So by now it had been a little over a year since taking our plunge into the, “blended family,” side of the pool. I had begun to settle into my relationship with my (later) husband’s daughter quite nicely. At the time, she was only three years old, so the complexity of whom I was to her, and who she was to me, wasn’t really an issue between us. We were simply enjoying our time with one another, and slowly falling in love.
Back then, I was self-employed and had the luxury of working late nights when the rest of the world was sleeping, which meant I also enjoyed the gift of being around when the kids got home from school in the middle of the day (I had two in elementary school at the time), or when we wanted to pick “Little Bits” (my pet name for her at the time) up from day care early enough to spend a few hours (or when we were lucky, days or even weeks) with us.
By now, Mom and I had had a few bumps in the road, but it was to be expected. Most of which I attributed to, “Growing Pains.” After all, she was trying to find her footing in dealing with the man that she used to share her whole life with now being little more than a committed co-parent, and I was trying to figure out how to successfully navigate the tricky dance between fully embracing, “Little Bits,” as an awesome addition to our family without making Mom feel insecure about her position in her daughter’s life.
In the first few months, there were lots of conversations which usually either began or ended with Mom expressing her feeling insecure for one reason or another – it could have been something as simple (at least, in my mind anyway) as “Little Bits,” raving about a meal that I’d made before taking her home (Mom is more of a T.V. Dinner/microwave kind of gal), or me doing her hair in a style that made Mom feel as though I was trying to somehow upstage her as, “Little Bits,” was given compliments and asked who’d done her hair. I can’t say which of us actually reached the boiling point first, but I remember the first event that sent us to our respective corners very clearly.
It was, “Family Night,” at, “Little Bits'” day care.
It was a typical Friday afternoon. We hadn’t seen “Little Bits,” in about a week, so we were all really excited to see each other. As she and I were headed out the door, her teacher stopped us and asked if we planned on attending, “Family Night,” the following Monday. “Family Night,” I asked. “Yes, it’s our annual Spaghetti Dinner we do for all of our students and their families. It makes our children feel special to have their families come out and spend the evening with them. Tonight is the last night to RSVP.”
“Yes she’s coming,” Little Bits cheered while flashing me her million dollar smile. “Of course we’ll be there,” I said excitedly, taking the pencil from her teacher’s hand and RSVP’ing for 5, just in case Mom wanted to attend as well. Later that night, I let Mom know so that we could all attend.
Me: “Hey lady 🙂 The girls are wanting (my daughter) to come over with, “Little Bits,” and spend the night at your place tonight, but I wanted to see how you felt about that first. Let me know if you’d be OK with that…”
(The girls had done this a handful of times before over the last year)
Mom: “I appreciate you asking, but no I don’t feel OK with that. Do you need me to pick up “Little Bits,” at a different time so they can spend more time together?”
Me: “Not a problem. Yeah…we’d rather keep them together, so don’t worry about picking her up today. Were you planning on going to the dinner at her school on Monday night?”
Mom: “I was planning on going to the dinner. Was the five including me?
Me: “Of course. You’re her Mom. You’ll always be the first one on the list! Relax and enjoy your weekend.”
Mom: “OK, well take care.”
Me: “You too. Call if you need anything, or we’ll just see you on Monday.”
Without giving it a second thought, I went on with the rest of my day. Carpool. Dinner. Movie night with the kiddies. Bath time. Bedtime. Lights out.
Mom: “I know it is late but do you have a moment?”
Perhaps I should have known that I was being baited to come and play in the minefield given the hour, but as this was my first invitation, I had no clue.
Me: “Sure. What’s up?”
Mom: “Not to put you in the middle, but earlier I wanted to say that I would have appreciated you guys letting me know that you were planning on RSVP’ing to “Little Bits’” dinner in advance, especially if your kids are coming as well. I know that you are in her life now, but I don’t think it is appropriate at this point.”
Me: “I think the best thing for us to do is all sit down and have a conversation about how to work through these kinds of situations going forward. If you (and Mom’s boyfriend at the time) want to make some time to do that, then let us know and we can make it happen. I’m always available to you…
Mom: “I’m sorry but given the type of function I don’t find it appropriate for you and your kids to attend. I know you understand that as her Mom and Custodial and primary decision maker you or her father should have checked with me before RSVP’ing with you and your kids. I’m not negating what role you guys play in her life, but you and the kids are not welcomed, and please make sure you check with me in the future.
Feel free to ask questions, but I know you are a smart woman and you can understand that you have over stepped. If you really don’t see where I’m coming from that is not my problem. The fact is that I am her mother and you are just her daddy’s fiancé with no authority at all and that is how it will be. I’m being a woman and letting you know how the game will be played since your man did not so we won’t have these miscommunications in the future.”
Why, oh why, did I pick up my phone?