January 19, 2014

I have historically used this space to focus on my struggles and successes with the healthier lifestyle I have been living for the past 2 years.  It might be a stretch to some, but mental health is just as important as physical health, and I have a lot weighing on my mind when it comes to recent family events.


It was a very snowy Saturday in March when I was asked to go where no early twenties college gal dare go: Chuck E. Cheese.  My then boyfriend (now husband) of a little over a year finally felt okay introducing me to his oldest daughter (his youngest was born 7 months into our relationship; that is a whole other story for another time.  All you need to know is I am an intelligent woman who fell in a love with a very wonderful man; who happened to have two kids from two past relationships).  She was one month shy of 5 years old and totally adorable.  She brought me stickers of puppies and kitties and was pretty quiet.  I didn’t know that day how much this little girl would shape me as a person in the following years, inside and out. 

The reason he waited over a year to introduce us is important: his ex has never made life easy when it came to seeing his child since their relationship ended, in fact, we have recently learned she hasn’t even been acting with the best interests of their child in mind all these years.  My husband waited this long time before I got to meet his daughter, and even had asked his ex’s permission, scheduled a different day, to only have her “change her mind” at the last minute before the first meeting ever happened.

But this isn’t about the ex, this is about the daughter.

Over the following years, I found my place as that loaded word: Step-Mom. After we were married in 2009, my now husband and I struck a balance with things, There were a few road bumps, but we found our groove.  For me, step-parenting is always such a fine line.  A slippery slope that always feels seconds away from the words I’m sure I’ll someday hear: “You’re not my REAL mom!”  My eldest daughter (I hate the step part, I feel like it is unnecessary, I think of both girls as my own, but I never want to offend anyone; be it their mothers or any of the maternal family…it is all very complicated.  Let’s call her bonus kid?) has grown into this absolutely fantastic person.  I feel so lucky to have somehow ended up as a part of her life.  She makes me so proud for so many different reasons; she is an honor roll student who is in band, choir and has a passion for art and drawing.  She does baton twirling and volleyball.  She is funny and fun to be with and just such a joy to assist in parenting alongside my husband.  She has made me want to be a better role model.  I try to live my life as a good example of a good person and a good woman all for her.  To show her how an active lifestyle is good for you and fun, and how eating a balanced diet still allows for treats, just in moderation.  Being a part of her life has made me a better person.  Hands down. 

My husband had to request a court ordered visitation schedule in July of 2012.  After several years of the ex sometimes following their verbal agreement, but mostly dictating when he would get to see his daughter, enough was enough.  At a pre-trial hearing they signed to an order to which afterwards she says things like, “we’ll see if this works” and “I’ll just keep saying no to you until I get my way”.  The following year she broke the order once, and my husband agreed to the slight change so no action was taken.  They swapped weekends and moved on.  Then, summer of 2013 arrives and his ex scheduled all their family vacations during time that was supposed to be my husband’s, forcing him to file contempt of court charges against her.  The order they agreed upon was written to say specifically, she cannot schedule vacations over his time in the summer.  She immediately lawyered up, and filed a motion to revise parenting time, requesting a reduction in summer visits for my husband.  She has been granted multiple continuances, dragging out the process.  She is on her second lawyer, her first withdrew as counsel on the grounds of “not being able to zealously advocate for Ms. XXXXXXX position on the matter.” She is making our lives a living hell. 

She has put their daughter, my bonus kid, smack in the middle of all of this.  The ex has convinced her this is all her dad’s fault and the only way to get him to agree to this lessened time and to drop the contempt charges is to refuse to see him.  The ex is portraying Hostile-Aggressive Parenting techniques and my bonus kid is showing clear signs she is suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome.  To see this child turned away from her dad (and as a result me as well) over the past few months, is absolutely heartbreaking.  I am so worried what all of this is doing to her mentally and psychologically.  

So I guess this was a little bit about the ex.  How can it not be?  She’s my bonus kid’s mother.  We never wanted things this way.  We have said over and over again to each other how we know there are some situations when parents split up and can actually set aside their personal feelings for each other and act in the best interests of the child.  We have that with my youngest bonus kid; her mom is great.  Her mom can admit my husband is a great father and know it is a good thing to have him in her daughter’s life.

We can’t relent now, because then what’s the point of all this strife?  We have to stay the course, but this is by far, the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in life.  Watching my husband be told he deserves less time with his child simply because the ex thinks it is just is maddening.  He is the best father a child could ever want.  He would do absolutely anything for his children.  All we can do is everything we are doing, but it just doesn’t feel like enough.