May 12, 2004

The Wicked Stepmonster

I am up at oh-God-hundred in order to catch a train to Ipswich for a meeting today (see-I learnt my lesson! None of this driving across London nonsense for me anymore!) It's going to be a long and tiring day, and I am suffering the boulder-like feeling of PMS settling into my bones to boot. The PMS fairy came and stuffed rocks in my breasts last night I think. It's annoying-I'd have preferred a quarter under my pillow.

Mr. Y is away tonight, kicking off what is a wonderful and happy time for him and a confusing one for me. It's a major part of his life that he misses and that misses him, and one which I have never been a part of. It's a side of him that I have never known, and a piece of his life that, if I am honest, I envy a bit.

His kids are flying to England for 5 days.

He's going to pick them up tonight and spend the night with them at his Mum's. Then he comes back Thursday morning while his kids spend two days with their grandparents and their cousins, and everyone is thrilled to bits that the kids are coming and excited to see them. And I don't blame them one bit.

A little part of me wonders if his family thinks they won't see the two kids much because of me, that I will try to intervene or cut out parts of his life. This isn't the case, and I wish I could assure them of that if it is a concern. Mr. Y's children-Melissa and Jeff-are absolutely going to have access to him as much as possible. This is, above all, a family. Although the nucleus of the family may be seperated, the bond of the children will always be there, and may it always be so.

Melissa and Jeff are coming back up here Saturday and spending the weekend with Mr. Y and I.

In our flat.

And oh my God, I am so nervous that they won't like me.

They met me some years ago, but I'm so nervous that they have heard horror stories about me. That they have had the well poisoned against me. This isn't a reflection of Mr. Y's ex-I know how it feels to have a loyalty to a parent during a split-up. I know how it feels to want to defend your family against the hurt of a newcomer. I had it myself-when our parents split up (the final time) we all came out of the event, in the end, with a new Stepfather and Stepmother. We lived with my mother and Stepfather. We almost never saw my father or stepmother-and when we did, it was hell, the kind of difficulty that would get you out of purgatory for a few years per visit.

Our Stepmother became known as Stepmonster. She wanted us to think of her like a mother, to be close to us, to have us understand how integral she was to our father's survival. She flew off the handle if she thought we were interferring. She wanted all access between us and our father. She refused financial responsibility on his behalf on things that he really should have paid for (i.e. doctor bills. I mean...come on.)

I may be a bit biased. Looking back, I can see that there was a bit of well-poisoning going on, but even still, I think there was a serious division in personality compatibility. She got angry if we opened a kitchen cupboard. She tried to lecture me on how to "cook for my man" while my father went outside and cleaned out the gutters. The truth is, I knew how to cook. And I would've much preferred cleaning out the gutters than knowing how to make wontons.

I think we might've accepted her then. But not if you make us. Not if you don't let us figure these things out for ourselves. Although maybe that's not even true-our loyalty was to our mother, and come hell and high water, she's the party we would've defended.

The family had a complete split then. Anger seperated all factions of the family. My father and his Stepmonster went out of our lives, banished to the nether regions of not-related relations, recipients of the requisite birthday card and token Christmas present that had no emotional content. Jokes were made on her behalf, and a complete dismissal of anything to do with her followed-her birthday, their anniversary-it was all ignored.

Over time, either she thawed or I thawed. Over time, I have begun to actually like her, and she has begun to actually like me (I think). She sends thoughtful gifts on holidays and birthdays, things you can tell she did some thinking about. She gets a birthday card and Christmas present from me. I don't want her as a mother or stepmother figure, but it's nice to know that there is someone looking after my father, making sure that he's happy, equipped with the latest in Titanium golf-clubs, and well-fed with wontons.

And Melissa and Jeff? I can understand why our Stepmonster wanted us to know how integral she was to our father's life, since I would like the same thing here, but I won't go the same path that my Stepmother took. I don't want to be a mother-figure either. I am not anywhere near their mother, and I would absolutely never try to be. What I do want to be is a friend. Someone they can talk to. Someone who they don't feel they are betraying their mother by getting along with. Someone that they can laugh with and have a good time.

Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I am scared stiff and nervous as hell that maybe my time of karma has come, and it's my turn to be the Stepmonster for a while.


Posted by Everydaystranger at May 12, 2004 05:14 AM | TrackBack

Helen: maybe you can sit down with them and play a few rounds of UT or Quake or something? I just can't imagine kids not liking you! I second what everyone else said about your smile.

Posted by: Steve P at May 13, 2004 01:21 AM

I don't even know who I am, how the hell am I supposed to be myself?

Yes you do. GF has been working on a post to help you answer that question (inspired by your post a week or so ago). I'll crack the whip on her and get it out there soon...

Meanwhile - Chin up. Smile. (And enjoy the Chardonney - You're single again!! Well, sorta')

Posted by: Clancy at May 13, 2004 12:24 AM

Thanks, Betsy. I agree with you and honestly wouldn't ever say anything negative about Mr. Y's ex to the kids or to him, even. I just think that it's better to not out them in that position.

Posted by: Helen at May 12, 2004 09:02 PM

As a step myself, the best advice I can offer is to never ever ever say anything negative about their mother in front of them. I acquired two step-daughters when they were 9 and 11, and they are now in their mid and late 20's. I always made a point of being very gracious about their mother (who in fact is a wonderful woman and deserves it) and I think it helped cement my relationship with the girls as they did not feel a need to "take sides" or defend their "territory" when they were around me. We are very close now that they are grown.
I read your blog every day and enjoy it very much. You write beautifully.

Posted by: Betsy at May 12, 2004 08:03 PM

Only one caution: dont feel like you have to make them like you in the first day. It might be a big accomplishment to simply have them see that you are a nice person, and that Mr. Y and you care for each other and make each other happy.

Going from 'the other woman' to friends is completely do-able, but I see them as many steps apart.

Posted by: Almost Lucid (Brad) at May 12, 2004 07:12 PM


I'm screwed.

I don't even know who I am, how the hell am I supposed to be myself?


Posted by: Helen at May 12, 2004 06:39 PM

I think as long as you are honest with them you'll do just fine. Do NOT forget though - they are kids and they will push you as far as they can, generally just a bit past the borders you set. The clearer those borders are, the better for all of you.

Posted by: Jim at May 12, 2004 06:36 PM

Let me be a little less than positive... if Melanie is half the brat my sister was at that age, you´ve got a huge load of work ahead of you. Me and my sister went thru 2 step moms, the second one stuck and actually gave us 3 fantastic brother and sisters. But she raised hell. Only to grow out of it, of course. Probably best to take it slow and easy. And always ALWAYS be yourself. Kids can tell if you´re faking, like they have a special radar or something. They tend not to forgive faking. My two cents... Miguel.

Posted by: msd at May 12, 2004 06:36 PM

Melissa is almost 12, and Jeff is 7.

He's off with them right now, and for some reason, I feel all knotted up and stressed out and depressed.

But then, I have just spent my whole fucking day on a train, really. And Mr. Y has had a stressful time today and is a bit weird, too.

Time for the chardonnay.

Posted by: Helen at May 12, 2004 06:16 PM

I have to agree with Clancy, be yourself, and use what you know from your own personal experiences. You'll be fine. I hope you have a wonderful time with them.

Posted by: Sue at May 12, 2004 06:08 PM

Sweetie, there is no way that you'll be a stepmonster. Just recognizing that you are not their mom - and sharing Mr Y with them - will prevent this, as will the fact that hmm, you're not a raging bitch. (!)

That said, take it easy this weekend. Lots of change for everyone involved, so go slow. I would especially give Mr Y plenty of room; he's going to be caught in a very hard situation until the kids adjust - which may be a good long while. Being supportive while asking gently for what you need could go a long way.

And holy crap, I'm turning into a stepmom too - and loving it. Niblet is the greatest kid on earth.

Posted by: Kaetchen at May 12, 2004 04:42 PM

how old are melissa and jeff?

i think as long as they see that your dad is happy, they will be the long run.

i remember the first time my mom went out on a date. my little brother, around 8 at the time, and my sister, about 5 met him at the door. My future step-dad says, "And who is this little man?" To which my sister replied "He's not little, he's BIG!" And so began years of them butting heads. Hahaha, but now they get along great. :-)

Posted by: kat at May 12, 2004 04:12 PM

It feels awfully presumptuous of me to give you advice, but I won't let that stop me. I know you only through your writing. If you can relax and let that inner person who does all of this exceptionally beautiful writing shine through, I think that the kids will come around. Maybe not this visit. Maybe they'll need time, like you and your step-mother did. But it will happen. That much, I'd bank on. Still, may I wish you the best of luck and courage?

Posted by: Random Penseur at May 12, 2004 02:15 PM

I've been in the role of step-father and it is very difficult. When I look back, there are times when I was too much of a friend and not enough of a father. It's a very fine line to dance.

My advise - Be yourself. Don't go out of your way to do, say, or be anything that you think they want you to be. They will see through it faster than you can blink and then they will manipulate you to the end of the earth. Be you, be confident, and don't cave. Understand that no matter how much you may come to love them, and no matter how much they may come to love you, you will never be more than Dad's girlfriend/wife/whatever. As Melanie wrote - it sucks - but that's how it is. Hopefully, when Melissa & Jeff are your age, they will feel for you like you do for your stepmonster.

Sorry to be so bleak...

Posted by: Clancy at May 12, 2004 01:27 PM

my step-children are how I got my domain name - the wiccked one, not the-onion one.
I usually write something like made by melanie, or melanie made it on tha back of birthday cards. one year, on the twins cards I wrote wicked stepmother card co.
and it sort of stuck. was gone though, so it is!

I'm their friend now, but they still ignore me at birthdays and christmas and so on. I think they probably always will. doesn't matter what you do, I don't think. there is always the "disloyalty to their mother" thing somewhere in their subconscious.
I love so easily and always want to give so much, that I had to learn how not to, so I wouldn't keep on getting hurt by them, even though they probably never even realised they were doing it.
they were 10, 10 and 8 way back then.

Posted by: melanie at May 12, 2004 10:08 AM

I can only see you as a supportive friend to Mr Y's childern, the same as you are to hundreds of your virtual friends through out the world. I would not worry about you, I know that we don't. My money is on you!!

PS Great advice to Sue, you are a great friend.

Posted by: greyheadedstranger at May 12, 2004 07:09 AM


To know you is to love you, methinks. Just be yourself and smile a lot. You've got one of those smiles that draws people near and it's bound to work. Hopefully they haven't already formed an opinion of you and even if they have it's certainly not to late to change it.

I so can't see you as a stepmonster (i had one of those too, once).

So, RELAX, first of all, and just enjoy your time with them.

Good luck,

Posted by: Heather at May 12, 2004 06:38 AM
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