And then there were five…

006For the first time in a very long time I listened to the hubster on the phone to his nine year old daughter last week, looking cheerful, sounding positive and actually arranging for her to come and spend some time with us over the weekend.

I’m not going to lie, in the past I have anticipated her visits with a mixture of reluctance and dread. The fact of the matter is that when JJ was born things really changed for all of us and her behaviour and attitude around us became a little bit stroppy, moody and miserable. As JJ got older and began hitting his milestones she would do everything in her power to put obstacles in his way or make him cry (I clearly remember her moving objects further and further from his reach as he was just learning to crawl which might sound like healthy encouragement, but actually I think you’re meant to let the baby reach their goal once in a while!).

As a toddler she knew how to push every button to tip him over the edge and every time we chastised her it would all end in her playing the wounded and wronged unwanted and unloved step-child routine and sobbing down the phone to her mother as if we had shackled her to a rusty radiator and left her with a bowl of water and a piece of stale bread for 48 hours (we hadn’t!).

At the age of three (and her at 8) she took on the role of bossy, strict, know-it-all voice of authority, ordering him around, enrolling him in ‘projects’ he wasn’t really up for and harshly berating him for anything and everything, sniggering openly at the meltdowns she induced.

After this description you might imagine that he learned to hate her but this is very far from the truth. He loves the girl and still gets excited about seeing her.

And don’t suppose that I don’t understand why she has behaved in this way – I am not unsympathetic to the fact that she is the child of a ‘broken’ home  although it took me a while to really believe that her behaviour was borne of any kind of desire to belong with us (God knows we’re not the perfect family).

Which leads me to the present day. For the most part this weekend was a good one with her. Since EJ was born we’ve seen very little of her as she seems to have constant sleepovers at a friend’s house on weekends and has shown no interest in spending time with us. So when she voluntarily agreed to come over and spend the night I was surprised. She even requested a sleepover on the floor of JJ’s room despite being warned about his (adorable!) snoring. She played nicely with him and the bickering was kept to a minimum. She helped him build an indoor den, kept him occupied with improvised games and actually seemed to be enjoying herself. Very tellingly EJ (20 months) saw her after his nap and walked straight over to her, giving her a sleepy cuddle. She remarked on how much he had changed since she last spent any time with him (last August, right before he started walking).

I had an excuse to actually unfold the dining table and cook a meal (sausage, mash and peas!) that we could all enjoy together and it was indeed like being a family of five.

I’m not sure if any of this has anything to do with the fact that her mother’s new partner moved in with them last October and she gave birth to another little girl in February. Having a newborn around must be unsettling and in effect the girl’s world has been dramatically altered – it is no longer her and her mum against the world. She has yet again been given a reason to feel like she’s falling into a gap between two worlds.

Maybe I’m a bad person because I’ve found it hard to embrace her as my own – I just feel like so many obstacles have been thrown between us and her hard faced attitude has made me want to push her away, but these recent chinks in her armour show that she is feeling the vulnerability and I hope that it might be the beginning of a less guarded and confrontational relationship between us all.

Certainly seeing the children playing together this weekend was a bit of a magic moment!

 


That was unexpected…

happyland girl in pushchair

Back in 2005 I was young (30-something!) free and single. I had previously been married (for 7 months!) and divorced but never had I felt any kind of biological ticking (fortunately!). I was on the lookout for my next victim love but, when you get to such a ripe old age you become quite picky. At the age of 22 you may have been quite happy to date a smoker/workaholic/football fanatic/[add personal bugbear here] but you learn from your mistakes and a subtle “vetting” process inserts itself into your dealings with the opposite sex (maybe I should have just gone all out and created a tickbox survey and spreadsheet…) So when I met the hubster I was resistant to his charms for some time.

To this day he will happily tell all and sundry that I refused to date him for months because, in my words, he was too short, too young (four years my junior) and had a daughter from a previous relationship. Let me explain my thought process – firstly Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman/Katie Holmes Syndrome – I just didn’t want to end up standing in a hole next to a man in platforms on my wedding day, alright? Secondly, what could be worse than spending the rest of your life with someone who’s going to constantly remind you how old you are? Thirdly, a child from a previous relationship? In my mind this spoke of acrimonious and ongoing dealings with your partner’s ex and a never-ending competition of popularity for your partner’s focus and attention (which you can never really win) selfish as that may sound.

To cut a long story short I gave in to the pressure – he turned out to be someone I felt completely at ease with – we made each other laugh and, after some unpleasant dating experiences previously, I knew that I had found someone who was serious about liking me for me and who wanted to make a commitment for the future.

Then I met his daughter just as she was turning two. And I fell in love with this adorable little girl. And that was completely unexpected. I was there to witness her potty training, developing language and flourishing little personality. One time she actually turned to me (at the Tescos checkout as I recall) and told me that I was her best friend. I was there for bathtimes and pajamas, Christmas celebrations and birthdays.

And then I felt a strange sensation from deep within, tick tock, tick tock. It was more than just the biological clock though, it was all bound up with the frustrations of knowing that, despite our bond, at the end of the day I was no-one to this little girl who would fiercely defend her mother to the ends of the earth (and yes, the acrimonious relationship with the ex did hold full sway in our lives for many years and is only now subsiding as she has recently given birth to a second child with another partner ten years down the line). When my step-daughter turned 5 I gave birth to JJ (exactly two years after our first attempts to conceive), followed, two years and 10 months later by EJ.

Unfortunately our relationship with my step-daughter has fallen away quite considerably as she has got older and I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel that same bond that I once did. But I am so thankful that I was able to have children of my own – I always knew that I wanted to be a mother one day but it took an awful long time for that urge to kick in and it still surprises me how fierce it was and how unexpected a sensation.

This post was inspired by this week’s Prompt conceived by Sara over at Mum Turned Mom. I have also recently discovered another new linky called Share with Me over at Let’s Talk Mommy so I’m giving that a go too!

mumturnedmom

At the swings today: how we laughed

For the first time in several weeks we had a chance to spend a little bit of time with the hubster’s 9 year old daughter this afternoon. Of course JJ was thrilled – he loves her to bits although, like all siblings, they generally end up fighting like cats and dogs.

Today they were treated to lunch out at one of the hubster’s favourite lunch spots – Morrisons!! As I was at home whilst EJ napped I can’t comment on that. However when they returned we all decided to go out en masse down to our local recreation ground  for swings and ice cream.

Once we had our 99s we decamped to the littlies playzone and hubster was tasked with pushing both boys on the swings whilst myself and No.1. stepdaughter sat down next to another woman on a park bench to finish off our ice creams.

We had missed our chance of seeing her the previous weekend because she had been off camping with friends so I asked her where she’d been and if she’d had a nice time. After the briefest of answers she turned to me and said “I can’t believe you’ve had two boys inside you” motioning to her brothers, and then really loudly “you’ve had two willies inside you!!!”.

This immediately reminded me of my Mum’s story about how she tried to explain the birds and bees to my sister when she was about 2 and I was a new born baby. The following day, on a bus of all places, in her confusion she loudly announced that her daddy had two penises. I’m sure my Mum must have wished at the time, as I did briefly today, that the ground would swallow her up.

Kids – gotta love ’em!