Parenting my special needs stepchild ….

Special-Needs (1)

As a stepparent, we have all had somebody at some point tell us, “When you married him, you married his children.”  We usually stay quiet and nod politely because we know that it is too much of a hassle to try to explain to somebody who doesn’t understand that no, I didn’t marry his children, I married him.  I did, however, promise to try to be the best stepparent I can be to his kids.  I, however, am promising to “marry” one of his children along with him.  His daughter Star is sixteen and has special needs.  She is non-verbal, she cannot hear and is delayed.  She will never be independent enough to live on her own or even do daily tasks such as cook her own food.  She will be with us until we die.  She will always need not just a caregiver, but a parent.

In the beginning of the relationship, naturally, I did not take care of her, he did, along with family members and various babysitters.  I was just getting to know her.  She did not immediately take to me, she didn’t know who the heck I was.  She didn’t understand why the person who had always taken care of her (her mother) was no longer here and why all of these other people suddenly were.  When she wasn’t following her dad’s every move, she was angry and throwing things around the house in almost daily tantrums.  She refused to sleep unless someone slept in the room with her with the lights off.  She had caregivers coming to her home and though the intention was good, doing everything for her (including spoon feeding) and further impairing her.  Dad didn’t know how to care for a teenage girl with special needs, her mom had always done it.  Her siblings didn’t know what to do so they would just lock themselves up in their rooms and try to ignore it all.

I attended a meeting with her teacher in the beginning of that year.  Her teacher was disappointed at how much progress she had lost.  She wanted to be spoon fed at school (she knows how to feed herself), she was usually quite tired and lethargic as she would stay up fighting with her dad a lot of nights.  The meeting really gave me a lot of insight as far as what this child was really capable of but was not really being allowed to do due to circumstances.

As time passed, she became comfortable with me and started spending a lot more time with me in public and at my house on her own.  I started testing the waters with her and learned that she could do most things all on her own.  She EATS, brushes her teeth, brushes her hair, washes herself in the shower, plays independently and with others and sleeps in her own bed in her own room.  She had no behavior problems when we were alone together (minus dad).  However, as soon as dad showed up, her problems would come right back.  She would get aggressive as soon as he arrived to my house and would go right back to her old ways at his house.  It was like being half way through reading a book and having to start all over again from the first chapter every time.  She knew that he would allow her to act however she liked and there were no consequences.  So I started giving her consequences (taking the tablet away and time outs) and slowly, she started to change.

When I began working from home, I also began taking Star on full time.  She has her own room at my house and is with me full time.  She spends the night at dad’s house twice a week with no problems.  I actually feel lucky because with how overcompensating he can be with the kids, he listened to me when I explained that I needed the full capacity of being able to care for her.  If he was undermining me with her care, I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t stay in a relationship with him.  I need her to be as independent as she possibly can, I need her to know appropriate behavior, I don’t want to have to deal with a thirty five year old her throwing stuff around the house during a fit all because she was never taught any better.  I’m also lucky that she’s receptive, I know that all children are different and that’s not the case all of the time.

I know that I am not her “real” mom, she has one who unfortunately can’t be here with her any longer.  But I do love her as my child and consider myself lucky to be able to be the mom that is able to be here with her to love her and teach her (when she’s not teaching me).

sandme

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Dating and marrying a widower with children…my stepdaughter hates me and this is what I’m doing about it….

evilstepmother.jpgMy stepdaughter (soon to be) hates me because I am not her mom.  She hates me because I’m a constant reminder that her mom’s not there and not coming back.  She also hates change because it’s another reminder that things around her are still happening, even though her mom is gone.  Nicole is fourteen years old and her mom passed away when she was ten.  I don’t blame her.  I would hate me too.

Here is what I am doing about it:  nothing.  There is nothing that I can do about it.  I’m sure that in another life, we would have really liked each other, say, if I was a friend’s mom or something.  But I’m not, I’m her dad’s partner.  In the beginning, I tried to conversate with her, buy her cute things that girls like, I tried to win her over.  I believed naively that I could win her over, she would grow to like or even love me and all would be great in our world.  I didn’t know any better.  I was met with no response, screaming at me in public, staring at me through a window the whole time I was there and trying to throw me out of the house (oh yes, she has done that too), all while dad stood there looking like a deer in the headlights.  I refused to go back over until he was able to manage her behavior.  She doesn’t have to like me, she just can’t be disrespectful to me. So he took care of it.  She no longer does these things.  Actually, she doesn’t do anything at all.  She just stays in her room and doesn’t talk to me or anyone else really.  I feel sorry for her.

I think as women, a lot of us are people pleasers.  We automatically feel that if someone doesn’t like us, it’s personal and we can fix it by being our fantastic selves.  There’s that woman in the office who constantly rolls her eyes at you because you look a lot like the woman her husband left her for, or the rude cashier who doesn’t  like you after seeing you for a total of five seconds because your voice sounds just like her ex best friend who she now hates.  I would rather spend my time nourishing the relationships that I have with the people who have actually gotten to know me and appreciate me, life is far too short.  We have to accept that sometimes, the more you try, the more they despise you.  They have chosen not to like you.  And that’s okay.  I have spent a lot of time in the past reading blogs and comments from both widower’s wives and daughters of widowers.  The wives were so appalled that the daughters, (who are all grown up now) still hate them when they could not understand why, they eventually hated the daughters as well.  Yet, they would still give anything to reconcile with the daughters, if only the daughter would see the err of her ways and try to be grateful for all that the stepmother had tried to do for her.  From reading the daughters’ comments,  they still felt the very same way they had when they were children.  They didn’t WANT the stepmother to do anything for them, most of them commented that she had always tried too hard and they took this as the stepmother trying to replace their mother.  The daughters wanted the dad to be on his own and avoid moving on but if he couldn’t, they did not want to be bothered with the stepmother.  They already felt that the dad was betraying their mom, they were not going to (in their minds) betray her by actually liking the wife as well.

I have had some very well meaning, yet naive, friends make these comments to me:

“I have always wanted to be a stepmom!  She would LOVE me if I were her stepmom!”        Ummm….why?  It’s not very much fun.  Yeah…..no she wouldn’t.

“If I were you, I would make sure to go to her room and say hi and start a conversation every single time I went over.”                                                                                                              Yes, because I have never thought about doing that…..Too bad when you knock, she acts like she doesn’t hear the door.

“What you need to do, is go over there every single night, cook dinner, and act like you own that house.  She’ll HAVE to come around!”                                                                               That’s a great idea!  Because I don’t have my own house to take care of and I would just love to act like a squatter at my man’s house.  I’m sure she’ll just LOVE me after that! 

I do hope that things change, and that some day she ‘just comes around’, but I’m not holding my breath for it.  Sometimes, people never do come around and that’s okay.  I can accept that and I can also accept that I can’t fix something that I didn’t break.