Sunday, 12 July 2009

The ebb and flow of the tide

Well, it started off as a weekend that I thought was going along quite well. Sometimes, our little unit rubs along OK, and yesterday, we had quite a nice day. We visited my Nan, who SD seems to quite like. She was fine all day - DP was jet washing Nan's patio, because it was quite slippy and DP, sweet thing that he is, worries that she might slip over. SD and I took her to get some shopping done. She was pretty helpful, trotting off to find items Nan needed, and helping to pack the shopping bags. Later, we went to the beach and off to the pier, and apart from her having a bit of a face on when DP told her no more money for the arcade machines, tout allait bien. A good day, it seemed. But then, something shifted in SD's mood last night - I think she got overtired - and she got very stroppy when DP told her it was bedtime, she stomped off and wouldn't say goodnight to us. There have been a few dramas about bedtime of late, as it seems that at The Other Home, she is allowed to pretty much go to bed when she chooses, and she doesn't like going to bed earlier than the adults at ours.

Today she had one of those days where it was all about DP and she's barely said boo to me. She had to be walking with dad, holding dad's hand or sitting with dad. And when DP took my hand once on the walk we did, she had to run round and take the other one. I'll give DP his due, when I mentioned that I felt like a spare part at times around the two of them, he said he hadn't realised how much of a twosome they could be and he has made more effort to ensure I'm more included and that he does still show me some affection when she's about - because I was starting to get annoyed with him for only turning his attention to me when it came to bedtime!

But today, even my Dad and stepsister noticed it - that they were acting like the couple and just leaving me behind. I ended up walking with my dad and stepsister, and a couple of times, when my dad tried to chat to SD, she was really quite rude - one word answer, or she'd pretend not to hear what he said, and then she'd turn back to DP. It was as if she resented the presence of other people today, and would have preferred to be alone with her Dad. I felt a bit hurt, that she was rebuffing my family, who have made a lot of effort with her in the past. At dinner she barely spoke, and was quite sullen, complained of tiredness but after dinner suddenly had lots of energy to play out in the garden with DP and my stepbrother.

It's hard for the poor kid - she doesn't see her Dad as much as she'd like, thanks to the efforts of the witch who just won't budge on letting DP ever have a minute more than the court order affords him. And she is about to go away with the witch and her family for 2 weeks, so she won't see DP for the next 2 weekends, so she will probably be thinking she'll miss him. It's just hard, when you're part of things one day and then persona non grata the next. I mean, she was OK with me - not rude or anything - but she wasn't bothering to chat to me, hold my hand, or walk with me, and while I understand her wanting to be with her Dad, it's not easy to swallow that you have to just fall into line depending on the mood of a ten year old.

I tell myself that this is just what kids do - that even in "normal" families, kids go through Mummy phases and Daddy phases or phases where they ignore their parents when a favourite uncle or grandparent is around. But I guess when you're a step-parent, because you're not related, you tend to read more into it and wonder if the kid is starting to resent you, or think you're in the way, or competition for their parent's affections. I guess kids are capricious though, and maybe they don't always realise how they're acting. I can't assume that SD has the awareness an adult does of what she's doing, but sometimes I wonder if she has more awareness of it than DP thinks.....and I caught her looking at me a couple of times, as if trying to judge whether I'd reacted to something. I decided neutrality was the best option, and just gave them the space to be together.

This stepmothering game is very much like the tide, and like a sailor on the sea, I have to adapt and adjust to stay afloat and not get swept away or beached on the sand and left behind. It can be a delicate balancing act, and sometimes, just when I think things are going a certain way, the tide turns and I have to adapt to a different dynamic. One thing I have learned is that no two days are ever going to be the same, and that analysing each and every nuance is a sure road to steppie paranoia! I am getting better at just sighing and remembering that she's a ten year old girl being pulled in two very different directions and that I'm the adult here.....


  1. Love this post WS! It's hard to be the adult and tolerate this stuff all the time. Did you point it out to DP again? Maybe he needs to be "made aware" each time it happens if he doesn't notice it so much. Your relationship HAS to come first - show the StepMonster book - that will help! x

  2. Well, I figure there's not really much I can do about it if SD's feeling that way out, so I let her get on with it. I'm getting a bit more sanguine about thinking "well, she's going back to BM on Monday!"

  3. It's hard not to feel left out sometimes. I remind myself how little time the kids have with their father, and that it's natural they will want time with just him. It doesn't mean they don't love me. But at the same time, I feel like I have a right to my feelings, and I talk with my boyfriend about it. Keeping it open and honest helps place it in perspective for both of us.