Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Children Hurt

I've debated writing this post all day...but in the end, I need to express this. It was helpful to me to write it down, and perhaps someone else can give me insight - or just feel better for knowing that it's not weird!

I love my kids – all of them, unreservedly. Three of them may not be mine biologically, but they are still “mine”, and I do my best to make them feel that way. I know I’m not the perfect mom, and I’ll confess…I sometimes feel overwhelmed when dealing with the oldest kid. I mean, when you are used to a 3 year old, and suddenly add an 8 year old to your family, it can be a shock to the system.

As a child of divorce myself, I’m very aware of the emotions involved in divorce and remarriage. It’s tough on children, especially since they have issues sharing a parent with their own siblings – let alone some stranger they have to call “stepmom”. Add in the emotional conflict when you grow to like that stepmom, and wonder if you are a traitor to “real mom” for feeling that way…oh yes, that’s hard enough for adults to deal with!

So, I’ve always expected some rough patches. My husband and I didn’t insist that anybody say “mom” or “dad” if they weren’t comfortable with it. The transition from “Amber” to “Mom” was gradual, and the occasional “Amber” still pops up…and I’m OK with it. (Heck, sometimes I don’t want to be Mom, I just want to be myself) Still, things have been going fairly smoothly. A few verbal head-butts over discipline and such, but no terrible “You aren’t my mom, and I hate you!” moments.

At least, not until this week.

In my eldest daughter’s defense…she’s had a rough week. Sprained her ankle, which hurt a lot, scared her some, and interfered with her sleep. Plus, reports come out Friday, and I know she’s stressed about her math grade.

Other family dynamics play in here too…I won’t go into gory personal details, but her “real mom” is not as present in her life as she could and should be. In fact, “real mom” hasn’t seen the kids since last August, and won’t see them again until this summer’s visitation starts in June. That’s a long time to go, even with the occasional phone call. (Which, at one to two every few weeks, is pretty “occasional”)

Last night, the eldest and the youngest boy both had problems listening. Repeatedly. Hubby and I had already decided a slightly early bedtime would benefit everyone (I hate daylight savings). So I sent those two upstairs to read a book together, and had the other two read a book downstairs – where they each got a cookie for dessert. Everyone went to bed at the same time. That was my “horrible” punishment for them – the loss of ONE cookie.

About 45 minutes after bedtime, the eldest appeared at the door to my office. Hubby was away at an HOA meeting, so it was just me. She was sniffly, like she’d been crying a little, but not blotchy and not actively crying. She asked to call her mom. I told her no, it was bedtime – and rather late for her mom too. We could try tomorrow. She went back upstairs to bed, and no further issues. (Understand, about once a week, the eldest has some reason why she needs attention – so we try to make sure all is well, but not encourage this behavior).

This morning, however, was a different story. Hubby went in to wake her up, and found a very angry “Dear Diary” letter where he couldn’t help but see it. (Since she doesn’t keep a diary, and this was written on a single sheet torn from a notebook…we’re guessing he was supposed to find it) There was a lot of unhappiness there, or to use Hubby’s new term – a “tantrum on paper”. The one thing that bothers me, however, is her accusation that I was keeping her from her mom.

It’s not real, it’s said out of unhappiness that she doesn’t see her mom very often…plus some unhappiness over the loss of the cookie. Still, it hurts. Hurts more than I thought it would, even understanding it. Worst is, I don’t know how to make it better for her! I can’t force “real mom” to call, to spend more time with them. I’m almost afraid now to reach out more, but afraid if I don’t, she won’t have enough mommy-love.

Good gosh, raising kids is hard.


Sophie said...

I'm not really in the postion of offering any half decent advice as I have no idea about raising children but I do feel for you.
I do remember at times when I was young I said things to my parents that were just awful but I didn't mean them. Although my mum and dad are divorced, neither have re-married yet so there was never the issue of step mum/dad.
I did however give my dads girlfriend of the time a hard time but I think that was partly because I was a teenager and thought I was losing my dad.
I'm sure she loves you to pieces and was just angry, though I think you know that.
I hope it all sorts itself soon

woolies said...

I have two teenage boys. Having kids is the hardest work you'll ever do - and it doesn't get easier! I would reach out more to your daughter - let her know that she can count on you. Be her rock.
She's letting you know, in the only way she can, that she is unhappy. I think it's more than just the cookie...
so hard!

Dancing Monkey Jewelry said...

It's hard be a step-parent - I know because I have been a step-child and I didn't make my step-father's lives very easy at times. I'm not a parent - yet. My husband and I are going through the adoption process and we've had to attend several trainings and I want to share with you the one thing we've been told by all the social workers, counselors and Foster program workers - when it's the hardest make sure your child knows that you are there for them. Don't pull away - even if they reject you - even if they hurt your feelings - even when they are angry with you and say horrible things to you or about you. So don't stop reaching out to your daughter - she really needs you and know that even perfect parents aren't perfect. I think Woolies said it best, she's letting you know in the only way she can that she's unhappy.

Valerie said...

I really don't understand sometimes why they want the parent that isn't around but that is the way it is. My son is 33 yrs old and still longs for his dad. Its not gonna happen though. If I had any advice for you, just don't try to replace the mom but just be yourself and let them know that you love them. You sound like a very caring person.

KieutiePie said...

Awww i'm sorry it's so hard. I have never had any children and am not really around them at all, so I'm totally out of touch with these sorts of things. It sounds hard though. It must be hard for her to not have her mother around though.