Thursday, February 20, 2014

don't shoot the messenger (but don't let her off the hook either)

Every step parent knows you aren't supposed to use your stepchildren as a messenger with Mama Ex. And really, why would you want to? I mean, what stepmom wants to hear all the awful things Mama Ex thinks about them from the voice of their your adorable stepkids?

No thank you.

I myself do all I can to refrain from even mentioning Mama Ex's name when the kids are around. Our time with them is precious and over too quickly; the last thing we need to do is wonder about her shenanigans. In fact, if one of the children brings her up, our response is typically, "I'd much rather hear about you, sweetheart. When are volleyball tryouts?"

Generally it works. Children have the attention span of a hyperactive squirrel hopped up on Red Bull, so it doesn't take much to shift the topic of conversation to something that really interests them.

The problem arises when I hear a story about our home relayed back to us by Mama Ex. And it's completely false. Here's an example:

Less than a year ago, my two stepdaughters, M and T were playing in the basement. After a short time, the "playing" turned into systematic torture of one another, as is pretty par for the course. This was around the time that the entire nation was obsessed with vampires. M thought it would be hilarious to turn the lights off and pretend to be a vampire. Our basement has no windows so it is completely dark and quite scary for a 9-year-old kid. As Hubs and I sat upstairs listening, it became apparent that T, the youngest, was not enjoying this game at all. Hubs and I told M if she continued to scare her sister in this manner, we would give her a taste of her own medicine.

And did she listen? 

(That's a rhetorical question.)

Eventually, enough was enough. T was in tears, M thought it was the greatest thing ever. Making a command decision, I brought T upstairs. As M followed a few steps behind her, I quickly shut the door to the basement and turned off the lights. M was downstairs alone in the dark. 

She lost her friggin' mind. 

Screaming to high heaven and bawling like John Boehner, I let her stay in the darkness for exactly 10 seconds. (I counted.) When the 10 seconds ended, I opened the door and told her, "that isn't very fun, is it?" In dramatic teen fashion, she ran upstairs crying and didn't speak to me or Hubs the rest of the night. 

The following day I had a calm talk with M and told her that there are consequences to being cruel to someone, and to remember that it's best to treat others as you wish to be treated. M sniffled and pouted, but the point had clearly been made. I thought that was the end of it.

A few weeks later, Hubs got an email from Mama Ex demanding to know "his wife" was locking M in the basement for hours at a time without food or water or lighting.

I'm not kidding. It basically sounded like this is what we'd been doing with the kids.

My first reaction was to get angry at Mama Ex. She had clearly blown this way out of proportion. Our basement door doesn't even have a lock on it! How could she be so ridiculous? The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I started to pen an email back to Mama Ex telling her exactly what she could do with her questions...and then I had a thought. This wasn't Mama Ex's fault.

My stepdaughter had gone home and told her mother a warped version of the story. Where else would Mama Ex come up with these ridiculous accusations? 

I'd been played by a 13 year old.

My SD isn't stupid. She knows tensions are often, at best, strained between me and Mama Ex. So, while she sat up in her room stewing that I had reprimanded her, she hatched a plan that she knew would work. She could simply trump up the story and re-tell it to her mother, thus getting me in trouble. Thankfully, as the brilliant person I am, I saw through it and immediately deleted my email to Mama Ex that defended my actions. And really, why did I feel the need to defend myself anyway? Mama Ex has no power over me. When the kids are here, the kids are here, with our rules and our discipline choices. Unless I'm beating them with a Louisville Slugger and waterboarding them in my spare time, I only have to answer to one person: Hubs. Okay, and maybe the court if the waterboarding is really happening.

Which it isn't.

Though sometimes...the temptation is there.

What stories have you heard back from Mama Ex that are totally off base? Did you figure out you were being played?


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