It's a normal occurrence for my stepkids to request strange and unusual things from Hubs or me. Like the time my youngest SD asked if she could go an entire two weeks without bathing because it was better for the environment. Or that time my oldest SD asked us to let her have chocolate as an every day after school snack because it helped her "concentrate better" on her homework.
As any normal parent, step or otherwise, we take these requests with a grain of salt. C'mon, they're kids. Of course they're going to ask silly favors to see how much they can get away with. I know I did. One year for Christmas, I tried to convince my parents to buy me a TV for my room so my siblings and I could watch television and "not distract my parents from 'Cheers' or 'MASH' when it's on." I'm sure Mom and Dad got a kick out of that one.
Hubs and I always look forward to what harebrained ideas our young girls will try and pass by us next, but it always comes as a surprise when a grown woman (Mama Ex) wants to join in the fun, too.
Please tell me I'm not the only one who experiences this.
Every now and again, a request (or I dare say demand) comes from Mama Ex that I can only assume was cooked up under the influence of heavy narcotics and maybe a bottle of cold medicine. There was the time she told me I couldn't photograph the kids on their first day of school because that was Hubs' job, and he needed to be behind the camera. Or the weekend she texted Hubs to request that only he hold back the girls' hair when they were vomiting into the toilet because that's his job, and not a stepmom's. Most of the time, we react to these requests exactly like we do to the girls': we laugh, pour an alcoholic beverage, and toast to it all being over someday.
Just last week though, a doozy request came through. Hubs and I had just informed Mama Ex that we are planning to take the girls to Cancun on a family trip in November of 2014. The trip doesn't impede on any of Mama Ex's time, except for the night prior to departure. The flight is super early Thursday morning, so we asked super politely (these things must be handled delicately) if Mama Ex would let the kids come to our house Wednesday night so leaving for the airport would be easier in the morning.
You would think we had asked her if she was okay with us covering the kids in pig's blood and letting them swim with sharks.
Her email response took three days and when it was received, I literally sat in the kitchen with my jaw on the floor. Mama Ex replied, "How dare you do this? You're asking for me to give up my time for a trip to God knows where, and let's not forget they have to miss Thursday during school..which is also my time. You don't get them legally until 2:20 PM on Thursday."
She continued, "Because you have so rudely already told the kids about this trip, I will go ahead and allow it this one time. But in the future, I prefer that you inform me of any kind of trip you and your wife are considering taking the girls on before you share it with them."
Hold. The. Phone.
We now have to run all our potential trips by Mama Ex before we can even tell the girls about them? Mama Ex must not realize that I have, on any given Tuesday, 17 vacation ideas saved on my computer and ready to book. Shall I send her each idea I have? Some of them I haven't even run by Hubs yet. (We're going to Paris soon, he just doesn't know it yet.)
Why on earth would we ever tell Mama Ex about a trip before asking the girls how they felt about it? How ridiculous.
The real problem here is control. Mama Ex is well aware that if the children already know about a trip, they're going to be pissed if she vetoes it. (We went through this last year with a Disney Cruise. The judge had to step in and force her to let them go.) Therefore, she feels out of control of the situation. Mama Ex enjoys her perceived rein of power over the "non custodial parent" and wants to flex that muscle whenever she can.
I think what bugs me the most about all of this, is that Mama Ex's Nazi interpretation of visitation come at the expense of the children. Does she legally have the right to keep them from leaving on a trip until 2:20 PM on Thursday? Yep. Is it really necessary to do that? Hell no. But does she want to do it anyway just to stick it to me and Hubs? Duh. And the kids get to suffer.
Here's how I look at it and wish Mama Ex would, too. Co-parenting, just like life, is not fair. Yeah, we can afford to take the girls on an awesome trip and Mama Ex can't. (At least not with a 3 Starbucks a day habit, she can't.) That sucks for her. It really does. But hey, there are times when it really sucks to be us, too. Mama Ex has a friend who takes the girls to almost every single pro baseball game in town during the summer. Often the games land during on our time. Do we have to let them go? Of course not, but it's good for the kids. At the end of the day, if you're keeping your children from fun and unique opportunities for no reason other than bitterness about the unfairness of it all...then you're just bitter. And that gives you wrinkles.
Our response to Mama Ex was, of course, gratitude that she is "allowing" the kids to go have an awesome time. And we tried to keep the disdain hidden between the lines. Moving forward, we now have a new system for ridiculous requests:
Requests by children : 1 drink per child
Requests by Mama Ex: Shots until at least one of us passes out and forgets all about it
What requests does Mama Ex that make you go "Hmmmmm, where did she come up with that?" How do you handle the most outrageous ones?