It’s Wednesday, which means Bill will be home in a couple of days. On Saturday, we’ll pack up and go away… and boy, am I ready to go! I miss the days when we took short trips more frequently, instead of long trips every few months. But I also know this is very much a first world problem, as a lot of people don’t get to go anywhere. I think one of the reasons we stay in Europe is because we have an excuse to travel. In the States, it’s harder to get away, and there is no built in excuse. Americans who live in Europe are expected to get away and see the continent. Of course, most don’t wind up staying here for as long as we have so far.
Yesterday, I heard from Bill’s younger daughter. She’s been under the weather, as her kids– all of whom are very young– have also been sick. Younger daughter is currently pregnant, so that adds to the challenges she’s facing. Still, she managed to send a very cheerful email, so I sent her a response that included some photos of the adventure her dad and I enjoyed over the weekend.
In case you didn’t know, Bill and I visited a cave on Saturday. It was kind of tiring, but worth the effort. The pictures I sent prompted some questions. I don’t think younger daughter has ever visited a cave, so she didn’t know that they almost always require a steep walk up and down lots of stairs. I had to tell her why it was so challenging for me. I also explained why we wore hard hats (low ceilings in the cave).
We recently sent younger daughter a special care package. We usually send stuff for the kids, but this time, we sent stuff more intended for their very busy mom. I’ve previously described the contents of the care package, but for those who don’t want to look, it contained: a pair of Irish wool socks, skin cream, soaps, ginger lemon bon bons for nausea, a couple of bracelets made by a local artisan, gummi frogs, Dutch chocolate, Milkas (a local candy bar), and stroopwafels (Dutch syrup/honey cookies).
Because I have some friends who know about the extremely difficult history Bill has had with his daughters (one of whom is still completely estranged), I shared a Facebook post about the care package. Most people reacted in a positive way, although there were a few comments that were less than supportive. One person accused me of “tempting” younger daughter with junk. I suppose that could be true, although younger daughter has shown us that she is a competent adult, and I think she’s fully capable of enjoying things responsibly. Even if she isn’t, my not sending her a care package isn’t going to stop her if she wants to eat junk food.
The last thing I want to do is assume that it’s my place to advise or nag Bill’s younger daughter about something as personal as her diet. I am not her mother, but even if I were, I wouldn’t do that. My parents used to harass me about my weight and eating habits. It was toxic. So I won’t do that to younger daughter, nor will I deny her things that she likes or specifically requests because I think I know what’s “best” for her health. The reality is, I don’t know. Her doctor or another healthcare professional can advise her about such things. Or maybe Ex can do it, if she’s so inclined… although I think younger daughter mostly lets what Ex says go in one ear and out the other.
The second thing that happened is an issue that has come up a few times, ever since Bill became a grandfather. I very recently started jokingly referring to myself as a “pseudo granny”. It took a really long time before I even did that.
A lot of people seem to think it’s somehow “wrong” that I call myself “pseudo granny”, so they try to “correct” me. People who know me well, probably already know that generally speaking, I don’t like to be corrected, especially on things like this. I mean, if I’m factually wrong about something, then yeah, go ahead and correct me in a polite way. I’ll even thank you for that. When it comes to things like what I want to be called or how I think of myself, my own opinion is probably worth more than someone else’s.
More than once, well-meaning people have told me that I’m more like a “real granny”. Or if they don’t say that, they say I should refer to myself as a “bonus granny”. The vast majority of these people do not really understand the very complicated history regarding Bill and his kids. When they “correct” me for calling myself “pseudo granny”, I then feel compelled to explain to them that I have literally only met my husband’s daughters in person ONCE… and it was over 20 years ago!
I know this isn’t the norm. Most “stepmothers” know their stepchildren very well, and some know them a lot better than they’d like to. But in my case, Bill’s ex wife REFUSED to let him have any contact with his kids, which means I didn’t have any contact with them, either. Unfortunately, Bill didn’t fight Ex in court over her decision to annihilate Bill’s influence over his children, as she continued to take $2550 from him in child support every month for YEARS. I truly wish Bill had sued Ex for at least joint custody. She had no right to do what she did to Bill and his daughters. But it was NOT MY DECISION, because legally, I have no rights to them. They aren’t my daughters. Moreover, Bill’s girls are now grown women, so that’s water under the bridge, anyway.
Since I have only met younger daughter in person once, I barely feel like a stepmother, let alone a “bonus granny”. We are still just getting to know each other. Aside from that, even if she had grown up with me in her life, I don’t like the idea of adopting such a personal role without the other person’s knowledge and consent. I know a lot of people think that when you marry someone with kids, you are obligated to love them as if they are your own. I think that’s a nice thought, and I really admire those who can do that, especially when the sentiment is reciprocated. However, I think it’s actually pretty uncommon that people truly do feel that way, deep down. Sure, a lot of people SAY they do, but I think the reality is often a lot more complicated than that.
I also don’t think anyone should be shamed for not automatically having those intense feelings of familial love toward their stepparents or stepchildren. My personal opinion is that if people who marry those with children are able to achieve an authentic friendship, that’s pretty awesome stuff. If they achieve a genuine and uncomplicated “parent/child” dynamic, and manage not to step on anyone else’s toes, that’s even better. Experience has taught me, however, that those situations are pretty unusual. Again, people will say they have, but the reality is, a lot of times, they’re really just saying that. It isn’t necessarily the truth. It’s just what society likes to hear.
I’m a pretty honest person. I like to be authentic. I am very real about the difficult relationship Bill and his daughters have had, as well as the non-existent relationship I have had with them for so many years. Again… older daughter is completely estranged from Bill, and apparently thinks of #3 as her “real dad” (who was around long after she was out of diapers and lived on Bill’s money for years). Younger daughter says she never thought of #3 as her dad, but was forced to call him “Dad” by her mother, who thought it was vital for her kids to treat her third husband as their father in order for their marriage to survive. I don’t know why she felt that way. She made ex stepson call Bill “Dad”, and when it came down to it, he eventually abandoned Bill for his “real dad” (who never even paid child support, let alone visited). As you now know, Bill and Ex didn’t stay married, either.
So, for my own sake and younger daughter’s, I don’t want to rush into assuming I am in any kind of true familial relationship with younger daughter or her family. Experience has taught me that family ties, when it comes to Ex, are temporary and transactional. Not that I think younger daughter is anything like Ex, but I do know she’s been subjected to Ex’s lies and manipulations, and she’s been forced to think of people as family when they aren’t. She’s also been forced to abandon actual family members in favor of Ex’s matrimonial flavor of the decade (eye roll). In fact, younger daughter is only just now getting to know her only living biological grandparent– Bill’s mom– because Ex substituted Bill’s stepmother for Bill’s mother in the “granny” role and REFUSED to let Bill’s daughters know their grandmother.
I would be very honored if Bill’s grandchildren ever thought of me as a “granny” of any kind to them, pseudo or not. But I’ve learned not to have any expectations of that. Assuming they would ever think of me in that way is an invitation to break my own heart. Moreover, it’s entirely up to them to make the decision as to what I “am” to them.
But also, as much as I despise Bill’s ex wife, she is the actual grandmother to those children. And I wouldn’t want to do to her what she’s done to so many other people, who have gotten close to her and her children, because I think it’s WRONG. Ex has a habit of using her children as currency at the beginnings of her relationships, and weapons as the ends. I refuse to allow that to happen to me, or to innocent children.
Right now, I’m reading a very good true story about a woman whose Jewish mother died when she was a child. Her father, who was Christian, remarried a very conservative Christian woman. From the very beginning, this woman was expected to call her stepmother “Mom”, even though she’d had a mom she adored, remembered clearly, and dearly missed. She was physically punished when she referred to her stepmother as her “father’s wife”, or called her by her first name. Not only that, but the author was also uprooted from her home, moved to another state, and put in a very shitty Christian pseudo-school, where she was forced to learn/self-teach by using fundie tinged “booklets” that were full of creationist bullshit. She was also forced to deny her mother’s Jewish heritage, and replace it with her stepmother’s brand of evangelical Christianity. It was almost like a weird form of familial ethnic cleansing!
As a child, not that long after her mother’s death, this poor lady went to visit her Jewish grandmother (at least her dad let her maintain ties with her mother’s mom). She told her grandmother she was going to go to Hell because she wasn’t a Christian! Grandma, to her credit, called up former son-in-law and ripped him a new asshole for filling her granddaughter’s head with such offensive and confusing bullshit.
Imagine how traumatizing that was for the author at the time, and right now, as she’s written this book about how her father and his second wife tried to change her entire identity! What happened to her is actually pretty SICK, just as Ex’s attempt to obliterate Bill from his daughter’s memory is also very sick and wrong. Thank God it failed. I hope to finish the book soon, so I can properly review it. It’s a story I want to share with my readers.
Anyway… I know there are people out there who don’t agree with my thoughts on this. I know a lot of people have had different experiences than mine. Some of my friends are stepparents who have truly stepped into the parent role, and I do heartily applaud them for that. Especially if the reality is that those kids genuinely do see them as true parent figures. I tend to take people who make those kinds of claims at their words, unless they give me a good reason not to do that.
I, for one, am more of a realist, particularly when it comes to my own situation. And in MY situation, I don’t think I yet qualify as a granny, or a bonus granny. I barely feel like a “pseudo granny”, if I’m honest. Maybe I will feel more like a real granny or bonus granny in time. But then, maybe I won’t, and that will be okay, if that’s how it turns out in the end.
For now, I will keep calling myself “pseudo granny” , and I will not refer to Bill’s grandchildren as “mine”… at least not yet. Not until they can return the sentiment and actually mean it. It’s for my own good, as well as theirs. I hope people can respect that.
Younger daughter, by the way, did receive the care package yesterday. She was delighted with it. I think it got to her just at the nick of time, as she recovers from the residual microbial crud brought to her by her children. I hope the package from her dad and “pseudo granny” will put smiles on their faces. I do enjoy shopping for people who appreciate my efforts.