Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For the past several years - well, since I first met my husband - my step-kids bio-mom has done her best to isolate him from his children.  I noticed it immediately, and I hoped it was simply her way of trying to keep me from being involved; that she was "punishing" him for having a serious girlfriend.

Unfortunately, not much has changed or improved in the past eight years.  Some might think it's paranoia on our part, but I can assure we've given the appropriate amount of credit to her "simply forgetting" to tell us.  With regard to school-related events (school pictures, yearbook order forms, field trip notifications/permission slips, school volunteer opportunities, report cards, mid-term reports, etc...), we've been kept in the dark more often than not.  If a form or slip is sent to her house, we are not made aware of the event unless it occurs during our custody time.  Even then, we are given short notice; just enough to satisfy her requirements.  For picture day, we are told the day before to have the children wear the clothes she sends along.  For field trips, we are informed they need bag lunches, money, and transportation home after school hours; usually the night before the event.

More recently, the types of events have grown in significance as the children get older.  My step-daughter's Prom happened to fall on our custody week this year.  As I did last year, I made no attempt to involve myself in shopping for the prom dress or accessories.  I realize it's a special time that a mother and daughter can spend together.  However, I refuse to be accused of not pitching in when I know full well that my input would not have been welcomed or appreciated.   While I realize it is important for the bio-mom to do the prom shopping with my step-daughter, I also realize that the actual prom day is my step-daughter's day.  Therefore, I expected she would spend the day getting ready with her friends.  Unfortunately, her bio-mom felt differently.  She made plans for my step-daughter for the entire day, but made no mention to my husband or me.  A few days before prom, my husband emailed the bio-mom asking if she would like us to bring my step-daughter by so she could take pictures.  An all-out crazed reply followed.  Apparently, we were supposed to know she made plans for our custody week without anyone telling us.

Also, for the past month or so, I've been asking my step-daughter about her year-end testing for school.  Knowing we have a family wedding out of town, I wanted to ensure we weren't taking her out of school during any important testing dates.  Today, we were accused of not caring about her ACT testing and not having registered her for her upcoming ACT test date - which we knew nothing about.

My point is: it's beyond frustrating that the bio-mom intentionally removes us from all communication she receives regarding the children's activities; it serves no purpose to the children and keeps their lives in a constant scheduling nightmare.  It's even more frustrating that the bio-mom accuses my husband and I of not caring and not doing enough to support the children in the activities about which we have no information.

One solution is to have the school send these notifications directly to our house.  We've tried this in the past, but it seems every year the bio-mom calls the school and resets the contact information, removing us from the list.  Meanwhile, her mother-in-law and a family friend are added.  We routinely update the information to ensure we're added back to the list.

We also ask the children to call or text us anytime they receive information regarding their activity dates.  My 14-year-old step-son is wonderful about doing this; he will call, text, and remind us regularly as the event approaches.  My step-daughter is nowhere near that organized, so a lot of things fall through the cracks.

I doubt anything can be done to change this situation for our family.  At this point, I do not expect her to be kind to us and considerate of our schedules.  We do our best with the information we're given to be there for the children, and they know that they are a priority in our lives.

My hope is that my experiences as a step-parent can prevent even one bio-parent for making these types of choices.  They might hurt your ex (and I know sometimes that is incredibly satisfying), but your kids are worth more than starting and winning a petty argument.  Please communicate to the best of your ability so both (all) parents can work together and support your kids.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I realize it's been a while (read: a couple YEARS) since I last posted an update on the goings-on of my (step) family.  What a ride it's been!  There've been a lifetime of joys, sorrows, laughs, and craziness packed into that time - all of which I'll hopefully have the time to cover at some point.

Lately, my husband's and my time has been consumed with the little things: our jobs, school activities, sports, Prom, and our own social activities.  Spring seems to always present a chaotic schedule and this year is no exception.

Over the past two years, my oldest step-son (now 19) moved out of our house and into the BioMom's home full-time.  My step-daughter (16) went through the typical teen-girl-goes-crazy-possibly-taken-over-by-aliens phase, and we've since recovered (most of) her normal personality.  My youngest step-son (14) has shown us glimpses of teen angst, but is mostly still consumed with his friends, video games, and competitive swimming; not necessarily in that order.

And, although I'd like to say we have "seen it all" from the BioMom and Step-dad, I fear we have not.  There have been moments of calm, interspersed with moments of certain insanity, but mostly the same craziness we've experienced for years.  The only thing we can count on is that we can't count on them to be anything but unaccountable (said laughingly many times over the years, as a way to remind ourselves that we need to roll with it).

BioMom prefers not to communicate directly to my husband, and instead she sends messages via the children.  Hel-lo - ever read a parenting book at all?  Even the back cover?!  Pretty sure that's co-parenting faux pas #1 - don't have the kids be the messenger between parents.  Anyway... that's her preference, and therefore it's how she operates.

While it's nice to not hear from her, we can't really pretend she doesn't exist.  That would mean a significant portion of our household income would be sent... nowhere... and the kids' emotional problems would stem from... nothing... and we would be left scratching our heads most of the time.  Instead, we continue to live by the same morals and values we are attempting to teach the kids, and the rest is just the rest.

There are hundreds of stories I could (and probably will) share, as a means of venting and gaining insight from others.  I could share about the summer where my step-daughter was treated like an unwanted houseguest at the BioMom's house, or how the BioMom once again had the children stain an outdoor wooden playset using chemicals that had previously caused a systemic rash/outbreak of hives, or how the BioMom is a bit weird with the kids' friends (texting them, calling them, inviting them over to hang out with her), or how BioMom and Step-dad purchased a second home more than a thousand miles from here, but mentioned nothing about it to my step-kids or my husband, and are basically pretending it didn't happen... the list goes on and on... But those stories can wait for another time.

For now, I'll just say that I'm almost nine years into this craziness, and although there have been ups and downs, I'm blessed with a wonderful marriage and an amazing "bonus family".  It may not be a perfect life, but perfect is boring... right?