Step-Parenting: A Letter To Her Mother

 

To the mother of my partner’s daughter,

I wish we had a better relationship.
I wish we were able to work together for the good of your daughter.
I wish that discussing any issues and concerns with you wouldn’t be seen as a direct betrayal of my partner.
Were he to grant his permission for me to do this, I wish you would listen and acknowledge my concerns- you won’t.

I wish I didn’t have to put the below into a letter and hope you may chance upon it and read these words. I know you won’t.

I wish you paid attention to her daily routine.
I wish you realised that at 12.5 years old, washing your face and brushing your teeth should by now be routine.
I wish you were proactive enough to ensure she does this every day.
I wish you weren’t so oblivious that you allowed her to go 3 days at a time without doing this, resulting in hideously bad breath and a dirty, spotty face covered up with too much foundation.
I wish that being with her father and I wasn’t the only time we knew she did this.

I wish you cared about the state of her room.
I wish you were concerned about the disgusting state of her room at yours.
I wish you ensured she didn’t leave copious amounts of cups, plates and saucers lying around in her room for days on end to ferment and mould.
I wish you were worried about the large amounts of sweet and chocolate wrappers littering the floor and limit her intake of sugar.
I wish you were as worried as we are about the health of her teeth with all the confectionery she eats, especially when she isn’t brushing them.

I wish you would impose a bedtime routine.
It is nice that you afford her a certain level of autonomy concerning her bedtime routine (brushing of teeth and washing of face not withstanding) however I wish you wouldn’t allow her the freedom to stay up past 1.00 am every night watching YouTube videos after she has sneaked her phone up to bed, especially on a school night.
I wish you understood that it is neglectful when it gets to the point that she falls asleep in the car when we come to pick her up after school.
I wish your lack of parenting didn’t affect her to the point where it impacts on our time with her.

I wish you would be assertive and ensure she actually sleeps when she goes to bed.
I wish you cared enough about her and how you come across as a mother to give us more than a half arsed “well… she has had a few late nights” and casting a casual ‘haven’t you?‘ glance at her.

I wish you would put a stop to her having her phone at night.
I wish you cared enough to put a stop to her sneaking her phone up to her room.
I wish your lack of authority hadn’t encouraged her to twice attempt to sneak her phone upstairs after we sent her to bed- she knows that with us, her phone is to stay downstairs on charge once she goes to bed.
I wish I hadn’t had to worry about catching her in the act of sneaking it the first night.
I wish we hadn’t realised at 12:45 am on the next night- also a school night- that she had snuck downstairs and sneaked it up. She was still watching her YouTube channels when we went to retrieve it at this ungodly hour.
I wish it hadn’t encouraged her to lie about knowing where her phone was a few nights later resulting in us searching for it for half an hour (to no avail) before seeing her on Whatsapp an hour after she should have been asleep.
I wish you had raised her to understand that there are consequences for breaking rules.
I wish you would implement them like a parent should.

I wish her poor absence record wasn’t down to your lack of stoicism.
I wish you weren’t so lax about allowing her so much time off school for stupid reasons.
I wish that 1 time when she had Tonsillitis wasn’t the only real occasion she has had for not going to school.
I wish you and her father would take me seriously when I tell you that each time outside of that illness, she has admitted that her ‘headache’ and ‘leg pain’ wasn’t bad enough that she couldn’t go to school.
I wish you understood that she plays you to get time off because she knows you will let her.
I wish you would realise that in the 2 and a half years since I’ve been around, she has not once tried to get a day off school.
Not. Once.

I wish you saw the patterns of avoiding that German test on the Thursday, Friday and Monday, despite being with us over the weekend and being perfectly fine.
I wish you noticed how many last days of school before holidays she has pulled a sickie on.

I wish you realised that you are raising her to think that absence records don’t matter.
I wish you realised that you are raising her to be weak and give up too easily.

I also really wish you knew that as an asthmatic, you should not, ever, be giving her Ibupofen as a pain killer. It makes me sick to see how quickly she asks for it if she feels slightly off.

I wish you reminded her to take her inhaler everywhere.
I wish you knew she doesn’t bother taking it with her when she goes out with her friends from yours.
I wish you knew she had a minor asthma attack in town with her friends because she ‘forgot’.

I wish you would stop being lazy, thoughtless and callous when it comes to raising your pre-teen.
I wish you could see how detrimental your lack of parenting could potentially be to her development, not to mention her health.

I just wish you would stop being you and start being a fucking parent.

 

Kind regards,

The other woman that truly loves and nurtures your daughter (when you apparently can’t be bothered)

 

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The Perks of Being a (Step)Parent

 

 

When you first meet your partners daughter, don’t give her a flat coke- That guilt will stick with you.

I’d only been seeing my partner for a month before he (unexpectedly) introduced me to his 10 year old daughter.

I don’t know how you feel about this but I know I definitely didn’t feel ready and I was worried about how she might feel and react.
My cupboards were bare at the time, I had no juice or milk to offer her, just some coke from a recently opened bottle. My place could have used a bit of a tidy and a clean and as someone who hasn’t got kids nor had much dealing with them, I was more than a little unprepared.

Thankfully I was very lucky with Erin and the meeting went much better than expected (bar the flat coke incident above of which she was too polite to tell me about until months later. I am still mortified to this day.)

Since then I have made every number of mistakes and constantly find myself wondering how I am still here and managing to avoid ruining her for life.

It’s coming up to 2 years now and I truly love her to bits. I am so proud of her and how sweet, gentle and polite she is. She still retains that innocent naivety of youth, but at the same time I am lucky enough to see her grow and evolve into the beginnings of a lovely young woman.


Sharing the milestones

Sharing in many of life’s milestones is one of the key experiences you will get as a successful step- parent.
The first one for me was when Erin allowed me the privilege of sharing in one big milestone of any girl’s life- bra shopping and buying ‘lady things’. The latter she won’t need for a few years yet (she is so slim and her development so slight that we doubt she will start anytime soon) but it makes sense to be prepared and it was important to me that she felt she had our support for the changes coming her way.

I remember the first time I went shopping for these things with my mum for example, and I was quite uncomfortable.
With Erin it’s different. She is excited for the changes to come and has embraced what development she has. Being slim and a ‘young’ 12 year old, she is almost desperate to catch up to her friends, many of whom have developed noticeably after hitting puberty.
One of my  struggles at the moment is getting her to dress appropriate for her age and development, to understand everything has its time- which is a problem as she wants to keep pace with her friends.
Personally I don’t agree with a pre-pubescent 12 year old running around flaunting her first bra- the bright orange and blue padded one- through a sheer lace crop top, so trying to get her to understand the concepts of ‘dignity’ and ‘age-appropriate’ is my current goal.

Saying this, a work colleague told me 12 is the new 15, so I fear my quest is doomed

Despite this, I am glad that she sees these changes in a positive light, I wish I had at her age because it is an exciting time and a right of passage.

Just as a side note seeing as we are talking about milestones, Erin and I said our first official ‘I love you’s’ last week and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since.


Being the Confidante

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A year ago Erin described me as ‘like family but a friend‘ and it is by far one of my proudest moments.
She has since then confided in me about her first crush and first boyfriend- the innocent first boyfriend that you hang out with at school and put a title to- Inside I freaked out when she first told me, but as she got squeamish at the thought of what you do with tampons and begged me not to buy her any, I can safely say that sex definitely isn’t on the cards just yet. (Phew.)

Being the confidante and the person she talks to puts you in a much better position to that of the parent. You are given access to what is going on in their heads and their lives at a stage where most parents are kept in the dark. After reading a few blogs on the subject of parenting a teenager, the more they tell you the better so the longer you can maintain this level of communication the better a ‘parent’ you can be.
Finding your Place in the Familial Unit

 

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Family is the most basic unit in a society. We need to do what we can to strengthen and protect it. As a Christian, it is my prayer that God grant me the wisdom to do just that.

As a step-parent, you do have that awkward position of helping to mould them, care for them and love them but disciplining them is a grey area and I’m not sure it’s ever a place where the goal posts don’t move- I know I have long struggled with where mine lie as my partner keeps unintentionally moving them, making me uncertain of how I can impose guidelines and rules.

It has taken me a long time to realise that maybe I don’t belong in that role. Perhaps I belong on the flip side as the ‘family but a friend’ they can confide in.
Who says that as a step- parent you have to fit into the mould of the generic parent? Why not be the confidante that can coach from the sidelines, moulding and shaping through alternative avenues to the parent?
This is not to say don’t put your foot down. Sometimes you need to say ‘no’ but in situations where guidance is a solution, the step-parent is in the ideal position to do this.

If the child trusts you and respects you enough to divulge their secrets, then they will respect your opinions and listen to your guidance.

Leave the discipline and conventional parenting to the parents. The child has given you an incredible gift- an opportunity- they have provided you with an alternative more natural position in which to parent and mould them into the young adults you hope them to become.

I feel honoured and privileged that Erin sees me as a guardian figure, confidante and a friend. I love seeing her grow and the changes in how she acts and thinks. She surprises me every day with how mature she is becoming while still being so young, sweet and generous, and I look forward to being there through the milestones to come.

To me, these are the perks of being a step-parent.

 

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The Adult Imposter

 

 

Early 30’s and I wonder where all the time has gone- anyone know if memory loss is common at 32?
Left in suspended animation for the majority of my teens through to late 20’s due to issues with chronic illnesses meant I  missed out on all the mistakes and general character building of those key years of social development. Mentally it aged me about 10 years but I was more than lacking in life experience– Looking backthis was inconvenient.

Sure, it gave me a wider perspective than most people my age, but suddenly I found I’d missed out on all the fun that I was now too old to participate in without getting some funny looks and wide berths.
All that missed experience,  exchanged only for that well mastered eye roll of someone who knows a trivial first world problem when its plastered all over their social media. 19 and already I hated viewing other peoples statuses about how they were dying from the common cold.

When you’ve actually been told that you will be dead in under 4 weeks if you don’t have this life saving surgery you gain a bit of perspective that suddenly makes you hate the shortsightedness of the people you know.

Congratulations! You are now older, wiser and boring in your young years.

It’s a great way to alienate yourself and lose friends if anyone is interested in giving it a go.
At 19, who wants to be that person?
I wish I’d had the opportunity to be an idiotic / stupid adolescent discovering the do’s and do not’s of life in that blind, directionless manner most young adults do.

After a quick desertion from my not-so-supportive-and-accepting group of friends after a major operation (the kind of ‘quick’ you get when stuck in a lift with an individual who has yet to discover that personal hygiene is actually a thing) -apparently it changed me. I’m guessing at 19 nearly dying isn’t supposed to do that to you?), I somehow managed to get through university to obtain my degree in English and Popular Culture– in truth I have no clue how, I hated the latter half of it.

Stepping in line with the world again, I still felt that I had skipped and missed out on an integral step in the right of passage to adulthood and so far it has never left me.
I feel that by missing out on that decade of my life I am somehow missing out on some key ingredient that would make me feel better prepared for this very adult life I now find myself awkwardly participating in.

Unsure of how I got here, I am a full time participant in the adult practices of daily routine; a 9 – 5 job; co-habiting with a boy (when the hell did that happen??); step parenting a truly lovely 12 year old (going on 16) girl who is sprinting towards adulthood before she’s even hit puberty and pretty much stumbling through everything else.

In the past 18 months I  have:

  • Developed Anxiety and Eczema- apparently dealing with Crohns and Cancer over the space of 14 years wasn’t enough.
  • Fallen in love with my imperfectly perfect unromantic soul mate.
  • Moved in with a man with enough OCD that his house is beautifully decorated,  adorned and tidy
  • Been prohibited from using the washing machine and dryer by my partner for fear I may break them.
  • Adopted a beautiful and sweet pre-teen and 3 Bengal cats.
  • Put on enough weight that my clothes are tighter than I’m happy with- I sincerely hope I won’t become one of those women that balloons once she gets comfortable in a relationship.
  • Become happier than I can remember ever being. (This is the important one right here!)

In the past 18 months I’ve learned:

  • How to cook a mean roast.
  • To put up with complaints of ‘horrid’ meals from the pre-teen because its not pizza or chips and has a lot of green in it.
  • How awkward it is to care about a child you’re not able to parent properly because of the limbo state of the step- parent.
  • To accept that my time is no longer my own when we have my partners daughter over.
  • Pre-teen strops are infuriating and I dread to imagine what we will have to put up with when the full force of puperty hits.
  • Dreamies and ham are a cat owners best friend when it becomes necessary to coax the daft Bengal down off the roof when he’s yowling about being stuck.
  • Cat hair will not come off anything….ever.
  • Finding time for me now I have been subsumed into this little family unit is paramount.
  • Taking the small box room in the house just for me was not only a fantastic idea to store my belongings, but also incredibly necessary when I need time for me.

 

Looking back, I’m not doing too badly with being an adult imposter, but it still doesn’t come easily and most days I feel I’m just winging it and hoping to whichever deity and their uncle that I’m at least getting the general gist of how things should be done.

Anyone else ever feel like this?

I’m just hoping one day it will all click into a place and feel like my place in the world rather than this space I feel I am fraudulently inhabiting.

 

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