divorce, Ex, family, narcissists

Maybe Ex did me more than one favor…

Apologies in advance for yet another post about Ex. Now that Donald Trump is going to be back on mainstream social media, my fixation on her could be coming to an end soon. Or maybe not. After all, I’ve been married to her ex husband for twenty years, and I still can’t seem to move past the awesome fuckery of it all… Luckily, Bill is worth everything and more.

I’ve often said that Ex did me a favor when she divorced Bill. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had. We are disgustingly compatible, except in the mornings and the evenings. Case in point, last night at barely 9:00pm, Bill was sitting at the bench in our dining room, eyes closed, head leaned back, mouth open, and practically in a REM state. I was still quite wide awake.

This morning at 5:45 am…

He was really animated, trying to tell me about some film… He got annoyed when he realized I was taking a photo, but it was mainly because he’d inspired me, yet again.

I wasn’t quite awake at 5:45 am. I had just read a letter sent to an advice columnist in The New York Times. It was written by a second wife whose stepson was getting married. She and her husband had reached out to the bride’s parents, hoping to form a bond. Stepson discouraged her from contacting the bride’s mom. She soon found out why…

My stepson is getting married this year. His father and I embrace our future daughter-in-law and looked forward to meeting her family. I began corresponding with her mother and expressed our interest in flying out to meet them. My stepson discouraged this; he said they would be visiting our area soon. But we weren’t introduced to them when they came. Later, I received a call from his fiancée’s mother, who clearly mistook me for my husband’s ex-wife. She said she loved meeting me and referred to “the new wife” — me! — as “not blood.” At Thanksgiving, my stepson and his mother flew to visit his fiancée’s family and made lots of wedding plans, including for a rehearsal dinner for which we will pay half. How can we get past all these hurtful exclusions, some affecting our pocketbook? (I note: My husband’s relationship with his ex-wife is frosty.)

I hadn’t yet read the columnist’s advice as Bill went off on his early morning tear. I also hadn’t had any coffee, and wasn’t quite ready for Bill’s insane early morning energy. I did, however, see some of the crappy comments on Facebook regarding the situation in the advice column. Lots of people were projecting their own experiences in their reactions to this letter. Some people were downright mean!

I wasn’t focused on Bill’s early morning chatter, because my sleepy brain was still processing the advice column and people’s tone deaf comments regarding the situation. Stepmothers so often get a raw deal… even as I will admit some stepmothers deserve it. But not all stepmothers are assholes. Just like any other group of people, it takes all kinds. I saw a lot of people saying the stepmom in the letter was “whining”. Others wondered about the circumstances regarding how she and her husband got together. I notice that few people assume stepfathers are “the other man”, but stepmoms often get that assumption, especially if the first wife is still living.

I’ve mentioned before that more than one person has asked me if I caused my husband’s divorce. Um… that would be a NO. I had NOTHING to do with it. I didn’t know Bill when he and Ex separated. I didn’t meet him in person until almost a year after their divorce was final. And, thanks to Ex’s extreme parental alienation tactics, I didn’t have a chance to fuck up what was left of his daughters’ childhoods, either. I only saw them once when they were still kids. Meanwhile, Ex got her very generous child support in full and on time every month.

It’s not a secret that I’ve been pissed off at Ex forever for being such a hateful, mean-spirited cunt. Sorry… not a nice word, but in her case, it’s absolutely warranted. And I don’t feel that way just because she severely alienated the children, which was bad enough. I don’t even feel that way because she “invited” me to my own in laws’ house for Christmas. I feel that way because she abused Bill in ALL ways… including the ways that are too horrible and humiliating to mention.

Put it this way. If she were a man, she could have gone to prison for what she did. She absolutely could have gone to prison as a woman, too, but that would have meant admitting to being a sexual assault victim and reporting what she did to the police. It also would have meant seeing what she did for what it really was, which, at the time, was much too horrifying to ponder.

That all being said… and I am being totally serious, here. I do realize that there’s a certain freedom in being so alienated from my husband’s daughters for so long. The wedding scenario in the letter above will never be a concern of mine. Bill wasn’t invited to his daughter’s wedding, which I gather was not official, as younger daughter and her husband are devout Mormons and no doubt did the religious ordinance sans the “unworthy”. Younger daughter did tell Bill she’d wanted to invite him, even though she got married before they started speaking again. I guess she figured inviting Bill would be more trouble than it was worth. I doubt Ex and #3 were there for the temple sealing, as they are reportedly not temple worthy. I doubt they got that way for a religious ordinance.

Because my husband’s daughters were so alienated, there wasn’t too much drama coming at us from them. I remember when we first got married, Ex ominously wrote in an email that she would never want the children to get in the way of our relationship. And then she did all she could to make it so they rejected Bill. That decision was calculated to hurt us, and it did. However, instead of breaking us up, it made us a stronger unit. Twenty years later, we still laugh at each other. We still inspire each other. Younger daughter speaks to Bill, and is now getting to know him again. And, aside from that one Christmas fiasco, I’ve never had to worry about any weird or awkward situations involving weddings, graduations, baptisms or other family events.

It’s hard to think of this as Ex doing me a favor. The truth is, it was all very hurtful. I totally understand the letter writer’s pain. What makes it even worse is that society, in general, has no regard or empathy for stepmothers. We’re often seen as interlopers, at best. While stepfathers are often commended for “stepping in” for bio dads who weren’t there… whether or not the bio dads wanted to be, stepmothers “can’t win for losin’.”

Over the past twenty years, I’ve heard that my husband’s kids are “none of my business.” I’ve also heard that I “must love them as if they are my own children”. I’ve been asked if I broke up my husband’s first marriage. I’ve been told that I should regard younger daughter’s children as “my grandchildren”. I’ve only met younger daughter in person once, and that was twenty years ago this summer.

I don’t think the vast majority of people really stop and think about the many scenarios that cause subsequent marriages. This is a subject that is so personal and painful for so many that people tend to come up with a narrative that they apply to all situations. It’s a type of prejudice. Many people who hear that someone is a subsequent wife wonder how she became a subsequent wife. I guess we can thank fairy tales for that image…

Stepmothers are presented as money grubbing evil shrews with no feelings. The bio mom is always innocent and sweet. The stepmom is a selfish bitch who steals other women’s men from them. It’s laughable, in my case. I barely ever dated before I met Bill. I’m definitely not a man stealing hussy, although sometimes I legitimately can be a bitch. 😉 I try hard not to be a bitch unless a situation calls for it.

In my case, being a second wife has been a weird experience. My parents never divorced. In fact, there’s very little divorce in my family, as a whole. I don’t have stepparents, and never expected to be one myself. So, when Bill and I decided to get married, I optimistically figured I’d just do the best I could. Bill had warned me that his ex wife was a mean person. In fact, he once told me she would “rip me to shreds.” Maybe she might have done that, if I took anything she says or does personally.

I don’t take Ex’s behavior personally, because I know that it wouldn’t have mattered to her who Bill married. She would have been nasty to ANYONE. She saw (and probably still sees) Bill as her possession, even though she threw him away, and she would have resented any subsequent spouse. I’m just glad I can see that for what it is and feel quite free to tell Ex to fuck off. She deserves it. Being nice to her would not have changed the way she would have treated me. In fact, it might make her feel even more threatened. If I was a “Snow White” type, all sweet and kind, she would have probably been even more spiteful and jealous, like the wicked queen in the aforementioned fairy tale. Ex doesn’t like other people showing her up, and being determined to fake keeping sweet for the sake of optics would have probably made her behavior much worse.

My husband’s ex wife is so incredibly dysfunctional that there was never a hope of my having a normal relationship with Bill’s kids. She treats them like possessions, rather than people in their own right. Fortunately, younger daughter claimed her own self-determination. Older daughter, I fear, is going to stay stuck. I don’t think my situation is necessarily the norm. Most mothers aren’t as hateful and selfish as Ex is. They don’t wish for their children to be mistreated or disliked by others. Ex talks a good game about being a good mom, but her actions are opposite to what she says. I was never going to get a chance, no matter what. So, I never had to worry about my feelings getting hurt by being snubbed by younger daughter’s mother-in-law. But we also didn’t have to contribute money toward her wedding.

Of course, now that she’s talking to Bill again, younger daughter does get financial and other help from her dad on occasion. Bill gave his daughter and her husband some money for the deposit on the place where they are now living. To her credit, younger daughter offered to pay Bill back. Apparently, Ex would make her older kids pay her back for things, even as she’d happily take their birthday money to buy diapers for their younger siblings. Bill was horrified, and told her to consider the money a wedding gift. She was very grateful and thanked him profusely.

I think, if I were the stepmother in the above scenario, and my feelings were really hurt, I might consider having my husband go to the wedding alone. Then I’d hit a spa, take a short trip, or do something else fun for me. So many people were commenting that the stepmother should just step aside and know her place. I figure in a situation like that, my “place” might be outside the wedding venue, somewhere where I’ll be welcomed. But that’s just me. And, in fact, this was the approach I took in 2004, when Ex invited me to my in-laws’ house for Christmas. I stayed home, and Bill went to see his kids… for the last time, it turned out, until 2020.

If going to a spa is too self-indulgent or ballsy, then maybe the stepmom should just enjoy the wedding like any other guest. Don’t offer to help in ANY way, unless it’s specifically requested. Let the moms do the heavy lifting. And then, if the wedding gets too boring, cut out and go do something more interesting. It sounds to me like the stepson doesn’t like her very much, anyway. She married his dad, not him. Let Dad handle the bullshit. Stepmom can detach and please herself. Some will say this is a self-centered solution, but it doesn’t sound to me like the stepmom can win in this scenario. Either she cares too much, or not enough. So she might as well please herself.

I am a very lucky woman. My husband is wonderful. He’s kind, generous, reasonable, and adorable to me. He’s his own person. He accepts me for who I am. In fact, he even celebrates it. Bill told me this morning that he enjoys my outspoken personality, because I often say the things he’s thinking. He worries a lot more about offending people than I do, so we balance each other out. If I were more like him, I doubt our marriage would have lasted twenty years. People would be constantly violating our boundaries.

Below is the columnist’s advice… which I think was pretty sound:

I totally understand your bruised feelings. That phone call on which you were mistaken for your husband’s ex-wife sounds awful! I suspect the explanation lies largely in that “frosty” relationship between your husband and his former wife. Visits seem to have been organized to keep them apart and to prioritize your stepson’s mother. (I get that: I happen to be a mama’s boy myself.)

Now, your stepson certainly could have handled introductions more deftly. But ceremonial occasions — like “meet the parents” — can be tough for children of divorce if their parents are antagonistic. So, unless I am misreading this situation, try to forgive your stepson and take the long view: Life won’t end at the wedding! Getting to know your stepson’s in-laws may simply take longer than you expected.

As for splitting the costs of the rehearsal dinner — which I assume was acceptable until you were treated unkindly — I would stick with that plan. If my assumption is wrong or if the price exceeds your budget, speak up. But don’t make a fuss on principle. Letting the small stuff slide in favor of building better relationships is often a wise strategy. I hope it works for you and your husband.

Again… if it were me, I might consider making other plans for the wedding day. It would depend on the level of disrespect shown to me, and my husband’s feelings on the matter. I don’t enjoy getting into conflicts with people or going to places where people don’t want me around. Stepmothers have feelings, too, and I’m not one to show up for things just to promote the status quo. But that’s me… and my husband is the type of person who understands. My focus is my relationship with him, because I married him. The stepson in this case is an adult, and presumably intelligent enough to understand that his perspective isn’t the only one that matters.

I know a lot of people read my rantings about Ex and think I’m the problem. I’m being honest when I say that I married Bill because I love him. I always hoped to have a good relationship with his daughters. I was definitely willing. At first, I was willing to be cordial to Ex, too. She made it very clear from the beginning that she saw me as a competitor and an adversary. She didn’t want her daughters to get to know me, and did all she could to see that we never interacted without her close supervision. I’m not Ex’s ass monkey, so I opted out of the arrangement she unilaterally made for me without my input. I think, as an adult, I have the right to opt out of her plans for handling me. She made it abundantly clear that the kids weren’t “mine”, and she would heavily moderate any influence I might have. So I figured the best thing to do was to let her have HER kids. I had no rights to them, but neither did I have any responsibility.

Now Bill’s daughters are adults, and they can theoretically decide for themselves what’s best. I’m glad that younger daughter gave Bill a chance and is now able to bond with him. Maybe if more stepmothers saw themselves as wives first, there might be some less pain in these situations. But then, sometimes stepmothers really are second moms. Like I mentioned above, everybody’s got a story, and not all situations are the same. The right way to handle any situation depends a lot on the people involved. In my case, Ex is so toxic that it’s best to simply opt out to the extent possible.

I will say, though, that opting out of Christmas 2004 was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. She tried to punish me for doing that… I guess, assuming that Bill would resent me for the way Ex retaliated. But Ex is an adult, and responsible for her own actions. If she wants to try to punish me for not dancing to her tune, she can certainly try. I don’t accept her punishment. And it’s clear that she never knew Bill, nor did she ever love him. I do love him, and because I love him, he probably won’t be alone when he’s an old man. Ex, on the other hand, probably will be. And now that the kids are grown, I’m having a good laugh at her. 😀

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of Things I Should Have Said, by Jamie Lynn Spears…

I don’t remember why I decided to download Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said. I am a little too old to appreciate music by Jamie Lynn’s famous older sister, Britney Spears, whose pop music career was flourishing during Jamie Lynn’s childhood. I am definitely too old to appreciate Jamie Lynn’s turn as an actress on the Nickelodeon shows, All That and Zoey 101. Amazon.com tells me that Jamie Lynn’s book was published January 18, 2022, and I bought it two days later. It was probably because a year ago, the Internet was all abuzz about Britney Spears, as she was engaged in a legal battle to end a conservatorship that their father, Jamie Spears, had arranged after Britney had some very public mental health meltdowns in 2008. The conservatorship lasted thirteen years, during which many of Britney’s basic freedoms were severely curtailed, even as she was forced to work, and even had to pay the people who were oppressing her. I likely got caught up in the drama of all of that, even though I had long since moved on from it by the time I finally picked up and started reading Things I Should Have Said a few days ago.

Jamie Lynn Spears is the youngest child of Jamie and Lynne Spears. She writes that she was an “oops” baby. Her father had supposedly had a vasectomy, but never went for a follow up check. Obviously, the procedure didn’t take, and he got Lynne pregnant in 1990. Jamie Lynn was born in McComb, Mississippi on April 4, 1991. She claims that even though she was an “oops” baby, she was cherished by her older brother, Bryan, and big sister, Britney. But then she made statements that seemed to refute the idea that she was cherished. Father James was a notorious alcoholic, and he would “take off” when things at home got too rough. Mother Lynne was very focused on Britney’s budding career as a pop music phenomenon. Jamie Lynn’s parents divorced in 2002, but both remained involved in her life.

As Jamie Lynn grew up, she bore a striking resemblance to her older sister and demonstrated acting talent. At the age of 13, she started going to California to work for Nickelodeon, first on All That, and then on her own series, Zoey 101. When she was at home in Kentwood, Louisiana, Jamie Lynn hung out with her friends and dated Casey Aldridge (called Casper in the book). The two had a sexual relationship, and at age sixteen, Jamie Lynn was pregnant, like a lot of teenagers in Deep South states. The difference between Jamie Lynn and the other teens was, Jamie Lynn was famous and had money. Her pregnancy was all over the news, with many people speculating that it was the reason her show on Nickelodeon ended. Jamie Lynn writes that, actually, the show had already ended by the time she got pregnant with her older daughter, Maddie Briann, who was born on June 19, 2008.

Jamie Lynn tried to make a relationship with “Casper” work, but it was impossible, as according to her, he was always running around, using drugs, and having sex with other people. Jamie Lynn threw herself into being a mother, buying her first home in Liberty, Mississippi when she was still a teenager. She felt she had to threaten her parents with filing for legal emancipation, as she wanted to make decisions for herself and her daughter. As she was trying to make things work with her “baby daddy”, she met her husband, Jamie Watson, who is ten years her senior. They dated on and off, until it became apparent that they would be a couple. Meanwhile, Jamie Lynn decided to take a stab at making music. She moved to Nashville and tried to learn the ropes of songwriting, playing guitar, and singing.

Jamie Lynn Spears sings. She’s not bad, although I think her music sounds very familiar…

She released an EP, but then moved back to Louisiana, where she eventually married Jamie Watson in 2014. In 2017, Maddie was in a terrible ATV accident that almost killed her. After Maddie recovered, she asked Jamie Lynn to have another baby, a request that she and Jamie obliged. Jamie Lynn and Jamie now have a daughter named Ivey Joan, who was born in 2018. According to Jamie Lynn’s book, Jamie Watson plans to legally adopt Maddie, as they have a “special” relationship. When Jamie proposed to Jamie Lynn, he also proposed to Maddie, complete with a ring (BARF).

My thoughts

I’m not super impressed by Things I Should Have Said. I don’t think it’s particularly well written. Jamie Lynn has a habit of using big words that aren’t quite appropriate for what she’s trying to convey. The end result is a bit contrived and stilted, rather than engaging. I found myself rushing to get through the book, as I didn’t find her story that interesting. It probably could have been interesting, had she hired a ghost writer. Jamie Lynn Spears frequently reminds her readers that she’s very talented, as in she repeatedly states this in her manuscript. But I’m afraid writing with flair isn’t really one of Jamie Lynn’s gifts. The book isn’t terrible, but it’s not definitely not among the best memoirs I’ve ever read. She’s no Paulina Porizkova. 😉

Anyone looking for dishing about Britney Spears would probably do well to skip this book, as Jamie Lynn doesn’t reveal that much about her sister. She keeps her comments about Britney mostly respectful and loving, and offers a few even-keeled insights about Britney’s controversy, reminding readers that she’s in a position to see what’s going on for herself, rather than speculating about it due to media reports. One of the issues that came up regarding Jamie Lynn and Britney was about Britney’s allegedly erratic behavior that involved Britney threatening her sister with a knife. Jamie Lynn also mentions that she had to enforce boundaries with Britney during the height of the COVID pandemic. But she doesn’t offer a lot of commentary about Britney’s situation; the book really is mostly about Jamie Lynn and her career.

A rather strange interview about the book and the knife incident. She cries, but there aren’t any tears.

In some ways, I felt some compassion for Jamie Lynn. I’m the youngest in my family, and I was also an “oops” baby, with sisters who are 8, 11, and 13 years older than I am. I know how it feels to be in that position. I also had an alcoholic father, although my dad wasn’t one to “take off” at random intervals. I do feel like her stabs at entering what she calls the “family business” were kind of half-hearted, as most of the energy her parents expended toward developing their daughters’ show biz careers went to Britney.

Jamie Lynn spent three years acting on Nickelodeon, then got pregnant… then she made a stab at music, which netted an EP. It pales compared to what Britney has done, and I would imagine that causes Jamie Lynn some angst. She also writes that her parents were pretty strict and religious, yet Jamie Lynn still managed to get “knocked up” as a teenager. She writes that having Maddie at age seventeen “saved” her from becoming a dysfunctional actress, succumbing to the issues that performers deal with, like drug abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. It seems to me that there are other ways to avoid such a fate, rather than becoming a teen mom. I don’t think that’s a route I would recommend, even though Jamie Lynn at least had the financial ability to take care of her daughter, even if she really wasn’t mature enough.

I’m not sure what Jamie Lynn plans for her future, but for now, she is Mrs. Jamie Watson, mother of two. I’m hoping that she keeps an eye on Maddie, because Maddie has some pretty strong genetic ties to dysfunction. Her grandfather, Jamie, and her biological father, Casey, both have drug and alcohol issues. Her Aunt Britney also has well-publicized mental health issues. Maddie will be fifteen on her next birthday, which is prime time for her to act like a teenager. I just hope she doesn’t end up in the same situation Jamie Lynn was in when she was sixteen.

I also didn’t get the best impressions of Jamie Watson… sorry to say. Obviously, I don’t know the man personally, and it doesn’t matter what my opinions of him are. I’m not the one who is his wife or the mother of his child. But I did feel moved enough to save a couple of quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book that I shared with friends…

Those who have been following my blog for awhile might remember a few years ago, when I wrote about how I don’t approve of the trend of potential stepfathers “proposing” to their stepdaughters. At the time I wrote that post, NASCAR driver Brian Scott was in the news for “marrying” his now wife, Whitney’s three year old daughter, Brielle, biological daughter of fellow NASCAR driver, Sean Caisse. I wrote about why I really don’t think those kinds of proposals are a good idea. My reason is mainly because those kinds of displays are usually more for the adults than the children, especially the ones who are very young and don’t know what’s going on, as Brielle was at the time. I also know that, unfortunately, divorce is pretty common in remarriages, particularly when stepchildren are involved. Presenting a little girl with a ring and offering to “marry” her too, seems like a sweet gesture, but it can end up being very hurtful if there is a divorce. Moreover, I just don’t think it’s appropriate, as marriage is a very different relationship than a parental relationship is. I’m much more impressed with stepfathers who simply love and care for their stepchildren, rather than trying to replace their biological parents, even if that is what later happens in the relationship.

I got a couple of nasty comments on that piece, as Sean Caisse had some trouble with the law and wound up incarcerated. One reader who cowardly called herself “BlogWastedMyTime” declared my article “crap”, and very rudely pointed out that Caisse had been arrested, accusing me of not “doing my research”. Below was the exchange, which I remember posting as I waited for a flight from Vienna to Stuttgart.

As far as I can tell, Brian and Whitney are still married. Good for them. My opinion about this hasn’t changed, though.
Another, less contentious comment from someone, who later came back and wrote “well put.”

There was another comment from a guy who had two ex wives, and felt I was being too “negative” about people who “marry” their stepchildren. I told him that I was only sharing my opinion on my blog, and I was sorry he didn’t like my opinions, as I matter of factly explained that he joins a long list of people who don’t like my opinions. Deal with it. Anyway, my thoughts on this didn’t evolve in a vacuum. I have what I think are good reasons for feeling the way I do.

As regular readers might know, my husband was married to a woman who asked him to be the “daddy” to her son from her first marriage, which he was happy to do for as long as he was still in Ex’s favor. Bill went as far as giving the boy his last name– or really, Ex claimed it and Bill didn’t argue with her about it– and paying $850 a month in child support for him until he was 21 fucking years old. For that effort, the young man tried to change his name in secret as he still took Bill’s financial support– he didn’t even tell Bill about changing his name, as he continued to call him “Dad”. And when Bill confronted his former stepson about this, he was chastised… as if a “dad” shouldn’t know what his “son’s” legal last name was, even as said “son” was claiming to be Bill’s next of kin. Now, he doesn’t speak to Bill at all, although he might be talking to his bio dad, who didn’t pay any child support after Bill came into the picture. Ex got them back together as a means of being spiteful to Bill. Bill didn’t mind, by the way, as the boy never should have lost access to his real dad, or his dad’s financial support. And now he knows that Ex lied about #1, anyway.

When Bill and Ex divorced, Ex did the same thing to Bill that she did to #1, and tried to erase his presence in his daughters’ lives. She made them call #3 “Dad”, and forced them to write letters disowning Bill. Then, when younger daughter turned 18, she pressured them into getting their names legally changed to #3’s last name. Younger daughter has since told us how distressing it was for her growing up, not to be able to have a relationship with her real father, especially since it’s very clear that #3 doesn’t care about her the way Bill does, and always has. To this day, even though she and Bill are now in touch and talk regularly, Ex still tries to influence younger daughter away from having a relationship with Bill, who is younger daughter’s real dad in all senses of the word. We are grateful that she has good sense, and can think for herself about these things.

I do understand that not all situations are as extreme as Bill’s has been. From what Jamie Lynn writes, Casey Aldridge has not been a very involved father, although he did see Maddie occasionally and, when she had her near fatal ATV accident, he did visit her and pray for her. Jamie Lynn claims that Maddie wanted Jamie to adopt her, and she has tried to explain to her what that would mean. But I have my doubts that the idea was entirely Maddie’s, and given the dysfunction in the Spears family, I would be concerned about the permanence of Jamie Lynn’s marriage. That’s just my opinion, of course, and it’s based on what I’ve seen in my 50 years of life. I know every situation is different, and it’s not my business, anyway. But yeah, I’m not a fan of the whole “marrying your stepchildren” trend. I think marriage proposals are for adults, and should be left to future love interests of the children, not to their stepfathers. Besides, there’s quite a double standard at play. Imagine if stepmothers started trying to “marry” their stepsons. Yikes! Or if stepfathers started giving their stepsons “engagement rings”.

Below are a few quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book about Jamie Watson’s adoption of Maddie…

Maddie started to talk about changing her last name to Watson. Her determination bordered on demand. We explained she didn’t understand the lengthy process of adoption and that changing her name meant that she would give up the name Aldridge for the rest of her life. She insisted she did in fact understand, and it was important to her that she share our name.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (p. 165). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

And…

We spoke several times with Casper, who at first felt like we were pushing him out of her life. Eventually I was able to convince him I was speaking for Maddie. She wanted to share our family name and feel connected to us. It took a few weeks for Casper to relent. After Maddie’s initial interviews with mediators, Casper felt, if not good, at least satisfied Maddie would be happier this way. The process took months and coincided with the arrival of Ivey Joan. We encouraged Casper to remain in all our lives. Sadly, as months passed, he found himself in legal trouble again and again, and he disappeared once more.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (pp. 166-167). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

I do think that sometimes, having a stepparent adopt a child really is the right thing to do, particularly if the other bio parent really is “gone” from the child’s life. If anything, being the legal parent makes it easier to make legal and medical decisions for the child in one’s care. I just don’t think the public declarations, especially at weddings, are necessarily a good idea. It does sound like Jamie Watson has been a good father figure to Maddie, and that’s commendable. I hope it stays that way, although even with a name change, Maddie is still going to be another man’s bio daughter. There is no changing that fact.

I’ve also seen people like Ex use the “sperm donor bio dad” stereotype in their parental alienation campaigns. I know for a fact that a lot of fathers are pushed out for convenience sake, or because their exes don’t want them in their lives anymore. It has little to do with the actual welfare of the children, and is really more about being vengeful and hateful to the other parent and trying to deny past mistakes. I can’t help it… dealing with Ex has given me very strong opinions on this issue. But, no matter what, I would totally cringe if I’d had children when Bill proposed to me, and Bill had presented them with rings, too. I don’t like that practice at all. What if the girl says “no” to the proposal? Will her wishes really matter? And what little girl doesn’t get excited when someone gives them a gift? So, that whole “stepdaughter wedding ring” gesture, to me, is just kind of hokey and inappropriate, especially when it’s done very publicly. Again– just my opinion.

Anyway… I don’t think reading Things I Should Have Said has made me more of a Jamie Lynn Spears fan. I’ve certainly read worse books, but this one could have been much better than it is. I see that it gets 3.5 stars on Amazon. I think I’d give it three stars, and recommend it to Jamie Lynn’s fans, who will likely enjoy it more than I did. Now, I’m happy to have moved on to my next book, by Andre Leon Talley… It’s definitely more my speed. 😉

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

A parody about Jamie Lynn’s teen pregnancy. This came out in 2008 or so.
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divorce, Ex, family, lessons learned, marriage

Repost: An open letter to angry adult stepchildren… 

I wrote this post on October 15, 2010. I am reposting it because I see that it got over 11,000 hits, and some people might find it useful. My personal situation has changed a lot since I wrote this piece 12 years ago, so please keep that in mind if you read this… For instance, one of Bill’s children now speaks to him. Sometimes things can turn out better given some time and perspective.

Before I start with today’s post, I want to explain that my thoughts today are not necessarily directed to my stepchildren. After all, in eight years I have only met my stepchildren once and, since then, have had absolutely no contact with them. No… today’s post is for angry stepchildren who still talk to both of their parents and, for whatever reason, hate one or both of their stepparents. 

Yesterday, I was hanging out at one of my favorite online communities when I noticed a post written by a guy who was very upset with his father. This fellow, who is very open about being a homosexual, had recently written a heartfelt letter to his dad about his homosexuality. He was asking his dad for understanding and support. His father, apparently, didn’t respond to the letter the way the writer had hoped he would. 

So my online friend was understandably devastated about this turn of events and, in the course of describing his pain, happened to refer to his father’s wife as a “heinous harpy”. He did not explain why he thought of his stepmother that way. In fact, most of his posts were about his relationship with his father. But I couldn’t help but notice that, for some reason, he seemed to hate his stepmother and felt the need to express his hatred in a post that, at least on the surface, had nothing to do with her.

Here’s what I’d like to say to that guy, along with anyone else who hates their stepparent(s), yet still loves their parent(s). You may have a very good reason for hating your mother’s or father’s spouse. Or you may not have a good reason for hating them. But have you considered the reasons why your parent married that person? Put aside your personal feelings for a moment and think about it. Just spend a few minutes looking at life through your parent’s eyes.

Divorce sucks. It sucks for almost everybody, including many stepparents. Yes, if you are a child of divorce, you absolutely have a right to be hurt, confused, angry, etc. But chances are, your parent is hurting too, and would like the chance to try to be happy with someone else. Do you really expect your parent to go through life alone, just because their first try at marriage didn’t work out? Would you actually want them to be alone as they get older and less independent? 

Like it or not, your parent made a choice to invite another person into his or her life. Your parent had his or her own reasons for doing so. Maybe you don’t agree with your parent’s reasons or taste. Maybe your stepmother or stepfather is cruel or hateful to you. Maybe you feel like he or she takes your parent’s attention away from you or tries to shut you out of your parent’s life. Perhaps your parent’s remarriage has destroyed any hopes that your parents might reconcile.  

All of these issues are valid reasons for you to feel the way you do. But I’m asking you to stop and consider your parent’s feelings. Think about why he or she made the choice to invite this new person into their life. Then, if you’re able, take an objective look at your stepparent. Is he or she really worthy of your hatred? Does your parent genuinely love his or her spouse? Have you taken a moment to see what your parent sees in their wife or husband? 

Then, think about this… Did you decide to hate your stepparent? Or did your other parent make that decision for you? Consider this. I have met my husband’s daughters just once. During our one meeting, which barely lasted 48 hours, my husband’s daughters and I seemed to get along just fine. One of them went as far as to give me a big hug and refer to me as her other mother. But not long after that meeting, my husband’s daughters mysteriously started distancing themselves from their dad until finally, in 2004, they stopped talking to him altogether and, in 2006, actually sent him letters demanding that he let their current stepfather adopt them.

Since I haven’t seen or talked to my husband’s kids since that one meeting which had seemed to go so well, I can’t help but think their mother was somehow threatened by me and told them they should hate me, as well as their dad for choosing to marry me. In other words, the girls didn’t decide to dislike me until their mother decided for them that I was a bad person. Incidentally, I have never met their mother, and she has very limited knowledge of me, so I’m not sure how she determined I was so evil. I try not to take it personally, since I have a feeling she would have hated anyone my husband had chosen to marry.  

Here’s something else to consider. Relationships are always a two-way street. You may hate your stepparent and that may be all very well and good. But your stepparent may also reserve the right to feel the same way about you, especially if you’re an adult. You might not care about how they feel, but if you want to have a good relationship with your parent, you might be wise to reconsider the way you treat his or her spouse. There may come a time when you’ll wish you were on better terms with them.  

Marriage is a dicey business at best. Statistics show that about half of all married couples eventually divorce. Many of those people will have children, so there are lots of people in the child-of-divorce boat. Moreover, a lot of those children-of-divorce will eventually grow up and be divorced themselves. If that ever happens to you, would you want to spend the rest of your life alone just to spare your child’s feelings? Would you want your child to have the right to choose your mate for you, especially since most kids eventually grow up and have lives of their own?  

In our society, most people reject the idea of arranged marriages decided by their parents or anyone else. Do you really think you should have the right to reject your parent’s choice for a spouse? Would you want your kids to overrule your choice of whom to marry? And would you be happy if your parent eventually divorced and remarried a third or fourth time? Remember, divorce sucks… and it’s very expensive. I think the only people who could possibly enjoy the process of divorce are those who get a paycheck from it. Chances are, if your parent divorces several times, he or she might not be as financially well-prepared to handle growing older. If he or she wants to remarry, it makes good sense to let them (hopefully) choose the right spouse, once and for all.

I know for a fact that my husband is less lonely and a lot happier with me than he ever was with his ex-wife. We are very compatible with each other. Certainly, things would have been less complicated had he and I met first. But that didn’t happen. We make each other happy and belong together. Most parents want the best for their children and hope they will be happy. I’d like to think that a loving child would want the same for their parent(s). I know my husband’s happiness has led to his being healthier and wealthier… perhaps giving his kids more time to reconsider whether or not they really do want to throw away their real dad for good.  

Life is pretty short and there may come a time when you’ll wish you had more time to spend with your mother or father. If you love your parent(s), I would expect you’d want for them what they, hopefully, want for you… health and happiness and freedom from loneliness.

It’s true that you may have all the legitimate reasons in the world to hate your stepparent(s). All I’m asking you to do is to take a minute to understand where your hatred is coming from and determine whether or not it’s truly valid. Maybe your stepmom is a harpy or your stepfather is a selfish bastard. But your parent chose them to be a part of their lives. They must have had a reason… And maybe you should try to have some respect for their reasons. I’m sure you’d wish for and expect the very same if you’re ever in their shoes.

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blog news, narcissists, Reality TV

It’s so nice to be negative!

If you read this blog regularly, you probably already know I’m negative a lot of the time. But this time, I’m referring to COVID. I was still feeling kind of icky yesterday, but I decided to do a COVID test anyway, before I walked our dogs. Much to my surprise and delight, the test was negative. If I squinted really hard, I could see the faintest line on the test, which means that if I test today, it would probably turn up a totally negative test (today’s featured photo is of yesterday’s result). Bill did a test this morning, and his was also negative. So I guess that means that ours is a COVID free home once again!

I still have some residual gunk from the sickness, which doesn’t surprise me. It usually takes me awhile to completely recover after I’ve been sick, especially with anything respiratory. But my voice seems to be back, and I’m no longer so tired. Maybe I’ll get around to doing something musical today… or maybe not.

Right now, I’m about halfway through reading Tom Bower’s book about Harry and Meghan, Revenge. I’ve also been following H.G. Tudor’s YouTube readings of the book. I’ve noticed he’s not reading the whole thing, just the juiciest parts. He’s also adding his own observations about Meghan’s behaviors through the lens of narcissism. I am marveling at how easy it is to read Mr. Bower’s book, even though it’s a physical book, and not on Kindle. I do have to go outside to read it, since my bedroom lamps don’t put off enough light. But, Revenge is a quick and enjoyable read, and it confirms a lot of what I’ve observed about Meghan Markle. To be clear, I’m on the “Meghan is a narcissist” bandwagon. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I am.

I hope to have the book finished very soon, so I can review it. I’m amazed at how much quicker and easier Revenge is to read, compared to Joshua Prager’s book about Roe vs. Wade. That one took me well over a month to read, but it was well worth the effort, and in many ways, every bit as juicy. I guess I just found the subject matter a lot more challenging… or maybe I need to read outside in a chair, rather than in my bed. When I read in bed these days, I invariably get drowsy and fall asleep. I also find it hard to read when I have my contacts in, probably because it’s long past time for me to get bifocals. But it’s not so simple, arranging a place to get an eye exam. Last time we did it, we had it done at the medical center on post in Stuttgart. Wiesbaden is a smaller post, with fewer facilities. We can obviously get it done on the economy, but that presents its own issues. We did buy our last glasses in Nagold, but there was a bit of a language barrier.

Be looking for a new book review very soon, those of you who enjoy them. I like to write book reviews, because they often take me away from the news cycle and comments people make on social media. I know I had at least one reader who didn’t like it when I posted about comments… and to that, I would say, this is my blog. If you don’t like it, you know where you can go, and what you can do there. I can’t please everybody, and would never try to do that.

According to Revenge, Meghan Markle had a blog for three years. She shut it down just as she was marrying Prince Harry. It was called The Tig. I never read it, and probably would never want to read it, because I don’t like the title. I had a college roommate who called herself Tigger, and I’m still traumatized by the experience, thirty years later. Meghan’s blog was named after her favorite wine, but I find her about as insufferable as I did that former roommate. To be fair, she probably found me just as insufferable. We really weren’t compatible. I’ll just leave it at that. 😉

I also don’t think I’d like Meghan’s blog, mostly because she comes across as very fake to me. From what I’ve read, Meghan’s blog was all about her trying to edify and uplift people, trying to teach them a more beautiful way to live. I don’t want or need someone giving me special lifestyle tips. I know some people live for that shit, but I don’t. I just want to sit here and grouse. I mean… people have said a lot about me over the years, but few people would ever call me “fake”. What you see is what you get, which I know not everyone appreciates. But I gotta be me! I know that some people hate me just because of what I called my blog. I figure that if they aren’t going to take the time to get to know me before dismissing me, that’s their loss. I’m really not so bad, most of the time. At least my dogs love me.

This post is a little cranky. I’m usually especially cranky when I’m dealing with the beginning or end of an illness. It’s probably because I want to get over the last residual sickness and get on with my life. Kind of like Kim Plath is…

I’ve been watching the latest season of TLC’s Welcome to Plathville. It’s been surprising to see how different that family is now, since a few of the kids have moved out and started embracing their own ideals. Kim decided she wants a divorce. She’s opened a dance studio, and now does liquor shots with her son, Micah. Moriah and Olivia are learning how to pole dance. Ethan still pisses off Olivia, and vice versa. I think those two will probably split up, too. And Barry… bless him. A lot of people think he’s weird and creepy. Actually, to me, he seems to be fairly understanding and decent. He does sort of have a Mr. Zip Code look to him, all wide eyed. I know some have said he’s controlling and inconsiderate. I don’t see it so much myself. I doubt we can really understand the true character of the people on Plathville anyway, as they’re on a carefully edited reality TV show.

A screenshot of Mr. Zip Code.
A screenshot of Barry Plath. He does look a little like Mr. Zip Code.

From what I’ve heard, the Plath parents haven’t yet filed for divorce. I think it’s sad that they’re talking about it, especially given how long they’ve been together, and how many children they’ve had. But I’m a big believer in people being as happy as possible. Sometimes divorce, like abortion, is very necessary and healthy. Maybe that’s true in the case of the Plaths.

Sounds like Kim isn’t happy anymore.
I can’t blame Moriah for being annoyed with Olivia. Olivia is a bit self-centered sometimes.

I did find myself feeling a little jealous that they have that beautiful farm, complete with horses. That’s what I aspired to have in my life. I got the jet set Germany lifestyle, instead. It’s not such a bad thing, I guess. Hopefully, tomorrow or Sunday, we’ll feel like going somewhere and enjoying where we live, now that I’m no longer infectious. And if we do that, I hope I don’t pick up the virus again, because that shit sucks. Glad it seems to have been kicked to the curb. Yea, immune systems!

Well, I think I’ll wrap up this post, play a little guitar, walk the dogs, and get back into my book. Hope y’all have a nice Friday… and I hope if you test for COVID, you’re as negative as I am.

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divorce, Ex, narcissists, religion

Repost: Old emails…

In today’s fresh post, I mentioned a post I wrote in 2013 that appeared on my original blog. It was called “Ripple eff-Ex”. I indicated that I might repost that entry today, but now having read it, I don’t think it would add anything new to this blog. So, instead, here’s a post from August 2013… I think it offers more information about the type of person we’re dealing with. I warn you that this is really long and kind of fucked up… I completely understand anyone who doesn’t want to wade through this shit. But I also know I have a few readers who might find this an interesting read.

I found a bunch of old emails from Bill’s ex wife today…  Since I’m in a mood, I think I’ll post them for shits and giggles…

This first one was written after the kids’ one and only visitation with us.  It was sent on August 18, 2003, almost exactly ten years ago… before the shit really hit the fan in a big way.  Notice that she insults me by implying that I’m going to manipulate my husband into not taking care of his kids.  She also demands more money in the form of life insurance.  Bill had about $750,000 in insurance for ex and the kids.  She had wanted $1 million, but USAA would not insure Bill for that much.  So she’s basically saying that she wanted him to replace the then $250,000 SGLI policy if he decided to make me the beneficiary.  And she also wanted him to give her the original $1 million in coverage she wanted…  We did the math and determined that had Bill suddenly died back in 2003, ex would have missed out on about $300,000 in child support– and that’s if he had paid until each kid was 22, which he ultimately didn’t.  If he had died young, she would have stood to get quite the windfall.  We ended up making me the beneficiary of the SGLI policy, while ex had $500,000 in coverage until each kid came of age.  Now, I am the sole beneficiary of the insurance. 

Hi Bill,

Just a quick note about a few things, it is practically impossible to talk privately on the phone and I imagine you have the same situation at your end as well.  = )

1 – I have not asked for you to help with the kids’ medical bills for some time, as I have been able to manage them.  The girls have not been ill to speak of and [ex stepson’s] prescriptions and visits to the Dr., albeit numerous, are not exorbitant, though I have spent a few hundred dollars on his medical bills just recently due to office visits more often and changing prescriptions frequently.  He is now seeing a dermatologist and I have not yet received a bill; if it is outrageous and I cannot afford to pay it all, I will let you know, but I do not anticipate it being so.  I generally pay only about $50 per visit for [ex stepson] to the Doctor plus his prescriptions that run me about $25 a month. However, the girls both need new glasses.  I picked up [older daughter’s] this week and [younger daughter’s] will be ready next week. Could you help me pay for them?  They are a couple hundred dollars each; [older daughter’s] were $211 to be exact. This was the cost after insurance coverage that I purchased because Tri-West does not cover eye exams.  [Younger daughter] will not be getting her second stage of braces quite yet, so we have a reprieve for a little while.  Please drop me a line and let me know.

2 – I know we forgot to do the bank paperwork and ID for [younger ex daughter] and [ex stepson] while we were there. I am sorry.  Please let me know what information you need in order to get the paperwork at your end so I can provide it to you.  I will then take them to the nearest military installation or (hopefully) reserve unit here to get them processed.  If you will sign your portion and send the paperwork for the bank, I will be happy to sign it for you and submit it to USAA thereby removing me from your bank accounts. (Note– this was over two years after their divorce!!!)

3 – Now that you are married, I realize you may need to adjust your life insurance policy needs to account for added responsibility.  Please keep in mind our agreements and consider having separate policies for knotty and us as it would make life a lot simpler for knotty and myself should anything happen to you.  If you wish to change the SGLI to show knotty as beneficiary, I would understand, as long as you have a separate policy, as agreed, with me as the executor on behalf of the children and for the appropriate amount, including what would have been covered by SGLI.  I recall that you originally only took out a policy for half the amount we agreed upon for the children only, as that was all that you could manage at the time.  I received information from USAA recently that their policy rates have dropped dramatically and hope that you will consider checking into it before they increase again.  Additionally, I wish you would extend the life of the policy from 15 years to 30.  It would be nice to have something for the kids …when we are gone.  I have similar arrangements myself because they deserve it and because I know how it feels to have no one at all to depend upon for help.  I’ll soon have “trust” accounts for each of them through USAA so that I will have a place to put money for them, for college, etc., both from the money you send me and from myself, until they are of an appropriate age to manage it for themselves.  I understand, from what the children and Papa and Mimi have said, that knotty is quite adamant about how things should be most of the time.  For this reason I am glad we made the provisions in our paperwork that we did; it will keep you from having to battle your wife over providing for your family.  I am truly glad for this and hope that the children are never a bone of contention in your relationship; I want you to be happy, always.  If you wish, we could set up the policy so that I could make the payments myself and you could slightly adjust the allotment I receive accordingly to cover that amount.  I am not sure how USAA would set it up logistically, but I am certain that they would allow me to be the responsible party for the policy though you were the insured party and let me do some sort of auto withdraw from my account for the premiums.  Please let me know your thoughts on how best we should proceed and how best to insure the children’s long-term future is stable.

Lastly, I am truly sorry we did not get a chance to talk while we were there but it was a wild and crazy trip, just no down time.  So much I wish I could say but…I won’t.  I do want you to know the kids are doing well.

Younger daughter told me your dog was injured; I hope she is all right (C.C., our blue eyed beagle mix got very sick with a mycobacterial infection after their visit. Sadly, he died a few months later.).  I know they have told you about the guy at my office who looks just like you.  They are driving him nuts, pointing and giggling, poor thing!!  It is highly amusing, I must admit, although it was a bit unsettling for me to be introduced to you from 15 years ago, mannerisms, looks, demeanor, he’s even a writer …although he has pursued it diligently and has been published where your path took you to the Pentagon instead …it is all a bit bizarre!!  The kids are all doing well in school so far.  The girls are in new schools this year, older ex daughter in Middle School and younger ex daughter in a school closer to home and where some of her church friends attend.  I became aware of some negative influences at her old school that I was afraid for her to have to deal with since older ex daughter was leaving for Middle School.  Ex stepson will be starting Aikido lessons in about a week and I am hoping the girls will attend as well.  They are tired of dance classes and can take gymnastics and swim through the YMCA membership I bought them; this would be a great extra curricular activity for them.   Ex stepson is buckling down and studying …at last …because he has decided he wants to try to get into BYU and is requesting transfers into several honors classes to try and improve the looks of his transcript and boost his GPA.  If he loses the $100 calculator I bought him he’s dead meat!! ::laughs:J.  He had a wonderful experience on his kayaking trip and was quite impressed by the BYU campus; he seems quite serious.

Thank you for calling them this weekend, they are always glad to get to talk to you and catch you up on what is happening in their world.  Please reply when you have a chance.  If email is the only way you and I can talk, then …email it should be.

I hope and pray that you are well …and happy,
As ever, Ex = )

Bill sent his ex an assertive response to this email, which pissed her off.  

Ex,
Good Morning.  There is a lot to cover here and I’m afraid I’m quite busy today.  I have a meeting with “now” BG Durbin, who was LTC Rossi’s XO back so many years ago in Germany.  We certainly live in a small world.  Let me know ASAP what you need for the girls glasses.  We are going to Dad’s next weekend, so I have to plan finances.  Also, I’ll send out the paperwork for USAA this week for you to sign and drop in the mail.

The kids look great!  I was very happy to see them, although our time together was limited.  They told me they liked Virginia, and would like to visit again.  Ex stepson also said he was interested in a career in acting, and was even looking at schools here in Virginia.  As it happens, the son of one of the contractors I work closely with is an actor, has done commercials and has a cable TV show in NY.  He  recommended JMU and I forwarded that information to ex stepson. 

Recently, I looked at the life insurance situation, and my responsibility to cover knotty as well as the rest of the family.  Currently, the children (with you as the executor) are covered by a combination of $750K of life insurance.  Should anything happen to me, that would cover their support payments almost three times over, maxed out till age 22.  Concurrently, I’m maxed out with USAA (500K maximum on AC soldiers), although they will review my file for a rate reduction this December.

I honestly feel since the dynamics have changed all around that we should reevaluate this situation.  I think that right now, the 500K I have with USAA will sufficiently cover the children.  You are remarried, and have a good job.  I don’t know if your husband is working now, but that is a second source of income as well.  Given this, I want to make my wife the beneficiary of my SGLI.  I have a responsibility to cover her as well. 

I know full well we have a legal agreement, and I’ve done my best to adhere to all of the tenets within that document.  You’ve always gotten support on time, without any complaint from me.  I’ve always been ready to help with medical bills whenever you should ask for that help.  Please recall that I helped with younger daughter’s braces while in Kansas, paying child support, alimony, and a mortgage.  I think we’ve seen a lot of give and take with that agreement–we’ve both done things above what was agreed, and failed to adhere to some things as well.  I’d like to think of it as a “living document” amongst the two of us.  I’d prefer to avoid having it formally reevaluated. 

Vacation is an additional matter.  I’d like to see them more often, and I’d like to bring them to Virginia, or be the one who brings them to see their grandparents.  I’m prepared to put them on a plane either up here, or with Dad’s permission, down there for the holidays.  I don’t think any threat of terrorism is a viable excuse to avoid this.  They have traveled on aircraft before.  Last year was the safest year for air travel in this country.  Let me know your thoughts.  I’m sure we can come to an agreement here.  

knotty is just clear with her thoughts and feelings.  I don’t have to play any guessing games.  We are a partnership.  She has never attempted to persuade me to neglect the children, in fact, she’s always on me to call them, Dad and my stepmom, and Mom.  I think the kids benefited from meeting her.  It helped to dispel the “evil stepmother” motif that seems to run through children’s minds.  Papa and Mimi have met her twice personally, although they have talked with her on the phone several times.  I’m hoping they will have a chance to form a deeper relationship as the years go by (sadly, that never happened). 

You should understand Ex that I know my responsibilities.  I don’t think that is in dispute here.  I understand (as do you) that I have to care for the children.  But I also have a responsibility to care for my wife, and together, we have a right to start our own family.  You have done the same with your new daughter, through your husband.  This will sound cold, but if I died tomorrow I’d have no faith that the kids would get $250K a piece.  I’d know instead that they’d be “cared” for, in the general sense of the word.  Any financial obligations benefiting you personally are ended on my part.  This may be hard to swallow, but it’s how I feel.  I perceive that you are in better financial shape with career and husband than you were four years ago. 

I think the idea of trust funds for the kids is a good one…one that I was going to recommend but you beat me to it. 

Bottom line, I want the same opportunity.  The opportunity to see the kids more, on different soil, and the opportunity to provide for a second family that I have started.

Think about it and write me again.  But let’s take care of the glasses issue right away.  I’ll also see about extending my coverage out to 30 years.  If ex stepson wants it, I’ve got a 2MB Handspring Visor PDA that I’ll send him.  It’s more than what he’ll need for school/work/personal use, and runs on Palm software.

Bill

This was her response.

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bill wrote this.

Certainly, 

But I recommend you take a moment and read both emails in entirety. I didn’t have a problem with what you said until I read it again more carefully. You are reminding me of my obligations to the children and to our agreement. I don’t need this reminder. I’ve been faithful as best I can be, and I’ll continue  to be faithful to them long after they leave home and are free to chose to visit me anytime and anywhere. I believe they know I love them, and wouldn’t want to hurt them in any way. They are still under the impression, by the way, that I just up and decided one day to leave them, and that I’m consequently lost to them forever. What a cruel uncertainty for them to have to face, and it places the burden all on me.  I think you know I’m not a deadbeat dad.  You get (on their behalf) 30% of my salary.  You get all of the tax breaks as well, including the big one this year!  I’ve always been there to help with unexpected bills whenever you’ve asked.  I’ve put up with your reluctance to let me visit our kids on my own terms, and to see my parents visited by my ex-wife, with our kids, while I am unable to.  Also, I’d like to heal the rift between the kids the their other grandmother.  Granted, a lot of it is self-inflicted on her part, but I think they have a right to settle any problems they have with her before it’s too late.  Recall as well that I covered your move to Arizona for almost a year.  What I paid into the house (equity that neither of us realized) could have covered braces for the entire family, or nearly all the 15K of their inheritance from your father that you intended to recoup by selling the house yourself.  

Later, in your letter, you insult my wife. You insinuate that she’s manipulating me into breaking obligations with you. You also allude to observations that my parents and my kids have made about her. Dangerous, and potentially embarrassing if I were to ask my mom and dad what if anything, they’ve said about knotty. Let’s leave her out of this. She came into the picture well after our marriage ended. In fact, our marriage was over long before I even met knotty. She never lived in our house nor came to visit while we were still married, she didn’t break the two of us up, and she certainly hasn’t influenced me to be anything but a stronger father, and a better son. If the children should think she’s a bad influence, then I’ll work through it with them personally. They have a right to meet with her and make their own assessment of her character. I expect my parents will be honest with me concerning their feelings as well.

Interestingly enough however, if she were to meet you, she’d probably thank you. 

All I want to do is work with you where our children are concerned. I don’t want to fight with you at all over any of this. It was my sincere hope that we could work together as two more stable, and stronger adults, but you reacted to my letter with a lot of scrutiny and anger. You are immediately on the defensive, when you shouldn’t be. I am asking for equity, that’s all. After all you call all of the shots here.

You leave me with the impression that I should do whatever you say out of guilt, and that if I don’t, I’m a deadbeat. That it’s all about money, and that I don’t care about my children. Sure, I plan to have something for them in the future. I’m not going to forget them. When I’m gone, there won’t be fights over inheritance, no ugly situations similar to what you had to go through with your father. I just don’t want to be ordered to be generous to my own children.  I will no longer be manipulated by you or anyone else. You act as if I have no right to life and happiness, as if that is an adequate penance for whatever sins I’ve committed in my past.  That my wife and potential family should do without, and have no say in our finances, when there is plenty to go around– especially since you’ve covered them as well against your own life. That’s good to know.

These are my feelings, and I have a right to them. I have a right to be angry, to be hurt, and to be frustrated. 

Regardless, I still want to work with you. Again, let me know what you need for glasses and I’ll have a check in the mail either next day or same day. 

Let all of me go, Ex.  Accept that things happen for a reason and move on.  Father (he’s referring to Heavenly Father– Ex claimed that when she went to the temple, HF said she wouldn’t be alone) told you you wouldn’t be left alone, didn’t He?  When our children have left, you’ll still have a husband and child unique to the both of you. 

Bill

Several years later, the shit really hit the fan when ex stepson decided he wanted to move out of his mother’s house and go to Chicago.  I think it was because he didn’t want to go on a mission.  But Ex called us all upset and tried to strong arm Bill into getting him to stay in her home.  He refused.  The first two sentences of the email are about getting ex stepson’s bank info so Bill could pay him directly.  Apparently, Ex had been on ex stepson’s bank account and was helping herself to the money Bill was paying him.  Of course, Bill shouldn’t have had to pay for ex stepson, since he has a real dad.  But real dad wasn’t making the same money as Bill, so there you go.

Ex,

Thanks.  I can make the change online and parse it from the rest.  I’ll do that either today or tomorrow.

I didn’t sleep well last night after your call.  I imagine you’ve had more sleepless nights than usual lately yourself.  I will talk with ex stepson again, and reinforce my feelings with him.  I’ve told him before, he has several options…he doesn’t have to go through with this plan to move to Chicago.  I sense there is quite a bit of tension in your household at this point, and this facilitates his want to leave. 

For what it’s worth, I asked him earlier last week if he’d spoken to you of his plans.  When he hesitated, I reminded him that he’d regret any “midnight moves”, and that regardless of any differing points of view the two of you might have, you are still his mother, always will be, and deserve respect accordingly.

Ex, you and I are not on good terms.  Our relationship is tenuous at the very best.  However, when I’ve had contact with our children, I’ve always supported you as their mother.  I don’t feel that you can say the same of me. 

I’ve gone over our conversation in my head these past few hours.  You alleged that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t interested, and that I encouraged ex stepson to blow his money.  I’ve done nothing of the sort.  I reminded him that it was his, because I wanted him to establish a separate account that wouldn’t involve yours in any way.  But I recommended he save his money and put it toward college, or a house, or a future marriage.

In five years, younger stepdaughter will be 18.  Sooner than that for older stepdaughter.  If you perceive that there will be problems similar to what ex stepson is encountering now, and you want my help, then we have to make some changes.  Ex stepson and I have remained close enough that I believe he will listen to me.  After our discussion last night, I’m not so sure about the girls.

Consider this.  Over the past six years, they’ve never called me, even though I’ve given them more than one phone number.  Since I remarried, I haven’t received a Father’s Day card/call, Birthday card/call or a call on Christmas.  I’ve never failed to send them a card or a gift or call them on special days.  That’s my job as a Father, but if I’m not to be treated as such, at least they should have the courtesy to thank me for a card or gift with another card, or even an email. 

This is partly your responsibility as a parent in direct contact with them.  If they aren’t going to treat me as their father, then they should at least learn the courtesy to say “thanks” as if I were a friend.  I’m not telling you to force their hand, but I will tell you this:  If our children have given their stepfather one Father’s Day card, or Birthday card, or Christmas gift and either of you not asked them to consider the same for me (even if they refuse…it’s all about asking), then both of you are passively alienating them from me.

The fiasco that was Christmas 2004 is a perfect example of actively alienating me.  I wanted to take the kids to the movies.  Very quickly your husband turned an opportunity for me to spend time with our children into a “supervised” event. On another occasion, younger stepdaughter called her stepfather “dad” within earshot of both him and me and he said nothing.  With exception of your summer trip to DC three years ago, the only way of spending time with them has either been in Arizona, or Tennessee.  Again, all of these amount to “supervised” visits where either you or my parents are nearby.  Your telling the girls that they should never “separate” around me only adds more relevance to the argument.  The fact that you won’t send them on a plane to see me, for danger of terrorism, but allowed ex stepson to fly to NY drives the point home quite loudly.

Please try to be objective and see things from my foxhole.  I’m not here to start a fight with you, I’m just being honest.  We don’t have to be friends, but if you consider me their father, then at least give me a little respect, and encourage them to do the same. 

Also understand my skepticism.  You say ex stepson has all but dropped out of school?  School ends for him in a month.  Why haven’t you asked for my help sooner?  If ex stepson is having trouble, what about the girls?  You never speak to me of such things.  Equally, I’m guilty of never asking you.  But I can only help when I know the whole story, and early on. 

I am not the same man you used to know.  Our children are missing out on what I can offer them, and even on what knotty and her family can offer them.  There’s 350 years of Virginia history in her family.  She’s a classically trained vocalist, writer, and former Peace Corps volunteer who served in post Cold-War Eastern Europe.  We’ve got two beagles that love kids and plenty of room in a secure location.  They really enjoyed their time here three years ago, although very brief.  They seemed to bond with both of us.  I don’t know why all of a sudden, they won’t talk with me.  Only you can tell me. 

I really didn’t want this to turn into a rant.  I have as much responsibility for the way things have turned out as you do.  I’m only advising you to consider that I’m virtually ineffective as a father/mentor to the girls.  If that’s never been your objective, then tell me now that I’m wrong, because every indication is that I’m not.  I won’t be able to help you at all with them in the future if you consider me a threat.

I have to get back to work.  Please read this carefully and thoughtfully if you intend to respond in anger.  I’ve written this as detached and objective as I can.  I just want you to understand that for all intents and purposes, I feel that over the years you haven’t thought of me as a capable parent, (in fact the word “unworthy” has been used more than once).  I wanted you to see the impact of that impression…it severely limits your freedom of maneuver.

Regardless, I’ll do what I can for ex stepson.  And I would very much like to be a better part of the girls lives.  After all, I could be gone tomorrow.  I know for a fact that you’ve been angry with your father in the past.  But I also know you love him and miss him.  I ask you to consider our children’s feelings accordingly.

Regards,

Bill 

The above email caused Ex to really go on the warpath.  She sent Bill an email that basically said the kids hated me and didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  She also asked Bill not to tell me any of this stuff, in order to “spare my feelings”.  Bill immediately shared the email with me, which got me really pissed.  So I wrote to Ex and ripped her a new asshole, then let her know that the kids could feel however they wanted to about me, but they shouldn’t throw away their father.  I also let her know that I have seen her emails, know how she feels about me, and didn’t appreciate her asking my husband to keep secrets from me.  There was no point to doing that because he doesn’t hide things from me; he has no need to, because I don’t go ballistic when he’s honest with me. 

A couple of months after that, Bill’s daughters disowned him…  So Bill wrote a letter to them.

Dear older daughter,

I’m saddened to read that you don’t want me to be your dad anymore.  I will not sign anything that would allow your stepdad to adopt either you or your sister because I don’t feel that it is the right thing to do.  I told this to your mother several weeks before you wrote to me.  It’s a shame that she would lead you on this way.  You must think that I don’t care about you or your sister.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

You write that you want an “everyday” daddy, not a “once in a while daddy”.  I agree with you, but “everyday” daddies do more than help with homework, chores, and spend time with their kids.  They also have responsibilities to others outside their homes—they work to provide and protect their families, and see to their futures.  I am still your “everyday” daddy even though you don’t see me.  When you and I were together, I spent time with you, helped you with schoolwork, dressed, cooked for, and cleaned after you.  When you went to bed at night in Arkansas, I went to work to make sure our family would have food and a place to live.  When I returned every morning, I took you to school and I was there to pick you up most days.

You and I have a connection that your stepdad will never have.  As my daughter, you are a part of me.  We share similar characteristics of both mind and body and this will never change.  I was there at the moment of your birth.  I named you and was the first of us to hold you in my arms.  For the first few months of your life I checked on you every night.  I stayed up with you when you couldn’t sleep or were sick, and took you to the hospital more than once when you needed a doctor.  This all true, and even though you were too young to remember, it did happen and I remember it.  

I’ve never stopped being your daddy, nor was it ever my intention to do so.  I returned to the Army because I knew I could provide more for all of us, not because I wanted to leave you and your mother.  I asked your mother to come with me to Kansas, and she refused, telling me that I’d make a better father to another family.  Despite this, I had to go and leave you and your siblings in Arkansas.  In the beginning, I thought you might join me, but this didn’t happen.  Since then, I’ve provided for your food and clothing, housing and healthcare every month without fail.  As I said before, this is what daddies do.  You must understand that if your stepdad adopts you he will have to do the same since it will no longer be my responsibility.  You will probably see less of him than you already do.

Over the past six years I’ve tried to have a relationship with you.  You’re smart enough to know that I can’t be there with you very often.  My duty to the Army won’t allow me to leave at a moments notice, although I would have liked to be with you on your birthday or at other special times.  Instead, I’ve called at various times to speak with you.  I’ve tried to discover your likes and dislikes so that I could give you meaningful gifts at Christmas and your birthday.  Mostly, my conversations with you have been “one-way”.  You are old enough now to write, call, or email me anytime you want.  You and I share responsibility for our relationship, despite what others may tell you.  You will be considered an adult in three short years, and this is how adults behave.

There are aspects to adoption that no one has shared with you.  Adoption is not a matter of simply changing your name.  If you think it is consider this:  when you marry you will change your last name anyway.  If your stepdad adopted you, I would no longer legally be your father.  Your birth certificate would be changed to reflect your stepdad as your natural father, and it would be as if your last name was always his.  Legally, my parents would no longer be your grandparents.  Your stepdad would have to provide for your future as you would not be my heir anymore.  Adoption is serious, but even so it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m your father and always will be.  

You write that I will feel better if I allow you to be adopted.  That’s a lie and if anyone led you to believe otherwise they are lying to you.  Your mother may have said that this was my idea and I did make a remark to that fact in an email to her, but I was angry after reading that you didn’t want to see me.  Have you ever said or written anything that you didn’t mean?  I have and I wrote your mother later to tell her that I wouldn’t consent to your adoption.  I won’t change my mind.

Older daughter, I can’t control you, nor would I ever want to.  If you still feel the same way about me in three years when you are 18, then you are free to let stepdad adopt you.  It will be your decision as an adult.  You should consider however that your sister will still legally be my daughter, since she is three years younger than you.  Regardless of your decision, I will still consider you my daughter and that will not change.

Despite what you write, your letter is filled with anger.  This is a good thing.  If you didn’t care about our relationship at all I don’t believe you would have written as much as you did.  I told you that I would always listen to you, and would never leave my door to you, even if you were angry with me.  This hasn’t changed.  I would still like to talk with you.  There is still time to work through your anger with me.  Only then will we truly feel better.  Call me and I will talk with you, write or email me and I will answer you back.  If you want to see me, then I will arrange a meeting with you.

Daughter, I am your father and your daddy.  I am not Bill to you, nor will I ever be.  I love you very much, and I will not sign you away to stepdad.  Someday you will understand.

Love,
Daddy

Of course, there was no response.  After younger daughter turned 18, they apparently changed their names and/or got adopted.  I wish to God Bill had never laid eyes on his ex wife.  This is why Bill felt compelled to trash those photos (referring to a post I wrote about how he had thrown out old photos that caused pain).  The above letter was written in 2006.

On the original post, Alexis left me a comment asking a bunch of questions. I answered them in a separate post, which I have reposted here.

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