Saturday, 5 June 2010

Daughter in tears

An example: My 14 yo is beautiful – inside and out. Overly sensitive sometimes, she’s a joy to be with and I love spending time with her.

Then she got a boyfriend who was messing her around. I watched, not wanting to interfere but worried for her.

One evening, she was on Messenger Chat, clearly trying to solve an argument (never a good idea online, it’s true) and she was getting upset. She was actually typing with little tears running down her cheeks. Step-dad asked her to switch it off and go finish her chore. She asked him for more time. He said no. I was witnessing all this feeling really sad for her. I whispered to him to allow her more time, but he refused. Eventually, he shouted at her and took her laptop away. Now in floods of tears, she ran out of the room and slammed the door. What did he do? Called her back and made her apologise for slamming the door. When she had been in her room for half an hour, I said I might go up and make sure she was alright. He said no. He told me I was being too soft with her and making a rod for my own back. I went up anyway, and gave her a big hug so she could go to sleep knowing her Mum cared about her feelings.

I came downstairs to a hostile husband, ready for a row. I went to bed, but he followed, shouting at me that I was a bad parent, that my daughters would go off the rails without him there to discipline them. Same old same old.

I’m still glad I did it.

Counselling Session #3

The other two counselling sessions have gone ok; neither of us has really got cross, or said anything the other didn't know about.

Tonight was different.

We discussed in depth, that sticky subject – parenting. It’s where all the problems originate. In a nutshell, he wants to parent my daughters, and I don’t want him to. They have a lovely (if too soft) Dad and a very strong Mum; they don’t need an overbearing step-dad. They need a friendly step-dad. I know the role of step-dad is not an easy one; but I think I’m doing ok as a step-mum – I don’t try to parent his daughter; instead, I take the role of big sister, or aunt. After all, she already has a Mum.

Coupled with this, our parenting styles are very different. I think I’m firm but fair. He’s firm but firm. I love to spend time with my daughters, talking about their day and listening to their chatter at mealtimes. He likes peace and quiet, and mealtimes for grown-ups only. Weekends are a constant battle between time for us, and time with them. I like to divide my time equally; he wants me all to himself for the weekend with no kids at all (except his of course).

I have asked him repeatedly over all the years we’ve been together, NOT to try to parent my daughters. He persists in doing so, making us all (including him) miserable. Now it was the counsellor’s turn. She told him to try not to parent them unless it affected him directly, for example if they were being noisy. He said he didn’t want to stop parenting them. I said I would never accept his style of parenting and I wanted him to stop. She told him again to stop, but he said he would find it too difficult. She asked me which I would prefer – him to carry on parenting and us all live together, or would I be happier if he moved out. I replied without hesitation: “If he does not stop trying to parent my daughters I don’t want to live with him”.

As we drove away, he said “well done – you’ve won”. He packed the car and left. Only for the weekend, but it’s a start. A weekend of freedom is ahead of me and it feels great.

Small price to pay

On Wednesday, I had a dreadful shock. The awful shootings in Cumbria were horrific enough, but upon phoning my ex in South Lakes to check he knew (he didn't), he then told me in a very shaky voice that my 12 yo was with friends on the coast, about 10 miles from Whitehaven. The next few hours were some of the worst of my life, as he located her, had her taken to someplace safe, and then finally, we were told that the gunman had been found dead. I was weak with relief. Somehow, I got through the next three hours trying to catch up with the work that I had missed, until eventually at 5.30pm, I was spent - emotionally and mentally. I switched off my computer, grabbed my dog, and headed out into the sunshine for a walk.

I had been trying to call my husband all day to appraise him of the situation (he told me later I was overreacting) and called him again as I was leaving the house to check when he'd be home, but there was no answer. Half an hour later, when I was sitting with my dog admiring the view, he called me to tell me he was home. Clearly annoyed I wasn't there to greet him, so I invited him to join me, but he declined, saying he was too tired. I finished my walk, and headed home with some trepidation about what mood I would find him in....

When I got home, he was clearly not happy with me. I tried to keep things light. "What would you like for supper darling?" I asked him in a bright voice. We had little fresh in the fridge (mea culpa) so I offered to pop out to the local supermarket to pick some things up. I then got back, unpacked it all, cooked him a lovely meal and served it to him on his knee in front of the tv.

At 9.30pm, my lovely 14 yo waltzes through the door, just back from a school trip to Disneyland. Tired, but full of news to tell me about what they'd got up to, where they'd been, who had done what to whom, etc. Sensing my husband's displeasure, I took her into the kitchen where she told me all about it. I put on a pizza for her, and we had a lovely girly chat. When she'd finished, I invited her into the living room, but realised my mistake straight away by the look on his face. He didn't want her there. Within ten minutes, he'd gone to bed in a mood.

We snuggled up on the sofa together and watched Junior Apprentice. Lovely.

But I would pay for it later.