Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I have sons?

Yesterday, I read with interest a comment on my youngest daughter's social networking site; "... what about christmas. Your BROTHERS (caps reproduced) need to see their little sister."

The brothers are news to me! I know I have three girls - I was there at all the births and I have the scars to prove it - but the boys I knew not a thing about.

See, my girls' other parent married again a couple years ago and the new spouse is doing everything possible to abscond with my kids - my ADULT kids. At first, I said to myself the note was nothing more than funny and desperate and that I wasn't bothered, but I AM bothered. Only a bit but bothered all the same.

So, whilst outside absently mowing the lawn (it was absent, as is obvious from the very crooked paths and large un-mown portions), I had a mental conversation with this "step-parent" based on my partial hope and partial fear of a reaction to my comment, just following the other on my child's site; mine to the effect, "Whaaaat? I have sons? Who knew...."

The mental conversation went something like this:
She calls and she says, "I have something to say to you," to which I reply, "Ok, shoot," which precedes what I expect would be a bit of a barrage from her which includes protestations of her husband's honesty (questionable) and that she is really the step mom.

My reply would be something to the effect that, in order for the person to be legally considered a step parent, several things would have had to happen, one being my death and another being my children having lobotomies.

So, you, the guilty parties, if you should read this, here's the real scoop on step parents:

In order to be a step parent, one must be legally married to the other parent. I hear, via the grapevine that my ex spouse has legally married, but in the absence of my having been at the wedding and/or having seen the actual marriage license, I only have it on reasonably good authority that it all actually happened. My condolences, by the way.... But anyway, I'll concede that there's a marriage in place.

However, in order to be a really, really step parent, one would have to adopt the children in question. I'm dead sure that didn't happen in my case because I'm still alive and I sure as hell didn't sign any release of any type, nor was my sole custody revoked so yeah, there's no legal transfer of custody.

I also know that there's no way that the child who was an adult when my spouse married would need or want to be adopted and that neither of them, both legal adults, would consent to it now.

So, what that means is that colloquially my kids have a step parent but legally that person is nothing of the sort, which means that said "brothers" are neither anything of the sort.

I would feel much more charitable about the situation were it not for the reality that the so-called step parent not only knows nothing about me, their actions indicate they'd prefer if there was no me to know anything about.

But there is.

I and my partner, who has been on the scene full time for nearly 12 years, are very close and very connected to my kids and we are completely lacking in need of other forms of parents or wanna-be parents.

So here's the deal. If you want to have a relationship with your step-children, accept that their existing parents are a major presence in their lives that cannot be replaced or eradicated. Any attempts to do so make you look desperate. This is assuming that the existing parents are not dangerous or absent or drug-addicted. That's a whole different scenario but not at all applicable in my case.

A better plan would be to simply accept the fact that your spouse has children and that they're part of the extended family but that they are not your children, nor are they siblings with your children. You should let those children -especially if they're all adults, as in my case - get to know each other and to form whatever relationships THEY choose to form, without your pushing your desires on them or manipulating how those relationships play out or trying to make a family out of a bunch of potentially unwilling strangers.

Kay. I'm done. I'll go fix my messy lawn now.

The Bottom Line


I have a weird little addiction to a kinda mediocre TV show called Second Chance. It airs (2 in a row) in the mornings, so I often take my coffee downstairs and go watch it.

The premise of the show is that the main character has made life choices that have resulted in lots of sadness and loss. The plots turn on the main character dying (in the first two minutes of the show) and this angel, Mr. Jones, hauling the dead person - kinda dead, actually - off to plead their case for this other guy, Judge Othniel or something, so they can get three days grace, go back to the point where they made the crappy choice and fix it. It's cheesy has hell.

Most of the stories revolve around a parent who's been a shit and has badly affected their children's lives as a result.

I don't think most people would describe me as the weepy type but I weep my head off every time I watch this show. If you know this program, you know how really not tight the acting is and how the storylines are designed to make one weep, so weep I do.

I come from one of those families where a parent (two in this case) made endless bad choices in respect to their kids. My dad died five years ago so he's done making bad choices but he left without us getting to a full resolution. My mom? Yeah, she's still here. That is a whole
'nother 2000 page book....

What it comes to is this: the point in that show that sets me off every time is when a parent finally realises how their choices have so badly affected their kids and they ante up with a full-on apology AND a complete change in behaviour; and when the kid says to a parent, "You are the best mom/dad ever there was." You cannot imagine how desperately I want to experience a parent that has not only full clarity on their life but is able, willing and ready to admit their mistakes, say sorry and CHANGE.

It makes me cry because we (my sibs and I) not only don' t have that, nor have we ever have never had it, we are 100% sure we will never, ever see the day when our live parent has any kind of clarity or even admits to any glimmer of clarity.

Her resistance to clarity is as if that clarity was paper and a fat black marker, with which she'd draw on the paper, and which drawing she would instantly deny even knowing about, regardless of still having pen in hand.

I've written tons and tons on my view of parenting but I have neglected this; there is absolutely nothing a parent can buy, do, acquire, steal for their child that will ever - infinity ever - compensate for that parent's refusal to be human and fallible. Such refusals are all the worse when that parent blames the child for everything that is ill in the world and tops that off with the admonisment that god is watching the child and the child will not only be sorry when the parent is dead but will be punished by said watchful god.

There is nothing that will ever heal the heart of a child that has been betrayed by a parent and there is absolutely nothing that can feed the soul and mind of a child, no matter the age of that child, who knows they are not loved by that parent because the parent is utterly, endlessly, completely self-obsessed.

We, my sibs and I, live hopefully, despite what we know is reality; we live with the desperate hope that someday our parent is going to have a flash of understanding. It won't happen but letting go of the remote hope that it might would mean the end for us. It's pretty much our personal "Faint Hope" clause; it is there to stave off the utter despair that is the alternative.

This is my brief advice: love your children with abandon; be fascinated by them; learn from them; love them and when you say you love them, pay it more than lip service. What you say and how you live MUST add up; otherwise, don't waste your breath. Better to admit to being cold, uncaring and disinterested in your children than to spend 40 some odd years making life for your children the hell of a thousand cuts.