Choose your happiness.

One of the things that I have noticed with most stepparents I talk to, is that their problems aren’t usually with the stepchild, per se.  Their problem is the way their significant other treats his/her biological child.  Often, they talk to them like they are infants.  In a non-blended family, I’m sure this also occurs, but isn’t as irritating, because hey, that’s your baby too!  When this infantilization is connected to a child that you are already trying to fit into your new lifestyle and adjust to, it can be annoying, frustrating, and for many new spouses, almost a deal breaker.  If you don’t recognize it, you can subconsciously internalize an animosity for the child that is truly not their fault.  There are a few ways to help with this:

1.  Take a deep breath and realize it’s a super small issue in the grand scheme of life.  

You are with the person you loved and wanted to spend your life with.  You went into this relationship willingly and presumably you knew the strings attached.  We all have strings attached.  So this blended family is a tremendous exercise in compromise.  It will be a struggle, but there are places for you to vent.  Like here!

2.  Spend time with the stepchild.

Spending time together will build a relationship that is lacking in the first place.  You are given an instant family without the parent bonding time you get to develop with your own child over the course of their lives.  Doing little things for the child will also connect you and make you start to feel differently about your relationship.  Make cupcakes for them for school.  Make their favorite food.  Wash their blanket in fabric softener all fresh and clean and have it all set up for them when they are ready for bed-whatever will make that child/teen happy.  Discover what they like and indulge them a bit.  For example, my stepson loves Angry Birds.  I made special Angry Bird magnets for Valentine’s Day to put in his special treat bags for his class.  I felt good about it, he was excited and it was a fun memory to share.  It’s not always easy…but it helps.  It’s part of what I call “creating the mindset you desire”.  I wish to be a sweet, loving stepmom…so I act accordingly.  The hardest part is that with your own child, you often can say what you feel.  You can punish them or redirect them.  With a stepchild, that is a very touchy issue.  In our home, I leave that to my husband.  I tell him if I think something needs to be addressed and he deals with it later in a way that we both see fit. A stepparent has a difficult enough role.  It’s best if they just get to be more of a confidante, friend, mentor, role model-rather than a disciplinarian.

3. Every single day, spend some time alone with your spouse.  

Even if it’s only twenty minutes watching a show before bed, make a routine that is yours.  As your kids get older, you can tell them that they need to be in their rooms by that time (for us it is 9 pm) and settled down.  They can be reading, watching TV, drawing or whatever, but they will also grow to respect that it is time for you two.  Your relationship being solid is good for everyone in the family.  No one wants turmoil, anger and tension.  A nice routine is to have a little glass of wine or cup of tea each night before bed and chat theneveryone goes to bed happy.  We always stop what we are doing and head to our great room with a small glass of wine and watch an episode of one of our favorite shows before heading up to bed.  It’s one of our favorite times of day.

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Photo from http://www.stepfamilyrochester.org/cartoons.html

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Ouch!

Well here we go.  My first injury in ages.  I mean ages.  I’m almost ashamed to mention it beause I’ve been so injury-free through my last couple half marathons and racing seasons…I just don’t know, why now?

Last night I iced them (did the whole RICE) thing, but I can still feel them throbbing and can barely walk.  This happened once last summer too, but you all know how hard it is to take time off from running when you are in training!  Ugh.  Any input?  I know I shouldn’t have trudged through my 35 minute tempo run last night but I can be a fiesty little brat sometimes.  I also think I dropped a nasty word when I had to stop for a sec and make sure I could still stand when I stopped moving.  For some reason the faster I ran, the pain seemed to lessen (maybe just numb).  A little old man in his flower bed, doing some gardening sure got a suprise.  I better take a different route for awhile.

On vacation this week with my precious daughter.  We day tripped to Montreal and got some school shopping done, practiced diving, got her hair cut and spent loads of quality time together, biking and chatting and re-organizing her closet (her choice, she loves that stuff).  And she got a new Shrek Opi nailpolish.  Another variant of blue!  I love staycations.  Today is our loungy, rest day.  Stepson is at his mom’s for two weeks and then he’ll be back with us.   Our kids start school a couple days after Labor Day so it’s not all that far off now.  Are you done your school shopping?  My daughter isn’t so about it this year.  She got a few things, but she wanted enough to start out and then buy more throughout the fall.  Much different than kindergarten when she started with over 35 outfits.  Oh those little Gymboree outfits with matching shoes and hair accessories.  Those were the days.  Cardigan, tights, skirt, sweater and headband…all matchy-matchy.

It’s getting hot in here…

Really, really, really hot in here.  Here in upstate NY, we consider 80 degrees Fahrenheit to be sweltering hot, since we often get below zero temperatures for a large amount of our winter.  I run all winter long, outside.  It has to be very frigid to keep me indoors on my treadmill.  Sometimes in the winter, if I’m in training, I will do my speedwork or interval training on the treadmill, primarily because the track is stacked high with snow!  This week it’s been 90 degrees at 7 pm when I go running.  I still did my normally scheduled runs.  I’m nothing if not determined.  Once I’m in training, I just about never deviate from my schedule.  It really helps to choose a training plan and adhere to it.  Somehow it helps as a motivator.  An additional motivator is all those nasty toxins I’m sweating out of my body on a run like that.

This all relates to stepparenting and single parenting for me in one very simple way.  When you feel good about your body, you feel good about yourself and you are able to release all that stress that those two dynamics can build up.  It’s the one good thing that is for ME and me alone, that schedules right into my life.  It’s taken a long time, but everyone expects my running now.  No one feels it takes time away from them, the whole family is proud and my daughter loves coming to the track to time my speed workouts.  Before I remarried, I used to run on a treadmill almost all the time.  I didn’t race as much back then, but I got my running in.  It’s my sanity.  And probably part of the reason I’m very laid back and less stressed than most of my friends.  And when my daughter’s father manages to somehow get on my nerves (it happens occasionally, even now) running to some loud angry music really makes it all go away.  Really.

Anybody interested in running?  I’d love to help and give advice-I want to motivate all of you.  🙂  And for my runner friends, especially those fast ones, help motivate me to bust out a great half-marathon in October!

Name change?

I’m going to start regular posting again, as I’ve had some people mention that they are having a hard time finding a blog that deals with blended families.  My question for all of you is…should I change the blog title from “Former Single Mommy”?  If so, any suggestions?  Catchy of course, is always good.

I think we’ve done a good job with our “blending”, now that we are three years into it, I feel like I can discuss it much better and with more detail.  I do have to say that the road isn’t easy or for the meek.  It’s been a very interesting transition, one that I am excited to share with all of you.  And hopefully, it will help those of you who are just entering this new life, to feel less alone and to have a place to vent.

For my single mom friends…I still want to remain part of your chats as well, since that part of my life is very dear to me.  And as those with blended families will assure you, once a single mom, always a single mom.  🙂  I definitely have my own parenting thing going on, in addition to the blended situation.

For those unfamiliar with my dynamic, I married a man who has full-custody of his eight year old son.  The son does go to his mother’s quite often.  Every other weekend and more frequently on school vacations.  More on how this came to be, later.

Roll call…anyone else out there?

Lightning McQueen Red Please!

Or so my stepson said when I asked what he wanted his room to look like.  It was time to cover up the Thomas the train mistake that his Daddy’s ex-girlfriend had painted on there a long time ago.  It was so fun to laugh at though!

And the really bad painting job she did (jab,jab)…

And it became THIS!

And then I ran this race with my Mom the next day!

And we did well!!!  Can’t wait for the next one.

 

Letting go…nope, never.

This picture was taken at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kona Hawaii, not too far from the beach we were married on this January.  She’s only eight, but it is in pictures like these, that I see her teen self starting to emerge.  

How I hope she keeps those bright, engaging eyes and her confident, self-assured personality!  I hope she loses a little bit of that eagerness to please everyone, that I see in her now and then.  Voice your opinion, I tell her.  Stand up to people for what you believe!  Even to me.  And she does…a little more each day…but it’s a work in progress.  I hope she keeps this beautiful smell and her spattering of freckles across her nose.  I hope she knows how amazing she is.  Every day of her life, I tuck her to bed with “You are a beautiful, amazing, creative girl and your Mommy loves you so very much!”.  If I stall on saying it, she says, “You can’t go yet…you haven’t said it”.  When I once went on a vacation without her, I recorded my voice saying it to her on this little Christmas ornament that records a message, so my wonderful mother could play it for her every night.  My mom accidentally recorded blank airtime over it and had to re-record it in her own voice and screwed up the order of what to say…but my little princess never hurt her Nana by pointing that out.  But she knew.  We often talk of how funny it is that I wanted a boy!  I so didn’t want to share her Daddy, that I wanted a boy, so I’d always be his only girl.  When we found out at her sonogram that she was a SHE…I was at a loss.  Obviously, I adapted.  🙂  She thinks its hilarious.  And I can’t imagine who I’d be if I hadn’t had HER.  She redefined my whole concept of femininity and how incredulous being a girl is.  My new husband says, “You just wait.  My son is hard now, but B will give you a hard time in a few years…you won’t be so close”.  I beg to differ.  When I mentioned that to B, she said “He doesn’t know a thing, does he?  I’ll always cuddle you, even when you come see me at college”.  I sincerely think she will.  I’ve seen other moms of 14 year olds who tell me they still have a bond like that with their girls.  My dental hygenist told me last week, that her 14 year old is an old soul who still loves her mother just the same and still is very, very bonded.  I know we’ll have rough patches, who doesn’t?  But I think that 5 years spent alone with her and my close attention to her and respecting her…well, I just think we’ll work through it all just fine.  If my own mother (who I’m very close to now) had just been more open with me, and more approachable, well, I would have told her more.  I strive to be strict, but not unreasonable.  I can even be negotiated with and I’ve been known to tell her, yeah, she’s right…I’m sorry.  She helps me think of appropriate punishments, and trust me, she is pretty hard on herself!  My punishments are sometimes easier!

 

Hey wait, I don’t get to go with her when she goes to college?  WHAT?

I love you B.  And I wish you weren’t at school and I wasn’t at work, and we were out on our bikes, tearing up a mountain trail.  You go girl.  

Former Single Mom, yeah I guess so. :(

 

Ok, so here’s the reply to a few questions from Ms. Single Mama  a single mom whose blog I just love!  It’s my new discovery, but I’m sure I’ll be going back there often.

 

So going from the transition of single mom, to having a husband again is…well, an adjustment.  I wanted this so badly.  Some other time, I’ll have to tell the story of my husband and I on here.  I didn’t save it from my old blog.  (Bad Shannon, no more deleting blogs!).  But after two years of realizing that he was the one for me and missing him oh-so-much (albeit glorified because he was with someone else during that time and you know that whole thing about hindsight), I was willing to do things I’d said before I would never, never, no never, do again.  I wanted marriage, I wanted one house, I wanted a family.  Yikes.  Now, where did Shannon go?  Actually, that’s what he said.  But he was very happy, since that’s the girl he’d wanted all along.  So, fast forward to us living together for about 6 months before we got married.  Yay fun times!  Slumber parties, whoa we are busy, his son starts kindergarten, B’s activities begin to pick up, planning our Hawaiian vacation, the holidays, high speed all the way.  Then, we’re in Hawaii in January, recently engaged and what do you know, we plan a wedding while we are there and get married with our two kids in tow, rejoicing all the way! La-de-da.  Now we are back home and it’s daily routines and regular living.  Which I’m good at, really I am!  But I think I’m used to doing everything on my own and wowee do boys generate way more dirt!  🙂  They’re kinda messy folk.  The laundry quadrupled instead of doubling, now I have to cook a legitimate meal and you know what, my husband seems kind of different now that he’s my husband.  I think this is what we do.  We are so used to doing it all on our own and we do it so well, that when other people come in, we do not want to relinquish control.   Of anything.  I think I struggle with that a great deal.  And do we EVER have different parenting styles.  I’m more strict and definitely in control.  He thinks he doesn’t want to be “that kind of dad”, so is a bit lax (I’m being kind).  Raising another womans child is really tough.  Part of me feels bad for her.  Part of me is angry at her for not doing her job right (she wants to by the way, she wishes she could have him back) and part of me thinks I may have been nuts to jump into all this.  It’s an ongoing transition and I will definitely post and sometimes gripe about this on a regular basis.  Little things are hard to get used to.  I miss sleeping with my girl so I make a point to go somewhere with her once a month where we can sleep together and cuddle our hearts out.  I still do lay with her in bed awhile at night and lay with her to wake her up.  But STILL.  I miss my baby.  

Hmmm.  As for how much a partner really helps.  Well, he mows the lawn and does the outside stuff that my Dad used to help with, or various male friends or neighbors.  But I’m pretty self sufficient.  I do have more free time.  If I ASK, he will bring out the garbage or the recyclables or take my car for a wash.  He would even do laundry, although not really how it should be done.  So it helps.  Some.  But I never hated doing that stuff anyway.  It’s nice to have the financial relieft for sure!  I’ve always had a good job but now we are taking vacations and doing bigger things and in a bigger house.  That’s nice.  Especially for the peace of mind we single moms didn’t often get in regards to financial things.  That’s probably the biggest positive change.  That and the back and foot rubs.  

Ok, so although this is a brief answer to something I could talk for days about, there is one more question she mentioned.  I do not feel that his son is one of my own.  No, no, no.  I think he feels more that B is like one of his own, but that is a personality thing.  His son is a different kind of person, not easy to care for at all and has some very special needs and issues, so maybe that’s it.  Maybe not.  He loved my daughter when he first met her around 5 years ago and that completely freaked me out.  Not sure why, everyone loves her.  It shouldn’t have surprised me.  She’s bubbly and happy almost all the time and just a radiant little firecracker with a douse of mischief in her sparkle.  But I did not want to share her.  Actually I still don’t.  But she likes it.  She thrives off it.  And the odd part is, I became very close with another single mom that my ex-husband dated (our daughters became very close and we decided that they should remain friends) and she said she loved my daughter from the beginning too.  I love her girls very much.  Actually, my nephew is someone I loved from the moment he was delivered.  I felt heartwrenching love for him.  So it’s not that I don’t have that ability with other kids.  I’ve heard stepmoms may feel jealous so ok, maybe that?  But I do think he needs a bit more corrective parenting and I gently guide him.  I NEVER yell, would NEVER NEVER NEVER spank or physically punish him and I look out for his well-being all the time.  If I have any issues with him, I talk to his Dad privately and let him address it.  If I’m home alone with him and he does something that needs correcting, I do that as I would if I was babysitting.  I don’t let him misbehave, but I’m certainly not playing the evil stepmom either.  My guideline is I do what I would want my husband to do if the roles were reversed.  I don’t expect that anyone will love B the way I do-there is research proving that the chemicals involved in the mother/child bond run deep and pervade.  And everything I have encountered says you can’t expect to love someone right away…and that you may never feel that-after all, you fell in love with the parent.  Sometimes people are really lucky, and love the child right from the start.  But I won’t lie.  It’s a hairy situation.  You are expected to live with and raise someone else’s child and treat it equal to your own. But you don’t have the real authority to discipline or make core decisions in most instances. Let’s be honest.  With someone who has been a single mom, that won’t really happen.  Our tie is a blood tie.  That child is our everything.  No man can replace that.  Now I am sure there are some single dads who have this dynamic.  In my own experience, those aren’t the guys I’ve run into it-so it seems it may work differently for men.  We all love very differently.  When my daughter is away from me, even at school I miss her.  I ache for her on the weekends she goes to her Dads.  I’ve not yet met the father who has that going on.  And my husband fought for full custody of his son to keep him safe.  I think thats the difference.  Responsibility plays hard in the male psyche.  I get a different husband when his son goes to visit his mom.  He’s more relaxed and less stressed.  So.  If I could give advice, probably it’s easier to have one of the two people getting married to NOT have full custody.  Then you have the occasional reprieve.  This may sound harsh and it’s probably not as clear as I want it to be, but it’s the best I could do while still getting work done.  And, I’m sure there are exceptions.  I can only offer my experience.  In addition, I’m pretty laid back.  If you aren’t…then this situation I’m in is definitely not a wise choice.  You kind of have to just roll with it.  I know my child inside and out…and this other child is a very different animal.