Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Sometimes you just have to enjoy being smug

The start to the New Year had been a slightly fraught time in the Wicked Steppie household. We were definitely all suffering from the disorder I explored in my last blog post, Post Christmastic Stress Disorder. The BM had been up to her usual tricks, and Christmas for us had been beset by illness, too much racing around trying to please everyone and a stressed and unhappy SD (thanks to the pre-Christmas BM shenanigans). I had to have a minor gynaecological operation right after New Year, and I just wasn't in the zone.

It's funny how things can change in the matter of a couple of weeks. After doing pretty well in the latter months of last year, Christmas sent me into a steppie spiral of doom - and by the time SD went home after we had her over New Year I was back dreading the next visit. Christmas these days just seems to make kids act more spoiled, and the more they get the worse it seems to be. Every Christmas BM goes into full on "lets compete with Dad and Wicked Steppie" mode, and SD invariably comes over full of the mountains of things she got from that side of the family. How on earth she affords it all on welfare I don't know, but that's a whole different story, and one that raises my blood pressure far more than I need today - I don't need to think about how my taxes bought her 42 inch plasma. This year she got a netbook, after getting a laptop last year. Funny, since she also got a Nintendo DS Lite last year, after getting a DS the year before! It seems BM's idea of a good present is just one that's the latest model of the last one. Yes, she has imagination in spades, this lady. Is it electronic? Check. Is it shiny? Check. I swear, she's as discerning when shopping as a magpie in a jewellery store.

We just had SD for the weekend, and in my PCSD-induced state, I approached it with dread. I am afraid to say I'd had a major steppie meltdown over the Ipod Affair just after Christmas. After getting the netbook, a new bike from us (I did find a reasonably priced one in the end) and a whole load of other stuff, SD decided she also wanted an Ipod Touch. Now, why on earth she needed that is beyond me - she already has a mobile phone that does everything bar wipe your bum for you, a netbook for the internet and her beloved MSN, the DS to play games on, but she wanted this Ipod. So, she counted up her Christmas money, and was £40 short. DF and I drew the line - we'd spent enough on her over Christmas and she'd just had all this new stuff, so we said we were not stumping up the extra cash, and it would have to be saved pocket money and paid chores if she wanted it. She was a little disappointed, but seemed to understand. The next minute however, she was telling us once she was home at BM's that BM had bought it for her! Funnily enough, the day after her monthly maintenance goes in. I was livid, for many reasons. BM's cheap attempts to buy her daughter's love after traumatising her over Christmas. SD not being taught the value of money. Undermining us and our attempts to NOT spoil SD completely "oh, nasty daddy and Wicked said no, never mind darling mummy will buy it for you". DF did actually tell her this weekend that it actually WAS us that bought it, in a roundabout way. I find it hard to see SD going round in ripped school trousers and with scratty trainers that have been chewed up by BM's latest pack of scraggy mutts while carrying a brand new Ipod and mobile phone. It really does seem incongruous, and it makes me resent the money DF has to pay her each month even more. What is this child learning about what's important in life?

But the weekend brought new revelations, and proved to me once again that while BM might triumph in the skirmishes, there's a long way to go yet in this game.

It's taken us some time to build up a relationship with the parents of SD's best friend. They were friendly with BM, and therefore were very wary of us, having been told God knows what by BM. It has taken us a LOT of effort to show these people that we are not monsters, and that their child is safe in our care, and I'll give them the nod for giving us a chance - some of the things BM told them were pretty awful (and very untrue). We never said a word about BM to them - not our place or our business to, and whether we think it's right or wrong BM is SD's main carer so their main relationship would be with her since she has SD more. But they brought up the subject of BM this time when they were over. It seems that their little one doesn't want to go over there any more, because last time she was there, BM and her partner were blind drunk and she was scared and upset by what she saw. They don't really associate with her any more, aside from dropping SD home when she visits them. So we never needed to say a word - BM's true colours showed through. Sometimes, the best thing you can do or say is nothing, and let things unravel.

For the first time this week, we were also allowed to see SD during the week. SD asked BM if she could come over, purely of her own volition. She said no to staying over, which was expected because she is neurotic about losing a penny of child maintenance, but, let's take the positives - she agreed to SD spending more time here. I don't know if she senses that now SD is getting older, it will be harder to justify why she can't see Dad, and also harder to contain her if she does decide she wants to and she can't give her a valid reason why not. It was nice to see her and chat about her day, and hear about all the silly things that happened at school and what happened on the instalment of the Diary of Anne Frank they watched. These are all the things DF has missed out on for so long, that everyday normality.

So despite feeling over Christmas that SD was becoming ever more BM's creature, it seems that 2010 has brought a breeze of change with it after all. BM's total power seems to be on the wane. She no longer has her exclusive friendship with SD's best friend's parents as a bargaining chip, because SD's friend can come to ours now. She would frequently offer SD sleepovers with her friend on DF's weekend to tempt her away from coming here, but that can't happen any more thanks to her own vile behaviour. And SD finally has the confidence to ask BM to spend more time with us, even if at the moment it's but a few hours a week, it matters. I'm also sad (but not surprised) to say the charm bracelet SD came with on Boxing Day that was the best thing she'd ever had and she would never take off got broken 2 days after Christmas, and BM never took it back to get it fixed or changed, so it remains broken in SD's jewellery box.

BM doesn't, and never has looked at the bigger picture. She thinks only about the small triumphs, those that are cheap and easy to gain. It's easy to throw money at a problem, but much harder to solve it, and harder still to admit you were wrong in the process, and that's what BM will never do in a zillion years. So I'm kinda enjoying this moment of feeling a shift in the tide for the first time in the whole time I've known DF, and dare I say it, allowing myself a teensy touch of smugness!


  1. I'm thinking about the Christmas gift situation, and while I know at the time it seems like kids appreciate whatever is newest, expensive and shiniest, isn't it the things that are thoughtful and memorable that really matter in the end? Husbands ex and my ex always buy our respective kids the more expensive, fancy things, but I'm always glad that I didn't have to. Instead I make thoughtful things, or get them cool clothes from clearance racks the previous season and save them for next year, we bake cookies together and decorate them and sing around the piano. I'm sure that Christmas at our home will be much more appreciated as the kids start to move onto adulthood because we gave them lasting memories, not eletronics that become obsolete every year or two. That would be the bigger picture for me.

  2. That is a great feeling! It truly makes being the bigger person for years on end worth it when the child begins to see things for themselves. Sounds like SD is growing up and learning a lot from your positive example.
    Sorry Christmas was such a sham, but glad the new year is looking up!

  3. That is great that she chose to spend more time with you guys. It is nice to feel wanted!

    I think the fact that you didn't bad mouth BM to SD's friends parents speaks volumes about you. Not to mention that letting them find out themselves how she really is gives you guys a lot more credibility.

  4. I've actually given up on buying gifts the child mostly because I don't want to get into a pissing match over who buys the best gifts but also because on christmas eve she talked about how much she wanted to dye easter eggs and how much she was looking forward to it.

  5. I only remember two Christmas gifts from my childhood- a playhouse and a pedal car. Everything else...forgotten. I remind myself of that every time I think about trying to compete with our BM over Christmas. You did good- you stuck to your guns. An IPOD touch is ridiculous, as is a netbook when you have a laptop, as is a DS Lite upgrade when you already have a DS! Ugh. Your BM gives me a headache!

  6. I just can't take the materialistic attitude many kids have now adays - hey and MEN! It's sheer folly to invest and reinvest in the same gadgets year after year, like a cold war arms race. The BM is clearly barmy, and hopefully SD will grow out of her MUST have stage soon. Unless Dadio caves in of course. I mean if you could have what you wanted by playing a few games, wouldn't you when you were 11?

    Of course it's nice that she wants to spend more time with you, who wouldn't? Your little family sounds great, but I can't help wondering what has prompted it?! Are you sure it's not silly BMs attempt to get SD out of her hair more? And how do you cope on a practical level if she's not alloewd to sleep over? Do you have to run a full taxi service?

    I really enjoy your blog and am happy that you feel a bit smug (hope the 7 days a month bike was well appreciated)

    - The BM that feels like a Stepmum :-)