Entries tagged with “not taking things personally”.

Okay, I have to admit it. I am proud of my progress on this challenge. For the most part, I’ve been keeping it in check. The accountability and the journaling are huge parts of my success.

But today the words flew. They flew out of my mouth faster than my brain could keep up. But this time, I believe my words were meant to be heard. These are the words of my heart. The words that have been burning inside of me for a long time. They are the words that so longed to be spoken and heard. Tonight was the night they poured out of me into a vessel that was on the brink of exploding – my stepdaughter. Believe it or not, she didn’t sink upon hearing them.

You see my SD was having the “tantrum of the decade” I referred to on Twitter. She had been in an agitated and combative stage since she stepped foot off the bus coming home from school. She was arguing with her sibs over silly things and pounding me with absurd accusations.

I could write down every exchange between her and me and between her and all five of her siblings because she got into it with each one. But I won’t because who wants to read a 5,000 word blog?  I will say it was just one of those days where she was “relentlessly combative.” A day when I could have said the sky was blue and she would have argued with her dying breath it was aqua.

Needless to say, I was feeling the heat beneath my collar but I was not engaging. Found myself in different rooms than she was in but then I hit a crossroad. Long story short, I gave her a punishment for some inexcusable harsh words she was using on her sister. She refused it. So I asked her another time. This time she stomped her foot, said no and started in on her sister again. Well, I had to make a decision. I had asked her to do something that she was refusing yet I knew she was in a mood and didn’t want to engage her. Remember one of my mottos “you can’t fight crazy.” Well she was being “crazy.” But I knew I had to stand my ground.

“Serenity now, serenity now” was the chant in my head. Oh Seinfeld, how I call on your wisdom and wit during these times. I decided to give her additional punishment. This time I told her to go up to her room and write 20 times “My behavior is mean when I tease my sister. I will ask her to forgive me.” She actually went upstairs. I breathed a sigh of relief.

When an hour had past and she hadn’t come down, I went up to check on her. She was hiding in her room and hadn’t written one sentence.  When I asked her why she replied, “because I don’t want to do it and you can’t make me. This is harsh. You are harsh. I’ll stay up here forever.” Deep breathes… count 1,2,3 . I replied “I can make you and I will make you. You need to finish what I asked you to do and then you may come down to finish your homework.”  She started yelling at me but I was out of her room and down the stairs with my fingers plugging my ears. I did not want to engage.

I made dinner and called the kids down to eat (my hubby was travelling and not home yet). She came stomping into the kitchen complaining about her punishment and how I’m so harsh. While we were eating, she preceded to pull apart all of her food and eat in a very inappropriate manner. I tried not to notice or get upset but it was difficult. I could see she was doing this for my “benefit.” 

It’s our custom that everyone remains at the dinner table until the last person is done eating and either I or my husband excuses the table. But tonight I made an exception. When I saw she was done eating, I told her she could be excused to go back upstairs and complete her sentences.

She started screaming and I mean screaming at me. I tried to ignore it and kept redirecting her to her room. The other kids were getting very agitated with her nonsense and were becoming protective of me. She refused to move her body and go upstairs all the while screaming at me about how I hate her and how I want her to leave. It was truly unbelievable.

I choose to tell my SD “go up to your room now or I will drive you to school tomorrow, march into the principal’s office with you and have a long talk about what we are all going to do about your behavior.”

At this point my SD had slid halfway down the stairs and just started screaming and pounding her fists: “You hate me. You don’t love me. You never loved me. You want to go live somewhere else. You love everyone else but me. I’m a nobody. I know you hate me. I just know it.”

I’m walking away as she is saying these things but then something made me turn around, march half-way up the stairs so I’m at her level and I fired these off at her:

“Stop saying these things to me. Do you know you aren’t talking to me right now; you are talking to your mother. I am not your mother.  Stop taking your anger out about your mom on me. I did not leave you. I did not move two time-zones away from you. I did not go to Las Vegas instead of visiting you.  I am not your mom!  I am your stepmom! Stop treating me like I’ve done those things to you. I didn’t do them.

I am here each and every day for you. I take care of you. I cook for you. I make sure your field trip slips are signed, I help you with school projects.  I love you. Don’t you ever, ever say that I don’t love you. Because you have NO IDEA what is in my heart.

You have every right to be angry at what your mom did. You have every right to be hurt and sad but don’t you dare transfer that anger on to me. I do not deserve it and I’m not going to stand here and listen to you accuse me of something that isn’t true. I do care about you. If you can’t stop saying these things then you need to march up to your room and shut the door because I’m not going to listen to this crap anymore!”

I said it very sternly but never yelled or screamed at her. I couldn’t believe I said those things. She never said a word, just seemed to be looking at me and staring intently at my face. When I finished,  I walked away, afraid of her retort.

My SD followed me into my office and said “I’m sorry” and she sobbed and sobbed. She said “my mom would kill me if I told her how I really feel. “ Then she got close to my face and said “can I just ask you one thing?” “Sure,” I responded. “May I have a hug?” she asked. I grabbed her and hugged her and held her and cried with her.

After we were done crying, I told her how I was never angry or mad at her but that I could no longer listen to her scream at me that I don’t love her. She seemed to understand. I told her to go take a warm bubble bath to relax and we would talk more when she was finished. We did.

I needed to say those words and I think she needed to hear them. For the past three years, she has been transferring all of her hurt, confusion, pain onto me and it’s very hard to take. While I know in my head that it could be any woman in my shoes and they would still be getting the same treatment, it’s still hard to hear and experience. I know it’s not me personally but in the flesh, it sure is hard not to hurt from it.

I have to admit. I do feel much better. Let’s see how tomorrow goes. One of my many lessons learned is not to have expectations.

This week has been crazy busy. But as my husband would say “Heather, what week isn’t crazy busy?”  But this past week was even more so than usual. Busy weeks can be good and bad. Busy keeps us moving physically so not much time to lament over doors slammed in my face or rude words spoken to me. Busy also means feeling a little tense and rushed because I’ve got to do 20 things in 10 hours or be 3 places at the same time. Yikes!

This week, I had quite a few opportunities to explode. But I made the choice not to. It was a hard choice. I woke up many mornings with my mouth aching because I had slept with my jaw clenched (I do that when I’m stressed). I ate way too much chocolate as I paid a visit to “Dr. Hershey” during my time of stress (did I mention I’m a true fan of Lindt truffles but all I had in the house was a bag of dark Hershey kisses).

I’ll share my biggest struggle this past week. It was when I got lectured by my stepdaughter. You see all last week when I would try and talk with her calmly about her behavior, she would respond with “that won’t be necessary for you to know why I did that” or “it’s not necessary for me to give you a reason”  (sarcastically said I might add). She kept telling me that her school counselor told her she does not have to give a reason for her behavior. I would respond to my SD that those words of advice might hold true for a peer but not for a parent.  My SD was persistent and even used the “scapegoat” phrase on her dad. She refused to give us reasons for poor choices.

Knowing that she does work with the school counselor on tips/tricks for social skills with peers I believed that she had been taught to respond that way. I decided to contact her counselor. I emailed the counselor and first thanked her for working with our daughter. I then explained what was going on and kindly asked her if she would explain to my SD that those phrases/skills are to be used on peers only and not on parents and adults in charge.

I got a quick response back stating that she never taught my SD that she doesn’t need to give a reason. She was very disappointed in my SD and said she was going to pull her out of class today and give her a lesson on honesty. Great I thought. Until my SD walked in the door.

She came home screaming at me, “How dare you talk to Ms. _________!”  “I never said those things to you. Why did you make all that up? I told her I never said that to you or my dad. I had to sit there while she talked about lying. You ruined my whole day. How could you!!!”

I took a deep breath and responded “I know what you’ve been saying and you know the truth.”

“I never said those things to you. You are lying!” she said back to me.

At that point, I could feel my blood rising from my feet and shooting up through my neck. I was faced with a choice. A choice to fight back knowing I was right or a choice to not engage further. To know that I am right and that I don’t need to convince her of that.

I chose to look at her square in the face and say “you know what you said and so do I. There are consequences for making stuff up.” And I walked away. She was shouting at me but I kept walking and went into the office and put on some music.

The choice was actually easier than I thought because when she was so defiant and so determined that she never said that stuff to me I knew she either wasn’t thinking clearly or had convinced herself it wasn’t true and one thing I’ve learned through this is YOU CAN’T FIGHT CRAZY.

If I had engaged her and that conversation, I would have ended up blowing myself up emotionally. Been in a bad mood all day and she would have picked herself up and been playing Barbies in 10 minutes.

I made a choice for me. I made a choice for my husband, our marriage and our family. A choice to not engage and have peace in my heart and in my home.

This conversation isn’t over. I’m going to contact the counselor again today to see if she can email me the lessons she shares with my SD in the future. This way I can post them on our info board in the laundry room and then there is no question as to what she is or isn’t learning. I’m in the know and so is my SD.

I am so thankful for taking this challenge because I know if I wasn’t so aware of her and her pain and of so many other things I would have made a different choice and I would be writing this in a bad mood.

I can’t believe its day 21. The end of my challenge. The celebration is earned yet short-lived because I know the truth; while this may be the end of my challenge it is really only the beginning.

Of everything I learned over the past 21 days, this is probably one of the biggest lessons: every day I will be faced with a choice to either take things personally or not to. I do have a choice. And each of the two choices carries with it distinct consequences for me and for those around me.

I believe in my heart that the majority of days, I will not take things personally. I’ve learned a lot over the past three weeks and I’ve gained a lot that I don’t want to lose.

But I also realize that it would be absurd for me to think I have totally broken the “habit” of taking things personally when my stepdaughter lashes out at me. That’s impossible. I’m human. I have a heart. I try hard and therefore I know I will have my feelings hurt in the future. The key question is really “what will I do with my hurt feelings?”

Three weeks ago when I was listening to Cathryn Bond-Doyle on The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show, I had the idea to challenge myself because I recognized I was internalizing nearly everything my SD said and did to me and it was dragging me down. I know myself and I know that if I commit to something, I honor my commitment. I knew I would see this thru and that it would have big gains not only for me but also for my husband, our marriage, my SD and our whole family.

Living out loud in my blog, helped me to really hold myself accountable to ME.  Having said all that, I am deciding to extend my challenge to the full 40 days that Peggy Nolan of The Stepmoms Toolbox posted (thanks Peggy for the extra 19). Seriously, I know this is a challenge that I will, in general, face every day and I want to continue on this structured challenge to make it to 40 days.

I’m not going to blog daily like I have for the first 21 days but I will write about it and I will definately tweet when a potential struggle comes up with my SD. Peggy asked me to guest blog on her site at day 30 and I am honored to do so. I am so looking forward to sharing all that I have learned.

I’m also working on a PDF that will be available free for download that will include all my mistakes/success/lessons learned.

It is my sincere hope that those who have been reading my 21 day challenge will benefit from my mistakes and my successes. If you are just joining me, I would love for you to go back and read all the days. Pour yourself a cup of joe, kick up your feet, and laugh and cry with me on my journey.

All in all, we as stepmoms know we are putting ourselves out there each and every day just by being stepmoms. We are putting our hearts on the line. Remember this, we are bound to have our feelings hurt but we do not have to allow our spirit to be broken.

Stepmoms, You Rock!

Yes, I know. I misspelled weekend. I did it on purpose. I was weak this weekend.

Overall, I did okay on my challenge. What made it easy for me to do well is what also made it difficult. Confusing, I know but isn’t most of stepfamily life?  Allow me to explain.

It was easy this weekend to do my own thing and not be subjected to any verbal attacks because my mother-in-law was in town for my SD’s birthday. My SD was so excited to have her grandma here that the house could have been burning down and she wouldn’t have noticed. So I was but a spec on the wall with her grandma in the house. A happy spec on the wall I might add.

But because her grandma was here my SD didn’t think she was subject to the weekend house chores we have. So when her dad kindly asked her to do something and I heard her back talk to him, my fire was lit. Hot.

See, that’s a trigger for me. When she talks back to her dad, it makes me very upset. Now, my husband handles himself well and he doesn’t need me to come to his rescue but the mere fact that she can look him in the eye (hands on hip) and say an emphatic NO! can boil my blood. I know everything her father went through for her and how much he loves her. It actually bothers me more when she disrespects him then when she does the same to me.

This happened a few times and each time (until the last) I sucked it up and swallowed my words. I was, in fact on my last days of the challenge, but the last time she did it pushed me. I didn’t butt in on the exchange, I let him handle it. But a little later in the day when she was sitting at the kitchen table doing homework and gave me a bunch of crap about what she was (and wasn’t) supposed to do for work, I gave her a little piece of my mind.

That “trying to get out of responsibility” mentality she has is not a fan favorite of mine. I didn’t yell or get visibly upset but I definitely engaged her. This developed into a small argument because she’s not backing down and I’m not going to back down. Finally, I said to her “I’m going to leave the room now because I’m not going to allow you to talk to me this way. When you want to have a civil conversation please come and find me. Thanks.” And I walked out of the room. She never came and found me but the next time we were in the same room, life was good.

I should have known better then to engage her. But instead of beating myself up for being weak and not staying strong, I am going to chalk this up as a learning experience. One in which I can clearly identify that her back talk to her father is a real trigger for me.

No letting this one day ruin what has been an enlightening and prosperous journey for me. It would be absurd for me to think that my SD and I will never get into another disagreement or that I’m a bad stepmom if we exchange “unpleasantries” from time to time.

I’m being realistic and I’m going back to what I told her a few days ago (Day 17): “That’s what makes a family strong and great. We can get in fights but we always forgive and we always love. You can’t expect to live with someone every day and always get along.” 

I don’t want to leave you hanging from the cliffhanger of yesterday — did she like her surprise and what the heck was it?…..

Yes! She loved the surprise. It was her grandma!  Yeah.  I picked up my mother-in-law at the airport an hour before the kids were to get home. It is seriously great having her stay with us. I am blessed with a great mother-in-law. She is a wonderful woman. And a great influence on all of our kids. I know I am blessed that she has embraced my four children as her own grandchildren.

Okay, back to the story……

You should have seen my stepdaughter’s face. She walked in the house and I said I had a big surprise behind the door and when she saw her grandma, she threw her arms around her and screamed “grandma, you came for my birthday!”  She was so excited. So happy.

Now, to be fair and objective, the morning didn’t start off on the best foot.  My stepdaughter came downstairs for breakfast dressed in what I would loosely refer to as a “Little Red Riding Hood meets Miley Cyrus” outfit. Either I am totally out of touch with fashion, I didn’t get the memo on “Fairy Tale Day” at school or my SD is just a walking fashion disaster this AM.

I took one look at her and could tell her ensemble was very deliberate. She loves attention. Even negative attention. I remembered the challenge and how good I am doing on it.  I pondered in my head, ‘do I let this go and let her get ridiculed at school? Do I tell her to go change and risk having a set-back because I know it will engage and blow up into an argument?’

Tick Tock Tick Tock……..

As she is eating her cereal, I am thinking. I am sweating. What do I do? My oldest daughter is just staring at her stepsister. Finally, she says “what the heck. Do you really think you are going to wear that to school? You look completely ridiculous! I’ve heard of sporty, classic, and preppy. But I would call your style – disturbed!”

SD comes back with a sharp “No! You ARE ridiculous!” Now, we are just a few seconds away from the gloves coming off with the girls. Time for mom/smom to step in and save the day or run and hide. I choose the harder route – stay and say!

“Okay, girls. Enough,” I said. “SD, let me ask you a question. Do you think your choice in outfits this morning is a good one or bad one, knowing you are going to school in it?”

“A bad one, I guess,” she replied.  “Why would you come down like that?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders and said “dunno. Pie.” And ran upstairs to change.

Close eyes. Deep breath. Will not react to PIE!

I’m learning that if I want her to make a change I have to ask her a question in such a way that she realizes the correct answer for herself. I also recognize, I shouldn’t have asked her why. Especially, since I got the “pie” response.  Trust me when I tell you that the word ‘pie’ has a life of its own. A life so large, that I am going to dedicate an entire blog to the word and what it means to my SD (and all of us) sometime soon.

She changed just in time to make it on the bus.  I spent the majority of the day cleaning, cooking and getting ready for my mother-in-law arrive.

I also finished birthday shopping for my SD. I’m expecting her not to thank me and not to like much just like last year. That way, if she is happy it will be a wonderful surprise and relief (not an expectation).

My take away from the day: she recognized she wasn’t going to play dress up at school and basically went up and changed w/ out much nagging on my part – huge improvement. Yeah – score one for my peace of mind. And secondly, she is floating on cloud 9 because her grandma is here. Cloud 9 is a great place for a little kid to spend some time, especially a little kid like my SD who has spent much of the last few years only dreaming of Cloud 9.

Another good day. Today, there was no I love you. There was, however, validation seeking for her comment yesterday.

I was doing dishes and she was doing homework in the kitchen. She asked me if what she said yesterday was true, “is it right smom what I said yesterday? That even if we don’t get along about something that we always make up.”  “Yes,” I told her. “That’s what makes a family strong and great. We can get in fights but we always forgive and we always love. You can’t expect to live with someone every day and always get along.” 

“So, you aren’t going to leave me?” she asked. I’m thinking that I want to scream I will never leave and how could you even think that but I know she is desperately searching for validation that she won’t be abandoned again.

She’s not asking the question because I make her think I’m going to take off, she is asking the question because she doesn’t want me to leave.  Hey, I think I’m getting pretty good at deciphering how and why. But I’m stopping. I’ve learned I can’t spend too much time trying to figure things out. 

Just go with the flow Heather. Go with the flow.  I’m flowing with this. Trust me. When there is nothing much to report. That’s a good day. I’m really appreciating the simplicity of a boring day.

Tomorrow, I have a HUGE surprise for my stepdaughter that her dad and I planned for her birthday. She is going to be super duper excited. Okay. Stop. I can’t have expectations. I’m pretty sure she’s going to love the surprise. Hint: it’s not a gift you can open!!!

What? Do my ears deceive me? It can’t be or maybe it can!!!  Did I just hear I love you?  After months of “you hate me”……

My stepdaughter actually came up to me and said “I love you.”

Still in shock, I can’t speak while my little one was quick to say “my mom doesn’t like you. She can’t like you because you are so mean to her.” I was about to butt in because I didn’t want my little one saying such things. Plus I didn’t want this moment to have any negatives attached. But then my SD replied “well, we do have some arguments but we always make up and I love her.”

Deep breath. Wipe away a slow tear falling. Close my eyes and etch her words and this moment into my brain and into my heart!

“WELL SAID,” I replied to my SD. And off she and my little one went to go play Barbies.  Perhaps she is seeing my love for her more clearly now that I’m not engaging. Perhaps, she is just having a great day. Perhaps, she is buttering me up. Her birthday is a few days away and she knows I’m the cake maker, present buyer, party doer.

Whatever the reason, I’m not spending time thinking why. I’m living in the moment of “I love you” and in the moment of peace. And that’s where I’m staying today. No questions asked!

Wow!  When I think about it, I have so many things to be thankful for. Why then, do I tend to focus on the pain I feel from my stepdaughter instead of all the wonderful things in my life?

I know personally, I am very approval seeking. Want to do everything right. Be a great wife. Be a great mom. Be a great stepmom. Be a great friend and the list goes on…..

And if someone in my life isn’t doing great, then it must be my fault. If I was just better at ________ then __________________ would be better at that. I can fill in the blanks for many people in my life. My biggest approval issue is with my stepdaughter. Hence, my 21 day challenge. I kept thinking if I was a better stepmom, then she would be happy. I have to remember I didn’t raise her, I cannot and should not change her.

Today, I woke up thinking I’m really loving this challenge and I am going to only focus on the good things in my life. If a negative thought rolls in, it’s going in the trash can and getting dumped out. I’m not gonna let it stew inside.

I am feeling good about feeling good. It’s not necessarily easy to not take some things personally but boy do I have energy at the end of the day when I don’t engage SD’s negative behavior. And I’m using that energy to do things I love. Things I haven’t focused on in a while because I was so exhausted every day by dinnertime from all the emotional stress I was storing inside of me.

I’ve started writing more. I’ve started “finishing” sewing projects that have been waiting for me. And I’m actually reading (just a little) for pleasure. Typically, I’m so knee deep in stepfamily or self-help books that my stack next to my bed is actually taller than my nightstand. I’m just one of those geeks that loves to do research and be in the “know.” Probably dates back to my approval thing where I have to know everything about stepfamily life so I can be the best for everyone.

I am making a trade; having to be right with my stepdaughter FOR time, energy and peace in my heart. I haven’t felt this great internally in at least 6 months. And even my husband has noticed a difference. He says I’m back to my smiling, happy self. I didn’t even realize that I had stopped smiling. But as I have taken on this challenge, I have begun to realize how I have allowed the pain that my stepdaughter throws at me to hold me down. I’ve been trying to seek approval from someone who doesn’t feel approval herself. That is why she is acting out at me. She so desperately wants approval and love from her mother and because all she gets is rejection, she is rejecting those close around her. 

I’m far from a psychologist. My degrees lie in Communication and Research. But I am learning a heck of a lot by doing nothing. By not engaging my stepdaughter but rather documenting and examining her triggers, I am learning and understanding that it really isn’t about me.

To be fair, my loving husband has been telling me for months that it isn’t my fault that my SD lashes out at me. While he is truly the wisest person I know (and that’s not just because I’m madly in love with him) I was too stubborn to listen and accept his advice. Realistically speaking, I think I needed to “get it” personally to believe it. I needed to know it was true not just hear it was true. I had to live it and I am. I am so thankful for it.

Now, I am not out of the woods in terms of not being offended and hurt by my SD’s words and actions, but I’m doing so much better and I’m gaining so much strength from what I’m learning and all those other stepmoms who have rallied with me. I’m actually started to get it…It’s really not about me. Yeah!

Feeling good today. Doing much better with everything. Yesterday, my SD was going to play out in the snow and I wanted to talk to her before she went out the door and in mid sentence she slammed the door in my face. I just said “neat” and turned around. Decided not to engage it. Decided my peace of mind was more important than finding out what she is mad about. You can’t fight with crazy.

I had a busy day. Picked my son early from school as he was suffering from a migraine. Poor guy, he inherited those from me. He is such a trooper and I enjoyed the time I got to hold him and just be still for a few moments. 

I couldn’t wait until 8pm when I tuned into The Stepmom’s Toolbox radio show. Peggy & Erin interviewed Wednesday Martin, author of Stepmonster.  While I haven’t read EVERY book on stepparenting, I’m pretty close I think. And Stepmonster is my number one recommendation to stepmoms. Like I posted on Peggy’s blog, Martin’s book is like a permission slip for stepmoms to feel the way we feel.  She does a great job explaining the dynamics of being a stepmom and validates the many emotional states we encounter on our stepfamily journey.

Anyway, listening to the three of them chat and offer advice just reinforced my decision to not internalize my SD’s negative words and actions. If you get a chance, go to www.thestepmomstoolbox.com and download the show. It’s is definitely worth listening to. Over and Over.

For those of you taking the challenge, make sure to leave your feedback. I wish you all the best.

The weekend was the weekend.  My husband and I both had long weeks so we went to bed early and slept in late. I love lazy mornings with my hubby. A great cup of java with the man of my dreams – what more could I ask for? I like to pretend on those days that it’s just him and me if only for a few moments.

Spent time writing over the weekend. I love expressing myself with words. Both verbally and on paper. Living out loud is very freeing. I know some people don’t like what I share. But my heart is genuine and my desire is to help other stepmoms. The best way to do that is to be honest about my own journey. I’ve always said I that will never pretend this road is easy but it is road I am happy to be on. I give myself a pep talk every day and that’s what I want to give to others – encourage every stepmom out there to stay the course and know that they are not alone.

I’m also busy working on a project for you stepmoms that I’ll be announcing soon. And I’ve been working on really soul searching about this challenge I’m on. I thank you for walking along side me on this journey and have so much more to learn and share.

Keep tuning in.

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