divorce, family, love, marriage

The not so wicked stepmonster…

Last night, I did something I have never done before in 20 years of marriage. It feels kind of momentous, especially since I have technically been a stepmom the whole time I’ve been married.

I sent my younger step daughter a birthday card. If memory serves, she’s turning 29 today… although Bill thinks he might have been celebrating the wrong birthday for all these years. I know for a fact that he told me her birthday was on the 6th, but then last night, he said he remembered the day of her birth was on a Wednesday, which he thinks was the 8th. Now, that was a Wednesday in 1993, so I don’t know if he actually remembers the date properly. In any case, I tend to have a better memory about these things than he does, even though I wasn’t in his life when she was born.

I actually sent her an e-card from Jacquie Lawson, rather than a physical card. I like them, because they’re creative, interactive, and cool, and they’re easy to choose and send. Bill’s late Aunt Betsy used to send them to me, so I subscribed to the service, too. And then, as I was about to schedule the card to be sent, I asked Bill if he thought maybe younger daughter might like a gift card. He said she would, so I looked to see what was available.

At first, I thought maybe it would be good to send her one for Cold Stone Creamery, since I know she likes ice cream and she has little kids… Then I remembered we just sent her a box of macaroons from France, and that might be sweetness overload. Then I wondered about movie passes, but I wasn’t sure if she has AMC Theaters near her… Then I thought about getting a gift card to a restaurant, but then I remembered that she mentioned having car problems recently, which could make a date night problematic. I finally settled on a $100 Target gift card. I figured she could use it on anything she wants. If she has a pressing need, and is short on cash, she can use it for that. Or, if she just wants to splurge on something, she can use it for that purpose.

One thing I remember about being 29 is that I was always broke, mainly because I was in graduate school. And I didn’t even have kids, while younger daughter has three! Some of the best gifts I got during that time in my life were in the form of money… so I could pay bills. I remember one year, my sister sent me $100 or so, and I used it to pay my health insurance premium. It was a huge load off my mind and truly appreciated.

Maybe it seems odd for me to feel wonderment about sending my husband’s younger daughter a birthday card and a gift card. But you have to realize, I have never had a chance to be in her life, and for a long time, I never expected I would ever know her. For years, I was very angry with her for the way Bill was treated. And then, once they did finally reconnect, I didn’t want to intrude, as Bill gingerly tried to reconcile with his long lost child. They had a lot to discuss between themselves, and I felt that I shouldn’t get in the middle of that. One thing that I’ve often heard from stepchildren is that they often feel like stepparents, especially stepmothers, interfere and intrude too much. So I wanted to give them space to bond and heal.

I’ve only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was in 2003. At the time of our one meeting, Bill and I had only been married for about seven months. After that meeting, Ex determined that I was too much of a “bad influence”, and refused to cooperate with visitation requests. For the next fifteen years, I felt like there were these “ghost children” in the midst. Then, in 2017, Bill started talking to his daughter again. I started trusting her sometime in 2018, when I could plainly see that she wasn’t her mother reincarnated. In fact, she appears to be the complete opposite of her mother, thank God.

Last night I was feeling generous… and then Bill reminded me of how, when he finally got to see her in the flesh back in March 2020, she sent me a beautiful and sincere “Thank You” note for loving Bill. This year, she sent us a lovely card congratulating us on our 20th wedding anniversary. And it’s very obvious to me that in spite of what Ex claimed, back when Bill tried to assert his parental rights, younger daughter never forgot who her real dad is… nor did she ever regard him as a mere sperm donor (don’t even get me started on that). I do think she was afraid to talk to him for a long time. Ex had told her a lot of lies about Bill, but I also think maybe younger daughter worried that he’d be angry with her. She had no way of knowing that her father is one of the most even-keeled, reasonable, decent men there is. All she had to go on were her own memories of Bill, and the ridiculous stories her mother told her.

I don’t expect that younger daughter will ever see me as anyone more than Bill’s wife… but I can, at least, be better than #3 has been, and show a sincere interest in her. I can be a better, saner example than her mother has been. Aside from that, I like to shop, and I’m damned good at it. ūüėČ

Hopefully, I got the birthdate right. Bill has already sent her a gift, which she accidentally opened sooner than she was supposed to… a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, as well as a couple of other kitchen implements. I’m sure she’ll be surprised to get something from me. ūüėČ But I can be full of surprises, you know…

By the way, the featured photo was taken on my birthday last June… We were in Antwerp, Belgium. I’d probably pick a different dessert for younger daughter, as I believe I had a Colonel– that’s citrus flavored sorbet with vodka poured all over it. I suspect that would not be something she would ever order. But I know Bill would look as happy as he does in that photo, if he could be in Utah to help his daughter celebrate in person.

Standard
lessons learned, poor judgment

Repost: Ye olde surprise visit…

I’m still debating on what today’s fresh post will be about, so here’s another blast from the past. This post appeared on my original blog on March 9, 2014.

It’s rude to just show up at someone’s home, uninvited.  This was a lesson I didn’t necessarily learn as a child.  When I lived in a suburban neighborhood, it wasn’t uncommon for me to go next door and ask a friend if he or she was available to play.  When I lived in Armenia, I had a friend whose home I used to visit unannounced.  I had sort of an excuse in Armenia, though, since, at the time, the phones were mostly useless there.  I still cringe when I think about it, though.  Dropping in on people seems very rude to me now, and I don’t do it unless I am absolutely positive I won’t offend, even if someone tells me I have a standing invitation.

My husband’s ex wife does not share my reluctance to drop over unannounced.  In fact, “ye olde surprise visit”, as Bill calls it, is one of her many tricks.  She generally does it to people who are “nice”, especially if they care about her kids.  It’s mostly relatives that get the “pleasure” of a surprise visit. She’ll just pack up the kids and go, showing up on their doorstep.  She’s done it to Bill’s parents many times.  It never seems to occur to her that they might have other plans, or they might not be feeling well.  Or maybe they just want peace and quiet.

Ye olde surprise visitors… they don’t need an engraved invitation!

Bill’s family would never turn Ex away, even after the divorce.  They wanted to see their grandchildren.  Ex was well aware of that fact and exploited it to the hilt.  She knew the kids were her ticket to the family circle, even though by the time she and Bill had split up, most of the family couldn’t stand her.  She’d always be armed with them when she’d come by, looking for food, lodging, and information.  

I’m sure that if Ex had less assertive friends, she would have done the same thing to them.  On the surface, it seems like a friendly visit, even if it’s inconvenient.  Look deeper, though, and you soon realize it’s disrespectful.  Let’s look at what happens when someone like Ex pops by with the kids.  She rings the bell, startling Bill’s dad and stepmom, who may have been lingering over coffee, trying to decide what to do with their day.

They open the door. ¬†There’s Ex. ¬†She’s driven in from several states away. ¬†She has the kids with her. ¬†They look tired and hungry. ¬†It’s a kind and Christlike thing to do to invite them in, even if they had other plans. ¬†And putting up with Ex is a small price to pay, since it’s been awhile since the grandkids were last allowed over. ¬†They let her in and she proceeds to park herself at their computer and let the kids run amok in their home. ¬†They make lunch, which Ex determines isn’t to her liking. ¬†Then Ex feels free to opine about how she thinks the in-laws’ Catholic beliefs are bullshit and Mormonism is the only true path to God. ¬†She spends a couple of days in their home, leaving them exhausted and bewildered in her wake.

Now, if Ex had been some stranger, the in-laws probably would have felt free to ask her to leave. ¬†But she’s my husband’s ex wife. ¬†She’s pulled “ye olde surprise visit” many times, especially when she was Bill’s wife. ¬†It’s never occurred to her that there are new boundaries, now that they’re divorced. ¬†And the in-laws were always loathe to try to enforce them, since they knew she’d hold the kids over their heads. ¬†Consequently, they got the surprise visit several times, even after the divorce. ¬†The element of surprise makes it less likely that the forced visit will be rebuffed. ¬†She shows up looking tired and hungry and, being nice, compassionate people, they take her in‚Ķ and she takes advantage of their kindness.

I use Ex as the example in this post, but this type of thing happens pretty often in certain communities.  While hanging out on RfM, I’ve read many accounts of people getting unexpected drop by visits from church people.  Hell, it happens frequently in my neighborhood, as church people go door to door, knocking and ringing doorbells on Sundays or evenings.  They think they’re “sharing a message”, but they’re really more likely interrupting someone’s peace.  The element of surprise puts the victim at a disadvantage and manipulative types are quick to capitalize on that.

This isn’t to say that a drop in visit isn’t sometimes welcomed.  Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise when an old friend or family member happens to be in the neighborhood and comes by unannounced.  Certain people can get away with it at any time.  I would never turn away my mother or mother-in-law, for instance‚Ķ not that either of them would ever dream of showing up uninvited.  Perhaps that’s WHY I wouldn’t turn them away, besides the fact that one of them gave birth to me and the other gave birth to Bill.   

It can be hard to deal with someone who just drops in, especially when you are a nice person and don’t want to hurt another person’s feelings.  However, for your own good, it’s probably best to tactfully but firmly explain to the interloper that you need them to call before they show up.  A true friend will understand why they need to call, but will certainly not begrudge you your privacy if you tell them their unexpected visits are causing distress.  Someone who doesn’t care about you or have respect for your feelings will be deeply offended if you remind them that the courteous thing to do is call first before popping by.

This post, of course, doesn’t apply to surprise homecomings! 

This mom is obviously delighted by a surprise visit.

And here are a couple of comments left on the original post.

I think when i have kids, my kids will always be welcome with or without notice, as will their spouses and kids. The same will not apply to their exes. They could drop the kids off in many instances, but i wouldn’t want the ex there. it would be disrespectful to my child.

I would understand if other people didn’t feel the same and wanted notice even from their children. that’s just the way I think I will feel.

My mom and her best friend have an agreement that they can show up on each other’s doorsteps unnannounced, yet they never actually do it. Weird.

I do think it’s rude.

My mom’s best friend has been dealing with the Mormons for abut 10 years, since they found her after her last move, which was about 21 years ago. (She converted when she was eleven.)They show up without calling about once every three months. She NEVER answers the door to anyone when she doesn’t know in advance. (Her house is messy unless she’s expecting company, in which case she straightens it.. I believe she cleans her kitchen and bathrooms on a regular basis, but things are not picked up and straightened unless she’s expecting someone.) i don’t agree with her housekeeping habits, but it’s her house and she has every right to maintain it however she wants. I appreciate the fact that it’s always clean and neat when I’m there.I would never guess that it’s not always that way except she tells me so and she would have no reason to lie. Anyway, she never opens the door for the Mormons because she doesn’t know they’re coming. Maybe she wouldn’t open the door anyway. But regardless, it’s rude to show up without an invitation or without at least calling first.ReplyReplies

  1. knottyMarch 9, 2014 at 10:01 PMI think Ex was entitled and thought of herself as “family”, even after the divorce. She even told Bill that they’d always be family, despite their divorce. Nice that she treats him like family by getting his kids to disown him.

    I was not happy with my in-laws for aiding and abetting her nonsense, but it’s their house and they are adults. However, I don’t have to take part in the bullshit.  

    I think for Ex, showing up as a surprise is sort of a manipulative power ploy. She does it to get people off guard. What can they do? If they say no, she makes them feel like shit. If they say yes, she comes in and takes over. It’s a no win situation.
Standard