rooted, but still growing

Archive for October 2009

I’m still having some trouble with this stepmom thing, and I’m struggling to find ways to explain how I feel without sounding whiny and selfish. On the other hand, the months I’ve spent trying to bite my tongue have led only to a mouthful of blood and even the most diplomatic among us would eventually choke on it, too, so I might as well spit it out.

Well. The truth is, I *am* sometimes whiny and selfish. Sometimes, my best efforts at living life through loving get run over by jealous tendencies and unrealistic expectations. I spent the entire weekend in a funk, weeping onto Steve’s shoulder that I missed him, that I wanted something of our own. Other than having the boys for a few weeks during the summer over these past three years, it’s always just been Steve and me. I’m not claiming that my entire identity was dependent upon the “us-ness,” but N’s arrival definitely wreaked some havoc on how I saw Steve and me as a couple, and where I fit in this newly structured family.

It was – and is – hard. N was desperate for a strong male role model. He really likes his stepfather, but the guy is Steve’s polar opposite. We’re in the midst of an idolization phase, where everything Steve says and does is placed under a microscope, studied, and then carefully packaged and placed in a catalog for future reference. In short, N is constantly up Steve’s butt. And when you have a 140-pound human up your ass, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Including your wife.

This, I think, is one of the reasons I get so upset about things that ordinarily – in a “traditional” family – wouldn’t be a big deal. N has been taking Steve’s iPod to school and cross-country practice, and he’s been wearing Steve’s Black Label Society sweatshirt at every opportunity. I bought that iPod for Steve (twice, actually, because the first one I gave him was stolen out of his truck), and I scoured the Internet for that sweatshirt when every one we found in stores was either the wrong size or wrong design. I should mention that I was also broke-ass poor at the time, so it took quite a bit of planning, saving, and opening a credit card account that to this day I’m still struggling to pay off. Even though they aren’t mine, those things are special to me and it really hacks me off when I see the sweatshirt, filthy and tangled, lying in the dust on the garage floor, or when I see one of N’s sweaty, immature teammates listening to the iPod.

It sounds petty. I know this. But there aren’t many parts of our relationship that are just ours anymore. I guess that’s true for all couples with children, but it’s different for blended families. I didn’t play any role whatsoever in bringing those boys into this world. I love them, but they aren’t mine. They aren’t ours. I’d just like to hang on to the things – however small or seemingly insignificant – that exist between just us.

After a few days of my moping around, Steve and I carried out our typical conflict-resolution strategy: arguing via e-mail for about an hour or so, then finally getting to the meat of things and talking about it. He understands; I understand, and we pledged to work on our respective issues. I came away from that discussion feeling a lot better – probably better than I ever have. I feel good right now, and am looking at facing future challenges with a better attitude.

I’ve started this post about seven times now and still can’t figure out a good way to begin, so I’m just going to let it all come out as it will. My apologies in advance if I don’t make sense – but  I have to get this stuff out of me somehow, and it needs to happen quickly lest I finally succeed at driving myself insane.

Yesterday, I said that I hate being a stepmother. It’s true, and I’m not going to apologize for feeling this way. I hate the disruption it has caused in my life, the distraction it has caused my husband, and the unfair expectations it has placed on me.

I hate that the place that was once my refuge has turned into a minefield. That a question as simple as “do you have homework?” can draw a line in the sand. That gifts I scrimped and saved for to give my husband have now been passed to a person too irresponsible to take care of them.  That I’m supposed to be enthusiastic and supportive of the good things, but can’t have a say when things go wrong. I hate that my dog has to shiver in the cold because she’s too much of a messy nuisance to live in the house, but the other messy nuisance enjoys a nice warm bed.

I didn’t expect it to be this difficult. But then again, how could I have ever expected that it wouldn’t be?  I’m not blaming anyone, because life is crap sometimes and we all make bad choices and simply have to do the best we can – but N has always been somewhat of a train wreck with absolutely no responsibility, no focus, no respect for most people and things. He spent his formative years in terrible neighborhoods in the city, which caused the development of a rather abrasive personality. His immaturity is astounding. His presence in our home has been a cold splash of water, and thus far I can’t say that I’ve found it refreshing.

K1 doesn’t even live with us, yet has the ability to create turmoil from 1,700 miles away. Where N is crude and (detrimentally) resourceful, K1 is overly sensitive and materialistic. And manipulative. I’ve mentioned that his mother changes men as often as some people change underwear, and last week we found that the latest relationship had ended. This time, Monica’s boyfriend had a son around the same age as K1, and the two became gaming buddies. After the breakup, K1 told his mom that this boy had called her a “butt-f******* whore,” among other things, and goaded her into confronting the dad. When the dad reviewed the chat logs from the kids’ game, no such name-calling existed and K1 admitted that he made it up. My suspicion is that K1 is embarrassed by and unhappy with Monica’s behavior and just doesn’t know how to say it. This is just the latest in a series of episodes that have left us feeling helpless and stressed.

K2, bless him, is in kindergarten and much too concerned with playing to cause any real trouble.

I don’t know what to do with all of this. How do I support my husband through all of this, yet stand up for myself? How do I put aside the resentment and try to focus on doing the right thing? Stepparents have it so tough – the world expects them to just put up with it all. But why? How is that fair? Taking a risk of this magnitude shouldn’t be rewarded with misery.

I’m not a bad person. I don’t hate the kids, I just hate the situation. I want to be a good, loving influence in their lives. Sometimes it’s just so damn hard.

I realize it’s still early, and that things can change. I sincerely hope they do. I just want everyone to have a happy, peaceful and successful life. Why does that have to be too much?

Can I be honest?

I hate being a stepmom.