I want to start by saying, I have struggled with whether or not to write on this topic. However, at this time, my blog is not read by many and is more or less an outlet for my creativity and thoughts. It’s also pretty light-hearted. That being said, I decided to proceed. I’m sure there are other blended families that deal with similar situations, who can relate.
Having a blended family is not always easy. I imagine many couples and families overcome difficulties and are civil. I know probably a dozen of blended families that do an incredible job of co-parenting. Putting children first is the priority. However, you can only control your own actions and how you handle situations. You cannot force another party to behave the way they should.
Baby Mama Drama
For over 10 years, my family and I have been dealing with my husband’s ex-girlfriend, the mother of his son, Asher. We will call her Valerie for the sake of this post. We have tried and tried and tried to be kind and to include her whenever we can. There isn’t any co-parenting. Every conversation is an argument, and everything is an obstacle. It is not for lack of trying on our part. All Valerie does is point the finger. It’s frustrating and it’s old. While the co-parenting battles are endless, this particular story is in regards to how she behaves towards me and how she treats my daughter.
In January of 2015, 4.5 years into my and my husband’s relationship, I wrote Valerie a very sincere email. I asked her to please put aside any hard feelings she may have for me and just concentrate on what is best for Asher. I stated she did not need to like me, but asked that she please be civil for Asher’s sake. Her response was a flat-out “No.” She will never put aside her feelings towards me and claimed that she is civil. Ok – there is no reasoning with this woman. After 4.5 years, I already knew that, but never reached out to her on my own.
That being said, I’m still the bigger person. I send a Christmas card to Valerie and her husband every year. I have Asher make her a gift, or pick her out a gift that I buy, for Mother’s Day every year. Of course, she doesn’t do the same isn’t done for my husband, but that’s beside the point. This is something I choose to do. In addition, I sent a sympathy card when her grandmother passed away, an engagement card when she got engaged, and a wedding card after her wedding.
We welcomed our sweet Quinn in December of 2015. We never once received congratulations from Valerie. Which, I never expected, but this is just a realization in retrospect. As Quinn grew, she would greet Valerie at the door every week when she came to pick up Asher or compliment her when she saw her at a school event. “Valerie, I like your makeup!”
As a side, think about any relationship or interaction you have/had with a child. Maybe an excited, “Hi, Quinn!” or “I love your pjs! They’re so cute!” Let’s say you don’t initiate a conversation with a child but that child approaches you with a, “Hi! I like your earrings!” How do you respond? Probably with an upbeat, “Thank you! I like your shirt!” No, not Valerie. Stone cold.
Quinn was walking at 10 months old. In all the years of Quinn greeting her at our door, she never uttered a single “Hi, Quinn!” as she entered our home. In fact, Quinn often would repeat herself over and over just to run away saying, “Valerie won’t talk to me!” On occassion Quinn would get a monotone response from Valerie soley based on her persistance. Any sporting event, chorus concert, etc I am sure to say hello to Valerie and I tell Quinn to do the same. Silence. This is a grown woman who refuses to speak to a small child solely because…I don’t know why? She doesn’t like the child’s parents? To this day (10+ years into this) it is not clear why Valerie refuses to look or speak to me. The woman who raises her child half the week, loves him like her own, buys him clothes, food, school supplies, sports fees etc.
I can handle the fact Valerie won’t speak to me. I am an adult. My husband and I have come to the terms with the fact that she will never co-parent, despite our best efforts. Asher is old enough to see that we try. I also can continue to do nice things to be the bigger person, without getting my wires crossed. I’m doing it for Asher. My child cannot do that. So, I struggled with, ‘What am I teaching Quinn?’ I encourage her to be friendly and say, “Hi.” even if Valerie doesn’t respond. I tell her to always be kind and be the bigger person. However, what I do not want to teach my daughter is that people can walk all over you and treat you like shit, and you continue to allow it to happen.
Not Welcome In My Home
I cannot even remember which specific event trigged my infuriation, but it happened this fall. I overheard Valerie ignoring Quinn and I was just done with it. After she left, Quinn was upset and I was pissed. I told her, “You do not need to go out of your way to say ‘hello’ to people who don’t treat you nicely. This includes Valerie. I’m sorry that she treats you that way.”
My husband and I had several discussions after this. I stated, “I will not continue to allow her in this house to treat all of us like s**t in our own home.” As another side- we provide clothes for Asher to wear back and forth between houses. Since she cannot co-parent, our clothes are ours and hers are hers. However, she cannot give up control, so she brings him a coat and shoes to wear back to her house. (The insanity.) That being said, I went out and bought Asher Crocs, because that is what she always brings for shoes. I told my husband, “There is no longer any need for her to step foot in this house.” She doesn’t speak other than to say, “Hurry up. Put your Shoes on.” Let me be clear that I don’t ever push my opinions on situations that arise do to Asher’s mother. But this was a turning point and this needed to be stopped.
I had a conversation with Asher in which I told him that I bought him Crocs to wear when his mother picks him up, but he can wear any shoes he wants to. He’s old enough to make these decisions at 11. I told him he can wear whichever coat he wants, too. And I made sure to ask him if it was okay with him if his Mom didn’t come in. He was fine with it all.
I asked my husband to let her know the following week that she wasn’t welcome inside. He did not. (Again, my being this demanding in these types of matters is not the norm, but this Mama Bear had enough.) So again, Valerie came into the house. Asher put on his new Crocs. She loudly grilled him about it. “What are those. Where did you get those? I’m confused. Why? Why are you wearing those?” She continued to come inside the next couple weeks. Then, we got our Christmas tree, which is always put into the sunroom, where our front door is located. However, this year, there are two dog crates in that location. Our only option was to move them in front of the front door to make room for the tree. Two days after Thanksgiving, my husband text Valerie and let her know that the front door was blocked for the season, but if they (She, her husband, and their dog, come every week for pickup – God knows why) beep when they get here, Asher will come out. Again, Asher was okay with this. In fact, he said, “That should make her happy. She said coming here is so awkward.” Yes, 10 years of being greeted by friendly people trying to speak to you like an adult is very awkward.
Peace in Resignation
The tree is gone and the dog crates are moved away from the front door, but we have continued this new routine. Life for the four of us is so much better. There is no anxiety leading up to her coming. No anger due to her sour attitude. No tears because she shuns a small child.
You can starve a narcissist of their power when you no longer give them the attention they crave. Narcissists feed on drama and knowing the turmoil that they are causing you. A huge weight has been lifted from all of our shoulders knowing that this no longer controls our emotions every week.
The battles when it comes down to any co-parenting will still occur, we can only control how we react. We will continue to do all that is in our power to do what is best for Asher. You can’t force someone to change. You can’t force someone to see things the way you do. And you can’t force someone to simply be a good human being. All you can control is how you allow people to treat you and affect your life.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, take the time to reflect on how you can make changes within your control. Remember you cannot control the way others behave. It’s an endless battle that will burn you out. You can starve a narcissist….and be a hell of a lot better off when you do.