Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Madness

My 11-year-old step-son is scheduled to start his summer soccer program tomorrow. This program has been his one and only activity for the past four years, and he is incredibly excited for this season. He spent last week in the yard doing drills and practicing ball handling and kicking goals. The kid loves soccer.

For the past three seasons, my step-kids biological mom (a.k.a "the momster") has refused to provide transportation to/from practices and games during her custodial weeks, saying her medical condition prevents her from driving, going outdoors, and committing to any sort of transportation for her children. She has M.S., and I know it can worsen or flare up if she's exposed to heat/humidity for extended periods of time.

However, for the past two years, the momster has been driving her two little kids from her current marriage (ages 5 and 3) to/from preschool three days a week and to/from swimming lessons three days a week, with no health issues arising from her duties.

For the past three seasons, my husband and I have spent two nights a week - both during our custody weeks and her custody weeks - at the soccer fields. Last summer got to be a bit much, as we had a lot of activities ourselves during our "non-kid" weeks.

This year, as we signed him up for soccer, an email was sent to the momster, letting her know we would not be to providing transportation during her custody weeks. I figured this was perfectly acceptable. My husband and I have gone above and beyond to make sure my step-son had rides to every soccer event for the past four years. Since she is obviously capable of driving her youngest children to/from activities, she can certainly do so for the children she and my husband have in common.


Dead wrong.

This morning (the day before my step-son's soccer season starts), she notified my husband via email that she has no ability to provide transportation for this year's soccer activities. She stated that we've done all the transportation for the previous years and it needs to remain that way if my step-son hopes to participate this year.

My husband emailed her back, and suggested she bring her son to soccer tonight and try to find a parent there who would be willing to provide transportation to subsequent soccer practices and games during the momster's custody weeks.

Her reply was that she was not about to go there tonight and beg a ride off some parent who she doesn't even know. She also stated that she doesn't know the layout of the soccer fields and hasn't had the luxury of learning how it all works over the past four years, so she will not be putting herself in this awkward position.

Um, EXCUSE ME!?!?! How could a parent be so obviously pathetic and selfish... in writing, nonetheless??

There are so many instances where her two youngest children (from her current marriage) receive special treatment, whereas my step-kids (the kids she and my husband have in common) are left to fend for themselves. She refuses to provide transportation for my three step-kids to any activities, and tells them their dad and I can pick them up if they want to go somewhere. Yet, she repeatedly tells my step-kids that husband and I are horrible people who make horrible parenting decisions. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Has anyone else encountered this type of situation with a biological mom who has children from a new relationship? It angers me that the momster is willing to make such distinction between the two "sets" of kids in her home. She's even gone so far as buying twice as many presents for her younger kids for birthdays and holidays, claiming that since they live with her full-time, they deserve more from her. The most messed-up part of it all is that my step-kids (ages 16, 13 and 11) accept it for what it is. They see nothing wrong with her reasoning and look to their dad and me to provide all the things she's unwilling to give them.

I just don't get it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gift Registration Demands

While chatting online with my sister-in-law this afternoon, I told her how much I dislike the idea of wedding gift registration. Here's why:

Today, most people getting married have lived on their own (or with their partner/fiancee) prior to marriage. Therefore, they don't need household goods like toasters, blenders, etc... to start their new life together. The purpose of such a registry is to ensure the couple has all the necessary household appliances and furnishings to start anew, so gift registration applies to essentially nobody these days.

I've seen such ridiculous gift registrations over the years, it's laughable. Not too long ago, some acquaintances were obviously using their registry to outfit him for his upcoming hunting trip. And none of it was in my price range. I do not want to fund his trip into the woods, thank you very much - aren't I supposed to be buying a gift for the newlyweds?!

Another annoyance is the overpriced gift registry. A couple to whose wedding I was invited registered at some of the most expensive boutiques you could imagine. My budget would have netted them one silver spoon from their entire requested flatware collection. The nerve!!

Overall, I think the process is horrible. Couple walks into store. Couple picks up scanner. Couple spends a day saying "I WANT!!". End of story. How rude!

I've never been ok with someone telling me what to buy for them as my a present/gift to them. It's presumptuous and tacky to simply give your guests a list and say "Buy me something I've requested here. Wrap it and pretend like it was your idea. Oh, and I'll know I'm getting it before you've even written your name on the envelope because I check my gift registry status daily. Thanks."

Here's my take: If you know me well enough that you've invited me to witness your special day, chances are I have some idea of what to get you. If I can't think of something, I'll give you the wonderful gift of cash or a gift card. But let it come from me; let me figure out what to buy you from me. Please.

If I'm invited because I'm friends of the brides/groom's parents, I can certainly address a nice card and stick some cash inside. I don't need to wander all over main street trying to find the only gift in my price range that someone hasn't already checked off your list.

Oh, and there is one exception. If I'm not that great of a friend but you're inviting me because you figure I'll spend more on you than you will on me for the cost of dinner, think again. If there's an open bar, I'll be there. And you will lose in this equation. I'll even buy you a nice set of $10 hand towels from your registry if that's what it takes.

Gift registry is a joke. There. I've said my piece.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Round Two... and a Revelation

For the second day in a row, my 13-year-old stepdaughter is displaying a horrible attitude. Tonight, her dad explained that unless she change her ways and display some courteous, respectful behavior over the next couple weeks, he will not sign the permission slip allowing her to participate in a school trip to a nearby amusement park. Her response was to tell him that if he won't sign it, then her mother (the bio-mom) would. Ah, the old "divorced kid" standby; the other parent. She gave absolutely no thought to telling her dad that his punishment was ineffective, which to me displays a major lack of respect.

To properly explain this, I should go back to when I first met my husband - nearly seven years ago. From the time he and I met, his former wife/the bio-mom has made many attempts to undermine and belittle him (and later, me). From name calling to explaining to the children that the rules in our house aren't "real rules" and telling the children that we are "stupid" and "liars" - all of these statements were volunteered by the children at different points throughout the years - she has really been on the offense since she and my husband separated. In fact, even though we have the children in our home fifty percent of the time, and are very much part of their lives, when the children are in her home they must address their step-dad as "Dad" and they must call their real dad (my husband) by his first name. This was done long before the bio-mom and her (now) husband were married, and it's something that bothers me on a daily basis.

It has always, always, been my husband's standpoint (which I adopted when we started dating) that we never ever badmouth or undermine the kids bio-mom. When they complain about something she's done or some rule she's set or some punishment they've received, it's been a standard response to remind them that she is their mom, she loves them, and she probably has a good reason for making the decisions she does. Believe me, there are times I nearly bite a hole in my tongue and I get a bit of indigestion from swallowing the hard truth (really, she makes some crazy decisions!). But... in the end, she is their mom, and we can't change or prevent anything she does, so why hurt the kids in the process?

In recent years, it's becoming much more obvious that she's "winning" this battle. I guess when the "enemy" is bombarding us with weapons of mass destruction, our "balloons of kindness" (for lack of a better term) are a bit silly and fluffy and ineffective.

Here on "our side" of the trenches, we are now viewed as weak, ineffective, poor decision makers who are incapable of real parenting. These teenagers (and pre-teen) have gradually decided that when they don't like what we say/do or deem appropriate in our home, they can simply ignore it (per the bio-mom's long-standing instructions).

Tonight, after my husband had a loooong discussion with my step-daughter about her attitude and how she needs to work on kindness, he came downstairs looking plainly defeated and heavy-hearted. "Am I a bad parent?" he asked. I know for a fact that he is an amazing parent, capable of kindness and patience and consideration beyond anything I can ever hope to possess. Regardless, I knew what he was getting at, and I offered him this analogy:

Suppose you worked in a small office; it was you and four coworkers. Your four coworkers are John, Jane, Bob, and Betty. Every day you go to work, John and Jane tell you how utterly stupid Bob and Betty are; Bob and Betty are worthless employees who can't be trusted with even the most simple of projects. They are - in a sense - morons. Conversely, every day Bob and Betty tell you how wonderful John and Jane are; how they handle things appropriately and efficiently. Even when you tell them that John and Jane are always badmouthing and undermining them, they reply that they like John and Jane and respect them as fellow employees of the company.

Which coworkers would you respect? All conversations and accolades are obviously in John and Jane's favor. Bob and Betty don't stand a chance.

I'm beginning to feel this is something we will never ever overcome. Perhaps it's too late - HELP!!!


Monday, May 3, 2010

New to This

Today marks the start of another "kid week" for my husband and me. My 11-year-old step-son got off the bus from school at just before 3:00 this afternoon, and my husband picked my 13-year-old step-daughter and 16-year-old step-son up from track practice at about 5:30 today.

The minute they walked in the door, I got "the look" from my step-daughter. She walked upstairs to her bedroom without a word, and shut her door. I was in the middle of making dinner, so I just finished with our meal and had her younger brother knock on her door to let her know dinner was ready.

I should have set another place for her attitude. SHEESH, I don't know what got into her today (or this past week), but SHE. IS. CRABBY. She came into the kitchen, took one look at what I was preparing (a new meal for my step-kids, though I've cooked it several times for my husband and myself) and turned her nose up. I asked what was wrong, and she said "I don't like that", referring to what I made for dinner. I explained that it was something new for her and her brothers, and that she had no way of knowing if she liked it or not. She then explained (or should I say "huffed"?) that I "did too" make that dish and that she was "absolutely certain" she'd had it before and she "didn't like it".

If she'd communicated this as a normal, non alien-possessed person, I would have been ok with it. Today her body language, vocal tone, and choice of words all communicated very clearly that SHE. IS. CRABBY.

I understand she's a teenage girl and she's hormonal and emotional, but I truly don't know how to handle these situations yet. As a female, I know what it's like to be crabby, but I just can't deal with the disrespect that goes along with her attitude. After trying to chat with her for a minute, it was clear to me that she just wanted to be rude, so I asked her to please go back up to her bedroom and "try again". I told her to come back down and try to be nice when she greets her family.

She has two opposite personalities, and not much of a range in between. One day she is bubbly, delightful, and a true joy to be around; the next, she is rude, snide, spiteful and a real pain. One day she is talkative and won't let anyone get a word in edgewise, and the next day she barely says a word, even when I ask her a direct question. What gives?

Tonight, I asked her very directly why she was acting the way she was, and I questioned whether she'd had a bad day and wanted to talk about it. She said in a very monotone voice that she "didn't think she was acting any differently" and that "nothing" was wrong.

So I let it go. I do have to say, though, that as a female I tend to let these things get to me. It absolutely sets me on edge.

I take great comfort in knowing this is not a step-mom issue. It's a teenage-girl-in-the-house issue. My husband and I are both dealing with this as new parents, and it's nice to have his company.

Can I please just fast-forward through the next five years until she's a lady? PLEASE???