When I became a step mother in 2007, I was surprised by the ease of blending together Hubs, my two bonus daughters, Mama Ex and her husband. In fact, I dare say I felt fantastic about it. When I first met Mama Ex, we shook hands politely, smiled and all seemed well. Mama Ex was decent about being flexible and even encouraged the girls be with us on "unscheduled" times.
That was then.
Now it's all gone to hell in a handbag. And not even a designer one.
Mama Ex and her husband separated in 2008, and we saw the effects of the event immediately. Things changed at a break neck pace, leaving Hubs and I with our heads spinning.
We somehow suddenly became the enemy.
Mama Ex put a full stop on informing Hubs of any medical
concerns (even surgeries), school conferences or anything having to do
with the girls' well being. Mama Ex began to date
an endless stream of men, and when she was out with them, the girls
would stay with smoke-filled homes of neighbors rather than to their Dad's. To top
things off, Mama Ex dusted off the existing (crappy) custody decree and began to follow it to the absolute letter. This also meant we were victim to her interpretation of what the decree stated, right or wrong. Zero exceptions.
Something had to be done.
As a last ditch effort, we picked up and bought a house within two miles of Mama Ex's apartment, hoping that living closer would inspire her to let us have the kids like she did before. It didn't work. In the end, Hubs and I realized the only thing we
could do was file a motion to modify the decree to request a 50/50 time
split with the kids.
Mama Ex didn't exactly meet the modification request like this:
Suddenly, nasty lies started creeping into conversations we had with the girls. And they could only be coming from one place. For instance, the girls wanted to know why Daddy wished to take Mommy away from them. On more than one occasion, the girls even asked us, in tears, "What if Mommy dies while we're with you? She'll be home all alone and no one will be there when she dies!"
Generally, 9 and 12 year old kids don't worry about parent perishing over the weekend, so it was clear Mama Ex was planting ideas into their heads. But, as a responsible adult, it wouldn't be right for us to explain that Bud Light and several male strangers would surely be keeping Mommy company while the girls were gone.
So, all of this brings me to my point - being the bigger person. Do you ever feel like Mama Ex is constantly bringing out the low blows? Does she perpetuate misconstrued, vicious and sometimes seriously damaging lies that make your bonus kids question what on earth is wrong with you and their Daddy? Things like:
....Mommy said you and Daddy are lucky because you both have good jobs. Mommy had to raise us alone so she can't get a good job.
...Mommy says you take us to Beauty Brands because you think Great Clips is for poor people.
....My shoes don't fit because Mommy says you're supposed to buy those things because you and Daddy have good jobs.
...Drinking wine only makes you drunk if you drink more than three glasses.
...Our cable got turned off because the pay place doesn't take the kinds of checks Mommy has. She says they'll take your kind of check, though.
If you believe in yin and yang, then for every awful, disrespectful, made-up thing that Mama Ex tells the girls, Hubs and I have to counteract that with being good, respectful, and truthful, right?
But here's the rub...
BEING TRUTHFUL WITH THE GIRLS WOULD MAKE MAMA EX LOOK BAD, which is the one thing we're trying to avoid by being the bigger person.
It's a vicious cycle that even mounds of ice cream can't fix. I've tried.
What's a stepmom to do? I don't appreciate my bonus kids operating under the assumption that Hubs and I have stacks of money we're sitting on. Or that we're somehow responsible for Mommy only having a high school education. Those things aren't true, but explaining why they aren't truthful requires us to say less than flattering things about Mommy. And that doesn't help anyone.
Therefore, as a general rule (unless the lie is so huge that we have to have a serious talk), Hubs and I have come up with a sentence that we feel does two things:
1) It lets the girls understand that we don't agree with what is being said.
2) It doesn't put down Mama Ex.
When a planted whopper comes out of the girls' mouth, we simply say, "I'm sorry that Mommy feels that way, but she is entitled to her own opinion. We disagree with her opinion about XYZ."
And do you know what almost always happens?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Life moves on.
Our daughters aren't stupid. They're 9 and 12. The relaying of information - true or not - from parent to parent gives them a feeling of importance and power. They love the drama, yo. And it's like a drug.
(Otherwise the Bravo network wouldn't be in existence.)
By responding to Mama Ex's lies with screams and yells and digs back, we just feed the drama machine. But by simply saying that we respectfully disagree with Mama Ex's opinion, there's nowhere to go after that. Dead end.
And then we go play Uno.
What do you say when a fat lie comes out of your bonus kids' mouths? Do you immediately defend yourself or do you step back and stay clear of the drama machine?