Monday, February 18, 2013

taking the high(lighted) road

We all remember how ridiculously awful middle school was. Just when you felt confident in your fave tank top, your armpits started sprouting hair out of nowhere. Just when you figured out how to cover up those pesky pimples with miracle foundation, you realized your neck didn't match your face and you looked like an ex-communicated member of Cirque du Soleil.

(It's also a time when you really, really hate your mom.)

So when your bonus child (in my case bonus daughter) is dealing with puberty and boyfriends and breakups and exams AND her parents' lawyers and court dates and child support arguments, she need a truly great friend to help her weather the storm. The friend who will tell her that OF COURSE she can get a haircut like Miley Cyrus and totally pull it off. Even though no one can pull of that haircut. Including Miley.

The friend that will encourage her to try out blue eyeshadow, even though, by rocking that side ponytail, she kind of looks like Tonya Harding. (She'll also need a friend who can tell her who Tonya Harding is.)

The friend that will listen while your step bitches and moans and whines about how, for the THIRTIETH TIME, Mama Ex was fifteen minutes late picking her up from school.

As a step mom, you will, by nature, want to be that friend. You intimately remember how much you hated your mom at that age. She was so clueless. It would have been awesome to have an adult gal pal to vent to. Soooo, this puts you at an advantage, right? After all, as the BM is constantly reminding you, "YOU ARE NOT THIS CHILD'S MOTHER! SHE ONLY HAS ONE MOTHER AND IT IS ME!"

(I mean, sometimes I swear if my bonus daughter was a fire hydrant, Mama Ex would pee all over her, jump up and down and scream, "This is mine! This is mine!")

The logical conclusion is that finally- FINALLY- you have an advantage over Mama Ex. You, as the step mother are uniquely qualified to help your step out as she goes through her mom-hating, body hating, weird hairstyle years, right? I mean, you have the power to use this awkward teen angst to leverage some real bonding time with your step daughter.

It's only fair.


Actually, no.

I know, it sucks. I really do. I've been there. A few months ago my oldest bonus daughter "M" came to me, ready to vent. (All we needed was some Cheetos and Ben and Jerry's and we'd have been set.) M was upset because Mama Ex had walked back a promise to get M highlights for her birthday. Apparently highlights turned out to be too expensive and Mama Ex had decided M was actually too young for highlights.

M was pissed.

I was thrilled. 

This was my golden opportunity. I could see it all play out in my head. I would take M to a nice lunch where we'd scroll through Google images, selecting the perfect picture of what M wanted to have done. Then I'd take her to a nice salon, maybe even get her a manicure, too. We'd have a wonderful day, I would strengthen our bonus mother-daughter bond and all would be perfect.

And then I backed out.

Not because I was afraid of what Mama Ex would do. I'm not afraid of her. I knew she would get pissed and throw a fit to my husband, but I also knew she wouldn't undo the highlights, because M would have gotten more upset. I stopped myself from going through with the highlights for one reason and one reason only:

It wouldn't have really changed anything.

Sure, if I got M highlights, she would love me more than Mama Ex...for that day. But two weeks later, when I had to ground M for that "D" on her science quiz, she would have just gone right back to Mama Ex. It would have been a short-lived - and unfair- victory.

I realized that, as a step mom (hold on, I'm going to get all metaphorical) I'm sort of the second choice boyfriend. Remember, when you were in college and you LOVED your boyfriend, but you knew there was that one dude waiting in the wings who would do ANYTHING to get you, and you totally knew it? So when you and main boyfriend had a fight and broke up for three days, second choice boyfriend would take over and treat you like a princess and make you feel wanted and loved and special. But ultimately, you'd always go back to the boyfriend. Because he was who you loved and he truly had your heart.

That's how M is with Mama Ex. She may hate her sometimes (or a lot of times). She may scream about her and swear she's never going back home again and wants to live with Daddy and Ruby forever and EVER AND EVER. But in the end, Mama Ex is her mom and M loves her with all her heart. Me showering M with gifts just to spite Mama Ex isn't going to change that. The simple truth is, I will never be M's mom. I will always be the second choice. And I have to be okay with that- because it's best for M.

In the end, all I can do is treat M as I would treat a child of my very own. I would never use a child of my own in a power play against my husband. So, I have no right to use my step child in a power play against Mama Ex.

Being mature seriously sucks sometimes.

As a bonus mom, I have a responsibility to do what is in the best interest of my step daughters, even if that means I hate what that entails occasionally. My relationships with my bonus girls is a roller coaster with high highs and low lows. But if I cheat my way to one of the high's, I'll know it deep inside, and it won't ring as true. I think I'd rather wait until M really, really needs me for something, and I can have an authentic step mom/daughter moment with her. Not one I manufacture for my own personal reasons.

Are you with me? Do you ever do something awesome for your step kids just to stick it to Mama Ex?


  1. I bet she'd look just as fashionable as you!!

    1. Aw, thanks so much! :) I live in a fantasy world where I am ALWAYS fashionable. :)

  2. I love this post and your comparison to the second choice boyfriend. Once again, Ruby, you are on point with this issue in step parenting!

    I find myself daydreaming about "stick it" moments whenever Mommy the Delusional has done something super mean to us. I find myself daydreaming about it even more whenever she has used her own daughter or done something that emotionally hurts her own daughter in her attempts to get to my hubs and I. Alas, I stop at the daydreams and choose to do what is healthy and authentic in real life...for all the reasons you stated.

    Plus, I am focused on my long-term, authentic relationship with BW. I have faith she will see the truth on her own as long as my husband and I stay true to our love for her and don't fall prey to spite or games or using the kids/putting them in the middle.

    Keep writing...I love your posts!

    1. I feel the same way. I hate it when Mama Ex does something intentionally that she knows will hurt her own daughters. It's sickening. But I refuse to do the same (most of the time)!

      Thank you so much for your comments!!!