Being part of a family that is separated into two different factions can be challenging.
Screw challenging, it can feel downright impossible.
Our side, their side. His side, her side. It's a constant war between two parties. And something struck me the other day. How often do I stop and think about the third side? The side that gets the least amount of attention.
The kids' side.
Look, human beings are naturally selfish. And the older we get, the more self-involved we can certainly become. So, adults who find themselves in a divorce/split situation spend an awful lot of time trying to understand and dissect their own feeling. They think long and hard about how this co-parenting thing is affecting their own day to day. But those kids...they're the ones it's taking the biggest toll on, and oddly enough, the easiest ones to forget about.
So stepmoms, let's take a minute to listen to the kids. Because this is probably what they would say to us if we just shut up and listened.
1. I'll just pretend I don't remember
But I do. I still remember when Mom and Dad were together and happy. I remember this one time we went to the park and ate fried chicken and laughed until Dad snorted pop up his nose. But I also see how upset you get, stepmom, when I bring up those memories. You think it means I don't like you, even though I do. You think it means I don't want to make memories with our new family, even though I do. So...I'll just pretend. When I think of a memory of my mom and dad together, I won't bring it up. It's easier that way.
2. I'll pretend I hate her, too
Last week I told you that Mom had to get her tooth pulled, and I heard you whisper to Dad, "...that's what you get when you don't brush your teeth for three months."
You don't like my mom very much. I don't really understand why you don't. My mom is cool and I love her! I hate it when you say bad things about her and I hate it when she says bad things about you. One time I told my mom that you make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, and she got really upset and cried. I learned never to do that again! So now I just agree when mommy says you're a terrible person. And now I laugh when you make a mean joke about my mom. I don't really agree, but it makes things easier for me. I kind of feel like I'm living two separate lives...
3. I'm sorry I'm so expensive
I hear you talking to Dad about how much child support is. I'm sorry that I cost so much. I don't mean to. Next year I'm not even going to ask if I can play basketball because I know it's just going to cause a fight between you and Dad and my mom. You'll argue over who should pay for my basketball shoes and my uniform and it's not worth it. I hate to hear the back and forth. So I'll just say I don't really feel like playing sports. I'll say they're too hard or I don't enjoy it, even though I would love to make a lay up that wins the game. But if you and my Dad and my mom aren't arguing, that's worth it for me.
4. I'm sorry I'm a brat
Remember last month when you threw me that 5th grade graduation party and I sulked the whole time? It wasn't because I wasn't grateful for the party you and Dad threw me. I was so excited for it! It was because I felt guilty. My mom wanted to throw a party for me to, and she made me feel really bad that I didn't come to hers. But I didn't have a choice!! It was Daddy's and your day to have me. But that day, I couldn't get the look on mommy's face out of my head. She was so upset and sad. And so I wasn't as happy as I should have been. You and Dad thought I was being a brat. I wish I could tell you what was really going on...
5. I'll put a smile on my face
I can't talk to anyone about what I'm feeling. I have to put on a show...pretend I'm always happy or everyone starts blaming everyone else. I can't even have a bad day and lash out for no reason, because I'll hear, "well, she just came from her father's house and you know how it is over there" or "her mother must've made her feel guilty for wanting to be here."
BUT THAT'S NOT IT.
I just had a bad day at school. I spilled milk on my pants and was tardy to 4th period. The guy I like at school doesn't like me back. And It isn't Mom's fault. It isn't Dad's fault. It isn't my stepparents fault. I JUST HAD A BAD DAY.
But I'll just smile and pretend it's all okay. Mom and Dad won't know and they'll be happy and that's all that matters.
I'll just put a smile on my face.