A Letter to My Stepchildren That They’ll Never Read

Kelly and James_117

Update: It’s been less than a week since I published this private post, and since then, my stepchildren’s mother has e-mailed me, left comments on my blog pretending to be other people, stalked me on Instagram, spread knowledge of my blog post by emailing the entire Girl Scout troop herself, and most recently commented that I am somehow damaging the children through my post. I have not responded to a single message and do not plan to. 

Everything I wrote in my blog post is either my own opinion or statement of a fact. Although she wants to and is trying to, she cannot bully or manipulate me into taking it down. I have bottled my emotions and mostly stayed silent while this woman has ridiculed me and ridiculed my family for over two years.  I am allowed to have a voice and I am allowed to be heard.

All of her frustration that she has lashed out at me about this post has only been about herself and not the children. Not once did she defend the well-being of the children or her relationship with them. Instead, she was angry because I talked about her past and called her horse face and flabby, etc.  The name calling was a very small part of my post, and was purposely superficial to make a point, given all of the harassment and negativity she has pushed onto me and my family since I’ve entered the children’s lives. 

Her response to my blog post has been to call us names (“sorest losers on the planet”), and to continue to threaten and harass us. She even used childish rants to make fun of me and my other blog posts (getting paid to shop and write blog posts – how horrible and narcissistic of me!). She feigned astonishment that we prefer a schedule with the children that allows us to spend maximum meaningful time with them. She also tried to rub in our face that the kids are the happiest now that they’ve ever been – but of course they should be! She is now contractually required to take them to activities that she previously refused to; there is a much more regular schedule regarding who has them and when; and their father and I have them for a majority of the weekends and breaks where we do fun activities and trips with them, rather than just sitting on their tablets. 

Because I mentioned M’s anxiety in my blog post, her mom is suddenly gung-ho about sending her to therapy and even suggested that M meet with a therapist this upcoming Monday! She has never mentioned M’s anxiety to my husband prior to my post. If M gets the help that she deserves, then her mom reading my post was all worth it (even though Christian’s issues are still being ignored). However, this isn’t a game – she can hate me and she can hate her ex, but don’t take it out on the kids. Who sends their 8 year old to a therapist out of the blue (her recommendation: a therapist who does not specialize in children with anxiety issues) without first meeting them, discussing the issues, making sure the therapist is a good fit, etc? The last thing you want to do is send an anxious young child to therapy unknowingly and without doing your due diligence as their parent! Me and my husband have been told by professionals that many of M’s sources of stress can be helped:

  • M needs consistency in her life from both parents. Take the children to their activities and birthday parties. Take them to the drop-offs on time.
  • M has cried and told me how her mom lying to her about smoking upset her. “She must think I’m so stupid.”
  • M is scarred from her mom’s reaction to finding keychains of our wedding on their backpacks – gifts that M herself found early and were intended for their Disney luggage. M insisted on putting them on the backpacks herself – and as usual her mom felt it was a target directly towards her and harassed us repeatedly for it!
  • M was waiting with us at the passport office for hours because her mom didn’t sign necessary paperwork and she said to us repeatedly “I knew my mom didn’t want us to go on vacation!”
  • M is always telling us about the negative things that are said to her about us, completely unprompted – that her mom complains that we go on too many trips, etc.
  • M sadly mentions to me all the time about how her mom told her to never call me mom, despite her wanting to do so. M even went as far as telling me that she would just call me mom behind her mom’s back anyway. When we got back from Florida last week, she brought this memory up again out of nowhere. Her mom’s seemingly casual comments clearly affect and stress her. 

In closing, I want their mom to know this wasn’t supposed to be a fight. I honestly didn’t expect her to read this post and so I didn’t think about what would happen if she did. She mistakes this blog post as hatred towards her when it was simply expressing the the feelings and sympathy I have had for my step-children in a manner that is cathartic for me, knowing I would never tell these things to them in person.  People post all the time about what they eat for dinner and what TV show they are watching – why am I not allowed to post about a significant and on-going issue in my life? The reality is, I do not care about her and try to not let her affect my life. Contrary to her belief, I never want the children to read this post and I have not and will not disparage her in front of them.

Dear M and C,

Now that the dust has somewhat settled, I want you to know how hard me and your father fought for full custody of you both.  We wanted to provide the best possible life for you – to give you the routine, reliability, opportunities, parental oversight and family love that you both deserve, but sadly have not been afforded since your parents’ separation.  You are both so young and we intentionally kept you out of the details of the case, but there were countless late nights and long weekends me and your father spent on one of the hardest battles we’ve ever had to fight.  Even though the outcome wasn’t what we originally hoped for, in the end, we both know that we couldn’t have done anything differently.

You deserve to know that your mom is the most toxic and narcissistic person I have ever met.  Since I’ve come into your lives, she has made everyone’s lives extremely difficult.  She has said rude comments about my body, made fun of my Asian ethnicity, called our family trashy, texted us at all hours of the night (harassing us to the point where we had to have a mediator order your mom to no longer text us), and caused you both to be filled with anxiousness and sadness on several occasions because you weren’t sure if she would be there for you.  It would have been so easy to sink to her level and tell her to go to a dentist to fix her gummy smile, a plastic surgeon to fix her horse face, a personal stylist to help with her granny clothes, a hair stylist to help with her frizzy hair and ugly buns, a personal trainer for her flabby boy body, a doctor to intervene with her past cocaine and ecstasy usage, and a psychologist to help with her narcissism and exhibitionism.  I was astounded when she openly criticized me in court for crying and being emotional after the birth of my daughter.  What an insensitive and judgmental statement to make since she herself is a neonatologist, gave birth to two children of her own, and even had an abortion when she was younger!  I could have told your mom how people frequently tell your father that I am an upgrade compared to her.  How your father confessed to me that he was very insecure growing up and never actually loved your mom or even found her attractive.  How you (M) told your father that I was more of a mom to you than your real mom, and that your real mom is “lazy” and “just wants to sleep all the time”.  How you came to me for advice on how to speak to your mom about how upset you were when she would lie about smoking to you.  How your mom’s own attorney called her frazzled and was constantly playing catch-up with her lies throughout the case.  How your mom’s best friend warned your father early on in their relationship that your mom was crazy.  How your father told me he always hated your mom’s fashion style and the fact that she couldn’t dance.  How you (M) begged us not to tell your mom negative things you say about her because you’re scared she will be mad at you.  Yes, I could have said those things in response to her attacks, but it would have just been mean and spiteful.  Instead, I mostly remained silent – hopeful that one day things would change.

But most importantly, beyond all your mom’s superficial attacks, I wish I could take away the pain you both feel from her selfish behavior and actions.  Your mom doesn’t behave like a selfless and loving mom should.  You are supposed to be her priority.  Your mom is supposed to be your role model, protect you from harm, be your biggest cheerleader, and promise to always be there when you need her.  Even though you are only 6 and 8 years old, I have already witnessed countless occasions where she has failed to fulfill these basic roles out of her own inconvenience or spite.

Before we filed the court motion, your mom was always asking your dad to take care of you more than the agreed 50/50 custody agreement.  In fact, during the divorce, your dad frequently told your mom to just walk away and that he would take care of you both.  It was clear even before the divorce was finalized that your mom never wanted any of the parental responsibility.  Your dad also frequently tells me how much easier it is raising a baby this time around, because he now has a responsible and caring partner, which he felt he never had in raising both of you.  From irresponsible pickups and drop offs (I had to drive you both all the way to her house because she “couldn’t find her keys and didn’t have enough gas in the car”), to purposely not taking you to school events or parties that you would cry to us about missing, to not taking care of your personal hygiene, to not attending parent teacher conferences – your mom’s responsibility and parental care for you both have been nonexistent for years prior to your father filing the motion.

Fast forward to today, a few months since the custody case ended, and we are trying to ignore the warning signs we’re already seeing.  Some of them are superficial, like not taking you to school events because they are “too far” (5 minutes down the road),  not going to your Christmas play (your dad drove all the way up from Philadelphia to see it), missed doctor appointments, purposely picking you both up from school late and then arriving to the train station late which caused us to miss the train for our family trip to Washington D.C., picking you up in tattered and stained clothes that are too small or out of season (we recently picked you up and you were wearing summer capris and it is 30 degrees outside!), and untreated warts (as soon as you see us, you beg us to treat and freeze it because “mommy won’t”).  Recently, you were sad when you told me that “mom never plans play dates, but all the other moms do.”

However, some of the warning signs are much bigger than that.  I thought after the custody case ended, we would no longer receive harassing messages from her. Unfortunately, we continue to receive them, to the point now if it does not stop, your father will have no choice but to block your mom’s emails and only receive communications via her attorney.  You’ve also missed the school bus because you all overslept and you (M) had to wake up your mom so she would drive you both to school.  You (M) told me how much anxiety and stress that running late in the morning causes you.  You’ve told us how you went to school without eating breakfast, how you make your own breakfast by yourself (climbing on countertops) and pack your own snacks and lunches because “mommy loves to sleep.”  Additionally, only one month into the school year and we received an email from your teacher about how you (C) needed help in certain areas.  We also found out during the parent teacher conference that you (M) are now being partnered with a special teacher because you are falling behind on reading comprehension.  We asked your mom to get you (C) involved in a school activity, but she refuses to because “he doesn’t want to.”  Yes, your mom is letting a 6-year-old dictate his own activities!  She ignores the fact that enrolling you in activities would greatly benefit you and help with your speech issues, behavior issues and inability to focus, and would also give you something else to do other than being on the tablet (which you tell us is all you do while at your mom’s).

It is important for you to know that your mom lied and manipulated her way to win this case and it worked.  From lying about the timing and specific details of the events, to immediately becoming “super mom” after your father filed the court motion, to threatening you both that if you moved to Philadelphia that you would only see her one day a month, to deliberately not signing paperwork so that we could take you both on a family trip outside the country, to calling the cops on your father – all of the drama she created went unnoticed and was ignored.  And so, you are the ones who ultimately suffer because your mom was granted something that she never wanted.  This court case became her personal attack and vindication to win against your father, when all along it should have been about your best interests.  The psychologist’s report was hot off the press, and it was already a struggle to have your mom agree to certain terms and conditions such as staying part-time, attending parent teacher conferences, agreeing to take you both to the train station because “she doesn’t want to” (even though it’s something she knows you both prefer doing versus driving in car and it also allows you additional bonding time with your father), among many other things.  All of this proved to us that the custody battle was truly just a game for her to win.

The Monday-Friday grind that we fought for is a responsibility that your father wanted because he is the more reliable and accountable parent.  Up until your father filed the court case, we fought so hard with your mom to take you to birthday parties, get you involved in school activities, and even do simple things like practice flash cards with you (C) that were recommended by your teacher because you were falling behind in school.  She would forget to pack you lunches, decline to attend parent teacher conferences, and she even counter-sued us because your father wanted her to take you to birthday parties!  When we made the decision to permanently move to Philadelphia, we knew there was no other choice but to bring you both with us and that is why we sought full custody.

Much to me and your father’s surprise, although we “lost” the custody battle, the ruling turned out to be a positive outcome for us.  Instead of the Monday-Friday school grind your mom now has, me and your father get to spend the more meaningful time with you.  Recently, you told us that you are happy you get to do fun things with us because your mom “doesn’t do fun things like that with us” and “mommy won’t pay for those kinds of things.” While me and your father were on vacation recently, you FaceTimed us every day that weekend because you were “bored” and “mommy wasn’t doing anything with us.”  You both tell me that you just sit on your tablets when you’re home while your mom “sleeps all day” and that she “never takes you anywhere”.  I love our man-pedi days, taking you to the arcade right around the block from our house, short trips to NYC and DC, and our travels to the Caribbean.  I’m glad that me and your father can create these memories with both of you.

Me and your father both prefer this schedule and therefore, we truly want your mom to succeed. We hope that you can maintain your grades, be involved in activities, and be well taken care of.  When your mom sends us harassing and bullying emails, I try my best to ignore them and instead hope that she will eventually find happiness and the ability to move on.  Personally, I think that your mom needs to a fresh start to life, and that includes moving to a new house and starting over with her new husband.  Selling the home I lived in with my ex-husband was something I did immediately after my divorce, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Earlier this year, your father got a moving truck and hauled out all the old, ratty furniture and belongings from your mom’s house and we donated or sold them all.  There is something very Zen about cleaning clutter and starting fresh!

However, there were several things that were overlooked during the case, specifically by the court-ordered psychologist.  Maybe it was partly my fault.  I downplayed your mom’s toxicity and didn’t tell him about all the negative and stressful experiences you both endured because of her.  I wasn’t your voice.  Despite the psychologist’s report being largely one-sided in your father’s favor, his closing recommendation was that you should remain with your mom because of your existing relationships at school and the life you know in Warren.  I don’t believe that the psychologist had your best interests in mind, only his belief that the current conditions with your mom were not bad enough for us to be granted full custody. However, there were many concerning issues that were surprisingly ignored and unaddressed by all parties involved in the custody case:

  • Drug use: Your parents frequently did hard drugs (i.e. not marijuana) together during their relationship and your mom even admitted this to the court. Me and your father were both concerned that she was still doing drugs and requested both parties to submit to a drug test.  Your mom refused, even after her attorney agreed that she would take one.  She then immediately bleached and cut her hair! We also told your mom that we hired a private investigator (to prove cohabitation with your step-dad that she also lied to us and the court about) and she immediately called your father to find out what information he got, yet she never once called when we said we were seeking full custody of you both! Recently, You (M) told us that your mom and step-dad frequently go on trips without you and that they “probably do bad things together” – Me and James looked at each other in disbelief! I am floored that a child psychologist involved in a child custody case would turn a blind eye to drug use, especially after your mom’s flat out refusal to take a drug test.
  • C, your needs were completely ignored: Much of the psychologist’s recommendation was based on your sister’s anxiety and existing relationships with her friends, while your own behavioral and communicative issues were acknowledged but went ignored. We found a prestigious private school in Philadelphia that evaluated you and wanted to hold you back in kindergarten because of these issues, but was convinced otherwise by your father with the promise of extra tutoring and therapy. The psychologist noted in his report that the private school would have benefited you more than your current school.  We spoke to the principal, and the private school would have focused on many of the issues that you are currently dealing with: an over-bearing sister, speech issues, behavior issues, and the fall-out after a divorce. Instead, the psychologist’s solution to this was that private schools exist in north Jersey as well.  Note to everyone: private schools exist everywhere!  This solution would only work if your mom acknowledges there is a need for it, too – which she does not.  Sadly, to this day, you are not enrolled in any extra tutoring or therapy classes.
  • Family relationships: The psychologist completely ignored the importance of family relationships and a stable home. His report even mentioned how the relationship between your mom and her now husband is unremarkable, how you have a better relationship with me (your stepmom) than compared to your stepdad, and how I could replace the role of your mom if needed (no mention of your stepdad being able to do the same).  You both have an extremely loving and close relationship with your half-sister Sophia and tell us that the relationship with your stepdad’s children is largely non-existent and that they ignore both of you.  The psychologist didn’t hear you tell us how sad you were when you found out you wouldn’t see Sophia as much: “It’s not fair – I don’t think I can live without seeing her for a week”.  The psychologist also didn’t hear you tell me how you don’t like your stepdad because “he was the one who made mom start smoking”.  Concerning a person’s character, the psychologist ignored the fact that your stepdad foreclosed on his home and lied about cohabitation to the court while he was living in the house that your dad is paying for, and that he has limited parental visits at his mother’s home with his two children.  Your mom and stepdad also had a rushed engagement that occurred during the pending court case (he proposed with no ring!) and a secret wedding around a month later (that you both still don’t know about) – all so that you could both be put on his health insurance plan “for legal” reasons is how your mom termed it. We also found out this past weekend from both of you that your mom is working 24-hour overnight shifts during the school week and leaving you alone with your grandparents. The court agreement and the psychologist’s report was based on the premise that your mom would be moving to a part time schedule and not work her 24-hour shifts during the school week.  She not only lied to us about her work schedule, but she also lied to the court and the psychologist! She is also not telling your father who is taking care of you both while she working these overnight shifts .
  • “What-if” scenario over tried and true”: The psychologist made his recommendation that you both stay in Warren based on a “What-if” scenario!  Your mom has previously never worked a part time schedule and has no history of being able to appropriately take care of a child by herself – ranging from everything to missed events, missed lunches, health and general care issues.  This was chosen over the track record of consistency and reliability that your father has been able to provide for both of you since and prior to your parents’ separation. The psychologist even noted in his report that your mom needed your father to help step in to care for you both because of her own shortfalls.
  • The reason for our permanent move to Philadelphia: The psychologist thought the move was simply for our lifestyle and neglected to understand that this was for the benefit of everyone, including both of you. Philadelphia would have provided a better school and a diverse urban environment filled with city parks, museums, shows, restaurants, etc. We believe in providing rich experiences for you both, not just having you sit on your tablets.  (Also, for the record: when we moved to Princeton last year, it was the same amount of time to and from school – a 30-minute commute via bus ride in Warren or via a car from Princeton – just one of the many things that your mom repeatedly lied about.)
  • M’s anxiety: The psychologist misinterpreted your anxiety towards a move to Philadelphia, when it was driven by the fact that you didn’t know where you would be going to be going to school in the fall. It is a known fact that you have anxiety about everything, and it is only getting notably worse.  We are actively trying to work on your anxiety and after speaking with you, we believe that it is driven by the divorce and because your mom has let you down on numerous occasions.
  • Existing relationships: The psychologist failed to understand that the reason for your existing relationships at school are wholly due to your father. Your father is the person who signed you up for girl scouts, soccer, swim, gymnastics, STEM, and took you to 99% of the birthday parties.  The psychologist met with you both prior to attending St. Peter’s camp over the summer, the private school you both would have attended if we were granted full custody.  The psychologist isn’t aware that you both instantly made friends that you still talk to today.  I wish the psychologist could have heard every time you (M) told us that you wanted to live in Philadelphia and attend the “fancy school where the kids are smarter, already know multiplication and learn to speak French”.  In fact, we were walking to church recently and you asked us if we could set up play dates with some of the friends you made at St. Peters.  I also wish the psychologist could have seen the fear on your face when you found out your mom would have you on the same weekend as your best friend’s birthday party (M).  I wish he could have seen you crying after you found out you missed a classmate’s party that your mom purposely didn’t tell you about or take you to (M).  You told me that you friends asked if you are adopted because they’ve only seen me (your Asian stepmom) and not your real mom take you to events (M).  The psychologist doesn’t understand that the girl scout event where your classmates cried when they learned you may be moving was the first event your mom attended with you (timing was very suspect since it was after we filed the first custody motion). Recently, you told us you don’t even talk to those friends anymore because they aren’t in your same class this year.

Every day, I witness firsthand what an extremely caring, giving and responsible parent your father is in raising both of you as well as baby Sophia and it frustrates me because I know the psychologist’s recommendation was wrong.  It saddens me that stigmas still exist where paternal rights are given less importance over maternal rights.  If the roles were reversed in this custody case and your father was the parent who never took you to events or gave you a social life, did cocaine and ecstasy, harassed your mom after the divorce, among countless other things – I’m almost positive that the court would have never even granted the first motion.

I want to end this letter on a positive note. Seeing the damaging and at times toxic relationship that you both have with your mom makes me truly appreciate all that my own mom has done for me in raising me through the years.  My mom never made me or my brother suffer to spite my dad.  I always had packed lunches, I always looked presentable, and I never had anxiety about missing events and birthday parties that I wanted to attend.  I felt that I could tell my mom anything without fear of her taking it out on me.  Most importantly, I never questioned that she always had my best interests in mind.  I am extremely thankful that I never had to encounter any of the things growing up that you both have already experienced in your young ages of 6 and 8.  I’m sorry for that.  I truly am.  I promise to be the best stepmother I can to you.  To always love, listen, respect and appreciate you.  You both deserve it.

Love, Your Stepmom

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