A letter from a step parent.

So I have had the black dog barking at me for a while now and some days are better then others. But all April and May (minus a couple days) have been hell. 

I’m not going into details to why, but this is more or less a reminder to think of other people when you make decisions.

I’m in bed by 330pm. I’m not eating every day – or week. The spontaneous crying over literally nothing. Then there is the anxiety too. 

But as I battle the demons in my head, I’ve had a few recaps of previous memories I have forgotten about, and some decisions I have made in good faith and some proving to be wrong and I feel myself regretting some of these decisions. So here are a few things I want each of you to know.

  • I have social anxiety. If you haven’t picked up on that yet, sorry, but you haven’t been paying attention.
  • When, not if, but when I do have a conversation with you, please meet me half way. My husband knows this, my younger kids know this. But for everyone else, it is a huge battle for me to not only talk, but holding the conversation or starting one is really hard for me.
  • To my kids and step kids. I tried so hard and I still am trying, but please remember the parent over rules the friend when asking me for advise, talking to me, or even living in my house.
  • All those times over the years when I said no, it wasn’t because I don’t love you, it wasn’t because I was being spiteful and it wasn’t because I wanted to say no. It was because you were starting to intrude in peoples personal space, you were being annoying to me or someone else, you were asking for stuff I didn’t have the money for, you were asking for too much at once, we had no way of getting you there, or you were taking advantage of us.
  • As a child, teen, even a young adult, and adults, you don’t understand until you have a family to raise, to keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, gas for your hot showers, electricity for your games and phones and to cook your food, food in your stomachs, petrol to get to work and schools, and an education in your brain. That to me is more important than brand named items, outings with your friends whenever possible, keeping up with the Jones’s and even club sports.
  • As you got older I tried my hardest to step back a bit. I let you all out more and longer, I trusted you all to do your homework and assignments without my “nagging”, to be home by curfew, to be honest, to make the correct choice in food without me looking over your shoulders, to tell me or your father where you all are and where you are all going. And because of that, you all earned my trust in that. You never faltered or lied. You all were honest. And that’s how I planned on raising you all, to be honest and open.
  • But, and it is a big but, half of all these little kids I have been raising for 12 years have grown and graduated. And as proud as I am of you all, and trust me, if I was any prouder I will burst, you have surpassed me and your father, but I am highly disappointed as well. I couldn’t ask for a better family when you were all children, toddlers and babies, but how hard is it to ring? To visit? Especially when one basically lives around the corner at a friends house? The other is down the road every Sunday. One goes out of his way to visit his grandmother but can’t drive a further 3 minutes and doesn’t tell us his around till after he leaves.
  • Your father and I scratched together money for years before we became financially stable, to feed you all, to spend our last $20 on medicine. We supported you all through relationship break ups, friendship break ups, financially, let you all move in and out repeatedly, put up with all the bad choices that were made, lend you anything you all needed for a day, week, a year, when you asked us to buy a washing machine, a car seat, frying pan, a new bed, we did it, without hesitation. When you all asked for a room to be painted, a bed to fix, fix a dryer, buy the food for your little parties, we did it. When you need a lift three hours away, getting you a job, needed to be picked up two hours away from home, needed medicine, nappies, a car trailer, we did it. A couple of those may have taken a few phone calls, we may have owed a few people a six pack, we may have cashed in on a favour or two, but we did it. No second thoughts. There was none needed. Why? Because that’s what parents do. We look out for you. 
  • A thank you would be nice. And there are plenty of ways of thanking people. You can say it. You can show it in a hug. You can buy flowers, beer, chocolate, a thank you card. You can show up to events we invite you to. You can visit without it feeling like a chore. You can message us back when we text you. Ring us back when you missed our calls. Reply to the message dad commented on your Facebook photo. You can help out around the house. You can ask if anything needs doing, from changing a light bulb, checking the oil in the car for me, changing the batteries in the smoke alarm, offering to babysit your younger siblings, offer to fill the car and bike tyres, to even mowing. Bring your kids around and let them play outside, let them laugh, let them stay without you watching like a hawk. Because that’s how you show your appreciation towards someone that helped raise you, that would do anything for you, that tried their hardest, that prayed that every decision made was a good one. To some one that treated you like their own child, their own flesh and blood. To some one that had arguments with family and friends defending you. That’s how you show your appreciation to a parent and step parent. When I get asked how many kids do I have, I PROUDLY count you all, blood or not.
  • I just wish you will tell me happy mothers day. I wish you would ring me for my birthday. I wish you could see the hard work I put in. I wish you would acknowledge me. I wish I mattered.
  • You do not thank some one by sitting in front of a screen all day everyday and not offering to help pay for the internet bill because you put us over our quota. You do not say thank you by telling us the house is a mess from the younger kids and not offer to help fold washing, or sweep the floor. You do not say thank you by only appearing at dinner time, eat your dinner and not offer to help with dishes, clean up the table or help even help distract the kids.  You don’t say thank you when I have done your washing and its all folded for you by leaving it there for two weeks. You don’t say thank you by ignoring us, talking smack about us to your mates/partners or by being down right rude and arrogant. Because that was not how you all were raised in my household.
  • Do not invite everyone in front of us to a function and not invite us.
  • Do not whinge you don’t get invited because we got sick of asking you to come do stuff with us and you keep turning us down.
  • Do not use your own kids as an excuse when I can use the same one but I don’t.
  • Do not whinge your younger siblings resent you and don’t listen to you when you can’t make the time in the day to visit them. Seeing them for 5 minutes every 6 months does not count as a visit when you do come over.
  • Do not judge your other siblings on their mistakes when you are making the exact same one.
  • Don’t say one thing and do another. That’s being a hypocrite. Seriously, it is, look it up.
  • Do not let your partner/s have a higher say then you when its your side of the family. And vice versa. Just because the girlfriend don’t like us doesnt mean you have to cut us off. Family is more important than a 4 month old relationship.
  • Do not tell us we are lazy when we have been working since it was legal, my job may be unpaid, but it was hard work trying to teach you and raise you all, obviously I missed teaching you all about respect.
  • Don’t tell me to get a real job, I volunteer, I contribute to my community and I LOVE what I do, what do you think keeps me sane? What have you contributed to your community?
  • In my household, you were all raised to do chores, to clean your rooms, do dishes, help your father mow, help him fix things, help me cook and bake. In my household, you were raised to think of others before yourselves. But as you all got older, it all went. And all your father and I got were rude, arrogant young adults that do think of others before themselves except for when it involves your father and your stepmother. 

Then there are these to are for everyone in my family.

  • Don’t force me to attend to functions all the time. My anxiety has gotten worse since I saw you last.
  • Don’t talk to me about something I told you last time I saw you when you saw how upset I got the first time.
  • Stop expecting me to come to these functions every time.
  • Stop asking me and my family to expensive gatherings every time one is on. We rather a BBQ or picnics or beach or river trips instead of rock clubs, car shows, fetes and fairs, cinemas, and restaurants. Plus I have more kids with me then anyone else.
  • Stop expecting me to bring five bowls of food. Just because my family is bigger doesn’t mean they eat more. We have four adult children now, they can bring their own plate, and I only have one good eater, the rest are fussy and won’t eat it and I don’t eat lunch unless I want to, not when I am told to.
  • Stop expecting us to invite our older children when you all clearly see them way more then we do. Do it yourselves and let us know afterwards.
  • When we have reunions and large family gatherings, please, for the sake of my sanity, please have it some where intimate and private. Not open where every man and their dog can see us and all our kids are jumbled and lost. It is a huge accomplishment just for me to attend.
  • Don’t expect me to offer help when no one has offered it to me.
  • Just because I am smiling or laughing doesn’t mean I’m not depressed. Don’t tell me I’m not.
  • Yes I am on medication, I don’t care if its good or bad for me, I will let the doctor know when and if I do get side affects.
  • I’m on medication because I tried to deal with this unmedicated for a year to no avail, don’t tell me I don’t need it or its in my head.
  • I hate going out when my son is involved. I know his moods better then anyone else, I monitor his moods, I know a piss off button activated when I see it. Don’t tell me I need to be harsher. Don’t yell at him, he will not listen unless its from me or his father. Don’t expect any emotion such as hugs and kisses, he can’t stand to be touched by surprise. Don’t stir him up for the love of god. Don’t tease him, even when you are joking, he doesn’t understand your sense of humour. Don’t force him to eat, I have to deal with that meltdown every night, don’t make me do it through the day too – he will eat when he is hungry and when we get home because even though I tried explaining it to you all, you can’t force a child with sensory to eat.
  • Don’t plan something and lock the date in then tell me. If you want me to help you, let’s negotiate a date first. I am a busy person, no I can’t work around it, don’t expect me to drop my previous engagement because that date suited you better. If its a wedding or funeral or birthday dinner fine, bit if you want to do a gathering of lots of people, ask them what dates suits them. Don’t just expect people to turn up because you told them to.
  • If you ring me, expect the phone call to be short. Chances are I’m busy, um wrangling kids in, I’m “working” or I’ve hit my depression and I’m in bed already.
  • When I am out and you happen to see me, say hi. Chances are I won’t see you till you draw attention to yourselves. Don’t be rude, because if I do happen to see you and notice you saw me and walk off without a wave or smile, I will judge you for that. Because you will make me think I am in the wrong.

Now you all want to know why? What’s with all this? What’s the point of it all?

This. One of my children has Aspergers also know as ASD. He barely even sits on the spectrum. It is also known as high functioning autism. But what actually sits him the is his Sensory Processing Disorder. He suffers from anxiety, like when he knows people will touch him when we are out. He knows people will “tease” him. People will try and make him eat food he can’t swallow. People will then criticize me and he will hear it and it makes him slightly more nervous and anxious and upset. He will then have a meltdown and he knows we only got there, but the minute we get there he tries not to beg to go home.

His sensory is worse. He doesn’t eat a lot of foods. He can’t stand the touch of certain materials. He use to freak out at loud noises, but we have gotten real good at that one. He hates his routine scrambled because he has a layout of a timetable in his head of what he does and for how long, all in his head. He can’t sleep unless he is in his own house. He can’t sleep unless I am home when he goes to bed.

I’ve walked through me front door from my girls night out before finding him on the top bunk against a window waiting for me(but he refuses to sleep there when we have a guest over for the night), behind his bedroom door, even in the hallway. But that only happens when his father is home with them.

I had a babysitter one night when me and my partners plans have crashed on the same night and he had to attend a work function and I had one too, when I came home late that night, I had trouble opening the front door and found my boy asleep there. He s babysitter explained what happened, which was what I had predicted.

Because of this one child my anxiety gets worse when we are out and about. I get questions in my head such as, who will set him off, will he eat, will he behave, do I have to attend? Stuff like that. Then we see the older kids and they have the galls to tell us we discipline him wrong, we baby him. Mate, we babied you. My parenting style has changed, I admit that, it is more relaxed and hell of a lot more confident then it was when I started. I didn’t start my parenting with just a baby. I started with kids from 11 down to a newborn.

      So when you see you parents next learn from my family’s mistakes and say thank you. Because it is hard work being a parent. But its not hard to show your appreciation. Please think about these as well if some one you love has anxiety. It is highly important.

      My anxiety has gotten worse because I now doubt myself on my parental techniques because of how my family treats me. Anxiety, social anxiety, depression, OCD, sensory. This is what I deal with, every day. Please be nice to your loved ones. Who cares if she is your step mum or he is your step dad. It proves they stepped up, they are trying. They are making an effort. 

      And my family, please remember all the things I tried to do to help you all. You all think it was just your father, but I was also calling the shots, not just him. I tell him to pick you guys up, I tell him to visit you, u tell him to invite you, I tell him to ask you if you need anything. I tell him to give you money. It was me in the shadows.

      Through broken bones to broken hearts. Chicken pox and the flu. Through good days and bad days. Getting you all from school to sitting down and helping with homework while trying to cook dinner.

      Taking you to the doctors to try and find out what was wrong with one child, get another on the pill, to help fix your migraines, your period pain, bent over backwards when you broke your legs. Waited on you hand and foot when you were I’ll. Emptied spew buckets and cleaned dirty jocks. Because that is what a mother does. Blood or not.

      I know I’m not your mother, but I tried to be a mother for you all when she wasn’t around. You were all so sad most of the time when I first met you all. I didn’t want to replace your mother, I just wanted to let you all know I was there and still am when you needed a mum.

      And I will still love you all as much as possible.  But guys, please stop hurting us.