Something About Forgiveness

Forgiveness…freeing relief.

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Forgive them even if they are not sorry

It was a hard weekend.  We had a full house. Our Bella is a few weeks shy of being adult. We also have two teenage boys, our seven-year old, and our infant. We had a lot of life in just a few days.

Our almost grown daughter is EXACTLY like her mother except even more so. In all the ways I can not stand Tanya, Bella is her twin. It was hard interacting with someone who’s character rubs me all the wrong way.  I excise those with similar character traits from my life but I cannot excise Bella. I wanted to.  I, truth be told, even tried to, but it was not the right thing to do. I couldn’t do it.

How to deal. How to deal…

I didn’t realize just how stressed I was until they, Bella, Anthony, and Scott, left. As soon as they left, I felt a heavy weight. I felt horrible. I felt so far away from God. I longed for fellowship with Him once more but couldn’t figure out what was blocking it. So, to try to fix things, I started confessing everything.  I thought maybe I had hardened my heart to being obedient in some of my other relationships so I began telling God that I would do whatever He wanted me to. I would call and initiate talks, whatever He wanted, I would be obedient to.  I wanted to be right with Him and I was desperate to do whatever He asks of me. After confessing things that I wasn’t even sure I was wrong for, nothing happened.  I still felt far from Him.  I thought I must have gotten something wrong.

I did.  I did get something wrong.

 

But it wasn’t what I thought it was. It wasn’t unconfessed deeds I had unknowingly committed. It wasn’t being hard-hearted. My sin, what was blocking me from being in fellowship with God was unforgiveness.

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I had harbored EVERYTHING said or done by Bella, Anthony, Scott, and Tanya that was out-and-out wrong or rubbed me the wrong way.  I did not realize the weight unforgiveness carries. Immediately, I started forgiving.  I told God I forgave each person.  I went line item by line item of just plain wrongs, offenses, and perceived offensives, that I received from each person in the past five days. I said, “God, I forgive so-and-so for this specific offense. I hated that this was done towards me but I forgive them.” Heartfelt, total, complete forgiveness.

I was riding in the car at the time, my husband driving, my girls in the back seat. I’d closed my eyes and prayed, forgiving for a few miles. The peace! The sweet sweet peace! The washing refreshing of right fellowship with God. No more unseen but severely felt barrier between me and my Master. Bella, Anthony, Scott, or Tanya, I could see any one of them now and treat them with a clean slate. No mental playback. No harboring hurts.

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I AM FREE!

 

 

Bella’s Graduation

She’s finished!

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That’s it!

Part one of our state’s child support mandate has been completed. The second part, turning 18, won’t come into fruition until later this year.

I screamed and hollered at Bella’s graduation. I cheered as loud as I dared while wearing my 3 month old, however, I had to be honest as to why I was hollering and cheering so earnestly.  Although I was excited about it, it had little to do with celebrating her accomplishments and had the whole to do with the drama filled 18 year span (14 of which I was a part of) coming to a close.

No more birthday parties.  No more major holidays. No more Summer vacations. No more visitation. No more calls for money. No more using my husband.

NO MORE!

Will we see Bella for her birthday, holidays, vacations, on weekends?  Hopefully so but we don’t have to deal with her mother anymore. We don’t have to deal with her insults, put downs, condescending tone, or demeanor.  No more “change of plans” which was code for us having to do something different to accommodate her. No more last-minute calls about things Bella is involved in, expecting us to show up. No more cries for help in the form of a humble-brag (“I work too hard to have no breaks and no time to myself.”) never once asking for what you want. No more trips to court. No more fear that she might lie again and take my husband back for more money.  No more forced encounters. No more!

When I said goodbye to all adults present at her graduation dinner, it was a permanent goodbye.  I don’t have to see those people EVER again! There is no upcoming event on the horizon with which I (nor my husband) am obligated to be a part of.  We don’t have to share space with Tanya (Bella’s mom) any more! All communication about and with regards to Bella can come directly from Bella herself.

I have waited long for this day.  It seemed like it would never come.  At times, it seemed like it would be thwarted.  I am so grateful that it was not! LIBERATION! EMANCIPATION!

I feel so free!

I don’t have to put up with those adults any longer! They can miscommunicate all they want and it not affect me.  They can deflect all they want and it not effect me!  They can create all the drama in the world and it will not effect me!

If you, or someone you know, are still in the throes of the 18 year span, be encouraged.  The end will come.  I can not say that it won’t be paved with tears, heart ache, and unnecessarily hurt feelings, but the end will come!

I can’t even say it is a bitter-sweet end.  It’s just sweet.

Blending Family Tension

A loved one contacted me recently about a problem she was having in her home. She too has a blended family. She too has an older big kid and a baby of her own.  Her husband left her big kid in charge of the baby while he ran an errand.  My loved one was at work at the time. Later that evening, her big kid said that the baby was crying for her father when he left.  The big kid let the baby cry at the closed bedroom door.  The baby was lying on the floor at the closed bedroom door.  The big kid took a picture of the scene and showed her father and my loved one.

My loved one was understandably upset.  She didn’t understand why her big kid didn’t walk her baby downstairs and try to soothe her. She asked the big kid and her response was that she was trying to go back to sleep. My loved one was none pleased that her child was left to cry on the floor at the closed bedroom door while the 17 year old just laid there.

I understood all too well how she felt and what she was feeling. Neither of us raised our big kids.  They aren’t where we would like them to be in regards to caring for their younger siblings. Both of our big kids have younger siblings in their mother’s homes that they were allowed to treat and behave towards in ways we would not have allowed.  Our big kids now treat our babies the way they treated their in-house siblings.  I think they treat our babies even more undesirably.

As mother’s, we aim to protect our babies from ALL alarm. This includes our big kids if they display attitudes and behaviors that we deem unbecoming. Had her big kid’s behavior come from any other person, I believe her husband would have put his foot in their behind but because said behavior came from his teenage daughter, there is leeway given. We, wives and mothers of the baby, do not understand this leeway. We wives and mothers of the baby, have to temper how we respond to our husbands to keep peace with them. We want to implore that that behavior is unacceptable.  We want to prevent our big kids from EVER watching our littles again.We have identified a threat to our cubs and, as mothers, want to stomp it out but we have to balance this instinct with maintaining harmony with our husbands.

I have not found a resolution to this.  I have not found an effective way to communicate with my husband that produces the same urgency to address bad behaviors to my baby that occur when he is not home. As with my loved one, such infractions occur when he is not present. Big kids stay in line when Daddy is present but (can) show claws when he is not. I have not found a solution on how to change it so my big kid respects me in what is and isn’t acceptable behavior between siblings in our household. In my home, Bella doesn’t want anything to do with baby Grace and has limited her interactions with Jazmine. She doesn’t seem interested in my girls and I am fine with that.  I didn’t desire that.  I thought Bella would continue to care and want to be around Jazmine like she did 7 years ago but that didn’t happen. My Bella wants her father. Period.  I have no problem with that but her desire comes with her treating me and my girls marginally. She does not embrace the whole so we can all coexist.  She has created barriers and division under the “quality time with father” banner.

And there it is. That is the state of affairs. I hate that is is common in blended families.  I hate that their is no go-to solution to change it.  I think it will remain that way until the next season of Bella’s life. I wish there was a way to figure this out and make it right but….I have yet to come up with anything. So, as Mommy of Jazmine and baby Grace, I stand sentinel, protecting my cubs against all who would do them harm. Since the big sister position is a powerful one in a siblings life, I am WATCHFUL of Bella’s interactions; keeping eyes and ears open for her projecting her feelings about me or her father and I, verbally or even physically towards my girls.  Mama ain’t havin’ it.

 

 

Jazmine’s Tears

Twice today, my child came to me crying. Jazmine’s tears are not new to me but why she was shedding them bothered me greatly.

I, just like any other parent, can tell by the tenor of her cry, that it was a serious emotional pain and not a physical one but she cried like she had just scraped her knee. I remained calm, which is a feat when your child is sobbing, and asked what happened.  Bella had hurt her feelings.  The first time, Jazmine complimented Bella’s hair and Bella did not respond with a thank-you but a side remark about how there was nothing special about her hair style that day. Jazmine is taught to say thank-you to compliments and not reply with humble-brags or sarcasm so she thought not receiving a thank-you in reply was mean-spirited.

The second round of sobs was much more severe. She took a bit to fully explain to me what happened and even then, more of the actual accounts that led up to the tears were not fully disclosed until bath time. Jazmine said Bella did not want to play Uno with her.  Jaz asked why not and said, “Don’t you have fun with me?”. Bella’s response was that she had fun with her yesterday.  That broke Jazmine’s six-year-old heart.

She understood that to mean, quite accurately I believe, that Bella did not think she was fun today. There were many sobs and tears amidst the repeated reprise, “Why is Bella so mean to me? Why? Just why?”

If you don’t know that the Lord Jesus Christ is real and risen from the dead to save us from our sins, then know this.  The fact that Bella is unharmed and there is no report of a domestic disturbance at our home is evidence enough that He is at work in my heart and in my life. There were brief moments where my Wolverine Adamantium began to come out (when Jazmine was crying and Bella could clearly hear her but never once came to check on her) but the tips of those silver spears quickly retracted and calm again took over as I comforted my girl.

Mommy claws

Mommy claws

I told her I was sorry that that happened and proceeded to guide her, as we, my husband and I, have done before, on how to deal with difficult people.  Thus far, some gym kids and a big cousin have been the only ones to upset her like this with their behavior.  We told her that if folk are unkind and or mean, to walk away from them and play with something or someone else (that was the case with the gym kids).  We also tell her she needs to tell people how their actions made her feel (that was the case with her cousin).  It was much harder for her to accept that she is to do the same thing even when it’s her sister that caused these feelings.  She was baffled that her sister, her very own sister (her words) could be so mean. She went on to say, “Why did God give me her as a sister if she is so mean? She can’t really be my sister if she is mean to me.”

Part of me, the part that can’t stand the person Bella has become nor her mother, wanted to give Jazmine worldly advice on how to deal with folk that hurt her feelings.  Simultaneously, another part of me sympathized with Tanya. I understood where she might have been 12 years ago when my husband and I first married.  Scared that I, Zara, was going to mistreat her precious baby girl. Scared that my husband, Bella’s father, was going to side with me at all cost to the detriment of her baby girl. Both of those trains of thought were unfounded and would never happen but she didn’t know that.  All she knew was that I was step-mom and she could not keep her daughter from me because I was married to her daughter’s father.

You would think that all these thoughts took some time to process through my mind but it was moving faster than a jet in my brain.

I also reflected how Tanya’s decisions then took shape to form Bella now. I do not want Jazmine to be anything like her sister. I choose to follow God as a rule in life anyway so following Him now was nothing new but having the hindsight of what the cost of rearing a child on worldly wisdom looks like at almost 17, made me run to do the will of God.

It is hard to see and hear your baby cry.  It takes discipline to not try to make it alright when it is something to grow through.  It is hard to not allow her to act out past her initial emotion/reaction. Parenting ain’t easy.  Godly parenting takes Holy Ghost power.

At bath time, when the rest of the events that lead up to her tears came out, my husband talked to her. Having been kept abreast on all the events of the day as they happened, I called him up and tagged him in because I didn’t know how else to restate what I had been saying all day.  Daddy’s have calming effects on their daughters.

Today was a difficult day and, although Jazmine is in the bed resting peacefully this evening, I know that this is only the beginning to her questions about today’s events.  Please pray for our stamina.  I don’t want to start off well then grow weary while doing good.

I Miss My Daughter…

Do not be alarmed. Jazmine is fine. She is healthy and I know exactly where she is. She is in the bedroom next to mine, sound asleep with her cousin. She went to bed clean and with a full belly.

With the exception of five days straight earlier this month, we have occupied the same space all summer long. Why then do I miss her you ask? Because she has spent every waking hour with one of her siblings. It’s been hard for me to catch a kiss, a hug, or any quality time with her since Father’s Day. I’m glad she loves her siblings and wants to be around them but I miss my baby!

It is not mature of me to act on my feelings by carving out a space for just the two of us during the weeks the big kids are here. The child is with me 24/7 365. I occupy most of her time. This is an exciting change of pace for her regardless of how I look forward to our normal routine. I can grow through this but I miss my baby!

I can only assume that this is what Anthony’s mother felt like. Last year, the boy stayed two weeks. Two whole stinking weeks and that chick had to come see him after 7 days. I was through. She bought him food (a pan of fried chicken and some pears, I kid you not) and tennis shoes to try on. I kept thinking ‘chick, get over it’. The boy was 12 years old at the time and it was only 14 days of the ENTIRE summer! 

I now find myself repeating that same phrase to me, only louder.

Step-Mom Misses Another Milestone

Bella went to prom yesterday. 

She called her father, my husband, about two months ago to tell him she had been asked to go. Things started out pretty standard. Calls to go dress shopping so he could $ee the dresses. Calls to grandparent to pay for other accessories. Calls to pick up and take to appointments to get ready for prom. Same old same old. We are hip to the game. Not surprised at all.

I had decided in my mind those months ago that I would not attend. Tanya and I don’t like each other and this her her only daughter’s prom. It’s her day too. I would have only stayed in the car as it is. 

Prom night came. My husband not only supported, but expected my decision to stay away. He reminded me that no, this is not what we wanted nor what environment we set out to create but, it takes all parties to make something beautiful and those parties never came to the table. It is what it is. 

It was settled. 

Then, I understood that all other occupants of the house would be headed down to see her off which would make it painfully obvious who wasn’t there (me). I got a little nervous. I felt like her sixteenth birthday all over again. I didn’t want to choose unwisely again. A significant part of me felt it right to go. The other part reaffirmed that my presence would bridge no gaps thereby not being productive at all. 

I choose to stay behind. What lessened the blow was that three of the five others going decided to stay behind as well. Their reasons were not based on me but of their own volition.

Blended families require work, bend, and stretch. My decision was not for everyone else but it was right for us. 

I just found out that Family Life now has a blended families focus. I know I will be visiting. Familylifeblended.com

I Want Them To Love Us

Remember when I cut my stepchildren off?  Yes, well, I have had to go deeper into those feelings to see what was really growing there.  My prayers have changed for those children also.  I used to have specific prayers for each of them and I prayed for them, out of obligation if truth be told.

I was thinking about my big kids today and my true desire for them was clear for me to see.  I started out by saying what I really wanted.  What I long for is for Bella, Scott, and Anthony to love Brian (my husband for those who don’t know).  I want them to include him in their thoughts.  I want them to want to talk to him, to share their lives with him.  I want them to respect him.

That became my new prayer for all of five minutes because as I was praying for that, I was convicted that I was praying a lie and that lie, if allowed to come into fruition, would harm our family unit. Why? Because I would be praying for division. Praying for my stepchildren to love their father was exclusive of Jazmine and I. Praying that they would call and express concern for their father would marginalize us even more. That is when I birthed the truth from my lips.  I want my stepchildren to love all of us; my husband, my daugther, and myself.

I want my stepchildren to embrace us all as a family unit that they are apart of. I want them to love us and care for us, to include us (positively) in their thoughts and express that love in their actions. I want them to come over just because they want to be here regardless of who is actually home at the time.

That is a rather large prayer request considering the state of things but that is my heart open to God about my stepchildren.

A Step-Mother’s True Confession

This was a hard post to write.   Hard to admit and hard to try to prepare myself for the barrage of pointed fingers coming my way.  Prayerfully, this post will give those who don’t walk the step-mom path insight into this world and to my fellow step-mom who has been pushed to this place, you are not alone. 

I am finished.  I have laid my step-children down. I no longer carry them in my heart. I no longer seek to remain, maintain, or present myself as someone else who is in their corner.  I have washed my hands of my step-children.

I know this won’t be received by the masses.  I know there is some well-meaning person who wants to encourage me in the Lord on perseverance, love, etcetera, who believes that I have dropped the ball. I am sure there are others who will believe that this is how I have always felt and I am just now reveling it.

Well, to those people, I say, in advance, that you are wrong on all counts and I could care less on whether you believe me or not.

I didn’t begin this way.  I fought against the wicked step-mother persona.  I never wanted that.  That is not who I am. That is not who I aimed to be.  It is still not who I am but it is past time to receive what my children’s mother’s have shown me, their children, and my husband.  I am not wanted in their world.  I am an afterthought, a necessary evil, a person to put up with.

To that, I say, ok. This will ultimately hurt the children and that is a shame but it is not my call.  I see the handwriting on the wall. There is no common ground between me and their mothers.  Their mothers’ lack of regard for me has been handed down to the children and now, the children are old enough to act out on that teaching on their own accord.

So, as I have been asked by their actions, I will stay out of their way.  I will continue to support my husband, etc etc etc.  That has not changed.  What has changed is my mindset when it comes to my step-children. I will no longer emotionally attach myself to their plight.  I will no longer hang on every word I glean about their well-being.  It is not necessary.  It proves nothing and only leaves me frustrated.

So, they will go on and grow into whomever they will. I will see them as often as they visit (which is about once a month for Anthony and maybe 1-3 times a year for Bella and Scott). I will hope for the best but not be surprised when I hear the worst.

My husband is not permitted to father his children as he’d like.  So, tell me (and this is a rhetorical question), how else was this supposed to be? What other path is there for me to be in except for the one that was laid?

Dear Step-Mom, An Important Conversation To Have

My Bella is in the midst of making some very bad decisions.  She has turned a blind eye to the consequences that most definitely await.  I found out about the decisions she has made thus far and I did not know how to tell my husband.

I knew he should know if, for nothing else, he is her father.  I also know Tanya and after a major crisis occurs on their end, she calls and gives a pile-up review of life so far, listing every crisis that has happened for the past x number of months.  I am not talking about minor things either, like missing the bus, forgetting homework at home, forgetting to call etc.  Those things can be major if they are habitual but in and of themselves, that is just human nature. I am talking about things that should have been shared before they exploded into a huge ugly mess like cutting class, sneaking out of the house, skipping school etc.; not that she is doing those things but you get my point.

How to tell my husband of Bella’s poor decisions was a difficult decision. This experience is what provoked this blog post.  Fortunately, my husband handled it well-meaning he received the information without turning on me (YAY!) It is so easy to kill the messenger sometimes but my husband did not receive me as if I originated the negative news.   We discussed/vented our thoughts about it.

It would have been helpful for us if we had broached this subject before difficulties came our way but up until now, I had no idea I should have even thought of such things.  The important question to ask of your non-custodial spouse is, ‘How do you want me to tell you hard news about your child?’  I found myself wishing I had asked this question before hand so I knew exactly how to approach him.

Dealing with any parent is difficult when you have unpleasant things to discuss with them about their child.  That difficulty is exacerbated when that parent is your spouse. Having good communications before trouble comes is very important.

 

Ugh. Feeling Some Kind Of Way.

Bella’s 16th birthday bash is going on as we speak.  I was never invited to go. My name was never specifically mentioned.  Jazmine was mentioned but not me.  No problem.  Didn’t bother me not one bit.

In the days preceding tonight, A LOT went on; so much so that if it were up to my husband and I, Ms. Bella would not have had a party tonight. However that is not my call and my decision to stay home was not a result of this.

My decision to stay home had everything to do with Tanya.  She was calling, passive aggressively, for all hands on deck to help serve and set up at the party.  By all hands on deck I mean my family and Brian’s extended family.  Anyone she could name that was local, she wanted to know if they were coming so they could help. I took immediate issue with that.  First, neither she nor Bella have a relationship with anyone of them. Yes, we are all family but no relationship has been cultivated.  Not because we have not tried but because our attempts have been blocked and, in recent years, Bella has not shown an interest either.  It is only when $omething is needed or the-more-people-we-have-the-better-we-look event comes up that folk want to rally the troops.  That is usury and I am not for that at all.  Second, my husband is Bella’s father; not just a pair of hands to be used at will.  Third, I don’t like the tone she takes on when speaking to my husband when it comes time to break down parties.  I have heard it before and never stepped in but now, I would step in and not hold back. Fourth, I would not be there to be an extra pair of hands.  I would purposefully not help because I don’t like disorganization nor do I like the you-are-family-only-when-I-need-you-attitude.  There have been enough digs toward my husband this week and I need not be around hearing any.

I was solid in my decision up until everybody left for the party.

Jazmine stayed with me. I have enough angst with her being in Bella’s environment as it is.  Not because I think her mother’s family would harm her but that their negative words and put-downs would reach her ears.  People tend to run in a very high gear when it’s event time and I have seen these folk in low tide and it’s still not peachy.

My husband took a trusted friend with him to help him set up and serve at the party. My mother-in-law, who up until the last 24hrs, wasn’t going decided to go.  We didn’t know the venue address until yesterday and only found out the date of the party two weeks ago; mind you Tanya has been planning this shindig since January. No joke.

Once everyone left, I started feeling, well, left out.  Once my husband called to say how nice it looked and how much I would have enjoyed it, I started feeling like I was really missing out.

I think I am feeling guilty. In my guilty state, I have made apple cake tatin, apple butter, kale chips, and I am about to make a sweetened condensed milk pound cake. No worries about me eating any.  I just want to busy myself with something productive.

I know I had my reasons to stay home.  I truly don’t think that my presence would have added to the party.  I am now wondering if Bella, who once used to enjoy my company, will look back and take issue that I wasn’t there.

I am the type to call a spade a spade.  I must call this what it is.  A stepmom fail.