What would I have done differently? Learned more about Junior’s special needs before getting the test. ADHD, LD, Socially delayed. It wouldn’t have stopped the crisis that happened in 2007, but maybe there wouldn’t have been as much drama and chaos that followed if I had known more and was able to draw on knowing more than nothing about how his challenges played into the new family dynamics. In addition…
1. I am the ONLY variable. Marrying a man with kids (and I brought two of mine own into our marriage) is like marrying a pre-existing condition. My husband’s relationship with his ex-wife pre-existed before me. My husband’s relationships with all four of his children pre-existed before me. Junior’s issues pre-existed before me. When I realized this, I stepped way back. I didn’t break anything; therefore it was not my job to try and fix anything or change anything. Accepting the reality of our situation (and not some “thing” that should be one way or another) helped me and my husband better manage and handle StepLife.
2. Setting boundaries benefits EVERYONE. The first boundary I set was a physical boundary – the master bedroom is off limits unless by express invitation. This, of course, came as a shock to Junior because he had been used to just “hanging out” is his dad’s bedroom. The first time that Junior came in my bedroom and rearranged my dresser was the last. I did not offer a shrill ultimatum but instead explained to my husband why I needed the bedroom off limits to children and he agreed. The second boundary I set was an emotional boundary. My husband’s ex-wife was used to using him as a sounding board for all her personal problems and relationship issues. She made the mistake of sucking up 30 minutes of his time. He made the mistake of allowing her to do it. Once again, no shrill ultimatum from me, just a conversation between me and my guy. I explained to him how that made me feel, where those feelings came from, and that his ex-wife (who initiated their divorce,) she no longer had that privilege and that as his wife, his emotional time belonged to me. Good thing my husband is not a block head. He got it. And he told me “You’re right, I need to treat her like my EX-wife.”
3. This is more of an observation. Stepfamilies, Stepmoms in particular, go from crisis to crisis without doing the necessary work in-between. They don’t work on their marriage, they don’t work on themselves. They don’t realize that it’s not the other person, that it’s mostly a faulty set of tapes that play incessantly in their own head. Taking responsibility for one’s choices and decisions is hard, but it is the path to personal freedom. Blaming others, incessant complaining, and the constant making excuses is what keeps people trapped in the trauma of drama. And for some, it becomes an addiction. There are those who want to complain to hear themselves complain.