Category Archives: Family Drama

Advice Not Wanted

In the step part of my family, we have had some teen pregnancy. My older step-sister’s daughter had a son when she was in high school who will be 10 this summer. She finished high school with her class, and with lots of support from her family, has been raising her son. He is deaf, and had a cochlear implant when he was about 2. Her relationship with her son’s father is extremely tense and they do transfers at the police station. She got married last fall and is expecting her first child with her husband next month.

My younger step-sister’s daughter dropped out of high school at 16, got pregnant a few months later, and now has a son who is 18 months old. She and her boyfriend (who is sometimes her son’s father, and sometimes another boy) are relying on public assistance, and while she has promised to get her GED several times, has not yet taken any steps to do so. I should add that I am not close to her so my information comes largely second hand through my step-mother.

Why am I telling you all this?

My girls are very aware of their cousins’ teen pregnancies, even though one of them happened before they came into the family. They both comment whenever it comes up that 17 is too young to have a baby, and they don’t understand why you would have a baby with someone you break up with right away. I of course reinforce this thinking, telling them that having a baby is a big step, and you want to be old enough to make such an important decision, and to have a partner who supports you in that decision when the time comes. I am also not naive enough to think that what they say at age 9 and 6 will stick with them when they are 19 and 16, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

My mother and I have had a rough time of it these last few months. She and I don’t seem to speak the same language anymore and my fuse with her is extremely short. In my opinion she is turning into a bigoted old woman. She doesn’t act like she likes my children (is constantly mean to them, making them cry), although I know she loves them. She seems to love the idea of them though, and can’t really stand the reality of them. She also has a knack for offending me, and I don’t think I’m particularly easy to offend….although I will admit to having fairly sensitive buttons where she is concerned.

My point in all this is that yesterday on the phone I was telling my mother about the baby shower I’d been to for the step-nephew due next month, and how his mom-to-be’s life has transformed. She made a point of telling me to use that example for my children as a lesson to “keep their legs closed.” I found that wording to be extremely offensive concerning my young children, as well as condescending to me as a parent. I think most parents hope their children refrain from sexual activity until they are well into adulthood, but from everything I’ve read, a higher percentage of children, at younger and younger ages, are sexually active. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect all teens to be celibate (though of course I hope mine are for a long time to come). I do think we as parents have the responsibility to share our values around sexual activity, as well as ways to stay disease and pregnancy-free should they choose to become sexually active. In the end, our children must make those choices for themselves, sometimes quite literally in the heat of the moment.

My mother was fairly liberal with us when I was growing up. All topics were open for discussion, and many topics were discussed that a lot of kids don’t feel comfortable talking about with their parents. On the sex front, I don’t remember being told to wait until marriage (and I don’t think I ever had that expectation), but I did wait longer than most of my peers. My first was also someone “important”. We’d been in a relationship for quite awhile and talked about it for several months before taking that step. It was the kind of “first time” experience I’d like my kids to have – physically, emotionally, psychologically. You only get one first time, and it should come with no regrets – that’s my own value on it anyway.

So to my mother: Sometimes I might ask for advice, but most times I’m just sharing a story. Please don’t turn every detail I share with you into a life lesson for me or my children. I’m not a perfect parent, but I’m doing my best, and unsolicited advice serves to drive the wedge between us further and deeper. Please relax and enjoy your grandchildren.


Sleeping Rivalry

Picture if you will this scene:

It is about 4 am. An exhausted mom slumbers in her bed. Surrounding her are the family’s two dogs, cuddled as close as can be on either side, and also sleeping peacefully.

Enter one very frightened six year old who bursts into the room!

I’m not sure if she scared the dogs, or if the dogs scared her, but Belle was screaming and the dogs were barking and the sleeping mom (that was me for a time) was awoken with a start.

Belle had had a bad dream and wanted to sleep with me. I sleepily agreed, and we all, people and dogs, settled down to go back to sleep. We all got up normally (me a tad less energetically than usual). Belle was her usual on-fire self and there seemed to be no lingering affects from her dream.

Until her sister got up.

The first thing Belle said to Krystal was “I slept with Mom last night.”

Krystal called her on her motives immediately, “Are you saying that to try to make me jealous? Because it’s not going to work!”

Why oh why is everything a competition with these two?

Oh, Brother, Mother

Last year at Christmas I was disheartened at the multitude of gifts my children received, both from me and others, that have never been used. We talked about taking a trip next year (now this year!), and keeping the gift count low. At their ages, I knew I would have to revisit this, since Christmas is way more about what you get to unwrap than any meaning it might or should have.

So this summer I brought it up again, and they were both enthusiastic about a trip, “as long as it’s someplace warm.”

I belong to an online community of Disney enthusiasts, and as it turned out, a full weekend of events was planned in Florida for Dec 10-13. I decided that was close enough to Christmas, and booked a trip. I asked my mother if she would like to come with us (partly to act as babysitter) and she enthusiastically accepted. Traveling with my mother has not always worked out for me in the past, but this was short enough,, and the kids would be around, so I figured we’d get through it.

I held off on telling the kids until Thanksgiving! Just two weeks notice! I said, “Hey, we’re going to Disney World for Christmas!” and there was much cheering. Then I said, “And Mimi is meeting us there!” Silence. Then, “Oh.” and “Does she have to come?” Not good. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. A summary, in the form of an instant message chat with a friend (so I don’t have to retype everything!):

Me…     so, thursday night, we get to the resort, and grab some dinner

Me…     we basically ate ice cream for dinner (yummy!)

Me…     then we were headed to dhs

Me…     i said, “shall we walk, or take transportation?”

Me…     everyone said they didn’t care

Me…     so i said, “well, i just ate a huge ice cream, let’s walk”

Me…     and everyone (including my kids) started whining

Me…     soooo typical of my mother – she expects you to read her mind

Friend  lmao

Me…     when i ask what you want to do, if you have a preference, i expect you to SAY SOMETHING

Me…     otherwise, don’t get mad at me when i make a decision

Me…     ok, so that irritated me, but it was NOTHING

Me…     friday morning i had a seminar that got out about 12:30

Me…     i met up with my mom and the kids in epcot around 1

Me…     i was STARVING

Me…     i showed up and said so

Me…     my mom says “we had a big breakfast.”

Me…     let me ask you – if someone said that to you, what would you think?

Friend  that they wouldn’t need lunch

Friend  maybe a small snack a little later

Friend  so go ahead and get yourself something

Me…     yeah, that’s what i thought too

Me…     so, i say, “let’s go to morocco”

Me…     and we head that way

Me…     and my mom starts in with her passive aggressive talk about how she’s afraid of morocco

Me…     yes, afraid of a “country” in EPOCT!

Me…     we get there and she starts throwing a fit how i never asked what SHE wanted to do

Friend  lol

Friend  you’re like, all I want is something to EAT!

Me…     so i say, “fine, what would you like to do?”

Me…     “not eat here” she says

Me…     i say, “you said you had a big breakfast”

Me…     “no, your CHILDREN ate a big breakfast – i just had fruit”

Me…     omfg

Friend  lol

Friend  oh, okay but that’s NOT what you said!

Me…     exactly!!!

Me…     which i reminded her!

Me…     she has bad feet

Me…     so i suggested she find a table and sit down

Me…     later, she grumbled that she was assigned as the “table holder”

Me…     i said – i would have held the table and you could have stood in line! i thought you’d rather sit!

Me…     good lord, i can’t do ANYTHING right!

Me…     at lunch she decided she’d had enough and was going to head back to the room

Me…     the tension immediately lifted when she left

Me…     the girls (esp krystal) filled me in on her meanness while i’d been away “please don’t leave us again”

Me…     unfortunately, she took the girls’ park tickets with her, so we couldn’t get any more fast passes

Friend  oh no

Me…     which, when she heard that later on, accused me of blaming her for not letting the kids go on any rides

Me…     which i wasn’t! it was just a fact!

Me…     we found plenty to do

Friend  lol

Me…     friday night i went out drinking with my geek buddies

Friend  geek buddies

Friend  lol

Me…     saturday we had a fairly decent day at AK

Me…     except

Me…     i had made reservations for lunch at tusker house, which was her request

Me…     and when i reminded her of that she said “i didn’t want lunch, i wanted dinner!”

Friend  lol

Me…     again, i can do nothing right!!!

Me…     Saturday night i went out to the private party at toy story mania

Me…     didn’t get home till 1 am

Friend  ooooh

Friend  lol

Me…     ex-freaking-zausted on sunday

Me…     we did rope drop at MK on sunday

Me…     but as we were getting ready to leave in the room, my mom got both girls crying

Friend  because they were going to miss her soo much?

Friend  lol

Me…     she had a fit over some yogurt that belle had spilled on a chair and she had sat in, and had to get her pants all wet to wash off

Me…     she really lost it

Friend  oh boy

Me…     and krystal wrote a note to me that said “i am a terrible child. i hate myself”

Me…     because of how my mother had been treating her

Friend  😦

Friend  i’m sorry!

Me…     she’s awful

Me…     i don’t want to see her for xmas

Friend  how? why?

Friend  like how did you manage to grow up?

Friend  🙂

Me…     i don’t know!

Me…     she’s always admitted she liked us (my sister and me) more as we got older

Me…     and i guess i’m the same way – i like kids better than babies or toddlers

Me…     and she’s always been passive aggressive and expecting the mind reading thing

Me…     but now she’s doing it to my kids – making up rules as she goes along and coming down on them for the littlest things!

Me…     that’s my job!

Me…     i took the girls on this trip to make memories

Me… they didn’t come away with the kind of memories i had in mind…..

Another Call from Camp

I’ve been keeping this from you. No good reason, really.

On Wednesday I had quite literally just stepped into a meeting with my boss when my cell phone rang. This is highly unusual on three counts. One, I rarely am physically present for meetings these days. Due to our team and business partners being located all over the country, and in some cases, the world (Ireland and India specifically), we have conference calls. A lot. Second, an in-person meeting with my boss is a thing of some note. I go months without seeing him, as he and I work in different locations. But on Wednesday he was at my work site, and we had a one-on-one scheduled. And third, my cell phone really does not ring all that much.

I looked at the number and it was the same familiar unfamiliar number from a few weeks ago, only this time I knew who it was right away. Camp was calling.

“Hi, Mrs. Ragtop Day?”  Quick aside here – I hate it when people call me Mrs. Anything. I’m not a Mrs. and I hate the assumption that I am. I know the camp person was trying to be respectful, but honestly I’d rather be called by my first name. Aside over.


“I’m calling from the First Aid area of Camp-Where-Your-Kids-Go and I have Belle here.” At this point two things were running through my mind. Was this a repeat of Belle just needing to talk to me? Or is “First Aid” a clue that she is hurt? And if so, how seriously?

“Belle has been scratching her head and we did a check and found some lice. Well, a few nits anyway, no live ones. You need to come pick her up.”

%*#)$*@#@)(#_!@* was the only thing I remember thinking.

We went through this in two separate episodes a year ago (I think I only blogged about one episode). It completely took over my life for two weeks the first time, and a week the second. I finally gave in and shaved Belle’s head the first time (only Krystal was affected the second). Belle’s hair is exceedingly thick and lice probably think they’ve landed in some sort of Nirvana when they find themselves on her head.

There have also been several cases at Camp. As awful as this is for us, it’s not really a surprise.

I brought her home and started in on the routine: laundry (oh, yes, the laundry!), shampoo, lice comb, nit comb, manually nit picking, and laundry.

The good news is that I think I got them all. At least she went back to camp on Thursday and Friday, and Krystal says they’ve been checking her hair 4-5 times a day as well. I check them both too and will every day, since we leave for vacation in less than a week and I am not dealing with this on my vacation!!

Lost and Found

When my ex and I were separating there was a lot of anger. Emotions were running high and a lot of things were said and done in anger that were not kind. At the time I can remember thinking that I still felt like the same person, but that I thought that some people he cared about (namely his parents) would absolutely cringe to hear some of what he was saying or to learn of what he was doing. I’m not saying I was perfect, but I was certainly (far) less awful than he was.

One of the worst things he did was to come in one day to pick up some of his things when Krystal and I were out. That had been agreed to. When she and I returned home my eyes went right to where the video camera, case and tapes were kept on the bookshelf in the living room. What stared back was an empty space. Rage and sickness took over. I didn’t care so much about the camera, but the tapes were everything I had of Krystal from the moment I met her. In my opinion the tapes were hers.

Over the next few weeks and months he used those tapes as leverage whenever he could. He threatened to destroy them. While we used a mediator to handle the divorce rather than hiring attorneys who would take all our money, we probably weren’t very good candidates for mediation. He was very angry, which was how I now realize he expressed pain. The marriage, if not the actual divorce, was quite expensive for me. It wasn’t until we were divorcing, a process we started before our third anniversary, that I realized marriage is a legal blending of two people. You basically form a corporation with another person when you marry. Silly me had thought it was about love. I do not know if I will ever marry again, but if I do, it will be with that knowledge, and I do not rule out a pre-nup. It’s not unromantic, it’s business.

As far as the video camera and tapes go, he showed up unexpectedly at Krystal’s final gymnastics class that year with the camera, took some video, and then without fanfare handed me the camera and case, with tapes inside. My heart was pounding so loud and hard I was sure he would see it through my shirt, and my mind was spinning with how I could run off with it before he grabbed it back. But he didn’t. They have been mine, and will be Krystal’s, ever since. He did remove the tape of our wedding, but I didn’t care. I assume he took a hammer to it, or ran over it with his car, or tossed it in Lake Ontario as he drove by one day, and whatever happened to it is OK with me. I got what was precious.

A few other things relating to our marriage seem to be missing too. While he got the engagement ring in the split (even the mediator was shocked he would ask, but I was stupid and didn’t care), our marriage certificate was mysteriously unable to be found after I moved. I might not have noticed except I changed my name back after our divorce and needed it during the adoption process for Belle. I was able to get another copy, but the lingering question to me was why? Why would he take it? My wedding band has also been missing since even before the move. I’ve never been a jewelry person, but I did like wearing a wedding ring. When I realized the ring was missing I actually bought myself some costume jewelry rings that I occasionally wear on my other hand. What he wanted with the inexpensive band I wore is beyond me.

When Krystal was little, and before we got married, two of his family members gave her savings bonds. They were issued in her first name with his last name, which was never her name. My mother has offered to help get them switched over to her correct and legal name, but the bonds are missing too. I did ask him several months ago if he might have run across them – I have learned to let things be his idea – but he said he didn’t think he’d seen them, and so far he has not produced them. I am willing to believe he doesn’t knowingly have them, and if he does come across them in the future, he will give them back. Four years ago I would not have felt confident saying that.

This morning Krystal was poking around with the myriad of things on my dresser. One of these things is a small wooden box that closes with a buckle. I’ve had it since I was about 9 or 10, just a tad older than Krystal. I keep old money in it – some $2 bills, Kennedy half dollars, silver dollars and the like. I don’t think I’ve opened it in years, but it’s not something I’d ever consider getting rid of. She was fascinated by the money “They make $2 bills!?!?” and wanted to know where I got it. Then she pulled out a gold ring. My wedding ring. What is it doing in there? I’m reasonably sure I never put it there. Did he hide it there? Or did I and promptly forget about it?

The inside of the ring has an inscription: Love is in the details.

Fatherless Children

In my home we are all fatherless children.

My own father died on June 13, 1997, the Friday before Father’s Day. Yes, on Friday the 13th. But honestly it felt more like Thursday because we’d been with him all day and it was around 1 am that he died. That Sunday, Father’s Day, was really tough. I remember watching the teenage girl next door being picked up for the day by her playboy father and wanting to send her a message to appreciate him while she can – you never know when he might be gone.

Krystal has a birth father, of course, but we do not know who he is. She considers my ex her father, but he is not. Not legally. Since he does not live nearby he is not part of our regular life, and his contact over the past year in particular has been spotty. When he does visit he’s fully “here”, but he doesn’t call for long stretches and just when I think maybe he’s fading away, the phone will ring. Or he’ll have a birthday (2 weeks ago) and I’ll give in and let Krystal call him, which is something I do not encourage.

Belle has an unknown birth father too, but also a foster father who raised her until I adopted her at just over 2 years old. We have pictures of him and she has some memory of him, most of which are probably kept alive because of those pictures. I also have email contact with her foster family, which has petered out quite a bit after a flurry in the beginning, and some weirdness in the middle. The nugget that is relevant here is that about two years ago I got an email from the adult daughter that the father had cancer, and this past February she sent an email that he had died in January. I have not told Belle this.

At school this time of year there is always a Father’s Day project for the kids to work on. Belle’s school is very familar with our family make-up, and last year the Father’s Day gift she made was for me. She has also made things for Krystal whenever they make parent gifts – one for me, and one for her, when other kids are making one for each parent. Yesterday she came home with a wrapped gift, and since it is wrapped in tissue paper I can see through it. It is a bookmark (she told me that) with “#1 Dad” on it. I asked her who she wanted to give it to. I fully expected her to say my ex – he is visiting this weekend and Belle calls him “Daddy”, which I think she thinks is his name, even though she understands that he is not her dad. But she said she wanted to give it to Baba, and would I put it in a package and send it to China?

I said I would.

What I think I will really do is put it away.

What I don’t know what, or when, to do is tell her that Baba has died. Is this something I should have done when I learned of it? Or given the unlikelihood of seeing her foster family again is it better for her to maintain happy memories? Although I can’t imagine keeping this from her until she’s an adult, and what will happen when she finds out I’ve known for so long? I think I have my answer – I need to tell her soon.

And what I feel a teensy bit jealous about is that even though I am doing the job of mom and dad in raising my kids, someone else is getting the attention on Father’s Day. Despite the fact we are all fatherless children.

** Cue the harps and violins  – I know I am whining about nothing! Really! But I’m thinking about it so here it is.

Twisted Sisters

I had very much a “love-hate” relationship with my sister, who was 3 years younger. Mostly, I loved to hate her and could be pretty awful to her. I was smarter (book-wise anyway), stronger and older. I could be emotionally manipulative and cruel. I clearly remember one time saying (or possibly just thinking), that I hated her so much I wish I could kill her with a knife (I was around 8 or 9).

Of course as an adult, I can recognize that I was most likely just angry about something, or jealous of some attention she was getting. I didn’t really wish her dead, or wish to cause it myself. Really! It wasn’t till we hit our teens that we melded. I learned that we were more alike than different, and that she was actually a pretty cool kid. Which hurt all the more when she was taken, via cancer, at age 17. I miss my sister, both the person that she was, and would be, as well as the “idea” of a sister. A built-in friend who has known you forever.

In college, less than a year after my sister died, a good friend was baking her sister cookies to send to her for her birthday. A couple of us were hanging out while she baked and I’m sure we all helped a little. We were laughing and talking and enjoying each other’s company. Then she boxed up those freshly baked cookies and started writing her sister’s name and address on the box. I clearly remember watching her with that Sharpie and having the realization that I would never be able to bake cookies for my sister. I got up and left, without a word to my friends, in tears. The grief was overwhelming, and I tear up now, some 26 years later, thinking about it.

In deciding to become a parent to two children, a huge motivator for me was to provide my kids (who are both girls) with a sister. I know, first hand, how awful sisters can be to each other. I also know that not all sisters become friends as adults. But I wanted to give them that chance.

Krystal and Belle became sisters almost three years ago, when Krystal was 5 and Belle was 2. They had very different lives before that time, and we all went through a big transition that first year. My two daughters have very different personalities, and of course because of their ages, they are at different developmental stages. They are very different, but they are very much like my sister and me.

Krystal can be manipulative and cruel. She’s a lot like I was to my sister at that age. She thinks of herself as a second mother at times, and I’ve cringed hearing my words coming out of her mouth more than once.

Belle is an instigator. She is a much stronger personality than my sister was. She knows how to push Krystal’s buttons, and pushes with alacrity. Krystal has not yet learned the art of ignoring. I tell her all the time that when she reacts, she gives Belle the satisfaction of knowing she got to her. Someday…

Last night during the bedtime routine I was in one bathroom doing my thing, telling the girls who kept shadowing me to: go brush your teeth, brush your hair, put on your PJ’s, pick out your book, leave the dog alone. It was a revolving door with one kid passing the other to and from where I was and having to give explicit directions to do the things we do every single night.

At one point they were both off doing what they were supposed to do, presumably, and I was alone. Ah, bliss. For a minute, until Belle came in.

Belle: Mom, Krystal is hogging the sink and I can’t brush my teeth!

Me:  Hmmmmm (trying not to engage)

Belle [running back to the bathroom]: Krystal, Mom says “Hmmmm!” That means you need to let me brush!

Or something else that happens quite frequently is that Krystal will find me to say that Belle has done something naughty. Perhaps she’s pulled the dog’s tail, scribbled on her homework, broken something, gotten into a forbidden item, or just been annoying to Krystal in some way. She will end her tattling session with “Mom, you need to talk to her.”

Managing the relationship between my girls is the second most stressful part of parenting them (the first is another post altogether – more news next week). It is also something I did not adequately prepare for. I thought parenting two children would be difficult logistically – getting two kids ready for school in the morning, finding activities that we all enjoy, etc). While there are challenges in that area, especially as the only adult in the home, I have found them to be mostly workable (no small thanks to a flexible work situation). It’s their relationship that requires constant management.

My kids are still young, and they are different. But I still think I did the right thing in giving them each other. Time will tell.