been a few days and I still find my mind caught in some hateful battle and I am seeing how negatively these thoughts affect my interactions with my family, I have to speak up about it.

So here ensues my first ever “Open Letter.”

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Doesn’t Know Anything About Baby-Loss:

I have tried to push your words out of my head. I have bit my tongue at your thoughtlessness and selfishness time and time again. I have looked the other way when I feel irritated by the things that come out of your mouth. But I can’t do that this time. When you told my husband to stop taking our children (his biological, my “step”) to the cemetery to visit their little brother because it was bad for their mental health, and when you said that visiting on memorial day or his birthday was understandable but that the rest needed to stop, and when you called us selfish parents for “not thinking about the kids” you basically asked for this.

When did how we remember our son become your business? When did offering your thoughtless opinion on our visits to the cemetery become acceptable to you? Where in your mind did you find that it was okay to tell a grieving father, mother, and brother and sister exactly how to grieve a loss that you know NOTHING about? I truly can’t fathom how these thoughts came into your mind and out of your mouth thinking, “yes this is a good idea. Yes, I am qualified to share these thoughts.”

I know my husband already told you to mind your own business but you didn’t get it. Adam is our children’s little brother. Documenting our time at the cemetery with him is in no way unhealthy or traumatic to the kids. It is how we, as a family, remember him and is always a positive visit. Our photos and time spent there is something you also know absolutely nothing about. So, let me tell you about our cemetery visits. We go to the cemetery (the kids have ZERO problem with this and actually enjoy it) we get out of the car, go to Adam’s headstone. I clean it off as well as the decorations while my oldest child, Doodle, makes her usual observations about how nice it looks to which I positively respond. Then her little brother (the living one) greets his little brother with some variation of “Hi, Adam.” Then they go and look at all of the other babies and tell them hi. They play in the grass in the baby section, which I love. Because if you stopped to think about it, which you haven’t, how those babies who are looking down from heaven must love that! Having other children laugh and giggle and tag one another while running around in their resting place is the most perfect visit to the cemetery in my mind. We used to read stories, in which case Doodle would read the story to practice her reading skills and Bub listens happily asking a million questions about the story. Then I tell Adam I love him and how handsome his headstone looks and I walk back to the car. Doodle and Bub say their own personal sign of affection to him, unprompted by me I have to add, and they walk to the car. Generally as we pull out of the cemetery gates they turn around and say goodbye to their brother again and tell him “sweet dreams.”

Because of what life has handed ALL of us my children have gotten comfortable with asking questions about heaven and death. This is good thing because they will deal with a lot of death in their lives. But Bub getting excited to take a picture at a headstone, no matter if the headstone is Adam’s or a great-great grandparent is not an issue. It isn’t bad for his mental health. Never in our visits to their little brother do I (nor my husband) feel that our children’s mental health is at risk. And if we did, we would rethink our approach to remembering Adam. And that is key. WE would rethink OUR approach. This reality our family of 5 now is a part of is just that: ours. You, while clearly a part of our life in some way, are not a part of this part of it. How we decide, as parents, to deal with the death of Adam and how we feel is appropriate to remember him with our kids will not be moderated by you. There is no place for your opinion when it comes to remembering our son. You don’t know how it feels. You don’t know the first thing about it or about life after losing a child.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I do mean to be blunt: Where it concerns the cemetery, Adam, or taking pictures we do not need your input. We are perfectly fine with how our children have dealt with and accepted Adam’s loss and how they have a healthy understanding of death and heaven as a result of that.

Obviously, we wish that at 6 and 3 they didn’t have to deal with burying a sibling, but they have. So we move forward from there, because that is where they are. We will visit the cemetery, we will take pictures with his grave, we will do whatever in the hell we feel is healthy and adequately remembers our son/little brother because this is ours, he is ours. None of this is yours so keep your extremely small minded opinions to yourself.

We are doing a great job of life after Adam without your thoughts on the matter.

Sincerely,

A really pissed off “still mom”

And just because I’m feeling spiteful, here is every photo I have taken (with my phone) of the kids at the cemetery. 👊🏼cemetery. 👊🏼

The Battle of Grief

You’re feeling happy today?

“Well, let me fix that”, my mind must say.

“Bring it to her attention,

the anger-Don’t forget to mention

The Sleight of the world, at whole.

Hah! How could her mind have been so bold?”

 

“Try to fight it!” her heart tells her

“Don’t let the day get caught in the burr

of heartache – so easy to feel.”

Some days she asks herself, “is this real?”

 

“But not today!” she says silently,

The sun shines down bright and violently.

The war can subside – at least for now

She sits, watching the passerby’s and clouds

wondering if this feeling can stay

while knowing she can barely keep it at bay.

 

The knowledge of that seems so much to bare

Soon the things she sits and stares at disappear

She is wracked by the impending sadness

The happiness she felt soon leaves- as if weightless.

 

Her mind smiles at it’s own success

as she stoops deeper into her depress.

Life will not be the same, she accepts

The happy feeling now at the ocean depths.

Here Comes The Boom: PAL….

PAL.

Ugh.

This is my first post about this and I have been feeling very angry and disinterested thus far. If you are not familiar PAL stands for Pregnancy After Loss.

10 weeks 5 days. 2 ultrasounds and a heartbeat of 178 this morning. I made it a point to get the exact tens place number of the heartbeat because with Adam I didn’t hear that last number and it was the last time I got to hear the “bahdum” of his heart. So today I made it a point to listen for that last number. Just in case.

Here it goes…..I’m angry, embarrassed (explain that one to me PALS moms!), guilty, resentful, sad, anxious, and distant. I felt a familiar feeling today when the ultrasound tech (Rhonda, I like her a lot) took the time to show me the baby’s toes, a 3D image of it and let me watch it wiggle around for a moment after showing me where the umbilical cord was. That feeling, though brief, like an echo in the wind, barely audible, and barely lasting long enough for me to detect it– was excitement.

As I walked out of the office this morning the thought came to my mind….I guess this is really gonna happen. And another brief emotion washed over me: dread.

I sound like a mess because I am. I have pretty well figured that anything I feel during this excruciatingly long period of time is justified. All the grief support groups and baby loss moms I have spoken to have felt everything that I am feeling, no matter how crazy the emotion. And if they haven’t, they always say, whatever you are feeling; it’s okay to feel that way. Everyone is different, no one will react the same way. So, do I feel guilty for being disinterested, angry, resentful toward this baby? Hell yes I do. I feel even more guilty for that. But where I am at in my mind right now tells me: I want Adam. I want him and not a “replacement”. (Although I always wanted two of my own, so hopefully in time I will be able to compartmentalize Adam’s pregnancy without including this new baby into that little box and vice versa.) But I will be honest.

This is not exciting. This is not news I want to share with anyone. This is not something I want to go through again. I wish I could take the lady parts out of me and put them in my husband for this one.

I don’t want to grow another baby.

(I know how insensitive this must sound to those mom’s struggling with infertility or who are unable to carry their own children. I’m sorry. Every situation and every struggle brings it’s own feelings and desires/fears. I loveddddd being pregnant with Adam and was so excited about every single thing. I only complained to friends about being pregnant once and ironically it was the day he died, before I found out. I enjoyed the experience of growing him so much. But now, pregnancy is tainted in my mind forever. So I am sorry if I have offended someone who may read this. I am just trying to figure out these mountain/valley emotions I have. I so wish you weren’t struggling in whatever way that you are. My heart and prayers go out to you.)

So, here we go down this very dark and bumpy road. There are beautiful flowers and a nice breeze along the way, but none-the-less, the road itself still kind of sucks.

Why I Haven’t Talked About my Son Lately

I haven’t really written about my life dealing with the loss of my son lately. I have wanted to multiple times, but when it comes to actually putting words on the screen, I can’t do it.

I realized this morning, at the 8 month anniversary of his death, that it is because I am too angry. I’m angry at a lot of things, some rational and some irrational. But I know that I feel too angry to open myself up and share my thoughts, feelings, etc. with anyone.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has felt this way though? Other Loss Momma’s, have you experienced this overwhelming sense of anger? If so, what advice would you give to help another struggling Mom?

This is so true. Missing my son daily. Know I will see him again ...:

What it’s all About…

When it comes to step-parenting….there is a lot going on. Not to discount full-time parenting, because we all know that is a crazy world too. But step-parenting is obviously a little different. We have a lot of the same challenges and some different ones. For example, step-parents are bitter-sweetly tasked with splitting their time 50/50 or 75/25 or however you have decided to do it. This means, step-parents get a break, every week just about. Full-time parents have a different story, you have your kiddos ALL THE TIME! Which is wonderful and exhausting. So, when I say there is a lot going on for step-parents, don’t think I have forgotten the wondrous work of full-time parents, I haven’t!

Like I mentioned in my last post, however, sometimes (who am I kidding, all of the time) it just feels like we don’t have enough time to do both the things we need to do and want to do before sending the kids off for a weekend at their mom’s. So we have to be even more intentional with our time than if they were at our disposal 24/7 because, put simply, they aren’t!

So what am I getting at here? I have been kicking myself over and over for not teaching Doodle and Bub some things that I think are important skills for every kid to have. Such as, how to appropriately act in a social situation with people you know and don’t know. And how to handle yourself when something happens that you don’t like. (The later of the two is something I have been slowly working on with Bub, but it just never seems to stick!) My problem? I need to be more intentional with my time with my children. Continue reading

Confessions of a Step-Mom

I’m not very good at being a Step-Mom. It’s true. I’m just not. I’m too selfish, too lackadaisical, too arrogant. I want to be the one and only: the mom.

I’m not very good at sharing these tasks and responsibilities…and I’m not very good at watching my husband share them either. To me, and to many blended families I’m sure, I think my husband and I are the best option for the kids all of the time. Obviously, they need their mother and vice versa, which is why I say I’m not very good at being a step parent. I know they need their mom, and they have a steadily active mom who loves them with everything she has. BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t think I love them better or that we as a family unit aren’t better for them. That’s the selfishness and arrogance.

I also hate that there is never enough time to do the things we need to do!! There is never enough time to do the basic things, like chores, playing with all of the Christmas gifts that sit unopened in the bottom of the closet, or take all the hikes and long walks we want to.

On top of that it seems like there is never enough consistency to teach them important life goals and have them stick. For example, I really wish Doodle knew and implemented appropriate social habits like looking people in the eye when they speak to you, responding with a polite greeting loud enough for the person you’re greeting to hear you, and smiling when someone compliments you. I wish so badly she did these things! But it seems like there is just never enough consistency for her to really get into this habit. Between moving from one house to the other, each house with different expectations, it seems as if nothing ever sticks!

I’ll tell ya, I have been trying to teach her how to chew with her mouth closed since I moved in with my husband, TWO YEARS AGO!!!! And every single time she comes home after being away a few days it is as if she has never heard the concept in her life. It makes me want to pull my hair out and hers!

I love being a parent, don’t get me wrong, but it is not easy. Especially when you have to give up the parenting responsibilities half of the time and just hope and pray the other family values the same things that you do and will teach the same set of skills that you are trying to teach.

And then, sometimes I am lazy. I think, tomorrow we will do (insert task here)…then tomorrow comes and we have to do homework, go to t-ball, or tutoring and it doesn’t get done. Then the next day they are off to their mom’s and we didn’t get to do the activity I had planned on. The real doozy is when they go to their mom’s and they do the activity I had put off at their mom’s and they are no longer interested when they come back home to my husband and I. It’s very discouraging and definitely not the fun part of parenting. That’s my fault though. I need to get into the habit of doing the things I want to do with the kids the first time I think of them, because they have two families and four minds working at how to entertain/please them.

 

AHH. Okay, rant over. But if you are a step parent or if your child has step parents it is likely that we are all thinking the same things and for the same reasons: We love our kids, we want our kids to be with us all of the time, and we are selfish for them.

 

DISCLAIMER: As a blended family we all respect one another’s role within our blended family. I respect the children’s mother as their mother and she respects me as their step-mother. I am not saying she or her husband are not good parents, just that it is easier to parent if you don’t have to share half of your time! So hold the argumentative thoughts, that is not what I am aiming for.