Friday, 6 July 2007

Who's controlling whom

When my husbands ex wife moved house, she reduced contact from Saturday evening through Tuesday morning to Saturday evening till Sunday evening. Her reasons were as their daughter was going to start school, she wanted her in a stable routine. Fair enough, but is going to breakfast club at 7.30am and after school club till 5pm three days a week a stable routine, when I could have taken her to school along with my own daughter? It would have meant my daughter would arrive five minutes late or so but I could work around that. So another set of strangers in my stepdaughters life.

My stepdaughter told me she didn't want to go to breakfast club. She would have to get up so early but mummy suggested it was going to be fun and it probably will be but why couldn't I take her to school? When my husband challenged his ex wife over her decision, the reply came if my husband would start work later and finish earlier when his daughter was at school then he could take her. We both scratched our heads wondering why the need because I was at home taking my own daughter to school even though it was out of my way due to a different school I could manage the two trips. I believe this was my husbands ex wife's way of getting me out of their daughter’s life. It is her way of letting me know that in I play no part in her daughter’s existence.

We all have our own individual way of parenting and raising children comes with no, How to raise the perfect child manual, but my stepdaughter's mother's skills are noticeably different to my own causing my comparison all of the time. I am not the best mother in the world. Are any of us? But I do the best I can. My parenting skills are very different to those of my husband's ex and this is something that has become a bit of an issue for me. I question them all of the time. I don't do this so why does she? I couldn't do that but why does she? She sometimes makes me feel like I am a better parent than she is even though we both are mothers doing what we think is best for our children. As I say, we each parent differently.

We have never partaken in joint birthday parties. The first year I moved in, my stepdaughter invited my daughter to her birthday party at the local play zone. My husbands ex wife suggested that my daughter would be far too old for it. She was seven at the time. At eleven she still enjoys the play zone, if she is small enough to get in! My husband was graced with an invitation, even if the hidden agenda was for him to foot the bill for the venue and party outfit she had purchased for her daughter. He attended for his daughter’s sake. He admitted he felt somewhat strange and it wouldn’t happen again not that any future invitations have ever been received. We would do our own parties in future. We held our own birthday tea as a consolation for not sharing it with her so I bought a special cake and danced to DJ Otis, Hey baby dancing around the floor throwing our arms in the air shouting OOOHH AAHHH.

On my stepdaughters last birthday, she would be six; we were going to have a themed party tea for her at home and I had made her a special cake. I do this for my own children. They love giving me the challenge of picking a novelty shape and me baking it. My daughter loves horse riding so this year she challenged me to make a cake in the shape of a Thelwell horse. For my stepdaughter, I made her a cake in the shape of a birthday present tied with a bow and a little girl, supposedly my stepdaughter, sitting on the top. My children have always woken on their birthday with balloons covering the lounge floor. It is a great sight to have a sea of balloons to kick through, so it was no effort to do the same for my stepdaughter. I loved parties at home when I was young Play zones and bouncy castles hadn't been invented, so I still find there is something special for a child to have a party at home, even though the play zone type are so much less hassle. No clearing up! We suggested it would be really nice to invite some school friends and I would buy some pretty invitations so she should start thinking who she would like to invite for tea.

She was very friendly with a little boy so automatically he was at the top of the list. She seemed so excited but the few weeks leading up to her birthday, her mother telephoned my husband ten minutes before he set off to collect his daughter, apologising for the last minute call, informing him that his daughter was upset and didn’t want to visit. While the conversation was taking place, I whispered to my husband that he talk to his daughter to ask if she wanted to change her mind as we wouldn’t be able to start the list of who she wanted to invite to her birthday. Coming to the phone and sounding very excited she immediately changed her mind and my husband collected her accordingly.

The following weekend my husband received yet another phone call with yet another excuse for his daughter not to visit. When he asked to speak to her he was immediately informed that his daughter was playing happily in her bedroom and his ex wife was not going to disturb her. Consequently we were unable to finish the party invitations. The day of her birthday it was just us, even though she still ignored and gave me the looks, I felt so sad for her. I look at the photos my husband has taken complete with cake and tea-time treats. She should have been surrounded by all of her school friends, but she wasn't.

Due to the fiasco of her birthday, the next visit we were graced with I suggested to my stepdaughter that as she had missed out on tea with her friends, perhaps we could arrange for a picnic when the weather turned warmer and she could invite the friends then, sort of a belated birthday tea. She seemed to like the idea but told me," mummy says she doesn't want my friends at your house." How could we make her feel part of our home if her mother obstructed us every time we made arrangements?
What underlying issues did my stepdaughter's mother have? Did she think we would give her a better party than she could? Was it because we were holding the party at home and this was something she would have no intention of doing? Did she think we were trying to compete with her and if these were indeed her thoughts, how silly.

All we are trying to do is make a little girl feel special and allow her daddy and his new family to be part of her birthday. Nothing else. I now throw my arms up in surrender, exhausted through trying to understand what goes on in this woman's head. The outside brick wall beckons me to start banging my head against it. At this moment... it seems the easier thing to do.

My daughter hosted a Halloween party, long before our troubles started, alongside inviting her school friends I also invited my stepdaughter She thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Balloons covered in white sheets representing ghosts were hung from the ceiling amidst streamers of black crepe paper. We all dressed up; even I did, which she thought was great. I try to completely throw myself into the spirit of things and get down onto the children's level. My husbands ex mother-in-law on dropping her granddaughter to the party, seemed quite shocked to have the door answered by The Grim Reaper. My husband said this is something his ex wife would never have done as she would have felt uncomfortable. So perhaps it is another issue that she has with me.

Having to hear her daughter telling her what a wonderful time she had and that I had dressed up too and we all went out "trick or treating."
Controlling my husbands contact time with his daughter has become a bit of an annoying habit with his ex wife. Friday evening she contacts my husband to notify him their daughter yet again, is unable to spend the weekend with us. His ex wife has in fact, arranged a trip to the park with her own mother and sister and her children and obviously my stepdaughter is desperate to be involved. Surely she could have arranged this everyday park outing on Saturday before my stepdaughter comes to stay, or even to avoid mentioning it to her daughter altogether assuming we may actually have something exciting planned ourselves? But no, his ex wife gave their daughter the choice. Park with mummy and your cousins and swings and slides, or daddy. Another day my husband goes without his child, giving a child such an obvious choice, not like Pizza or chips!

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