Posts Tagged ‘blended families’

 

Biomom

Much of my life has centered around mothering. I am the oldest of six siblings. I have two biological children, four step children, and countless other ‘kids’. I love being a mother. It is something I consider an honor.

Being a good mother isn’t easy. You put yourself aside much of the time and focus on giving your best to those babies. It’s not all about YOU anymore, the babies come first. You protect them, you guide them, you correct them when they drift off course. You love them unconditionally.

Being a good stepmom is even more difficult. At least in my experience. I remember asking a friend about being a stepmom when I first considered marriage to my husband. She told me, “Run! Run as fast as you can and never look back!” I laughed aloud when she said it, but she wasn’t kidding. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her stepchildren, she did. It was the family dynamics involved in raising the four of them after the death of their biological mother, along with her own biological child she had with their Dad once they wed that wore her down. She told me being a stepmom was often a thankless task.

Even under the best of circumstances I would imagine being a stepmom is always somewhat tricky. You get a lot of responsibility and very little, if any, authority. You can love them, you can feed them, you can put a roof over their heads, but at the end of the day, you’re not the “real” Mom. Not that you even want to be. But you do want to have some say in the lives of these little people who take so much physically, emotionally and financially. It really shouldn’t be that difficult. If all adults could just be adults and work together for the good of the children, it wouldn’t be.

My role as stepmom didn’t start out hard. My stepchildren loved me, loved coming to spend time here at my home, fought for one on one time with me. Everything was great. They were young and had lots of energy. We had tons of fun. At least until it became apparent I was in the picture to stay. Even then, the resistance didn’t come from them. It came from their mother. Over the years, it has escalated, especially once she lost custody. Over the years, every consequence the bio-mom has suffered due to her actions has somehow been twisted to be my fault. It’s easy to make the stepmom the scape goat. After all, the kids do not have any biological ties to her. She is the outsider. Or so a twisted parent would substantiate.

My stepchildren have been effectively alienated from me, and even worse, from their father. We hear from them on Holidays, sometimes on birthdays, or if they are in need of something. That hurts. A lot. We both sacrificed and endured much over the years to protect them from their mother’s poor lifestyle choices, to provide them with stability they didn’t have with her. I brought them into my home and cared for them as if they were my own. I loved them as my own, and still do, but do they even remember that? If they do they are not allowed to admit it.

They are all adults now. The youngest turned 18 last November and will graduate from high school this coming Friday. Perhaps as they mature and start their own families someday they will look back and see the truth. Maybe, but maybe not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really change anything. If I had it to do all over again, I would. In a heartbeat.

The bio-mom hates me and has done her best to pull these kids away from me, but at the root of it all, because of ME she had to step up and at least try to be a decent mother. Because of me, she had to take parenting classes. Because of me, she was not allowed to have her children around every Tom, Dick and Harry with whom she chose to have sex. Because of me she couldn’t continue to bring high school boys to her home. Because of me, she at least tried to cook them real meals and she started actually doing family things with them. Yes, because of ME, she had to at least TRY to be a real mother to them. Whether the kids ever acknowledge the truth or not, I get satisfaction knowing that because of me, they had a better shot at having a good childhood. My love for them only added to my husband’s love for me. It strengthened us while she was set on destroying our relationship.

To the stepmom’s in the trenches I say, “Hang in there!” Love yourself enough to take good care of you. You deserve it. Love your stepchildren but maintain healthy boundaries. They need your love and attention. Try not to take things personally. (Good luck with that one! It’s not easy.) Love your husband and work on your marriage continually. You need to support each other. The kids grow up. One day the battles will be over and it will be just the two of you. Take pleasure in knowing that time is on your side.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.

The jealous “new” wife.  That’s how my husband’s ex-wife liked to portray me in the beginning of my marriage to anyone who would listen.  I always found this interesting given the truth of the relationship between her and my husband.  There was no love lost on his part.  He made it very clear to me from our first meeting that his relationship with her centered around the children.  They had married due to pregnancy and he had stayed married to her for the sake of his children.  My husband is a man who honors his responsibilities.  One of the many things I admire about him.

When my husband and I started dating and the ex didn’t consider me a threat, she was happy to have my involvement with the children.  I would include my husband and his kids on outings I had planned for my own children.  We hiked, we picnicked, we picked apples.  They were often at my home for dinners. They would literally fight to spend time with me.  As the relationship between my husband and I grew, we spent more and more time together.  And the ex was more than happy to hand the kids over to him anytime he could take them.  He had them much of the time.

In all honesty, I have no idea when she began to see me as a threat.  That first Summer my husband and I were together, at some point a letter was sent to the public school administration talking about the ex’s sexual relationships with students.  She seemed to think either think that my husband had something to do with that letter, or she was upset that he wasn’t helping her defend herself against the allegations, but she went on the defensive.  Probably typical behavior for someone who has so much to hide.  Perhaps she was nervous because I had been in the picture longer than she expected.  Maybe she had come to dislike her children going home and telling her how much fun they had with us.  Maybe it was my husband confronting her about having the teenage boy she was involved with at the time constantly at her home.  At one point, hiding upstairs in her bedroom when he came to pick up the children so he wouldn’t know he was there.  Nonetheless, I became the bad guy.

By Fall, when my husband and I decided to marry, things had deteriorated to the point that when making our wedding plans, we had to keep them secret from the children just to be certain they would be able to attend.  We made sure to arrange for our ceremony to take place on mid-week visitation here at our home.  If we hadn’t, she would have never allowed them to attend.  The next weekend visitation after our marriage, when my husband returned the children to her home, she had left a long, handwritten letter for him.  In short, expressing her love and devotion to him.  Stating that she had loved him deeply for “the past nine years” and explaining how she had hoped that they would reunite.  My husband sat and read the letter in disbelief at her gall.  After her repeated infidelities during their marriage with various men, not to mention numerous high school boys, she saw herself as devoted?  After all she had put him through – the embarrassment at schools where he had coached, the suspicion that not all of his children were biologically his – did she truly believe he would EVER live under the same roof as her again?  Trust me, there was no jealousy to worry about here.

Less than a year after we wed, there was an incident between the ex and one of the high school boys with whom she was physically and emotionally involved.  He broke into her home and physically assaulted her.  Fearing for the safety of his children, my husband immediately filed for temporary custody, which he was granted.  He would ultimately be granted full custody.  Perhaps it is around this time that I started to hear that I was the “jealous” wife.  After all, she needed someone to pin it on, right?  She had been caught.  Again.  And I wasn’t afraid to speak up.  She needed me to be the villain in her story.

Looking back, it still dumbfounds me that she tried to sell ME as the jealous one.  For all I know maybe she still does.  In actuality, she and I couldn’t be more different from one another.  Without being catty, I will say that we are as different physically as we could be.  There are no similarities in our height, weight, body shape, hair color, etc.  None.  Zero.  Thank God.  (Okay, maybe that’s a bit catty, but it’s the truth!)  We are not similar in accomplishments or interests.  We clearly have a very different moral code.

For years, she has tried to emulate me.  I bought the kids guinea pigs as pets, she couldn’t find guinea pigs so she bought rabbits.  I cut my naturally curly hair to should length, she shows up with her hair cut shoulder length and permed.  I bought a jeep, she bought a jeep.  I taught the girls to crochet, she tried learning to crochet/knit.  I like to cook from scratch, she would call my husband and tell him I was making fun of her cooking.  For the record, I never made fun of her cooking.  I had no idea whether she could cook, nor did I give a damn.  Still don’t.  I do what I do because I enjoy it.  I could go on and on with examples from over the years.  She does what she does because she feels inferior and weak.  In her mind, she must compete with me.

In all of almost 15 years, this woman has never had the courage to pick up the phone to have a conversation with me on something she “thought” I said or did.  She has never had the balls to write me an email.  She has never once confronted me for trying to get her fired as a teacher.  She cannot speak to me for fear of being hit in the face with the truth.  When I see her in person, she cannot look me in the eye.  She has spent years using her children against me and doing her best to destroy my marriage.  Jealousy.  It’s her answer to everything.  But you tell me, who is really the jealous one?

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Until you’ve actually gone through the process, you don’t can’t possibly imagine the challenges that can come from being in the family court system.  It’s an eye opener to say the least.  Especially when it comes to custody and child support.

Child support.  The dictionary describes it as:  court-ordered payments, typically made by a noncustodial divorced parent, to support one’s minor child or children.  The key statement being to support one’s minor child or children.  Sadly, too often this is not the case.

I have been on both sides of the fence on this issue.  I have received child support from my ex-husband, and I have watched my current husband pay child support to his ex-wife.  The difference in the two scenario’s is staggering.

When my first husband and I divorced, an amount was set for him to pay towards the care of our two children based on his income at the time.  Our daughter was ten and our son, who has special needs, was five.  For most of our marriage my ex-husband and I earned similar amounts of money.  In the two years before our divorce, he didn’t work most of the time.  When he did get a job, child support was set based on the income from his latest position, not based on his previous ability to earn, which was over double what he earned on the new job.  For two children, I received the modest amount of slightly under $400 a month.  (It later became slightly more when the years of arrears were added.)  This amount was not enough to pay for a month’s groceries, not enough to pay for one child’s day care expenses, but that was his contribution, based on the amount he earned at the time of our divorce in 1997.  There were many times through the years that I did not receive any child support.  I did not receive payment for medical bills.  I did not receive help with keeping the children under medical coverage.  Did this frustrate me?  Yes. Was my ex-husband doing the best he could do for our children, maybe, maybe not.  But I did the best I could to work with him.  I wanted my children to at least have the possibility of having a relationship with their biological father.  I was not going to let child support interfere.

When I met my current husband, much of what attracted me to him was the way he cared for his children.  He did more than pay his child support.  He paid the medical insurance, he paid the medical bills, he worked two jobs so he could buy them clothes, school supplies, pay for their school lunches – things that child support theoretically goes towards.  Whenever the kids needed something, he paid.  If the kids were sick, he was the one to stay home from work to care for them.  Sadly, in his case, the child support has never gone much to the care of the children.  If you’ve read any of my past posts you know of the ex-wife’s need for show.  Since my last post on child support, she has gotten two different cars, trading her Pontiac Solstice for a Lexus convertible and the white Honda Pilot for some type of Cadillac.  Twelve cars in thirteen years.  She has three cars at her disposal while my soon to be 18-year-old stepson doesn’t have a car to drive.  I don’t understand it.  But I digress, the point is there needs to be drastic child support reform.

When my husband divorced in 1998, child support was set for the four children based on his income at the time.  As it should have been, I believe.  But here is where my agreement with the system stops.  Why does the custodial parent get an increase in child support every time the other parent gets a raise?  In the case of my husband I can assure you the ex-wife did nothing to support his career advancement.  If anything, she was a detriment to his career.  He was a top high school football coach in our state with a promising coaching career ahead of him, until he got hooked up with her.  No one wants to hire the coach whose wife is having sex with the football team.  He eventually left his teaching and coaching career of over 20 years because he tired of her reputation following him even after they were divorced.  In my opinion, child support needs to be capped based on the level of income at the time of divorce.  Period.

When my husband left coaching and went into business, he developed a strategic plan of where he wanted his new career to go.  He has been extremely successful in achieving those goals.  Of course, the ex-wife has taken him back to court continually to squeeze every possible penny she can get out of him.  How is that she is even awarded an increase?  She has absolutely nothing to do with his success.  Nor does she spend the money on the children.  She never has.  My example would again be my stepson not having a car.  At over $900 a month in child support for one child, there is certainly money to put towards it.

And what about the daughter who turned out to not be my husband’s biological child?  Even though the ex-wife was a teacher having illicit relationships with male students that resulted in this pregnancy, in many states she has the right to go back and collect child support for the child.  While my husband, like many other men duped by paternity fraud, has no recourse for recovering the child support and expenses he paid for this child.  Not mention the pain he endures.

I’m not saying that all parents (male or female) who receive child support are not using it for their children.  But there are bottom feeders – people who use their children as a paycheck, who feed their ego literally at the expense of their children.  At the very least, we ought to be able to require some type of accounting be presented to show where the money is being spent to benefit the children.  I was happy to provide my ex-husband with receipts whenever he asked for them.  If there is nothing to hide, why not?  When my husband met with his attorney over the last child support increase he asked if we could put the increase in a court ordered trust for the child to be given to him when he became of age.  It was the only way we knew he would be getting the benefit of his father’s hard work.  It wasn’t allowed.  The custodial parent is allowed to spend the money however they see fit.

There needs to be more shared parenting to decrease the need for there even being a child support order.  What’s in the best interest of the child is spending time with each parent and seeing the reality of having to work to make ends meet.  A child being used as a weapon and a source of income doesn’t benefit anyone.  Ultimately, it is the child is the one being damaged by the system in place for their protection and edification.  Change is desperately needed.

 

 

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

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...

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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.

 

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