My Very 1st Mother’s Day

It was my very first Mother’s Day. I remember the first Mother’s Day with the kids and their Mom. All she wanted to do was have lunch with them, she didn’t ask for them for the entire weekend. My husband always did. I want every second with my daughter on Mother’s Day, they grow up so fast.

I got to spend my very first Mother’s Day with my eight year old stepdaughter crying as soon as she got to our house that day. Her stepdad drove her over and gave her a good lecture about how she should not be seeing anyone but her real Mom on Mother’s Day. Needless to say everyone ended up in tears that day. This was the last time I interacted with the “stepdad”.

From: Husband’s New Wife -#stepmom
To: Husband’s Ex-Wife New Husband #stepdad
Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 10:29 PM
Subject: Re: about our step-daughter

Dear Stepdad,
Let’s start from the end and work our way up.

First of all, thank you for writing to me it illuminates your character which I truly have no experience of outside of this family dynamic I am new to and brief passing hellos at mutual events. I would say, and I think you would agree that our connection is on the peripheral of these children, so please do not take this in a derogatory manner. Your reaching out does demonstrate an effort to find a more peaceful way of relating. For this, I am encouraged.

It’s not necessary to say sorry for “bringing me into this,” and I do understand that your words were never intended to make anyone feel bad, including me. I have respect that you have looked back and now see how what you said could trigger some conflicted emotions for our step-daughter. It shows great improvement if, as a result, you feel that you need to explain yourself better to her. I do accept your apology, but you have not had an opportunity to explain yourself better to me and from what I know, not to our step-daughter either. Perhaps you, she and I can sit down and hear in person what you would like to say. I am open to it if you are, and I would like to be with her when this happens. I do accept your apology for disrespecting me and thank you for expressing that you and your wife think I am the best thing that has happened to her that is a lovely thing to say.

I am sure it is not a surprise when I say that I would never view this as an intrusion. I love our step-daughter; she is a very special little girl, and I very much enjoy her presence in my life since I’ve met her Dad. It is a very good skill to be able to look at one’s Self with an honest lens, and your words did trigger some conflicted emotions for her and like you said it is obvious you saying she should be with her Mama on Mama’s Day did make her feel badly but I am not thoroughly convinced of your opinion that what she is feeling bad about it having split homes.

You are correct in your assumption that it was very disrespectful to me. So I guess a good lesson here that sometimes despite our best intentions there is room for misinterpretation and opportunity for feelings to get hurt and your idea to apologize to her for this is a really good one.

With respect, I have to say that it is hard to see and understand that you guys support her on any decision she takes that brings her closer to being happy because you are sending mixed messages. On one side you are saying that to me, that her expressing to see me on Mother’s Day is supported 100% because you know that it brings happiness into her life, but on the other side, you are saying to her that she “should” be with her Mama on Mama’s Day.

In the English language, there is a word with enormous power to create shame and guilt. This violent word, which we commonly use to evaluate ourselves and others, is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that many of us would have trouble imagining how to live without it. It is the word should. When we use this word, we resist learning because should implies that there is no choice. Human beings, when hearing any kind of demand, tend to resist because it threatens our autonomy- our strong need for choice. We have this reaction to tyranny even when it’s internal tyranny in the form of a should.

I recognize that paraphrasing should only be used if it contributes to greater compassion and understanding. You do not have an opportunity to tell me it’s not necessary to reflect back to you this emotionally charged letter, which is exactly what I am doing. So I am trying to be very careful with my tone so that it is less likely for you to receive this as criticism or sarcasm.

I sense that you are feeling attacked or challenged when you state the obvious that your focus is on the kids and their well being. Perhaps you are feeling disgusted, too, especially if you are thinking that my husband is purposely creating conflict and interrogating his daughter. I think it’s important to realize here that if your words were as you supportive and loving as your intent was, it is unlikely that they would ever trigger negative emotions in her. I am concerned for her, too, as is her Dad, and this is precisely why he did what he did, which was share how she was feeling.

In the past, his words have gotten no merit with you, so his approach for you to hear her words were merely a desperate measure to help. I feel that you accusing and blaming him for this is very misplaced. The interaction is simple. He says to his daughter, “What is going on with you?!” because she is acting so strange. She tells him that you said should you be with your real Mom on Mother’s Day or some version of this. Her brother walks in the room because she is crying. He grabs his phone and records an effort to explain to him what was going on.

It’s sad but understandable being with the ex-wife of my husband, who, from what I can see, maybe feels deeply burned, and he unfairly is perceived as a horrible person from your perspective. I am doubtful that you are getting none of his good qualities. I, too, was in a 13-year relationship that ended in divorce, so I can appreciate that despite the most amicable of terms, divorce is still that a strong desire to remove oneself from the relationship.

Knowing this and knowing I will never truly understand the shortcomings of their relationship, it’s easy for me not to be swayed and allow his ex-wife to demonstrate her own character outside of my husband’s experience. I can sense that the same is not true for you.

To your point that our step-daughter is feeling badly about having split homes, I feel that for this really to be resolved; it is necessary to take an honest look at how we are contributing/supporting or not to her feeling better about having split homes. It, of course, would never be any of our intentions to make her feel divided or badly, and of course, supporting limitless love is the best contribution to her life.

It is probably very sobering (or at least it would be for me) to realize how our actions have done the complete opposite of that. Again I feel that there are mixed messages because telling her how thoughtful and kind you thought she was when she wanted to see me on my very first Mother’s Day and telling her she “should” be with her Mom is where some of the conflict, division, and bad feelings are coming from.

She did also tell me about how she told you she wanted to be with you on Father’s Day. She also told me that she said this to you because she thought you were jealous of her wanting to be with me on my first Mother’s Day and that she was surprised because she remembers being with you on your first Father’s Day. She also started crying because she said this that she’ll now have to be with you on Father’s Day, and she really doesn’t want to.

She was saying it to get out of trouble and make you happy, or at least this is the version she tells me. More to this, she prefaces that she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she’s not going to be with me on every Mother’s Day, and because this was my very first, of course, she had to be with me too. I make it a very special point to spend one on one time with her asking her questions about how she feels and where her head is at. She has a really good handle on herself and this family dynamic, and I am very surprised that you both don’t see this.

It’s pretty clear that you both are feeling very confronted by all this. But saying that you will not play games, claiming a right to not be a victim and saying that you have no intention of personally speaking with her father regarding your direct involvement in these current and past issues is exactly that….games.

I am not sure exactly how you thought I would respond to this, but essentially, you are saying that you will call the police on the man that I love, the father of my baby, and the father of your wife’s two other children. I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit disproportionate to the reality at hand.

I am very aware of the text that my husband sent to his ex-wife. The reality is that he did not interrogate her, nor did he incite bad feelings you did, and clearly, this reality is too much for you to swallow. She doesn’t need to be brushed off with your comments like clearly; she needed attention before bed; that is not what this was about. Her stepdad, who is supposed to be loving and supportive, confused her and made her feel shameful for loving me even with the best of intentions.

You say you need to explain yourself to me. You know I actually never really thought of how disrespectful this was to me until our step-daughter explained it to me in her words. She said it made her feel weird and more like I was just a friend, but in her eyes, I am like a real Momma. I don’t want to pat myself on the back, but being called a real Momma by her is an honor, and clearly, I am doing something right to deserve such a beautiful title. I will work hard to continue to deserve this little girl’s love, affection, and loyalties. She’s my baby girl’s big sister, and I always want to be a good role model for her.

My delay in responding is because I am absolutely speechless. I was traveling for work when I received this. In a matter of hours of getting an apology letter from you, we are contacted by your attorney friend acting as your wife’s attorney demanding to know what our issues are so that he can resolve them.

The last person we are going to want to discuss anything that has to do with her is with some guy who also thinks that there is nothing wrong with sending your children to the bathroom for punishment, that it’s okay to put the burden of not learning her mother’s tongue on a child and most importantly if you look at the happiness level and dysfunctional relationship with his own children, what credibility could he possibly have?!

You don’t really know me, and I don’t really know you or the kid’s Mom. All I know is what I see and what I see is your egos getting in the way of helping her. Rather than be concerned for her, you are more concerned and offended that we would bring these issues to the table. Rather than support our stepson, you reprimand him and tell him he is taking sides by wanting to have stability in his life for school and try and instill fear by telling him he can’t have his Mom’s help in French and he better pull off straight A’s. Rather than try and help our step-daughter speak French, you tell her it’s her fault that she didn’t learn because she didn’t try hard enough.

I am the last person you need to be explaining yourself to; it seems to me you need to have a heart to heart with yourself. I can’t help the fact that she, big brother and I have taken to each other and we feel love for one another. Rather than feel jealous and injured by it, we should be feeling happy for the enlarged emotional world developing inside them, not to mention complimented because it is a direct reflection of solid bonds between them and their parents.

These kids have an amazing father, and he will protect his kids. None of this should come as a surprise to you, and in fact, him not saying anything would be concerning because there are legitimate issues to have concern. This is absolutely not a clash of parenting styles; the things that are happening are not right. They would absolutely not be right for you and your son, so why are they right for them.

The way you both have acted has proven to me that we are very different kinds of people, and I don’t want to be involved with either of you, nor am I required to do so. Please do not contact me again unless there is sincere intent for real resolve. Hiding being your attorney friend is just silly. Refusing to speak to the kid’s Dad is ridiculous and demonstrates immaturity. Speaking the way you do to her is insulting to her intelligence.

All of this just breaks my heart for these kids. I recognize that I have said some strong words, but the damage has already been done by you guys calling in an “attorney.” The only thing I am required to be is authentic and speak my truth in real-time. You have offended me by the way you speak about my husband, and it makes me sad that any of this is part of the kid’s story. There was a better way, and all that was required is for egos to be tabled.

Suffering is a strong word, and the only one that I feel who can really claim it is our step-daughter.

Respectfully,

stepmom

Husband’s New Wife

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