Thursday, 3 February 2011

Starting as a Step Mum Part 3

We had our ups and downs in our old house. Mostly it was good times. We all had to learn to understand how to live together and BF and I had to learn to accept that some days, teens are just horrid!

We lived, in our first house together, with the girls with us full time, for nearly two years. One of my most memorable days there was the girls thirteenth birthday party. It was a month early, so that all their friends could attend (it’s in the summer holidays when a lot of them go abroad) and BF and I pulled out all the stops.
We set up a non alcoholic cocktail bar in the kitchen with the food, so the kids could help themselves to the crazy E numbers and additives that make these syrups such hyper juice (one wonders if they would be less high pitched and more sedated drunk but I doubt it). It certainly gets them all squeaky and excitable!

We had a disco going on in the main room and Big Bruva set up in a small room at the top of the stairs. We prepared some questions, about the girls and about silly things their friends had done. We split them into small groups and one group at a time, rather like a production line, we instructed them on what to do and sent them into the Big Bruva room, where they had to talk to the camera and answer the questions. I think we gave them things to describe without saying certain words. Anyway, it turned out to be an absolute hit. Most hilarious! At the end of the party we played it all back for them all to squeal and scream over. And of course techy BF put it on a disk for them all to keep as a memoir.

It was mad. It was mayhem. It was worth it. The girls were totally exhausted by the end of the day. But it was brilliant fun for all of us and so rewarding to see our girlies smile and laugh so much. The floor of the kitichen was so unbelievably sticky and we found half eaten food groups in strange places for weeks afterwards. But it truly was all worth it.

Another memorable day was Christmas. Of course. But this one is my ultimate favourite yuletide memory, because my mum was with us. It felt like a proper chirstmas, a family Christmas card type of Christmas, with far too many gifts under the tree, BF and I cooking together while mum and girls played up at the dinner table, Elvis songs on the stereo, laughter and happiness filling the house. Realising at the last minhute that we did not own napkins and had not thought to purchase serviettes, mum and the girls drew on the kitchen role and made comedy value individual Christmas napkins for everyone.The girls helped my mum learn how to use her new mobile phone. The food was plentiful and delicious. It was all perfectly Christmassy, perfectly family.

But then teen-dome (or is it teen-doom?) really started to take affect. One of our girlies, went AWOL one day when she was supposed to be visiting her mum. After much communication and a certain amount of heartache and worry, we managed to find out she was near by with a group of friends. BF went to investigate, as she has made no contact about going back to her mums and everyone was worried about her. What did he find?

Madam was drinking vodka up an alley with a boy! Tut tut.

She had only had a little to be honest (we saw the bottle) and she burst into tears as soon as she was caught. It transpired she did it out of lack of refusal skills because what she really wanted to do impress was the boy. She came home, repeatedly professing to being reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaally sorry and not a bit drunk. Where in actuality she was really quite tipsy and disorientated. She lay on the couch talking rubbish, her arm waving about as though drunk enough for all of us. We fed her juice and toast and tried not to lecture her too much in the state she was in. That was to come later.

This was the first time her mum had stepped foot in our house and met me. There were no introductions, no friendly small talk. Yet neither was it unfriendly. Just awkward. I felt strange and awkward as said drunken child was lolling around all over me, wanting hugs. I felt a little uneasy for her mum to see this. But it could not be helped. I was doing the best I could. I guess I felt bad for her, having to watch someone else mother her child. But I hoped at least she would be glad that I loved her daughters very much and would always look out for them.

Everyone soon left, our sense of danger over and relief settling into our demeanour. On reflection we had no idea of the things teen-doom would bring us. The stresses, the heart ache, the worry.
But for now we were happy in our ignorance!

Most of teen-doom is natural, most of it they cant help because their brains are trying to develop and it reconnects with their toddler tendencies. They have strops and tantrums, they regress back towards not understanding why they should help with ANYTHING. They are awkward for the sake of it and know it alls when actually they know diddley squat. But you can go with that. Half the time you find yourself and any other adult witness in the house, hiding around doors as you laugh at them and their sheer idiocy, the ridiculous whiney voices they use and or the hilarious explanations they use that seem spun of yarn themselves. Much of teen behaviour can be treated this way, because it is quite literally funny.

But some of it hurts. Some of it is really not funny.
And what is intolerable, or at least was for us, is lying. Lying for no reason. Lying to your face. Lying to cover up a lie. Its becomes almost unconscious to them for a while, like their brain is saying “can lie, will lie,” and it destroys your relationship with them.

It’s one of the life lessons I clearly recall learning from my own mother. She despised lying too and running through my natural course of it when I was a teen, I tried it all.
Lying when I was late (my watch is slow / broken / stopped)
Lying about where I had been. (I had been where is wasn’t supposed to be)
Lying about not doing homework, lying about things I had broken, lying about smoking. The works.
But at one point my mum sat me down and told me that if I continued to lie, she would revoke all privileges, not trust me again EVER until trust was reinstated. On top of that she explained to me what my lying did to her. What it did to our relationship. She laid down the honesty of the situation for two people living together as adults (bless her for being so generous, even though I was still such a brat) I remember it made sense, I had a breakthrough and didn’t lie again. (well maybe little white lies, but certainly not the irrelevant consistent pointless lies) And from that day on our relationship got a lot easier.

The worst situation the girls have thrown at me was when my IPod went missing. Nothing major I guess. But what made the whole thing worse was of course the lying. The lying was dragged out over a couple of days. I even went home from work early to find the bloody thing because I was so sure I knew where I had left it and I wanted to find it. I searched the house from top to bottom, getting more and more frustrated as I ran out of places to search. Then I received a text to say one of the girls had been seen with the IPod. It floored me. I was utterly gutted. Not so much that it had been taken out of my office and taken without permission. But because both their dad and I had repeatedly asked her if she had it. She had said no. And not just a blanket no. Additions to the lie, like “I think you left it....” “Didn’t I see you with it blah blah blah....” an embellished lie! The worst!
So distraught to have already been lied to and having wasted 2 hours of my flexi time, I was exhausted upon the girls return home from school. I confronted the child known to be in permission and guess what? She lied more! I was flabbergasted and somewhat lost for solutions. I ran away and rang BF at work. He soothed me, told me to tell her I knew she had it and ask for it back immediately. No niceties, no messing.

So I did. It worked. She handed it over. All I could say to her was that she had no idea how much that hurt me. I burst into tears and ran and hid in my bedroom.
They both still lie to this day. It’s still unnecessary. It still hurts. And even though we have done everything my mum did and more, they just don’t see it, that lying breaks all the bridges that you build.

And it’s a very strange place to be in when you live with people who you love endlessly but don’t trust one bit. As a parent to teens, you have to keep telling yourself to hang in there, that things will get better, all of the time knowing that your children think their life sucks and they get nothing but a hard time. They think life is unfair? I think parenting is unfair!

And anyone who says any different is lying!

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