Friday, August 19, 2011

Help a gal out, bloggy friends! Stepparenting dilemmas, Part the First.

Nah, not help me out with money, with opinions.  Coz everyone can spare an opinion, right?  Of course, to render a sage opinion, you'll need to read a bunch of ramblin'.  Onwards:

We have some appointments coming up for Snail: like her first appointment with a new neurologist; like her appoinment to trial a buggy-type tilt-in-space chair; like her intake appointment for the CP Health unit that does gait assessment and orthotics fitting, and so on...

I've researched and organised all these appointments, and some of them we wouldn't even be doing other than for research I've done lately, and they all involve a LOT of running around, admin, referrals, forms, phone calls, nagging, and so on.

Here's my thing:  Should I go to these appointments? 

Okay, okay, this sounds like a no-brainer, I know, except for the teensy-tiny fact that Snail isn't my natural daughter.  And the slightly larger and more relevant point that I don't get on with her bio-mother (or rather, her bio-mother doesn't get on with me).

I'm not really going to go into the whole thing at length, well, okay, at SOME length, but trust me, this is the Readers Digest Condensed version.  I don't like to bitch publicly about it much, and certainly not in writing, because a) she's their mother (and Smash can, astonishingly, read!), and b) I kinda don't want to be reading from my blog in court.  *le sigh*  But, here's the rub, I'm pissed off, and I don't know what to do.  Honestly, this is not a "evil-bio-mum" post.  It sounds like it in places, but I'm really, really trying to be fair about this.  Really.

See!  NOT an arsehole.
Here's some self-aggrandizement about me:  I'm not an arsehole.  I'm cluey about step- / bio- relationships, as I had step parents on both sides growing up and learned what I did and didn't want.  As a step-mum, I was friendly, accomodating, helpful, and unfailingly polite.  I kept to the background.  I didn't call, put myself out there, or go places where I wasn't wanted.  I did favours.  I was helpful and smiling and nice nice nice!!

I understand that it can be extrememly hard as a bio-mum to get your head around the stepmother thing.  Snail's disability just adds an extra juicy layer to the mix.  I spend time thinking about how I would feel if it were my daughter. I try to only act in ways I'd respect from a step-mother of my own daughter in some parallel universe.  I promise, I really, really, really, have tried.  Really. [no, really!]

Sure, this is my blog, and I'm only telling my side of it.  So, subtract a bit of the above awesome to allow for a glowing self-report, and you've still got (I think) plenty of awesome to be going on with.

The problem is this: last time I set eyes on Snail's bio-mother, a couple of months ago, I had to call the police to get her escorted of our property (she was trying very hard to break my door down, while screaming horrible abuse at me, in front of both the girls).  It was seriously awful, and I was really concerned she was going to smash the glass in the door and attack me.  She threatened my daughter (in the "how would you like it if I take your daughter" type of statement.  Repeatedly.)  She has since been threatening DinnerDad with court to not allow me to care for her kids.  We had to see a lawyer to get a letter from DinnerDad saying he had my permission to care for the kids in his custody period after school, and if he is away.  She is abusive to me (and about me), in person, over the phone, and in email and texts (and to Smash about me, which is a whole other ballgame).

I look at all that and just feel confused.  This is not me!  This is not our lives!  We're like stereotypical staid upper-middle classers with a "nice" house in a "nice" neighbourhood (that makes no difference, but still, one should say it, right?).  We've got a million-ty higher degrees and have [had, in my case, pre-Lolly] good jobs.  DinnerDad pays child support on time (and in excessive amounts given our shared care).  We pay for great (expensive) medical insurance and for private schooling (and she has a card to claim directly).  We pay the gaps on all Snail's medical stuff and aids and equipment, coz DinnerDad earns good money and it's the right thing to do.  Bio-Mum didn't get ripped off in the propery settlement.  It was HER idea to get divorced (so surely she was prepared for some of this, right?).  The kids have been in shared care (week about) since day one.  It was a "decent" and unrelated-to-divorce interval before DinnerDad and I got together.  This stuff seems to me to be setting up a "let's just get on with co-parenting in a difficult, special-needs situation."  Doesn't it?  There aren't many extraneous reasons for shittiness, like anger about unpaid child support, or about getting ripped off, or about "the other woman" or whatever.


Here's where I get shitty.  It's been 8 years since I've been with the kids.  I'm the mother of Snail and Smash's sister.  I'm not going anywhere.  I'm committed to Snail for the rest of my life.  I'll look after her, and feed her and dress her and change her bum and give her meds and hold her while she has seizures, til I'm too old to do it anymore, and then I'll hire someone and nag them to do it how I want.  I tell DinnerDad that if we ever splitsville, I'm still going to see Snail and care for her.  

Surely, at some point, bio-mum has to (putting it harshly) just suck it up.  I am one of Snail's primary carers.  Snail loves me.  I am committed to her care, and I need to get a say in how that care progresses.  It is becoming ridiculous to insist otherwise, and does Snail no favours.  I KNOW I am not her "real mother" and am not trying to be her "real mother".  I'm trying to be her step-mother, a primary carer who loves her and wants the best of therapy, equipment, therapists, medical peeps, schooling and all the rest for her.  I worry about her future.  I plan her care and where we will live and how we'll afford in-home care.  I cry about it, I share her triumphs and her lows.  I wipe up her drool and worry about her fluid intake.  I fret about vitamin D and epilepsy meds.  I'm not her "real mother" but I'm goddam the next best thing.  I want a spot at the Snail table.  

Up til now, I've respected bio-Mum's wishes that I not attend this stuff, and have not gone to this kind of thing to keep the peace (unless she didn't go, then, I went).  Until I realised after the police incident (!!) that there IS NO PEACE to keep!  And, frankly, there is also NO STUFF FOR SNAIL, unless DinnerDad and I do it. 

I only go through all this soul-baring and internal wrangling to ask you all:  Should I go to these appointments? 

Sure, if bio-mum doesn't go, I'll go with DinnerDad.  But, if she does go, do I push it? Do I demand a seat at the table?  Or is that too much and too far?  Do I have a right to this, or am I pushing it?

Argggg!  So, bloggy friends, what would YOU do?  To go, or not to go?  How much of an arsehole am I being, after all?


Alyson said...

Ok, here it is, honestly, no holes barred. I have been a step mother and my son has a step mother as you know.


You certainly do deserve to be there. I don't swallow all this "step parent doesn't have the right" stuff at all. FFS, as you have said yourself, you love her, care for her, protect & nurture her. You advocate for her and you take a lot of shit for it.

GO, my friend, seriously, just GO!

According to bio Mum you are the devil spawn so what difference will it make anyway?

As I've told you many, many times before - I would feel blessed for my son to have you as a mother (I don't even like saying step mother)


Angie Christoff said...

*Hugs* Michelle xxoo

You haven't said why you want to go. Is it just because you want to? to be there for her emotionally? to ask questions you have? because you feel it's your right to be there?

If you really want to go then I say go! If you just want to be there because you think you should be allowed to without a big hullabaloo from others ...OR if you think you will end up being too spent emotionally by going then if it were me I'd be asking myself is it worth it. Sure, you have every right to be there! All the blood, sweat & tears you put in! But if you aren't there you could get some lovely stress free treat time with just you & L. :-D But like I said if you WANT to go then go. :-) xxoo

Anonymous said...

Regardless of the drama with the bio mum I think you should go anyway.
Not so much because your her step parent, but because you're one of her carers and the stuff they'd be talking about is the business of her carers...and that is you!

So go :-)

And I'm really sorry that there's drama :(
My parents are divorced too and they were quite nasty to start with and can sometimes still be a bit iffy, especially behind each others backs..and it's been ohhh 15yrs??


Selene said...

@ Alyson, thanks lovely friend!! That means an awful lot to me. xo

@ Angie, it's not that I *want* to go, it's just like any medical appointment for the kids, I guess. I've got a lot of knowledge in my head about Snail and how she works, and I also just want to be there to hear what is going on, especially as we'll be hearing, discussing and deciding things that I will have to do with/to her. I see what you mean about avoiding conflict, but feel like that's what I've been doing so far without much success. Conflict was most definitely not avoided! lol

@ Apwool, thanks! I think that's what I'm getting at above, that it should be a given that I'll have something to contribute.

And sucks about your parents *roll eyes*

Anonymous said...

I need you there ... is that enough reason ? Dd.

Elizabeth said...

I'm with Dinner Dad -- and would have said the same if he hadn't. While I understand your reservations, you are married to the child's father. You are partners in her care, and much of that care does come down on you. The notion of it taking a village to raise a child is never so clear as here, and I'm venture to say that you might nearly be the head of that village. Not the "real" mother, but perhaps the head.

Keep us posted.

Selene said...

smooches to you, and thank you DinnerDad. xo

@Elizabeth, I really related to that idea, and thank you.

Overall, I found writing this to be very clarifying for me about a lot of issues, so, internet whinge is a WIN! I'll keep you all posted about what happens *gulp*