Thursday, January 29, 2009

At Odds

I am at odds with my struggle to detach from Maleficent.
To remain ambivalent to her presence in our lives.
I am finding it difficult to go about our lives, happily ignorant to her existence.
Night time is when this struggle becomes the hardest.

Cinderella is old enough to remember to call her biomom. IF she WANTS to call her.
(Though she has admitted to sometimes she simply forgets to call.)
Prince Charming is trying to take over the job of being the proverbial string around her finger.
The job I once had assigned myself but which began to feel as if I was FORCING her to carry out the task.
But Prince Charming sometimes forgets to remind Cinderella, as much as Cinderella sometimes forgets to call.
Maleficent called twice last night to talk to my stepdaughter.
Her calls were left for voice mail.
Call #1 occurred while we were eating dinner and I have a very strict rule of NOT interrupting family time for ANY phone calls.
(Cinderella usually asks if it's her biomom calling, but she didn't this time.)
Call #2 came while Cinderella was in the shower.
Last night was supposed to be one of Maleficent's visitation days. The snow storm that blanketed our area canceled that.
Cinderella had thought to call her biomom during the day. She even had the phone in her hand at one point but never dialed the number, instead turning to go back to whatever it was that she was doing at the time.
For the rest of the day and night, she did not think to call her biomom.

All evening I wrestled with breaking my vow to take care of myself and REMINDING Cinderella to make the call.
Or of reminding Prince Charming to remind her.
I felt guilty all night. And then angry for allowing myself to feel so guilty.
I was getting sucked back in and I didn't like it.
For as much as I trying my best at self-preservation, I can't help but feel I am also doing us a great disservice.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Have You Ever Been Told...

... that your stepchildren look *just* like you?

Cinderella has your eyes.
Oh I could tell you were here for Cinderella. She looks just like you!

You must be Cinderella's Mom. You and she have the same coloring.

It cracks me up that people will see what they want to see with our children.
People who DON'T know that there is no biological relationship between us and just assume, by very presence, that there MUST be.
Secretly, I like it. Not just because they unknowingly STICK IT to Maleficent, but also because it reaffirms my efforts at creating a unified home, free from the toxic mine-VS-yours, us-VS-them, step VS bio VS half attitudes.
Others don't see it.
And I LOVE that.
All they see is a family.
Parents and children.

As it should be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where is MY Oscar Nomination?

So, is that Cinderella's mother?
And... are you... OK with that?

I stared at the teacher blankly for a minute, standing in the middle of drama rehearsals as I watched Cinderella walk out with Maleficent (and Diablo) for her evening visitation.
The only audible sounds were those of my eyelids as I blinked HEAVILY in disbelief over the question and EXCITEDLY over the miriad of responses that were flooding my mind.
Was this woman SERIOUSLY asking me if I was OK with the fact that Maleficent was Cinderella's mother???
Of course not, but OHMYGOD if only I could answer that question honestly FOR ONCE.

Then I looked around for Allen Funt 'cuz clearly this was some kind of JOKE or TEST and there MUST be someone waiting in the wings ready to present me with a BIG HONKING GOLD MEDAL for exercizing self-restraint and not launching into a diatribe over my TRUE feelings about this woman... this so-called "mother" of my stepdaughter.

There were no medals, no golden statues, no rounds of applause.
Just my own self-satisfaction for being an adult and following the advice of my own personal hero, Thumper:

If you can't say something nice... don't say nothin' at all.

Watch Our Mario Andretti

Hansel entered his FIRST car for his FIRST Pinewood Derby!
Do you like the graphics? Hansel did them all by himself (with a little help from Prince Charming).
His race is this Sunday. Wish him luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Steps Towards Stepping BACK

Last week's dread was yet another waste of my energy.
Visitation pick up time came and went. Maleficent did not come to the house. Did not call.
There was no confrontation.
Prince Charming had taken care of letting her know Cinderella would be at drama rehearsals so was to be picked up at school instead of home.
Of course I had to scold him a bit.
"It would have been nice if you told me that so I didn't spend half of the day worrying."
Of course I also realize that's not his problem.
It's mine.
And I did say that I needed to step back and NOT be involved so he was only abiding by my wishes.
He reassured me by saying Maleficent responded to say she already had the schedule and so she knew where and when to pick up Cinderella during her visitation days.
(Kudos to her for getting the info herself even if it did mean harassing Cindy's drama teacher in email. At least it wasn't ME.)
I spent the rest of the week trying NOT to think about custody, visitation or pending court dates (no, a date has NOT been set and no one has been notified).
I was able to enjoy time with the kids and my family ... for the MOST part.
Old habits die hard. I have spent the last ten years playing this game of chess where I try to anticipate Maleficent's next move and do everything I can to launch preemptive strikes.
It's difficult to change my mind set. But I am trying.
And am having small successes.

For example...
Cinderella's rehearsal schedule has been updated. She came home with a new schedule last Thursday but FORGOT to grab an extra copy for Maleficent.
AND... I did NOT rush to transcribe anything and email it to her, as I have been doing for the last year.
HOORAH! for me!!!!!
When Cinderella came home from her visitation she told me how Maleficent was "up her butt" all weekend about getting HER a new copy of the schedule and not to forget to call her Tuesday (yesterday) to let her know what her schedule was for Wednesday (today).
The poor kid was stressed and a little perturbed at her Mom for hounding her.
AND... I did NOT rush to transcribe anything or try to FIX anything!!!!
I let Cindy talk. I listened, empathized and then we MOVED ON to another subject.
Of course she forgot to grab her Mom a new schedule after yesterday's rehearsal and was stressing about it last night.
Mommy's going to be so mad.
I gave her the same advice I (and my thoughtful readers) have given myself:
"It's not your job to keep your Mother informed of that stuff. She is a grown-up and can take care of herself. She knows that she can call and get that information if she wants."
Yeah but she will never call you. Once she makes up her mind about someone she will NEVER change it no matter what you do or how nice you are.
"Then that's her choice. We can't worry about that. Mom will figure out where you are one way or another. Don't worry about it."

I do not know if Maleficent will come to our home today to pick up Cinderella.
And right now I do not care.
I am not worried.
I will not hide. I will not avoid the phone. I am a grown up and can handle a simple conversation which requires nothing more than a statement of facts:
"Hi. Cinderella is at rehearsals until 5:30. You can pick her up at the school. Thanks. Bye."

I will also BE AT rehearsals tonight (ONLY because my help is needed). So if Maleficent does NOT show up, Cinderella will not be stranded and she will have ME to bring her home.

Maybe between the two of us, we can create enough a support system to keep Maleficent's poison from seeping into our home.

Casting Call: Reality Show on Stepparenting

Please read the following from Pie Town Productions (the makers of "A Baby Story" on TLC):

Established non-fiction production company is casting all over the country for an OUTGOING, FUN family to be featured in their own series. Think "Jon & Kate Plus Eight..." We are looking for women about to transition from fabulous and single to STEPPARENT. Are you about to become an instant family? Are you a bit overwhelmed about the idea? We'd like to hear your story! This is a positive, upbeat show that parents of all types (step or otherwise) can relate to! To find out more information about the company and what we're looking for, please contact Ally at - please put "Instant Family!" in the subject line.

To see and learn more about Pie Town Productions, visit their website.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Moment of Clarity... and Dread

I'm a care taker.
I am inexplicably drawn to people in crisis.
Their problems become MY problems and I become hopelessly devoted to helping them through their crisis.
It's what initially drew me to Prince Charming.
And is what has caused me to spend the last several years trying to appease Maleficent.
"If I were in her shoes" became my mantra.
I became obsessed with tending to Maleficent's volatile emotional state desperately trying to keep her happy.
If she is happy then we ALL will be happy, is what I thought.
It seemed a logical assumption.
In my newly elected role, it became my job to act as Prince Charming's conscience. To make sure he did what was right by Cinderella's Mom. To help him overcome their past and go through the motions.
Urging him to call with her every bit of news that *I* felt she might want to know.
Be a team player. Do what we can to make this co-parenting situation a success. Make her feel as if she is part of the process so she feels less threatened and combative.
If it appeared to not be working then we weren't trying hard enough.
We've got to do more!
Eventually I took matters into my own hand and handled that side of communications.
If Cinderella had a routine doctor's appointment. I called Maleficent after wards to give her the update.
Homework assignments, drama rehearsal schedules, report cards all were copied, scanned or transcribed into email. No detail was too small for me.
Even the random birthday or first-day-of-school photos were happily shared.
If I were in her shoes, I'd want to know.
If I were in her shoes, I'd feel so isolated.
If I were in her shoes, I'd feel so humiliated, and embarrassed and resentful.
I put myself in her shoes every day and every day gave my ALL to make her feel less despondent and more a part of the process.
If I were in her shoes, *I'd* be grateful for all the effort that was being made by the custodial home.
The problem with being a care taker is it's exhausting. I eventually get tired of GIVING and of never RECEIVING anything in return.
The problem was... *I* was not in her shoes.
SHE was.
Maleficent's illness prevents her from GIVING back. From seeing things for what they really are.
From being appreciative for what we... no *I* was doing.

You cannot rationalize with an irrational person.
I've grown weary of trying to make things better FOR her and WITH her.
For in trying to do so, I have neglected my own family. She has drawn my attention away from taking care of my own, and of MYSELF.
I am working on taking a step back and LETTING GO.

Cinderella is starting rehearsals for her next drama production at school. Ordinarily, this would be the time when I would be transcribing her rehearsal schedule for Maleficent (mostly so she would know where to go to pick up Cinderella on her visitation days).
But I am not doing that anymore. It's now Prince Charming's responsibililty.
We've had the schedule for two days.
Today is Maleficent's visitation day. Cinderella is in rehearsals until 5:30 which means M needs to pick her at the school and NOT HERE.
I reminded Prince Charming of my need to step back. I told him I would NOT be taking care of sending the schedule to his ex.
And here I sit, hoping he's remembered to handle this situation.
Knowing that if he hasn't, she will not have her moment of clarity and realize all I have done to keep her informed and involved.
Oh, NO.
I feel like turning off the lights and shutting off the phone just so I can avoid all contact with her.
And that pisses me off.

Oh yeah, and just to add fuel to the fire, Prince Charming filed violation papers last week. Among other things, he is looking to change the visitation schedule in light of Cinderella's recent confessions (surpervised if not an immediate STOP until Maleficent starts seeking appropriate treatment). So we also sit waiting for a court date to be set and for Maleficent to be notified. That should be any day now. Maleficent has no idea this is coming.

Our fairy tale is turning into quite the page turner.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Could Write a Book.

I could have written an entire post about how at Cinderella's recent drama club performance (in which we were seated directly OPPOSITE Maleficent and Diablo) we spent half of the performance shielding hateful glares, stares and smirks.

I could have written a tome on how Maleficent has been instigating stressful situations only to hide behind some ridiculous doctor's note saying that it's not good for her health to be stressed (which translates into her ignoring phone calls and emails ONCE AGAIN).

I could have rehashed the recent weeks in which Cinderella has suddenly found her voice and is beginning to speak out against her Mom telling us of the constant verbal abuse she suffers at Maleficent's and Diablo's hands whenever Prince Charming tries to uphold the custody agreement or establish communication of ANY kind.

I could tell you of how my heart aches for this poor child and how proud I am at the same time for the grace with which she is handling things all-the-while knowing of the pain she has yet to speak.

Or of how many times I have advocated, defended and empathized with a woman who vilifies me and makes assumptions based on her own insecurities; who calls my husband and I the most vile and hateful names IN FRONT OF and TO Cinderella.

Instead I wrote about a random incident in which it might appear as though I overreacted to Maleficent and perhaps treated her unfairly. I might have. And then again I might have been having a rational reaction after months of trying to be the BIGGER person.

I chose not to write about any of these. As much as writing can be therapeutic it can also be exhausting to have to relive these moments with Maleficent. So I chose to keep them to myself.

Instead of writing a book, I am trying to read a book.
This book.
Hoping it will offer some peace or sanity to what has become an almost unbearable situation.

I need to figure out a way of not letting Maleficent be MY problem.
I cannot control her but I can try to control my reaction to her.
I can focus on being the cure for Cinderella's pain while letting my husband deal with the cause.
I can stop advocating for her. She does not see or appreciate it anyway.

In making me the enemy, Maleficent has lost the only ally she had in this house.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Stepmom Strikes Back

Maleficent did not take too kindly to me calling her out on her choice to call Hansel & Gretel Cinderella's half-siblings. It was self-serving and intended to belittle our childrens' relationship with one another.
I criticized her for being so petty and accused her of being threatened by our ability to provide a loving family for Cinderella. I told her she was pathetic.
I told her that we had all grown weary of her and her bipolar issues and that she would one day soon regret her actions as of late.
She didn't like what I had to say. She didn't like it one bit:
I am so tired of you it isn't even funny. You have gotten way too big for your bridges!!! I don't and won't continue to explain to you about any conversations my daughter and I have. Prince Charming and I made Cinderella you were just a thought later. You seem to think Cinderella is YOUR daughter. I owe you NO explanation PERIOD! I don't want any more emails from you. The emails are between Prince Charming and I. Mind your own business. As far as I know Prince Charming is raising Cinderella (She is OUR child!!!!) I DO NOT want to here from you again. No more harrassing me.

I read her email and felt an immediate rush of adrenaline.
I might have even recited this prayer once or twice.
I was shocked (and secretly pleased) that I had managed to elicit a response from her. I obviously struck a nerve in some way.
Her anger was all over the place, her comments erratic and nonsensical. In fact I don't understand what half of her statements were supposed to mean or how she expected me to react to them.
"You were just a thought later."
Huh? Isn't that usually how it works? People get married, people get divorced, people move on. No?
I was not surprised to see the harassment accusation thrown in at the end. A single email can hardly qualify as harassment. But she is a coward. That's just how she rolls.
I resisted the urge to correct her typos, l'est my bridges get any bigger. ;)
But I did need to make one thing very clear to her:
Anything that affects my family, especially that which also affects Cinderella's brother and sister is my business. There is much more to parenting than simple biology, and I will never stop defending or standing up for what is right for the kids.
Prince Charming also came to my defense. He was infuriated by her behavior and her language.
He chose to call her, to let her know he was aware of this little exchange and that he felt as strongly about it as I did and that he did not like the way she was talking TO and talking ABOUT his wife. The mother of the home in which Cinderella lives.
He might also even have stated that I am more of a mother than she will EVER be.

There has been no further backlash. Maleficent is acting as though this never happened. No retorts. Certainly no apologies. Nothing more has been stated - verbally or in email.
She is happy in her land of make-believe and has mastered the art of avoidance.
I can learn something from her in that department.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When BioKids Are Affected

"Hansel and Gretel are..."
My half-brother and sister.

We sat for a moment in stunned silence at the dinner table.
Prince Charming and myself. Hansel, Gretel, my Dad and Stepmom.
Cinderella's words hung overhead like a dark cloud.
It's been nearly three years since we've heard that phrase in our home.
And now it was back rearing it's ugly head.
And this time we had Maleficent to thank for it.
I shouldn't have been surprised what with the recent state of affairs and the downward spiral that's been taking place over the past several months.
I should have let it go. But the words hurt because our Little Ones were now being introduced to that term. I don't know if they understood what Cinderella said, but I am certain they heard it.
I don't want any of you to think differently, or LESS, of one another. And that label can be hurtful.
I know all about how labels can affect a relationship. I think most Stepmoms do.
It's bad enough when Maleficent's poison affects Cinderella , Prince Charming and me. It's worse when that also reaches to Hansel and Gretel.
I couldn't let it go.
I have spent the last ten years trying to advocate for this woman, empathize with her and she has slapped me in the face for the last time.
I had enough of turning the other cheek and of letting things go or let others handle her. Now she was talking about my biokids and trying to belittle Cinderella's relationship with them (and vice versa).
I fired off an email.
I might have called her out on her bipolar disorder.
I might even have referred to her being threatened of our family as pathetic.
I most definitely asked her to mind her business when it comes to Cinderella's relationship with her brother and sister and to let us handle that OUR WAY.

I also made the mistake of checking email during a holiday visit with my Dad and the even bigger mistake of reading her response to me.

To be continued...