Time to ‘fess up, time to come clean as Altadena Hiker suggests. Do I need to apologize for my previous cryptic post? It really wasn’t fair (it felt a bit cheesy) to put out a rather existential post without providing actual content. But it all felt so raw a couple of days ago. I’m a bit better now. Now, can tell you.
One of my fears: If I post this, everyone will think I want them to feel sorry for me. Perhaps irrational, perhaps codependent…I guess the real truth is (1) This is my personal blog, so I’ma gonna blog about personal stuff; (2) I hate fake people, so I don’t want to be one; (3) I’m trying hard and want/need to be appreciated.
In a nutshell, then. I’m a stepmother. As in “Complete this list: Robespierre, Stalin, Chaney, Rumsfeld, and _________.”
Let’s start with literature: Stepmothers occupy a less than stellar role in literary history. Insert complicated psychological (including Oedipal?) stuff here. It’s thesis time: The evil Queen in Cymbaline is the progenitor of a series of bad events. She is also nameless. She is simply “Queen.”
This is where my challenge is to tell the story using the least amount of verbiage possible so that neither of us get bored. I may even throw in a picture just to break up any potential glazing over of the eyes and the mind.
I’m stepmother to two young women in their late 20’s. One of these women (I’ll call her B) has had a life-long struggle with learning disabilities—she was diagnosed with ADHD when she was quite young, and also diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. She has a history of substance abuse (though is now clean and sober), she did not graduate from high school, and it is only in the past year and a half that she been successful keeping a job. She had an abusive boyfriend for many years, and had a daughter with him, who is now 9 years old. For the last 6 years, this child has lived with other family members, who recently adopted her (after a lengthy legal struggle). This is a good thing (not the struggle part).
But the thing that is good for the 9 year old is also very painful for her, and for her mother, B. B feels she has failed. The reality is that B doesn’t have the skills to be a parent; she is still developing the skills to be an independent adult. Her grief about her failure to be a parent makes it difficult for her to talk to her daughter about the current situation (i.e., the two of them living apart…on opposite sides of the country). In the past, B has said things that are counterproductive to helping her daughter accept the present situation. I don’t think B means to upset her daughter, but that’s what has happened.
SO, the adoptive parents asked if I would monitor B’s visit with her daughter. (If B had had to pay for a monitor, it would have been $45 per hour.) We had a series of visits over four days, including one sleepover. It was exhausting.
It’s been a while since B has been here to visit. I didn’t know what to expect, though The Scout is thrilled about B’s recent personal progress.
Overall, the visits went well. However, I was witness to some things that illustrated why B’s daughter is better off with her adoptive parents. It was painful.
It was also painful for The Scout when I shared these things with him, so painful that we discussed the mind vs heart dichotomy, which is not one of my favorite constructs for understanding human nature. (Insert philosophical floundering here.)
Over the next few years, B’s daughter will no doubt thrive in the safe and comforting environment that her adoptive parents provide. B’s daughter will also continue to have contact with her mother, and that relationship will hopefully be healthy and as fulfilling as possible. We all come to know our parents’ limitations at some point; B’s daughter has had to do that from the time she was a toddler. On several occasions during the past week, B expressed her gratitude toward the adoptive parents—a big step in the right direction.
B used to live with us, and The Scout (God bless ‘im) is stepdad to my kids…so this little bit gives me many nods, guffaws and belly laughs of recognition.