Posts Tagged ‘stepparent’

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.

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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”

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

Why is it that children always get stuck in the middle?  Children are innocent of the breaking down of the relationship.  They are innocent of your inability to act as a mature adult and allow them to have a healthy, whole relationship with BOTH parents.  They are innocent of the animosity and deceit that usually enters their home when parents separate.  It doesn’t matter what happened, or who’s “fault” you think it is.  As a parent, it is your responsibility to protect them, to teach them, to keep them safe.

Once again, I understand both positions.  I have two biological children.  They mean the world to me.  When they were under age, I never took their biological Father back to court for increases in child support.  He visited our children three times prior to our first divorce.  After that, they never saw him.  He never sent birthday cards, presents, etc.  He had absolutely no positive contribution to make to the physical, mental or spiritual well-being of my children, so I wasn’t about to kick the hornet’s nest.  Any contact in the past few years was due to my daughter being an adult, and/or my husband and I inviting him to my son’s birthday parties.

My daughter had many questions growing up about why her Daddy never came to see them.  I told her he had things he was working on, that he loved them very much and that his being away had nothing to do with them.  Never once, and I mean NEVER once, did I utter a bad word about him to my children.  I am very proud of this because it was incredibly difficult.  It was my own personal, on-going exercise in self-discipline.

On the flip side, I have four step-children.  I met the children after dating my husband for a while, when it became obvious we were serious about a long-term relationship with each other.  We all got along great, and although they were all young, that didn’t worry me as I am from a family of six children.  Now, once again being incredibly naïve, I was expecting that I would have an adult relationship with the mother of these children.  I came into the picture two years after the divorce, and from what I had been told by people knowing both my husband and the ex, there was no love lost on either side.  It seemed they cooperated nicely with the responsibilities that come with four young children.  How could I go wrong, right?  LOL  Wrong!

Once it was obvious we were serious, the games began.  Withholding visitation, denying contact via phone, telling the children that they would get back together if it weren’t for me.  We actually got married on a Tuesday, during mid-week visitation, to be able to have the children attend.  Over the years, it has only gotten worse.  There is a thick file folder down at the courthouse  in public records that tells the story.

But it’s the children who have suffered.  The ex has said many things over the years that are simply not true.  She has told the kids that my husband hasn’t paid child support, that he is trying to get them taken away (in fact he did get custody but that’s for another post), that I am the reason she doesn’t have any money.   I could go on and on and on, but you get the idea.  How is it edifying to the children to hear any of this even if it WERE true?  It’s not.  The kids have no place being stuck in the middle.  I don’t care what your ex did to you.  That person is still half of that child.  And YOU are the adult.

Emotional warfare.  That’s what it is.  Just like in King Solomon’s day…the person who loves the child will give in, simply to protect.  That is love.