Friday, November 16, 2012

Coming Out

I'm bisexual.
She tells me as only a teen can. No segues, just a random let's-put-it-out-there-before-I-lose-my-courage kind of way.
Oh, and did I mention I WAS DRIVING AT THE TIME???
Seriously, Cinderella. Could you have picked a more dangerous tactic???
My mind swirled, the car swerved a bit.
I quickly re-gained control over both.
I asked her how she knew.
Maybe that's a naive question, but it's a valid one that any parent would ask when their child comes out to them. Right??
"Have you ever kissed a girl before?"
[A-HA! Now you see my point as to why I had to ask if she were sure????]

"Ok. And what about boys? Have you ever kissed one?"
Oh sure. Yeah.

[Wait... WHAT?????!!!!! I missed her first kiss? How the-fuck-come didn't she tell me????
Oh. Right. Ok. This isn't about me right now. *ahem*]

Again, I asked if she were sure she were bisexual.
Let's be clear. I am not homophobic. I want her to be happy. No matter what. And I don't want her to miss out on enjoying a meaningful relationship with either sex by getting caught up in some self-imposed label.
Being a teen is all about experimentation. Trying on different personalities, friends, and nowadays - sexual orientations. Boy. Girl. Or...whatever.
I don't care either way. As long as she is safe, and makes smart decisions, and is mindful of her behavior and her choices.
And this is what I tell her.
"Screw the labels. Have fun. Enjoy being a teen. Experiment. Try things on for size."
I don't think she was expecting me to say that.
But she was relieved...and a bit shocked.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Small Rewards

Cinderella: "Sometimes, I wish you were my real Mom."


(That's the sound of my heart exploding.)

That one statement has just made the past 13 years of struggles, tears, custody battles and rising ABOVE... most of which you all have seen documented here... worth it.



Friday, October 12, 2012

16 Candles

Cinderella turned 16 this summer.
She celebrated with her family and one special "friend."*
In my home.

She wanted me to plan and host her party; just like old times when we all were living the fairytale together in the same castle. She's missed these parties over the past couple of years, while she struggled with accepting and dealing with her Dad's and my divorce.
She wanted a return to normalcy. She didn't want her 16th birthday to pass without something special to commemorate. And others who-shall-remain-nameless had conditioned her to believe that she wouldn't get a party because they were too expensive.
It took weeks of reassurance and gentle pushing by me before she allowed herself to hope for a party, let alone decide on what kind she wanted.
In the end, she didn't want a fancy dress party. She wanted to be home surrounded by those that love her most.
Prince Charming, Hansel & Gretel, my Mom, my (ex)StepMom, my ex-inlaws all came together to enjoy a casual summer BBQ in celebration of Cinderella.
We went with a mermaid theme. The Little Mermaid was always her favorite movie as a little girl, and she has never outgrown her fascination of mermaids. Shades of teal and aqua, seashells, and her favorite crab dip were enjoyed by all.
Her cake has become one of my favorites.
So beautiful in it's simplicity.
Just like her party...and what I hope will become her life moving forward.

[*More on the "friend" later.]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cutting to the Chase (Part III)

(Continued from Part II)

What is it about the mention of the police that sends you into a panic?
What did the police want? Were they going to arrest her? Lock Cinderella away for her own good?
SIL needed to know where Cinderella's therapy appointment was. The name of LCSW, her phone number, office location.
(How they did not know this is beyond me. She's only been LIVING WITH THEM since January!)
I ask to speak with the officer and provide him with all of the details need to track Cinderella down.
Then I call my friend, LCSW and then Prince Charming to fill them in.
What is she fucking stupid???
PrinceCharming's reaction is less about Cinderella's behavior and more about his own insecurities over how to parent from a distance while still recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury.
It doesn't not surprise me.
She's just looking for attention!
Yes. Yes she is. Of course she is.
I remind him of a night not that long ago when I received a suicidal text from him.
"Would you have liked it if I told you to knock it off and stop looking for attention?"
He got my point. In his silence I knew he was recalling my empathetic ear that night. How I talked him in from the proverbial ledge and helped him see things a little clearer.
Cinderella needed that same kind of empathy and guidance now.
We knew she was ok. 
She was doing what teens do best...complaining in an over-the-top melodramatic fashion to a friend.
Only this time her complaints triggered a domino effect that she could not have anticipated.
Out of concern, her friend reported her "threat" to a school guidance counselor, who in turn notified the school Psychologist who then contacted the local police.
Once again, valid or not, this is the reality we were given, and it was met with the only response that made sense.
LCSW contacted the state troopers as soon as Cinderella arrived for her appointment to assure them she was safe and sound, in one piece, and very much ALIVE.
Prince Charming hopped a train that night to head back up to his parents' house so he and Cinderella could figure out next steps.
Two days later, Cinderella was admitted into a psychiatric hospital.
Safe within the walls of this sanctuary, she would undergo intensive group and private therapies for two weeks. She would finally get that psych evaluation LCSW asked for two months prior and was prescribed Zoloft to ease her anxiety.
Her visitors were restricted. Based on her initial intake interviews, the hospital staff determined that her mother was 70% to blame for Cinderella's emotional stress, and that it would be in her best interest to not have any contact with Maleficent while undergoing treatment. Her father, myself and her grandparents were the only people allowed to call or visit.
The night before she was admitted and for close to a week following, PrinceCharming tried contacting Maleficent to let her know what was happening with their daughter. True to form, Maleficent refused to answer or return Prince Charming's calls. Instead, opting to call Cinderella's school daily to see if she was in attendance.
Ultimately, at my urging, PrinceCharming left the details of Cinderella's hospitalization in a voicemail.
I mean, why would he want to force a phone conversation with her anyway?
That weekend, Prince Charming and I visited Cinderella.
Together we let her know she has a support system in us. That we loved her and were proud of her bravery.
By the time she was discharged, Cinderella was stronger. She had begun to learn valuable tools on how to stand up to her mother and those around her.
She learned that her feelings matter. That she has a voice and it deserves to be heard.
She learned radical acceptance - that she can't change the behaviors of those around her, but that she can change her reactions to them.
A lesson that I learned along my own personal journey as her WickedStepmom.
Unlike me, she was learning these lessons much sooner.

And somewhere along the lines, in finding her voice, she's expressed her wishes to live with me once again.
Though, not to Maleficent...who is planning to try and get custody of her (yet again).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cutting to the Chase (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

The revelation of Cinderella's cutting behaviors was shocking to say the least.
At first I didn't want to believe it.
"Are you sure? I've never seen any evidence of can this be?"
I was a SAHM for fuck's sake! How did I not see this?????
PrinceCharming's reaction was similar.
She's just looking for attention.
Maybe not.
Nevertheless it was out in the open now. To whatever extent she was doing it, she was now talking about it openly and asking for help.
This was the reality we were presented with, so this is what we had to respond to.
LCSW was reluctant to take her on as a client because she didn't have many "cutters" in her practice, but made an exception in our case.
Cinderella promised to commit herself to the therapy process and not to hurt herself.
PrinceCharming promised to get to her in for a Psych eval so she could be put on some meds to lessen her anxiety.
For two months, I dutifully took Cinderella to every appointment. She liked LCSW. She opened up to her and spoke honestly about her worries, her feelings towards her Mom and her experiences while living there, her grandparents... how she feels like a burden.
Unwanted & Unloved.
Daddy didn't want me.
Mommy couldn't handle me.
Now Grandma and Grandpa make me feel like a burden.
I don't know if it was because I was now aware that she was cutting, or because now that she admitted it she wasn't trying so hard to hide it from us, but Cinderella's scars and scabs suddenly became blatently obvious.
Red, angry lines across her forearms. Deep scabs on her knees and her thighs began appearing in greater numbers.
It was like her inner pain began to take on a life of its own and was forcefully trying to claw and scratch itself OUT from within the deep recesses of her psyche.
Her unhappiness was bubbling up to the surface. Feelings that she had been stuffing for so many years were being acknowledged, exposed and dealt with.
It overwhelmed her.
Then... I got the phone call.

Wicked, it's Cinderella with you?

"No. But she's on her way to her therapy appointment."
My mother was having surgery that day, so I was unable to drive Cinderella to her weekly therapy appointment that week.  I asked a friend to take care of it for me.
SIL's voice is high-pitched and panicky.
Something was wrong.
Then, she tells me...

Well it's really important that I know where she is. Cinderella told a friend at school today that she wanted to kill herself. The state troopers are here looking for her.

It had been about an hour since my friend texted that he was on his way to pick Cinderella up.
An hour since I had any confirmation that this day would be like any other normal therapy day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cutting to the Chase

With Cinderella now living closer to home with my ex-inlaws (UN-laws, as the case may be), I'm better able to lend my support when needed.
And believe me, it's needed.
(After all these are the same people who raised Prince Charming and his siblings...and none of them escaped unscathed.)
My first priority was getting Cinderella back into therapy.
She had been seeing a lovely girl for over a year prior to her exile to Maleficent's. It helped.
But for one excuse reason or another, Cinderella's mother had not found a therapist to continue therapy while she was living with her and Diablo.
As soon as Cinderella was relocated back into our Kingdom, I broached the subject to Prince Charming with a sense of urgency.
After her recent disclosures of what she had to emotionally endure while living with Maleficent, and hearing her fears about turning our just like Mom, coupled with Prince Charming's accident, injuries AND our non-yet-final divorce... oh boy....
Prince Charming and I agreed it was needed, and after giving him ample time to take care of it himself I volunteered to make the calls.
Cinderella's prior therapist was about to go on maternity leave, so we chose option #2.
My co-worker, mentor and friend - LCSW. The same therapist that helped me navigate these past two years and reclaim my life and power.
Cinderella was comforted to know that LCSW was familiar with most of our fairytale and she was relieved to not have to re-tell her entire Tale of Woe to a stranger, and that she had many 15 year old clients.
It was instant *like*.
LCSW was cool (she texts her teen clients), older (like a mother) and most of all - alternative and holistic. She's quite in tuned with the 6th Sensory stuff that my kids all seem to be pre-disposed to.
With Prince Charming's approval I make the necessary arrangements, set up her first appointment and agree to handle the weekly transportation.
Twenty minutes in to her first appointment, LCSW emerges from her office, leaving Cinderella inside for a moment.
She audibly exhales. Rolls her eyes. And makes a pretend motion as if she wants to choke me.
Wicked, this child needs to be hospitalized AND medicated. Do you know she's been cutting herself since 6th grade?

(to be continued...)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To Hell and Back Again

Throughout late 2010 and early 2011, Prince Charming had been battling depression and anxiety.
He became incapable of caring for anyone...especially himself. 
(Being unemployed for close to 8months, to a man who based his entire identity on his ability to support his family and be an Internet Superstar, served as a crushing blow to his fragile ego.) 
He struggled emotionally. I struggled financially.
Despite it all, our relationship improved and we were able to make co-parent decisions easily and without conflict.
We agreed that it'd be best if I assumed full custody of Hansel and Gretel in Spring 2011.
Cinderella spent many sleepovers at her Aunt's and Grandparent's both of whom lived within her school district and were able to lend some support while PrinceCharming struggled.
When summer came, PrinceCharming asked Cinderella to spend it with her mother so he could focus on getting better. She agreed to give it a try.
Cinderella was now close to an hour North of me.
PrinceCharming landed a job, at an internet startup.
He then retreated into the city. Close to an hour south of me.
Summer came and went, and Cinderella was then enrolled in High School and asked to stay with Maleficent for her Sophomore year.
PrinceCharming decided that moving Cinderella into the city with him would not be good as she would be left alone most of the time with him working those crazy startup hours.
The adjustment was difficult on everyone...especially our three children who were not only separated from their Dad, but now also each other.

Maleficent's "custody" of Cinderella lasted all of four months.
It was four months too long.
During her exile, Cinderella endured isolation in the form of denied visits to my home, was subjected to regular bouts of Maleficent's verbal diarrhea on the state of her victimization at the hands of PrinceCharming, and was repeatedly forced to choose between her parents only to be called a traitor when she showed her disdain for living with Maleficent and Diablo.
(Oh and toss in a little blackmail too, as in "if you choose to live with your father. we'll tell your baby brothers that you abandoned them and will make sure you never see them again.")
After his (near fatal) accident, it would be two weeks before Cinderella was allowed to visit PrinceCharming in the hospital.

When she was allowed to visit my home, Cinderella started asking questions about what really happened between her mother and father.
"What did Mom do to cause her to lose custody of me?" Was it bad? It must be bad because a judge doesn't just take custody from a parent without good reason. Was I in danger of being hurt? Is she schizophrenic or something?"
Oh boy.
I answered without answering. Left it up to her to decide.
"Babe, you're old enough to see and understand for yourself. You know what you've witnessed and experienced."
It wasn't my place to tell her the details.
But she already knows.
And she is afraid of suffering the same fate as her mother.
Worried that she, too, will at some point be diagnosed with a similar behavioral disorder.
"Mom lives in her own world, that is not based on reality," she tells me.
Wow. It's like she has her own copy of the DSM IV-R hidden in her back pocket!

When we could get a visit, Cinderella's weekends with us were always bittersweet.
My house was once again filled with the cacophony of giggles and screeches of hyperactive kids, happy to have their missing Musketeer back with them.
The dinner table became a hub of cross-talk as we each competed to get Cinderella's attention and bring her up to date on what happened since the last time we saw her.
Inevitably it would end in tears as Hansel and Gretel sobbed when she had to leave, while Cinderella silently stressed over returning to her mother's.
Her bliss at being reunited with us was always so short lived.
The drive back was particularly difficult for both of us because of the specific instructions that I would NOT drop Cinderella off in front of Maleficent's home. Rather, she was to be brought to a gas station around the corner.
You see, apparently... Maleficent's road was PRIVATE and I was not allowed on it. Must be nice to have that kind of POWER, no?

Talk about being treated like the red-headed stepchild! And you people call me Wicked. Pfft!

I know.
But I deferred to Cinderella who was so fearful of her mother's tirades that I did not want to do anything to make her stay there any worse.
So I acquiesced for my stepdaughter's sake.
This wasn't about me, it was about her sanity and me wanting to spare her from as much grief as I could.
Cinderella was rescued from her prison tower on January 1st of this year.
It was on the heels of her acting out, as only teens can do to get attention - drinking herself into oblivion with some friends from her self-described "ghetto school" just to make herself numb.
"I wanted to not feel," she told me.
PrinceCharming arranged for a holiday visit to get her away from the toxic environment at her mother's. He asked if Cinderella could spend New Year's weekend with me, since she wasn't allowed to spend Christmas with her Family of Choice.
With us, she could get some sense of normalcy, see Hansel and Gretel and be in a happy family environment.
It was during her weekend stay with me for New Year's that ultimately resulted in PrinceCharming realizing he had made a terrible mistake in sending Cinderella to live with her mother.
We learned of how deeply she was being traumatized on a daily basis.
That short visit ultimately turned into a two weeks respite at my home while PrinceCharming made arrangements to have her transferred to live with my ex-inlaws.
At least there, she would have more involvement with Hansel, Gretel and me.
At least there, PrinceCharming would be allowed to act like a father, inasmuch as he is able.
As least there, we can ALL keep a close eye on this troubled girl and help to regulate her erratic emotions.

And so began another adjustment for her.
And one that hasn't been very easy...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hell Has Frozen Over

Cinderella is living with her BioMom.
After years of battling for - and WINNING - custody of Cinderella, PrinceCharming has relinquished physical custody to Maleficent.
Working start-up hours in NYC, while battling one's own emotional demons, is not conducive to raising a teen (who has her own emotional demons).
He says she understands his decision and is working on making the most of it.
I'm sure Cinderella is happy to be seeing more of her Mom, and her new baby brothers as well. (Maleficent has three other children ages two and under).
It's a double-edged sword and it sucks.
Living with her Dad, she missed seeing her siblings (with Maleficent).
Living with her BioMom, she misses her siblings (with her Dad and me).
This poor kid.

(This post was drafted 3 days before Prince Charming's accident. So many events have taken place since then resulting in another change of custody that now has her living with my ex-inlaws. So much to catch up on, Internetz!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Remember these?

Gretel, now 6, can see them.
In  her room. In my room. In the livingroom. When we're out driving. At school.
"Colors," she calls them. Mostly pink, green and blue. Sometimes white.
Once black. That one was in her room. She thought it was one of us sneaking in to scare her ... but it wasn't.
Half a circle, she said. By her door, as if it were peeking around the corner. About 3ft from the floor.
She's not scared.
Not yet.
I'm taking steps to empower her and make sure she is not frightened by this sixth sense that appears to be developing.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Familiar

He's been with me since my very first apartment.
He's 16.
He's developed a tremor.
When I was a child, we lost a cat to some seizure-type event.
I sure hope I do not find myself in that familiar territory with my faithful companion.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Oh, hi

Writing has been on my mind.
But time has not been on my side these past four months.

First things first, PrinceCharming is recovering from his injuries. (Thank you for your posts, comments and well-wishes.) He has a long road ahead of him of cognitive rehabilitation - 5-7 years according to the "experts" - but he's on his way.  Physically, he is almost back to normal, but mentally he struggles with memory loss, inability to multi-task and confusion. Still, he's made enough progress to start earning a living again, albeit on a part-time basis.
He can't drive for at least 5 years, which means he's been relying on others to drive him around when he visits. His move to NYC back in the summer has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for it affords him some independence.
The kids aren't able to see him as much as they want, since he's not able to watch them, so we've been stealing moments when he is in the area.
They're adjusting but we're all secretly waiting for the time when PrinceCharming is well enough for them to spend the weekend with him again.
On the positive side, our relationship has gotten even stronger throughout all of this and for that I am oh so very grateful. While I miss having a co-parent, and wish I didn't have to go through the daily parenting struggles on my own, I am relieved for the lack of additional drama that having an EX sometimes brings.

Speaking of EX's...
The ex-BF has become a boarder/live-in nanny. It's like I'm living my own Who's The Boss Series, but in reverse!
He's been a huge help to me in so many ways - taking care of the day-to-day goings on in the house, while I get on with the task of earning a living and supporting myself and my kids (child support has taken a huge drop, obviously, due to the circumstances at hand).
We've had our challenges - boundaries have to be redrawn as we navigate through this relationship adjustment, but all-in-all it's been a VERY good thing.
Even more, the kids have a loving male figure around, someone who has stepped in during their Dad's absence.

And in regards to EX's of the other variety...
Maleficent may have lost Cinderella for good.
Following PrinceCharming's move to NYC last summer, Cinderella was asked if she could stay with her mother for a while... so he could, work stuff out.
Well, that didn't go very well and, really, we can't say we are surprised.
The reasons WHY are irrelevant and serve no purpose to rehash here. I will simply say that Maleficent made choices that resulted in PrinceCharming being given full custody of Cinderella six years ago, and her choices after being asked have her daughter stay with her resulted in a emergency change to the living arrangements in New Year's Day.
Cinderella stayed with me for 2 weeks while her Dad worked out the details of moving her OUT of her mother's house and transferring her to a NEW school. She is now happily settled in to her grandparents' home (my EX-in laws) and attending the same high school as her Dad and Aunts once did.
We are thrilled as she is now 10minutes from us and so we will be seeing more of one another.

My 2012 began with the blissful sounds of all three of my children in my home - the laughter, the thundering foot steps as they ran from room to room, was a pure joy. My big girl has grown into such a delightful young woman. Her poise and grace throughout all of the struggles with her mother, this recent one notwithstanding, caused me to beam with pride whenever I think or speak of her.
I am glad that I could be there for her during this latest ordeal, and tickled that PrinceCharming asked me for help. I loved coming home to her, and sitting around the dinner table together, and going to the movies and ...

In spite everything, we have all been blessed with unusual happiness these past few months.
And that, my dears, is the stuff Fairytales are made of.