Thursday, 5 July 2007

In the beginning.

The first few months in our new life were great. My daughter, who had not long celebrated her seventh birthday, settled into her new school and was making lots of new friends. My husband continued with the arrangement of having his daughter, who was approaching her fourth birthday, Saturday evening through till Tuesday morning. He would drop her at nursery, which she had attended from the age of six months, Tuesday morning and her mother would pick her up after she finished work the same Tuesday evening.

As a housewife and in the fortunate position to not need a second income, I was at home all day, so it became obvious to allow my stepdaughter to stay at home with me rather taking his daughter to nursery from 8am till 5pm. I enjoyed our time together as she loved baking with me or painting and drawing, sometimes just to sit and watch a film together. We started to enjoy Harry Potter so would park ourselves on the sofa, have a cuddle and devour a packet of crisps. It was her fist experience of the film but she had known all about the magic. When I shopped for things for my own daughter, I immediately thought of my stepdaughter, so I would shop for her too.

Clothes I purchased were at my expense, not her fathers. I loved buying little dresses for her as she was often in trousers, so to catch a glimpse of her lifting the bottom of her dress and twirling around like a princess, filled me with a sense of happiness and joy. I was delighted she was pleased and when arriving for her stay would shout," can I change into my dress?" These were the sorts of things I did with my children so my actions towards my stepdaughter were not false or pretend. So to set off shopping together for clothes and then call into a cafe for a plate of chips seemed much more fun than going to nursery. After all, from Wednesday onwards, she would be back at nursery because her mother would be at work and this was her routine.

This is when my husband received the telephone call. Why was their daughter not at nursery? His ex wife wanted to know where she was and made it clear she wanted her child back at nursery. Their daughter was with daddy on his half of the week and perfectly safe in his care, so why did she need to know what was happening while he had his own daughter? My husband never interfered with the arrangement of his child when she was with her mother, he would have been told to mind his own business, and it was apparent that her new partner often looked after my stepdaughter when he was on his own. My husband was expected to trust his ex wife's judgement when she found a new partner who would be involved in his child's life, why was she adamant in not trusting his own judgement when he found me? Being alone with me was obviously a problem for her, so to keep the peace, I took my stepdaughter back to nursery.

At this point the tummy aches started. You know the kind that come on with the kids before a school test, or just the thought of school altogether. I didn't want to tell my stepdaughter that mummy insisted she went, that wouldn't be fair, so my stepdaughter and I compromised. I would take her to nursery to play with her friends after dropping my daughter at school at 9.15am then would pick her up before collecting my daughter from school at 3.15. Shorten her time at nursery but conform to the rules set down by the Ayatollah!

We still felt that as I was at home, there was really no need for her to be at nursery especially during school holiday time, so by February 2004, my husband decided what he thought was best for his daughter and so during the summer holidays, while she was spending the few days with us, she would stop going altogether. I managed to secure a small job at my daughter's school just before the Easter holiday of 2004 looking after an Autistic child.

A few days before I was due to start work, my husband received a telephone call from his ex wife, to say she had decided he could take their daughter out of nursery meaning she would be at home full time with me. This is the result we had been striving for, but I had a new job to start so the arrangement instantly became a problem. At this point my husband told me that I should inform the school I no longer was able to take the position. He and his ex wife were arranging my life to look after their child and suddenly this was no longer fair. My husband was now consorting with his ex wife and I wasn't having any of it, so I decided to pay her a visit and suggest to her that as it had taken so long for her to decide what was best for her daughter, I had accepted a position at my daughters school so removing their child from nursery, during the school week, was no longer an option. Did I make the mistake of my life.

According to my husband, his ex wife had stated I had cast the first stone and this comment would rise up and bite me on the butt again and again. There was never any intention to embark in a showdown while standing on her front doorstep. I merely wanted to explain that neither she nor my husband were going to dictate how I led my life and I certainly wasn't going to sit and wait to have my future planned out between them. I understand she felt challenged as I don't think I would have been too pleased if my ex husband's new partner appeared on my doorstep, but I felt justified in my actions. She could try to control and manipulate my husband's life, but she certainly wasn't going to do it with mine. Did becoming a second wife mean loosing total control over my own life and having to accept under no circumstances am I to engage with my husband's ex wife for fear of the consequences my husband may suffer?

At this time my stepdaughter was an only child and enjoyed the company with my own daughter especially after school and holidays. My daughter loves horses and took up riding, as with many younger siblings, my stepdaughter, liking the thought of riding herself, followed suit. Her mother arranged different lessons to those of my daughter but as my daughter was keen to be around horses whenever she could, she was able to help my stepdaughter with her own lesson. Suddenly the riding came to an abrupt end and my stepdaughter was enrolled in swimming classes instead. It was becoming obvious that her mother did not want my daughter interacting with her own child out of designated contact time.

I still was having problems understanding what hang up my husband's ex wife had. I felt my husband had to conform to anything and everything his ex wife threw at him. After all, she took his daughter away from him, left him with a few days contact, and would dictate how those days were spent. She had him over a barrel and didn't she know it. She used his love for their daughter as a bargaining tool. She played him like a fiddle and he danced her every tune whether through guilt, grief or the possible effect it may have had on his daughter, or worst of all, total loss of contact from his child altogether.

The prospect of having to fight for custody through court had often entered his head, so by conforming to her constant wishes, in his eyes, he would hope that any judge would see him as accommodating rather than an obstructive parent who was trying to make things difficult. All my husband endeavoured to do was consider his child and the effect a confrontational situation with his ex wife would have on the relationship with his daughter.

I first noticed the change in my stepdaughter's behaviour towards me February 2004. Small things at first like not saying hello when she arrived or goodnight when she went to bed. On one occasion, she and my own daughter were playing in the front garden during the Easter break. I had locked the front door as the back door was open and the draft was like a being in a wind tunnel causing the doors in the downstairs rooms to slam shut.

Both girls were aware of this but while I was on the telephone, my stepdaughter came knocking on the front door. I gestured for her to go around to the back but she just looked at me whilst holding herself dancing on the front step. She eventually disappeared to the back of the house, came through the lounge passing me, then disappeared upstairs. After a short time she came back downstairs and passed me once again without saying a word. I was however, flashed and exceptionally filthy look. Later that evening, she told my husband that I hadn't let her in when she needed the toilet and I had caused her to wet her knickers.

I was full of mixed feelings when my husband relayed what had been said. At first I was angry and annoyed but this quickly changed to upset and confusion, after all, I was the one who, when she had little accidents and was worried about telling her daddy, would change her knickers and tell her it was ok. Between her mummy and daddy, they seemed to expect a four year-old to be out of the habit of having little accidents but sometimes kids get so engrossed in what they are doing, they leave it too late and accidents happen. I did feel there was some degree of disbelief from my husband towards me after all; he would want to believe his child wouldn't he?

Then the unpleasant stares started. I was suffering with a terrible kidney infection and while quite poorly laid on the couch, my stepdaughter came into the lounge, sat in the opposite chair and flashed me the most disgusting look . I felt so uncomfortable and there was nothing I could do. These glares lasted for the duration of her stay.
My stepdaughter began asking my own daughter to do things for her, anything to avoid talking to me directly. If I was in a room and she came in, she turned around and walked out. It was apparent there was a problem but I had no clue to what it was.

One afternoon it became too much for me and I was reduced to tears. I was desperate to uncover the reason behind her seemingly overnight change of character but asking her simply resorted repetitive ignorance, so I sent her upstairs to her bedroom. Blubbering like a child myself, I followed her upstairs and asked what I had done to cause her to treat me this way. She was sat on her bed, feet tucked underneath her, staring out of the window and eventually the reply that came astounded me. She told me that her mother had told her she didn't have to talk to me if she didn't want to because she didn't know me very well. We had been living here for nearly a year and had spent half of the week and most weekends in each others company. Surely this had been plenty of time to get to know me. The problem seemingly lay with her mother.

On my husbands return from work, when I told him what had happened and he asked his daughter what was going on, she told him she had made it up. Her mother had never said anything. So what were the reasons? I still don't know. All I know is that this child was four years old and was being very cruel. I understand the need to lie about what she had said as she didn't want to get her mummy into trouble. What a burden for a small child to endure. This behaviour has lasted for over two years, well into her sixth year of age.

Diary entry.

May 8th 2005

The dizzy spells are back, this time with deafness and some shaking. I feel I’m on a downward spiral again. The events over the past few weekends, along with my son's troubles, are taking their toll on me and I’m loosing the plot. You’ve asked me what is causing this, but how do I answer you. I miss you terribly. In the beginning, it was always us. We were the most important people to each other. Now us seems to have taken a back seat. The kids, your job, us being tired, now no time for us anymore, especially showing each other.

My weekends I look forward to are tainted with the arrival of your daughter, so our time there has also gone. It’s hard for me to tell you what’s really on my mind, or why the dizziness is back. The fact is, I know the symptoms and the causes. The cause before was my ex husband. He walked in a room, I walked out. The cause now I feel is your daughter. I don’t want to be around her. My life is good during the week. I can cope with you being tired, or going out after work. I just find it hard to look forward to weekends.

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