Firstly, I'm going to apologise for my posts having been on such a downer lately.
Unfortunately, it's not been happy times this week, either in the steposphere or otherwise. After some umming and ahhing, SD did come over this weekend and we got to find out some (I fear only a fraction) of what's been going on the past 2 weeks.
Turns out that Hatchet Face Granny's blowout was partly because the Social Services have been round to BM's. Apparently there have been no less than 12 complaints made about her. We, of course, have got the blame. OH HAS gone to them with concerns in the past, but not recently. Of course, the finger was easily pointed at us, because of what SD went back and said to Hatchet Face about us saying she isn't keeping clean at BM's. I suppose given that we have expressed those concerns about the, ahem, quality of BM's parenting, it might be a reasonable assumption that it was us, but it wasn't. No use telling them that though, would be an utter waste of time, they wouldn't believe us, and anyway, the fact is DP's quite pleased that the authorities are taking an interest, and he plans to ring them on Monday and get the details of what's going on. If it concerns his child, he's got a right to know. We know SD has been interviewed, but we did not wish to press her for any details, as it seems the last two weeks have been very distressing for her. BM has been on angry rants about us several times a day, putting a LOT of emotional pressure on the poor kid, and we are mud with Hatchet Face too. SD is banned from even mentioning our names with them. We told her that nothing's changed with us, that she can talk about BM or Granny if she wants to, that she can talk to us about anything she wants, we won't get angry with her or shout at her to shut up (OK, I really HATE hearing about BM this and BM that, but I am not going to tell a ten year old she cannot mention her own mother).
There's a bit though that I have to confess to here. I messed up with something, and that, while not the main cause of the troubles, has certainly added fuel to the fire and upset SD. It seems she overheard part of a conversation that I had with my friend one of the days she was with us, and I didn't know she had been there listening. DP and SD had just had an argument, in front of my friend, about her having a bath when she got home. SD was telling DP she didn't want or need a bath and why does she have to, Mum doesn't make her. My friend and I walked off to go to the loo, and my friend asked me what all that was about while we were in there. I gave her the Cliff Notes version - that BM thinks it's OK for her not to wash for days on end and that she'd started to suffer from BO as a result so we were really trying to get it into her head that she needs to keep herself clean as she's approaching puberty. And - I may have slipped in a comment about thinking that BM is a sub-standard parent as well. Unbeknownst to me, SD came in the bathroom while we were in there and heard it. She was upset, and she told Hatchet Face when she got dropped home that I was calling her smelly to my friends and slagging her mother off to everyone.
DP talked to her about this and poor SD said that she'd been upset, and embarrassed that other people outside the family had been told about her not washing at BM's and she KNEW full well that telling Granny Hatchet Face would get me in trouble - which was what she wanted at the time. However, SD did not know that the social services had been in touch, and that it would escalate in the way it has done.
I feel just awful that I let my anger towards BM get the better of me and SD heard me speak this way about her. I wanted to apologise to her, but DP said she didn't want me to be told that she'd done this as she was afraid I'd be mad at her. But - I'm the adult here, and I'm the one who should have been more discreet, or at least more careful there were no little ears around. I feel that I've let SD down and that she's seen a nasty side of me that I really would have preferred she didn't see. DP has done some damage limitation on my behalf, saying that I wouldn't have said anything to be nasty, but that I love her very much and I would have said it because I was concerned for her, that we both are concerned, we want her to be happy, safe and healthy and we worry sometimes that her mum doesn't always do the things that as a parent, she should. DP told me that SD said "I wish that Mum was more like you and Wicked Steppie". Bless. He's tried to discuss with her as well that if we do ever say anything that she doesn't like, or doesn't understand why we said it, then she should ask us - we won't be cross, we'll explain things, and that adults get it wrong sometimes too so if we say things that upset her, she needs to say so. Boy, did I get it wrong on this occasion. I have to say, DP is not my number one fan right now, and I'm not really surprised.
But one thing you have to do when you get it wrong in life is LEARN from it. I realise that I allowed the red mist to descend, and that I let being angry at the BM for being such a slack-arsed parent get in the way of doing and saying what was best for SD. In doing so, I feel that perhaps I was no better than BM herself, but the difference between her and me is that I will learn and do things differently in future. It's sad that BM's had no wake up call from the visit from the Social Services, and that all she's done is use it as a reason to be more angry with us instead of look at herself and focusing on being a better mum. I wish she would do that instead of blaming everyone else for her problems, because in the long run, it won't help her and it won't help the child who is getting more and more stressed out with all this conflict.
The other thing that I have learned from this, is that the bonds between SD and I that have been built over the last couple of years, are actually stronger than I realised. I had a view of them as being tenuous, and easily broken by a few choice manipulative words from BM. I know she won't stop loving her Dad, but who is Wicked Steppie after all - just Dad's girlfriend, no relation, no long history with her - I figured I was easily dispensed with and no big loss to her. But this is the first time that we've actually hurt each other, and that those bonds have been under any kind of test, so to come out the other side and for her to sit happily with me this morning laughing and putting sparkly nail polish on, I've realised that the bonds are stronger than I ever knew, and that we've survived. She doesn't know that I know this, but DP told me that she'd said to him yesterday that she still loved me. Knowing that despite my faux pas, she was still able to say that meant the world. And I'm able to say that I still love her too, and that silently, we've forgiven one another.
I might have got it wrong this time, but it seems like I've got it right often enough for the scales to balance. Not such a wicked stepmother after all, perhaps....and I am still very useful for shopping!