Friday, 6 July 2007

Ignorance is Bliss.

Subsequent to a recent chat with my step daughter, things started to look up again for a while, but after a two week holiday with her mother, they have begun to slide back into their former routine which once again leaves my weekends strained and too a point, false. Purely my point of view I'm sure. A situation where my step daughter has had most of the morning to ask me for some breakfast, but chose to ask me in front of her father. Does this mean anything? Am I once again looking for reactions and situations that don't exist? I have been aware that my stepdaughter will sporadically speak to me only when my own daughter or my husband is present. She rarely, however, speaks when it is just the two of us.

On her arrival recently one evening, I walked through the lounge and out to the kitchen while she was sitting alongside my husband on the sofa watching television. Before saying hello she waited until I was out of earshot. I refrain from speaking to her first as I’m so often ignored and there have been times when I have spoken to her, she looks terrified that she has to respond, so I leave the conversation to her. Now, I didn't hear this as I was in the kitchen, so my husband prompts me for a response. Am I going to be accused of ignoring her or not responding to her, when she talks to me this way? Is this yet again all in my head?

My husband has asked me if things are ok. What am I supposed to say? Yes things are fine, when he clearly sees they are not. The atmosphere at home is strained and tense. Are things slipping back to how they used to be between my stepdaughter and I? Do I keep him in complete ignorance and allow him to believe that things are fine or do I tell him that the looks are back the selective talking is back? In his eyes will he look at the situation and believe this is caused by me because this is what he wants to see? Ignorance is bliss.

Diary entry

Monday 10th April 2006

Really upset at you today.
When you collected your daughter, you had a word with her in the car telling her that you were going to monitor her behaviour and if it didn't change she would stop coming. She was upset you said. She said hello to me through a wall and asked a question about a programme, which could have been directed at anyone as I wasn’t even in the room. You told me she was talking to me, so I should answer her. Later I told you how I felt about having to respond to her when she spoke to me for your benefit. You had a go saying that you couldn't bollock her and make her talk to me if I wasn’t going to talk back.

What you have done now is put her in control again. She knows I have to respond in front of you as I still get the looks and when I walked past her she turned sideways as if she didn’t want to touch me. You say you are in the middle but I never put you there, your daughter has. Well I am truly on the outside when she comes and I’m sick of it. Trouble is the problem is now mine because I just don’t want to talk to her at all. She can still come we can never stop her but I will go out. I just don’t like her at the moment. She is clever the way she can completely push me away from my family and isolate me. She sat with you all the time she was with you except when she was with MY children.

I don’t want to talk about her at all. If you go to collect her, I don’t want to know. As far as I’m concerned I don’t want to hear her name. I know you are stressed with your job and i am trying to support you with that, but weekends are our only time together and for me they are spoilt by your daughters behaviour so I really don't know how long I can go on supporting you when I have nothing nice to look forward to in my life apart from miserable weekends

I am finding it increasingly hard to interact with my stepdaughter at present. I am well aware that my guard is up. Sometimes, even her presence can be irritate me so I have resorted to avoiding her like the plague and isolating myself further no doubt. A simple photograph of her on the wall is difficult to look but it's not just the visible signs that remind me she is somewhere around my home. Her freshly washed coat hanging on the hook wreaks of fabric conditioner and that is enough. Its is not because of her, an innocent child, but what she represents. The last twenty-six months of making me feel that I don't belong in my own home. My husband thinking that, it is in fact my fault, because I am showing my immaturity instead of acting like the adult I am, so if I don't talk to her then she wont talk back. How she closes a door in my face when she sees me coming, or walks out of a room when I walk in, or includes everyone in her conversation except me, even with my friends, people she has never met before. How she talks to me in a manner like something she's scraped from her shoe and how she ignores me when I have spoken to her. I know she has heard me by the way she looks at me.

How can this be my fault? My body has reacted, and at times I am unable to catch my breath, have pain in my arms and wrists, dizzy spells, deafness and shaking. The doctor has confirmed this as stress. Yes she has tested me for various ailments and I have had many blood tests, but in the end, diagnosed as stress, brought on by the actions of a child. This is making me feel utterly pathetic. My husband is never witness to his daughter’s behaviour towards me so is forced to accept my word. He cannot see it because, perhaps, he doesn't really want too. It is his daughter after all and he loves us both. So, for the moment, my husband will remain oblivious. I will allow him to believe that everything is fine. His daughter and my relationship, is back on track, ignorance is bliss! His attitude is, unless he sees it, it isn't happening so he cannot react and respond. But his daughter is so clever. She allows him to believe that things are normal. She will talk to me while in his presence but ignore me when we are alone. It makes me so sad to comprehend that a child can be so deceitful and calculating. It seems she has two personalities. One that she uses for front of daddy and the other she falls into when I am alone with her. How can I even begin to fight this? How can a child act this way and know what she is doing? Is this going to be her character for the rest of her life? She must learn it from someone.

I do feel so desperately sorry for my husband . Things have become so bad he has decided he will stop his daughter from visiting. We have talked this subject to death. Is this the only option that remains for us? I know how hard is going to be. My own son chose not to move alongside my daughter and myself as fourteen was a crucial time for him in school, choosing his subject options, surrounded by friends and family. The only thing he had to give up was his mother. I gave him the choice and sacrificed my feelings of needing him to be with me, for his own. I hope he thanks me for this choice.

Many people have judged me for leaving my son, because leaving him is how people see it, but I live with my decision every day, and it has broken my heart. So how can I expect my husband to do the same? We visit my son regularly and he visits us, but for my husband, this would be a final decision. No visits, no contact, nothing. I cannot allow him to make this choice, but I also have to consider the effect my stepdaughter’s behaviour is having on my own children. Her constant using, “he’s my daddy,” as a threat each time she wants her way. Why should my daughter have to accept this behaviour? Alongside seeing their mummy constantly unwell and upset, this is not fair on them either. But at the pinnacle of the debate is how this decision will affect my stepdaughter and knowing she will not see her daddy again. We have tried to understand her behaviour towards me and have asked how she feels purely to be told she likes me and there is no problem. But the problem persists.

My husband contacts his ex wife after continual ignorance and not wanting to visit. He explained that, even though he loved his daughter with all his heart, he had to think about his family and how her behaviour is affecting us. His daughter, like my son could no longer be a priority for him as she was absent from his life most of the week. My husband is no longer involved in parenting her apart from the twenty-four hours that she is with us. This has no effect on the love we share for our children. Each child is loved equally, unconditionally and each is as important as the other.

Its just when a child becomes a visitor, because this is in fact what happens, priorities change. It is impossible to include all of the children all of the time. So we have to make this decision because we can only be in control over the children who are with us all of the time as they need some sort of constant stability too. He did ask why his ex wife had not given his daughter permission to like me. I feel it is important for a child to be encouraged by their parents to embark on a relationship with their respective parents new partner.

This is what I did with my children. I said it was ok for them to like daddy's new girlfriend, as I knew they could potentially feel guilty if they liked her and then feared I would be upset . Their loyalty would stay toward me obviously, as I am their mother. My daughter once asked, “if you saw daddy’s girlfriend in the street, would you punch her face in?” I told her, absolutely not after all, I didn’t really know daddy’s girlfriend so why on earth would I want to hit her? Heaven knows what context of conversation my daughter has been exposed too. So it is obvious that my ex husband expresses his opinions to our daughter on the subject of his dislike for her stepfather. The pressure a child will put themselves under to remain loyal to a parent is immense, and I believe this is the key to my stepdaughters behaviour.

I have encountered this problem with both of my children but I have encouraged them, especially my daughter, to have a wonderful time with daddy and his girlfriend and I stay out of his affairs while the children are in his company. I then express an interest when she returns home and offers the information of her stay. It is not directly telling my daughter to like daddy’s girlfriend but more of what is not said to her. To show her I am perfectly happy which I genuinely am. I am pleased she has a great time when she is with her daddy and having a great relationship with his girlfriend, I am thankful for. My husbands ex wife however said it was not her responsibility for her to encourage a relationship between her daughter and myself. That was my husband's job. It did transpire the problem, evidently, is me.

My stepdaughter doesn't like me. I shout at her all of the time and I turn lights off on her when she is on the toilet! WHAT? She wants to visit her daddy and my oldest daughter and the child we share, her new sibling, but not me. She doesn't want to see me. My husband told his ex wife that their daughter was causing an atmosphere while she was with us, apart from showing signs of discomfort, she seemed distressed the moment she stepped over the threshold of the front door, so he has decided, unless she can drastically change her attitude and be part of our family that doesn't exclude me, she was no longer able to come and stay until she sorts herself out. He will collect her as normal on Saturday evening and explain what is going to happen and why.

The response my husbands ex wife gave is she would prefer him to collect their daughter that evening, Tuesday, as she didn't want their daughter getting all excited about the weekend visit to then be told she wasn’t coming at all. This has confused me. How can a child who, for the past few weeks has not wanted to visit daddy, suddenly get all excited about her impending visit this weekend?
We decided we certainly didn't want my stepdaughter's mother explaining daddy's decision as she appeared to have no knowledge that a problem was apparent, to her, her daughter seemed quite happy, so it is agreed that we talk to my stepdaughter this evening. My husband will collect his daughter and will explain why she is no longer going to visit for the time being.. The one thing my husband would ask of me is to convey positive thoughts of her stepmother to her so can I tell her how special she is. I can do that, she is a special little girl, she is my stepdaughter, my husband's child, and I truly believe that her behaviour is not down to her, not all of it anyway.

My stomach is in knots and churning. I feel sick. We were going to turn a little girls world upside down. She is no longer going to see her daddy so can we really go through with this? My husband and stepdaughter came through the door and she throws her arms around me and tells me how much she loves me. My heart melts, what am I to do now? Where has this come from? Our planned, unrehearsed conversation fly's straight out of the window so instead I sit her down and ask what the problem is, her reply? Nothing, no problem just little things like I shout, but not at her, I shout at my own daughter and she doesn't like it. Don't get me wrong shouting is not a regular occurrence at home, but sometimes there is great need as we have a three story house and there are times that shouting is the only way I can get myself heard across three levels! Bellowing fish wife springs to mind. I've never felt comfortable being firm with my stepdaughter, she's not mine, and she is rarely naughty to warrant discipline.

There was an incident where she left some felt tip pens, minus their lids, on the bed so naturally the ink seeped onto the duvet, cover ruined, so I told her off. After leaving the room, she told my daughter that she hated me. Tad unfair on my daughter as she had to listen to another child telling her how awful I was but she has also told my son, " my mummy says I don't have to do anything your mum says because she's not my mummy." So that's what scares her, shouting at my own daughter. How can she, for the past twenty-six months, ignore me, speak rudely to me and flash such mucky looks, then out of the blue, demonstrate all this affection towards me? My suspicious mind is on desperate overdrive.

We did have quite a few warm and friendly chats while the going was good. While feeding my young daughter, she commented how well she was eating. My daughter always enjoys her food and my stepdaughter dived full swing into a conversation telling me how mummy's partner smacks her little sister, the child they have together, when she fusses with her food. Smacking a fifteen-month-old baby? I asked my stepdaughter what she did when her baby sister was smacked? She told me that she gave her sister a big cuddle because she doesn't like it as it makes her cry!

My husband was not happy but what goes on in their house and how his ex wife's partner disciplines his child is their affair, but my husband and his ex wife never smacked their daughter, and we certainly don't smack in our house, so it was of some concern to my husband that his daughter is witness to this sort of conduct. A question springs to mind. Did he smack my stepdaughter if she was naughty? We felt it would make her uncomfortable if we probed her about this subject so I assured my husband that if she did ever receive a smack, I'm sure he would hear of it, one way or another.

Another conversation we had was regarding pet names. My husband calls my daughter munchkin or munchkin of munchkinland and my stepdaughter his Little Princess. I asked if she had a pet name at home. She told us that when mummy’s partner first moved in he called her sweetie pie or something like that. I asked what he calls her now and she responded that he just calls her by her name. I think this disappointed her as she obviously liked the idea of a nickname; I think it made her feel special! There are times my stepdaughter forgets herself and appears perfectly happy in my company. Perhaps it is adjusting to each household, our home and her mothers home, and how we both conduct our lives. I can understand when she arrives she is expected to instantly change and adapt to the way we operate and the different rules that the children need to comply with.

We talked about the possibility of spending more time with us so I suggested perhaps she could possibly stay longer during school holidays, she could really find her feet and feel like part of the family again. She had already asked mummy and the reply came, it wasn't possible the reason being that daddy wouldn't be able to look after her, as he would be working. All of these little remarks were confirming that it was obviously my husbands ex wife that had the problem not my stepdaughter but why was it acceptable for her new partner to look after her daughter while she was working? My husbands ex wife wanted it all her way and she wasn't going to give us an inch.

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