Archive for the ‘Stepparenting’ Category

Since publishing the post I recently submitted called The Jealous Wife, more and more instances of crazy behavior from this woman came to mind. She has worked long and hard to hurt me. As one of our attorneys said, “She believes her own lies.”

At first, I didn’t see how that could be true, but as time went on and various events took place, the truth of this statement became evident. In her twisted mind, everything that happened relating to having custody of her children taken away, not being able to reconnect with my husband, mismanagement of her finances, you name it, she see’s it as all my fault. She truly does believe her own lies.

What’s more, she has worked hard to get other people to believe her lies. My oldest stepson used to tell me when he was around 10 or 11 that his Mom told him I am the reason she and Dad split up. Really? What do you say to a child when they tell you that? I gently told him the truth.  “No, your Mom and Dad were separated and divorced before I ever met your Dad.”  No venom.  Just fact.

An agent I currently work with told me she was apprehensive about me coming to their office because of everything she and the other soccer Mom’s had been told about me by the ex when the kids were little.  She went on to tell me that within the group of Mom’s they questioned what they were being told because they didn’t believe that the courts would take custody away from the mother and give it to us if any of what she was saying had been true. Everyone knows how hard it is to take custody from a mother, especially in a particularly conservative area.  Thankfully, she realized after meeting me and working with me a short time that it was all bullshit.  But still, who knows what things this woman has said to others around town?  I am self-employed as a Realtor.  My reputation matters.

What about the girls at school cornering my daughter and asking why I was “stealing” this teacher’s children from her? Stealing her children? Right. That is the fairy tale – marry the man of your dreams, and then less than a year later, bring four (yes! FOUR!) more little kids into the house to feed, bathe, and care for on top of two you already have plus your corporate management career. Trust me. I was NOT out to “steal” anyone’s kids. But I did whole-heartedly support my husband’s quest to make sure his children were safe and provided for in a healthy environment. How much talking about me in her classroom did this woman have to do for these high school kids to believe I was trying to steal her children?  And what kind of crazy do you need to be to try to take your anger and shortcomings out on my child at school?  She was not even mature enough to bring it straight to me.  Instead, she had my child bullied on her turf, the high school.  Pathetic.

Speaking of talking about me in the classroom, on several occasions I would be out in the community (grocery store, bank, retail stores) only to have someone high school age helping me and recognize my name. Many times, they would say they knew who I was from their high school English teacher. One girl at a grocery store told me that her English teacher was “obsessed” with me and could not stop talking about me. That’s just creepy. Crazy. And unprofessional, to say the least.

She even went so far as to use my “jealousy” as a defense against me trying to get her fired.  Jealous?  Really?  Jealous of a grown, middle-aged woman, sexually and emotionally abusing high school boys?  What do you say to that besides YUCK!?!  Of course I was trying to get her fired!  I have NEVER denied that.  Any decent human being would want this woman fired and never allowed in a position of authority over children of any age.  This woman – or ANYONE like her – does not need to be in a classroom or anywhere she has contact with students.  For the life of me, I do not understand how it could be that she is still a teacher in this school district.  It’s like my daughter first said to me years ago, “Everyone knows Mom, but nobody does anything about it.”

And so, for all these years this woman has done her best to wreak havoc in our home.  She has wreaked havoc on her own children.  She has certainly wreaked havoc in the classroom.  All the while pointing her fingers at me.  Deflecting responsibility. She is great at playing the victim.  Somehow, in her mind, it has all happened because I am the jealous wife.  Or so she wishes.

Me:  “Excuse me, WHAT?  My stepdaughter is DATING a registered sex offender?”

Other parent:  “Yes.  And her Mother knows about it too.”

Over the past 12 years I have come to expect all types of ridiculous, drama-laden behavior from my husband’s ex, but this was a bit much.  I mean, she isn’t ever going to win any awards for parenting, but letting her daughter date a registered sex offender?  Even she couldn’t be THAT dumb!

My mistake.  This “mother” is indeed allowing her daughter to date a registered Sex Offender.  A Level 2 Registered Sex Offender.  Guilty of Sexual Solicitation of a Child.  But it’s even worse than that.  This woman is a high school English teacher.  She not only allows her daughter to date this guy, but she allowed him (at least once, although I am told on more than one occasion) to sit in her classroom for an entire class period.  How is this even possible?  Why would a registered sex offender even be allowed on campus?  Worse yet, one of his victims was in that class.  How must it have felt for the young girl?  By law she must attend class, yet there she sits, watching as the teacher and her daughter cut-up and carry on with her perpetrator during class time.

After speaking with a couple of parents directly involved as well as the parents of the above mentioned girl, I called the Superintendent of our school district.  She seemed to very upset to hear what I had to share.  She assured me that there was no way any sex offender should EVER be allowed on school grounds without her personal knowledge and her permission.  She asked me to call the Principal of the High School.  Given my personal history of dealing with school administrators when my daughter was having trouble with this same teacher, I declined.  I explained that my interest was in making sure that she, as the Superintendent, knew of the situation, and could get it investigated and handled appropriately.  I told her that the parents of the student had contacted the school resource officer and the investigator that worked the case.  They intended to pursue resolution from the legal/criminal side.  The Superintendent asked if the parents would call the Principal and I assured her they would.  She said that she would make the Principal aware that the call would be coming.

When one of the parents called the Principal, she was more than a little disappointed by what he had to report.  He advised her that the teacher’s response was admission that the young man had indeed been in her classroom. She stated he was only in her classroom for a few minutes, having stopped by with her daughter.  The teacher went on to say the only reason the student was upset about him being there because she used to “date” him and her daughter is now dating him.  Based on the teacher’s interpretation of the student having previously “dated” the offender it is clear that she doesn’t seem to comprehend the seriousness of the offense.  Then again, given the history of this teacher, perhaps she truly sees all of this as acceptable behavior.

What will be the outcome of all of this?  How can any of this be allowed?  Our School Board recently relieved a coach of his duties due to inappropriate language being used with his girls softball team.  Isn’t knowingly allowing a Registered Sex Offender on campus a more serious offense than that?  And what about having him come in a back entrance, so his presence is unknown to the Resource Officer and administrators?  The fact that this teacher would welcome a registered sex offender into her classroom, especially where she is aware (by her own admission) of the prior relationship between this man and one of her students is nothing less than appalling.  It is unprofessional and unethical, to say the least, and in my opinion, shows an absolute disregard for the safety and welfare of all students on campus.

This is all being watched with great interest by several people in our community.  In part because there are so many facets to the situation.  Didn’t the sex offender commit another crime by even being at the school?  Can’t the teacher be prosecuted for knowingly exposing God knows how many students to a registered sex offender?  What about allowing her minor child to date him?  Isn’t there a liability issue for the school with the student being exposed to her perpetrator? With many students being exposed to him?  And ultimately, is this the kind of behavior we will accept in our schools?  Is this the kind of person we want standing up in front our kids, influencing them every day?  How long is all this going to be allowed to go on?

Today is the day celebrated as Father’s Day.  It’s usually a day of cookouts, family time, gift giving, and laughter.  Handmade cards and pictures from little kids; stories about their childhood from those that are grown. Memories are made, and memories are revisited.

Sadly, not all kids get to experience having a Father in their life.  They watch from the sidelines as friends, cousins, neighbors, celebrate this day.  Equally as sad is that not all Father’s get to experience Father’s Day with their children.  Some by choice, it is true.  But many, because they are denied that right in one form or fashion.

I have been on both sides of the coin not only in my own childhood, but in the childhoods of my children and stepchildren.  My biological father was an alcoholic who had an affair, which caused he and my mother to divorce.  Once divorced and ordered to pay child support, medical expenses and save for my education, he made one support payment ($8O) and promptly left for California where he would not have to pay.  (Remember, this was about 45 years ago so CS enforcement was not what it is today.)  My mother never received another dime from him and I saw this man exactly three times between the ages of 3 and 18.  In sharp contrast is my step-dad, Charlie, who was always there for me.  Charlie loved me and my siblings.  We were his children.  Charlie has been gone from us for over 26 years, but when I think of my “Dad” I think of him.  His wisdom still guides me and I love him as much today as ever.

In the case of my own children, their biological father isn’t any better than mine.  While we were married, my ex-husband was somewhat active in the life of our daughter, but not our son.  Because of his disability, I suppose.  Once we separated, he took the kids on visitation only three times.  Only after my daughter contacted him when she was 17 did he begin somewhat of a relationship with her, but again, never our son.  To this day, as my daughter sits in prison, her biological father does nothing to support her.  He had seen our son three times in 10 years and that was only because I invited him to my son’s birthday parties and dog sat for him once.

Then there is my husband.  He is not only a truly wonderful man, he is a magnificent Father.  A huge part of what attracted me to him was his love for and his devotion to his children.  And eventually, his love for, and support of, my children.  He continues to offer support and guidance to my daughter through her challenges.   He recently adopted my son, autism and all.  He is their Dad in every sense of the word.

My husband wants every minute he can possibly get with all of our children.  Unfortunately, sometimes he is denied that right.  If you’ve read any of my other posts you are well aware of the antics we experience at the whimsy of the ex.  If you’re not familiar with our story let’s just sum it up with these three key phrases:  parental alienation, abusive/personality disordered woman, using  the children as pawns for control and manipulation.  By my way of thinking, if a child is blessed enough to have a father who cares, who wants to be active in their life and provide a solid, positive influence, why would you want to interfere in that?

Today I have thought a lot about my stepdaughter that isn’t my husband’s biological child.  How do you think she feels about Father’s Day?  To our knowledge, she doesn’t know the identity of her biological father.  At 10 years old her mother very effectively stole her father from her.  She was told by her mother the day we had the children’s cheeks swabbed that her daddy wasn’t really her daddy.  She was made to be the outcast by her mother.  Biology didn’t change the way my husband felt about his daughter.  He had loved her and cared for her from the time she was a baby.  Now suddenly he was the bad guy.  And all so the mother could hide her crimes.  This young girl is now graduated from high school and about to be an adult.  She suffers emotional issues and has trouble making and keeping friends.  Her own siblings have long been fearful of her.  She has been in trouble with the law.  Why?  In my opinion because the loving relationship she had with the man she knew as her father was destroyed.  You see, whether as an ex you like it or not, Daddy‘s are very important.

This type of thing is happening to men all the time.  We are making progress in the courts and in the views of society but we still have a long way to go.  Just because a woman is a mother does not automatically make her the better parent.  Just because a parent has physical custody does not give them the right to interfere with the relationship between a child and the other parent.  As a stepparent I feel it is important to support both parents to the children regardless of your feelings.  And believe me, I know that at times the feelings can be very negative.  But children need both parents.  Little girls and boys need a Daddy.  No matter what their age.  And kids need to be allowed to be kids.  They don’t need to have your emotional baggage and insecurities dumped on them.  It’s hard enough just being a kid.

So a big, enthusiastic Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful men who love and adore your children as my husband does.  Much love to you.  Keep your head up and work towards doing the best you can to make things right.  If we can’t make the changes fast enough to help ourselves, at least we can work towards keeping these things from happening to other families in the future.

Parent Alienation and the Wizard of Oz

Written by Carolan Ross

http://www.squidoo.com/parent-alienation-syndrome-pas

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think about the following quote:

“{Individuals with autism, a child with a different ability, etc} are the ultimate square pegs; and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” ~Paul Collins~

On so many levels, I absolutely agree that we are indeed destroying the peg by trying to make it fit into the hole. But what upsets me the most about this train of thought is that in our society, anyone who doesn’t follow the “herd mentality” is considered a “square” peg.  If you are an original thinker, if you happen to learn differently, if you have some type of disability, most often this is seen as a problem.  Why?  Why the terrible need to force everyone to be the same?

Throughout history, great achievement and growth has come from those wonderful square pegs that just do not fit into the round holes of society.  Thomas Jefferson was considered “uneducable” by his teachers and kicked out of school.  Helen Keller was deaf, mute and blind.  Albert Einstein was thought to be on the autism spectrum.  Beethoven was deaf and suffered from depression.  Yet consider all the contributions these amazing people made to the world. 

My life is full of square pegs.  In my opinion, how we treat people, the support they get and the extent to which we allow them to spread their wings and fly determines how they interact with society and how society responds to them. 

My son who is severely affected by autism is a constant source of joy for all who know him.  He hasn’t said a word in many years.  Yet, he is probably one of the most effective communicators you will ever meet.   Through his actions, his facial expression and body language, he shares his beautiful, loving spirit. 

My stepson has learning disabilities.  He struggles in school academically in spite of modifications made to his studies.  It’s not that he can’t learn, he simply does not learn the same way as most other kids learn.  He recently took his written drivers exam.  He passed it on the very first try!  NONE of our other children did that.  They all took the test mutiple times.  But my husband took great care to sit with him and go over the material every time he was here at the house with us.  Having the material explained to him in a manner he could understand and retain, made all the difference. 

Just because these guys don’t fit the plain round mold doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful.  They are incredible young men that I love with all my heart.  They are unique.  They are just square pegs. 

We are not all the same.  I don’t think we are intended to be.  Why do we always focus on the deficit?  Is it to make ourselves feel better about our own short-comings that we don’t want to admit?  Does it make us feel smarter somehow to knock someone else down?  That not only hurts them but it hurts us too.  There is so much to be learned from those who are different from us.  Especially, in my humble opinion, those with special needs. 

I don’t think you can make a square peg fit into a round hole.  You can pound them down, but they will always stand a little taller than the plain round pegs.

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”  -Quote from movie “What A Girl Wants”

After almost twelve years of watching this woman in action, it shouldn’t still surprise me.  The selfishness.  The greed.  The diminished concern for her own children.  The lies and manipulations.  The way she has mastered the art of playing the victim.  I tell myself it can’t possibly continue, yet it does.  Year after year.

With my husbands most recent increase, he now pays about $900 per month in child support for one child.  This is more than he paid when he and the ex divorced and he was paying support on four children.  To say that the child support system needs an overhaul is a gross understatement.  Many men are unjustly charged with outrageous child support amounts.  Others never experience any type of increase, while still others are never ordered to pay support at all.  Yes, we are in need of a major “re-do” on a national level.  But what’s on my mind is what’s happening right here under my roof.

One of the things that most attracted me to my husband when I first met him was how he loved and cared for his children.  They were all quite young then, the oldest being nine and the youngest having just turned three.  The summer before we married, I watched as this wonderful man worked several odd jobs, including digging ditches for sprinkler systems, to have extra money to buy the kids the things they needed.  At the time, it was primarily clothes and food.  In spite of the fact that he was paying around $850 a month in child support, he was still buying clothes, personal care supplies, school supplies, etc. and helping with daycare costs.

Having been a single mom, responsible for providing for my own children, I realize the importance of both parents contributing to the health, welfare and financial security of their children.  The responsibilities, as well as the joys, of raising your children should be shared.  In my opinion, this is what is most beneficial to the children. (Provided of course, that there aren’t extenuating circumstances.)  The problem that I have with my husband paying $900 a month in child support for his son is that it isn’t going to provide for this young mans needs.

My stepson has shown up wearing shoes with the entire side blown out.  He has come to our home with underwear packed in his bag that were at least two sizes too small, telling us that was all he had.  No socks.  He didn’t have any.  Or worse, wearing women’s socks (those of his mother or sisters) because he didn’t have any.  He has repeatedly worn ill-fitting clothing.  Pants so tight they cannot zip that he explained had to be worn with a long shirt so that teachers and the other kids in school did not notice.  Most recently, he has been wearing jeans that are size 34 waist, bunched up with a belt.  Who’s pants are these anyway?  My stepson wears a size 18 boys.  For Christmas, several things he was given by his mother were from Salvation Army and still had the tags on them.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Salvation Army.  Especially if that’s what your budget dictates.  I take issue with this however because my husband is paying MORE than enough child support to make sure his son is nicely clothed, properly fed and appropriately groomed.

I can hear some of the arguments now…”It’s going toward providing housing, paying utilities, buying food, etc.” Maybe partly, yes, I can agree somewhat.  But what about clothes, shoes, haircuts?  Lunch money, school supplies?  Shouldn’t these items be paid for out of my husbands child support?  Instead of spending money on the kids, let’s take just one small peek at where the money goes…

Since 2000, the ex-wife has had the following vehicles:  Mitsubishi Montero (which was my husbands but the court ordered them to trade vehicles as she had traded her four door Toyota sedan for a Mitsubishi Eclipse not capable of safely hauling all four children), New Honda Accord (which she lost due to bankruptcy), Old Honda Accord, Jeep Grand Cherokee (I had bought one so she had to have one also), Black Honda Pilot (the guy she was seeing at the time had bought a White Honda Pilot), Old White BMW Sedan (the kids told us the passenger door was falling off and couldn’t be used but hey, it was a BMW, right?), Silver BMW SUV, Black BMW Sedan, White Honda Pilot (purchased after my stepdaughter bought a new car), and a Gray Pontiac Solstice (she “needed” a convertible). Seriously?  TEN (10) cars in eleven years???

What about vacations?  This woman takes several trips every year (most WITHOUT the children).  I could list many of them, but I will spare you the sordid details.  She is gainfully employed and has finally remarried.  What she chooses to spend HER money on is frankly not my business.  I just feel the needs of the kids should come first.  Hopefully by now, you are getting my point.  It is not my husbands fault that she is so completely financially inept.  Child support MUST be for the benefit of the child/children.

When my husband visited with his attorney about the increase he asked if there was any way to ask for an accounting of the child support.  Couldn’t he ask that at least 50% of it been spent on items specifically for his son?  Couldn’t she be required to give receipts?  Unfortunately, in our state, the answer is a big, fat NO.  We asked if we couldn’t take the increase and deposit it in a trust for the child’s benefit with the balance going to him once he reached a certain age.  Once again, the answer is NO.

It’s not right.  With the child support increase, we can no longer afford to buy extra clothes, supplies, haircuts, etc. for my stepson.  So we sit by and watch the hard-earned money go up in smoke.  We don’t have much longer to pay.  A little over three years.  For all the other men (and women) who pay child support, I hope we can see change.  I hope they are someday soon given the right to know for certain that their hard-earned dollars are being spent to help their babies.

Yesterday ended our Christmas visitation with my husband’s youngest son.  He was disappointed he had to leave.  He told my husband he thought he got to stay until Sunday night.  This would have been correct but my husband had picked him up last weekend for standard visitation only to be told later in discussion with the ex that it wasn’t his weekend due to the Holiday schedule for visitation.   The mother wanted him home this weekend since he had already spent the time here.  She didn’t bother to mention this to the boy, so it caught him unaware.  He was sad.  So were we.  You would think we could just ask for more time.  After all, it’s the Holiday’s.  And my husband travels for work which causes him to miss his midweek visitation.  Maybe he could stay an extra day, right?  Ummm, no.  You know how she is.

No.  Actually, I don’t.  I have my perception of how she is.  I have spent years picking up the pieces from the emotional fallout caused by the behavior of this woman.  I have cradled her children and mothered them while she has been unable or unwilling to do so.  I have done my best to shield my own children from her destructive manipulations, albeit unsuccessfully in the case of my daughter.  But, by the grace of a loving and wonderful God, I have never had to live with or be in any type of close relationship with this woman.  I have never had to truly experience how she is first-hand for anything more than a few minutes at a time.   For that I will tell you, I am thankful.  After all, you know how she is.

Over the years I have heard that statement in reference to my husband’s ex-wife more than I can count.  My husband says it regularly.  The children have said it.  The family counselor we used to go to has said it.  Her new husband says it.  Heck, I have even said it.

The first time I heard someone say “You know how she is” was the former principal of the high school that my daughter attended.  The same high school where this woman still teaches.  He was actually talking to my husband.  This man had been the principal of the ex-wife when she was in high school.  He was a very close friend of hers.  There he sat, with my husband asking him what was being done about her having inappropriate relationships with students, and the best he can say is “You know how she is.”

I have watched as different situations have unfolded with the now adult children.  Each of them at different times coming to us for money or counsel.  Each instance somehow, regrettably, not all that surprising.  This woman has emptied bank accounts belonging to her children, she regularly puts her wants and wishes above their needs.  We have on previous occasion asked both of the now adult children how it is that she manages to convince them to be joint on their checking accounts.  “You know how she is,” they say with a look of disbelief that we would even ask.

The funniest example to me, however, is her NEW husband saying “you know how she is” to her EX-husband.  It’s happened a couple of times.  Once when the decision was made without her input (she was out of town) to take my stepson out of football after he had been found repeatedly hiding on the locker room.  Another time the new husband said it he was telling my husband he needed to find a way to make money “under the table” because they were coming up short.  He needed something that wouldn’t affect his VA disability check.  You know how she is.  Yep.  And we’re glad she’s YOUR problem now.  My guess is by now he is realizing what he’s gotten himself into.

Back to my stepson and Christmas visitation.  Why didn’t she say something about the mix-up in weekends my husband was going to make before hand?  I will tell you why.  Because somehow, in a way that will most likely never be known to us, it was better for HER. That is always the bottom line.  Not what’s good for the kids.  Not even what does the court order say.  It’s always what is better for her.

It was sad to send my stepson home yesterday.  But in a way it was good for us to get to see that he was sad.  We are constantly told that he doesn’t want to come to visit.  That he would rather stay there and do what they are doing.  Often we feel like he really doesn’t want to be here.  So, let this be a reminder to us to give him every opportunity to continue to voice his feelings and opinions when he is with us.  Let us be reminded to listen to him always.  He doesn’t get to do that at home.  You know how she is.

 

English: A bunch of Razor Wire atop a chain li...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday was Christmas.  For me, it was the best Christmas I can remember in a very long time.  Certainly since my children were babies.  We did things a little differently this year.  Our focus was more on “real” Christmas than on “commercial” Christmas.  We didn’t run around spending a bunch of money on gifts for people we don’t even see throughout the year.  We didn’t buy a bunch of gifts for each other.  We didn’t stress out trying to get to a bunch of Christmas get togethers.  It was an authentic Christmas.

A big part of this being such a great Christmas was the lack of drama where my stepchildren are concerned.  There is a court date pending that in part addresses the ex-wife’s continual interference and manipulation of visitation.  So for the first time I can remember, there hasn’t been any jockeying on her part to screw with the court-ordered visitation schedule over the Holidays.  Amazing how much better it is when she manages to play by the rules.  It is unfortunate however, that it takes having an active complaint to force her into compliance.  Fortunately, there are not many more years of this foolishness in front of us.

My favorite part of Christmas this year was being able to visit my daughter in prison on Christmas Eve.  Maybe that sounds strange.  Would I prefer my daughter be home at Christmas, celebrating with us at home?  Of course I would.  But it’s not time for that yet.  She still has work to do.  And for her to be successful out in what is referred to as “the free world” there are no shortcuts.

I enjoy my visits with my daughter.  Not just spending time with her, but learning about and getting to know some of the other women in prison.  There are so many stories.  Some happy, some sad, but all very, very real.  Faces put to problems.  People facing great adversity.  I respect them for that.  Many of the people I have met that are in prison are more honest, much more humble and sincere, than a lot of the people I know on the outside.  Often I wonder how it is that some people get caught at a crime and harshly sentenced while others commit crimes for years yet escape ever being brought to justice.  Many times I think about this long after I have left the concrete walls and razor wire that contain them.

Christmas is such a great time for personal reflection.  A time to take inventory in ourselves.  For me it’s a time to think about how I have spent the past year and how I am going to grow in the coming year.  Have I been the best person I can be?  Where have I fallen short?  How can I do better?  My hope is that I can use my voice, my talents, whatever resources I am given, to make the world a better place.  To continue to stand up for what’s right and to keep pushing for change.  To hold on to faith, to hope, and to love.

Here’s hoping you had a very Merry Christmas!  Much love to you.

 

1 Corinthians 13:13   Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

 

Yesterday I read a post on the blog A Shrink4Men titled High-Conflict, Borderline Ex-Wives: It’s the Most Drama-Filled Time of the Year!  That mirrors what goes on in our lives every Holiday, birthday or any other special occasion.  It’s sadly predictable.

My husband’s ex finally got re-married about a year and a half ago.  We had hoped that might take her focus off of us, but what little reprieve we got was short-lived.  Within six months it was business as usual with her.  If anything, the remarriage has made it worse where her interference with my husband’s visitation with his son is concerned.

Without exception, the hobbies or interests of every man who the ex has had in her life have been put upon my stepchildren.  If the guy liked kayaking and boating, she made sure they all went kayaking and boating.  When she started dating a guy who liked baseball, my youngest stepson was signed up and made to play baseball.  Same with football.  Believe me, one look at him out on the field and you could be certain he wasn’t there by choice.  It’s been the same with religion.  First, they went to the Baptist church where her sister’s family attended.  Then a guy she dated went to a non-denominational church so she switched.  One of the last guys she wanted to hook before getting married was Catholic, so she started taking the kids to the Catholic church.   The new husband is into hunting, so suddenly my stepson must be interested and involved in the sport of hunting.  This young man is not, and never has been, allowed to have his own voice where his mother is concerned.  He is a soft-spoken young man.  Just turned fifteen.   She easily manipulates and guilts him.  These activities are, of course, scheduled to take place as often as possible on my husband’s visitation times.  This past Thanksgiving Holiday and my stepson’s birthday the weekend before were no different.

The role of step parent to the children of a high-conflict personality is anything but easy.  I have always busted my ass for these kids.  As the kids get older, it seems to get easier.  Perhaps because I see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Two of the kids are already adults.   They know and understand even if they are unwilling or unable to admit to themselves what they see.  It hurts to see “Happy Birthday to the most amazing mother in the world” posted on Facebook when this particular son doesn’t even bother to wish my husband Happy Birthday.  Then again, this is the same child who at twelve years old we over heard saying to his mother on the phone, “What do you need me to say?  I will tell the judge whatever you tell me to say.”  This the night before a court date where they subpoenaed him as a witness. What kind of person puts a child in that position?

And then there was the time my oldest stepdaughter posted, “I am so thankful for my wonderful mother.  She has made me everything I am today.”  Being very candid, I must tell you I nearly vomited when I read that.  My husband and I are very close to this child and she is absolutely nothing like her mother.  I would rather have been kicked in the face than read that statement.  It felt like a complete and total betrayal.  Because we are close, I gently asked her about it the next time I saw her.  I explained to her that it hurt me.  She began to cry.  Sob actually.  She told me she was sorry.  That she never meant to hurt me, but that she lives every day of her life seeking her mother’s approval yet knowing it will never come.  She described it as “Everything is always good here.  I don’t have to try to make you and Dad love and support me.  But with Mom, I can never do anything right.  If she’s happy with me even for a few minutes, it is good.”  Isn’t that heartbreaking?  After all, isn’t every child entitled to the unconditional love of their parents?

A friend of mine likens the kids’ relationship with their mother to that of  Stockholm Syndrome.  I believe this pretty much sums it up.  Here is what one link has to say:

What causes Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it’s likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

It’s important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

Over the years, we have gotten great guidance and advice from a couple of highly qualified family therapists who have experience with high-conflict, personality disorders.  They have spent a lot of time and effort in educating us on how to protect ourselves and give the kids a “safe place” from this woman.  Never under estimate these people.  They are masters at lies and manipulations.  Experts at twisting the truth and playing the victim.  I am so thankful to see professionals such as Dr Tara Palmatier writing, speaking and educating the public about these issues.  We need to press forward with getting this knowledge into the family court system.  Not only so that the proper and rightful party is getting hit with the stick of justice, but more importantly, so our kids can grow up being kids.  Not little “mini” adults spending their lives walking around on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Ever notice how people squirm when you catch them up to no good?  It can be comical, unless you’re the constant target.  I read an email this morning from the ex to my husband.  It was l-o-n-g and full of things to deflect the real issue.  This is typical of all the correspondence I have read from her over the years.  She tries to be witty.  She will throw in stuff that is entirely off topic.  Many times she is just plain insulting.  I suppose she does this in an attempt to show herself superior to my husband.  It doesn’t work.  My husband calls these diversionary tactics “smoke and mirrors.”

In reality, this is an accurate description of her behavior.  Where there is smoke, there is fire, as the old saying goes and this woman can really puff up the smoke. I have learned over the years to stop expecting it to change.  It is very predictable.  When she is caught, or if things aren’t going the way she perceives they should go, it sets her off.  Sometimes, the behavior is simply annoying.  Continuous calls or a chain of emails.  There are always a lot of threats, usually some accusations.  The court order is a weapon for her to use against us, to threaten us and try to control us, yet she has violated it in too many ways to count.

An example of smoke.  Many years ago, when my stepchildren were little (11, 9, 7 and 5 yrs) and they lived with us, we were trying to decide whether it was better to buy a different home or add on to the current home.  We spent many Sundays going to open houses and looking at various properties.  One Sunday, we drove out to visit an open house just a ways out of town.  As we drove up to the house, all the kids started talking about the things that had gone in the house.  Unpleasant events that occurred when they were left unattended with the young siblings of the student their mother had been having sex with at the time.  There were times they told us they were locked out of the house without access to water or the toilet while “Mom and X were inside talking.”  The youngest girl reported that she had been tied to the bed with belts and locked in the bedroom with the doorknob removed.  Needless to say, we did not go into the house.  The kids were upset enough just driving by.  That all sounds pretty horrible, doesn’t it?  Very incriminating against the mother wouldn’t you say?  Well, when she got wind of it and knew what we KNEW, she called up my husband yelling and screaming.  Threatening him with exposing this in court as if he was the one who had allowed all of this to happen.  Telling him she was gonna’ rake us both over the coals in court!  See what I mean?  She was caught so she had to stir up some smoke.  Of course it was discussed in court, but not quite the way she imagined.  And thankfully, the kids had been to the court appointed counselor and everything had been documented because after midweek visitation with their mother, everything suddenly became “a dream” to the kids.

Mirrors.  Even after all this time, I continue to be amazed at how easily, and apparently without any remorse, she can take the truth and twist it up like a pretzel.  Suddenly she is the victim and everyone is out to get her.  Flash back again.  This time to before my stepchildren came to live with us.  My husband went over to pick the kids up for visitation.  The girls (remember, age 7 and 5 yrs) were upstairs in the mother’s bathroom showering.  They came down wrapped in towels.  One of the little girls went over and whispered in my husband’s ear “Daddy, X is upstairs in Mommy’s room.”  My husband told the kids to get dressed and ready to go.  He asked the ex to please step outside, where he confronted her about the teenage boy, then a current student, hiding in her room upstairs.  Lot’s of smoke and then, she turns it all around on him.  She was just trying to be considerate of his feelings by having the boy wait out of sight.  She was just tutoring him, after all.  Why would he always think the worst of her?  On and on and on…  The kids come outside, see the mother crying and clearly upset, and then don’t want to leave.  He doesn’t make them as that would only further upset them.  The next day, he follows up with an email, asking that she keep this student out of her home and away from the children.  He also cautions her on losing her teaching licensure.  She responds by telling him the kids are fine around “X” and why is it his business anyway.  She tells him “You don’t want me but you don’t want me to have anyone else either.”  Really?  Are you kidding me?  We’re talking about a HIGH SCHOOL boy here!

Beware of the smoke and the mirrors.  Tread carefully, but know that you have struck a nerve.  Document, document, document everything.  We have every bit of correspondence.  Hard copies are locked away in a safe deposit box.  Electronic copies are in various places and in the hands of a few trustworthy people.  Limit your phone contact and if you must communicate via phone, follow it up with an email documenting the details of the discussion.  Sounds like overkill doesn’t it?  In truth, I think it’s utterly ridiculous and a fabulous waste of time and energy.  That being said, I am sure glad we have done all of it.  It has saved our bacon time and again.

Stake your boundaries my friend.  And enforce them.

http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2006/06/walking-on-eggshells-dealing-with.html