Friday, September 30, 2011

The Worst Person in the World

I need an outlet today. I need to get something out of my brain. It's only vaguely adoption-related, and it's nothing I'm proud of, but I need to get it out just the same.

I never watched Keith Olbermann's TV show - I had to Google him to figure out how to spell his name. But I am vaguely familiar with one part of the program because of an episode of "The Simpsons." Apparently Mr. Olbermann liked to single out individuals with whom he disagreed and label them that day's Worst Person in the World.

I'm not sure by what authority he makes such claims, or in comparison to whom. If Keith Olbermann had ever met my high school band director, Mrs. Woodard, he'd think Ann Coulter was just a sweetheart. Mrs. Woodard was a musical Mussolini. When I quit band after my sophomore year, she spent ten minutes yelling at me and telling me what an awful person I was and how I was a quitter and loser and I'd never amount to anything and how she was ashamed of me. Apparently this was meant to convince me to stick around.

I digress.

Most of the time I think I'm a pretty decent person. I'm not perfect, but I think most of us have our moments, don't we? Most of the time I am mostly good, and I do the best I can. It's human nature to judge people and to compare ourselves to others. As long as I keep it to myself, or between myself and God, and remind myself that I probably shouldn't be judging, I think I'm doing alright. I am much less judg-y than I used to be.

But every now and then I'll have a thought that is perhaps not very kind, and I wonder if anyone else would be as mean, or if Keith Olbermann was mistaken because I am the Worst Person in the World. I don't want to think these thoughts, but they keep popping up and several of them have been doing so regularly since my mom got married last December.

Usually it happens when I hear my mother's husband say he has eleven grandchildren.

My mother has eleven grandchildren. She's only got ten, strictly speaking, but she likes to count Roo, too. I mean, Roo's already got grandparents and everything, and I don't count Roo when people ask me if I have any children, so it's a little funny for me, but whatever. If my mom wants to count Roo as #9, she's allowed.

I actually insisted that she count Roo at first, because after I placed it seemed like most people I knew expected me to just move on with my life and pretend I never had a baby. My mom counting Roo as her grandchild was an acknowledgement to me that even though I wasn't a mom anymore, I had had a baby, and I still loved her. I was mostly fine with my mother counting Roo until last December, when my mom got married.

I am not at all fine with my mom's husband (let's call him Rick, just for fun) counting Roo. I have mentioned this to my mother on many occasions. I don't feel that Rick has any right to claim Roo as a grandchild, because he's never met her and isn't likely to, and he's never going to be a part of her life. He doesn't get to claim Roo. Not as far as I'm concerned.

If I'm honest, and I know this is just me being juvenile about my mom re-marrying, I'm not 100% comfortable with Rick claiming he has any grandchildren at all, because none of them are his kids' kids. They're all my mother's grandchildren. Rick isn't the least bit bothered by this. He started calling himself “Grandpa” pretty much the day he proposed to my mom.

My brother's youngest, L, was born two months after my dad died. His birth was a great blessing - he came when we needed a reason to be happy, something to celebrate. Of course, this means that L never met my dad, which is very sad.

A few weeks ago, Rick mentioned that L is his favorite grandchild, because L never knew his Grandpa Willy, so Rick is the only grandpa that L has ever known. That bothered me. What kind of person would take joy in the fact that a little boy never got to meet his own grandpa? It made me think unkindly of Rick, and I'm still bugged by it.

Am I awful for thinking these things? Am I awful for being bothered by these things that Rick says? Am I awful for not wanting Rick to claim Roo as his grandchild? But she's totally not his grandchild. Not at all. He doesn't get to claim her. He hasn't earned that right. He won't. It's just … I feel very, very protective of Roo and her story and the part that my dad played in everything (being such an awesome dad that I wanted the same for Roo, etc). Rick's presence in anything Roo-related feels intrusive. He doesn't belong.

Speaking of, as long as I'm admitting to being this selfish, horrible little brat, here's the other Rick-related thing that grates on me. Rick has, on more than one occasion, told people that he and my mother have nine children.

Um, excuse me? No, no they do not. He has five and she has four. THEY do not have any kids together and, parenthetically, as my mother is 54 I'd lay money down that they aren't going to. When Rick says things like that, I feel like he's pretending that my mother wasn't married to my father for 32 years. Rick and my mother don't have any children together. Rick is not my dad. I don't need Rick to be my dad. I have a dad. He's “laid this mortal by,” to quote a hymn, but he is still my father and he will be forever.

Am I awful? I need honest feedback here, because if I'm an awful person I should probably see my therapist more often and learn to make a conscious effort to be less awful. Even if I am awful, though, is it normal to be awful about these sorts of things? Even if you remove adoption from the situation, would it be normal to have these feelings about Rick, or am I just a rotten human being?

It's nothing personal against Rick - just the language that he uses. I mean, he's a nice enough guy, and he and my mother are happy together. But he's not my father and he never will be. Which makes it uncomfortable for me when Dad-related things come up, and there's Rick. It's intrusive and uncomfortable, and the fact that it's such an issue for me makes me feel like the worst person in the world.


Anonymous said...

I can see why Rick refers to the kids as his grandkids and all, some people aren't technical with family. For example, my late cousin has a child with someone who he did not marry, even though they were not married, I refer to his ex as 'my cousin'. In my eyes, she gave me a 2nd cousin, and she loved my cousin, there she is my cousin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Technically speaking, Roo would be his step-granddaughter, or if you really want to get technical, it'd be his 'birth step-granddaughter' or something like that. He had no place saying that he was happy your nephew never met his true grandfather. I also agree that he will never be your dad, you already have one. Your dad will always be your daddy, no matter what, here or not. That role has been filled. Rick may just be trying to feel like a part of the family, ya know. I can understand why you're so defensive about it. I guess there's no reason to be technical, ya know? Family is family, even though he is not your Daddy. I can totally see why your mom calls Roo her granddaughter. I mean in my eyes she is, even if she doesn't call her Grandma (I don't know if she does or will). Roo will always be her grandbaby.But to answer your question, no, you're not being a brat. Just try and not be so technical about it.

Lara Zierke said...

You are not out of line at all. I would feel EXACTLY the same way. While it shows commitment that he says he and his wife have 9 children, you kind of have to work up to that. Especially the grandkid part. It's not about biology - you and I both know that families are a lot more than biology...but it's just...he can't replace your dad.

I don't know what that's like for you, but the idea of it happening to me is really bothersome. I don't think you're awful at all. In fact, I really hate it when my in-laws call MY parents Mom and Dad.

You are not out line at all.

Jessica said...

I can completely understand why you feel this way! I would guess the vast majority of people who have a parent re-marry feel at least a little bit like the new spouse is trying to take the place of the other parent. It's totally normal.

I also see why Rick would say things like he does. Think about how your mom might feel if, after they'd joined their lives together and agree to be married and become one family, he still insisted on drawing lines and saying, "No, these are your children, these are my children." It would probably seem like he was trying to draw divisions in their family when they were trying to join their lives, not divide them up. So I can understand why he might say that.

My childless uncle married a single mother of two girls who each had kids of their own. The grandkids never had another grandpa in their lives, and my uncle loves being a grandpa. But it's not always that easy to join families, and trying to pretend like it is can cause hurt feelings. I bet Rick is trying to help everyone feel comfortable being part of a blended family, but isn't acknowledging the difficulties and mixed emotions that may be in play.

In short, I don't think you're a bad person and I think Rick could be more sensitive; I also bet you can think of positive reasons Rick may say the things he does, and that might help you feel better about it.

Katie said...

Stories like this are what make the idea of my dad dating again more than I can handle. It's the reason I start crying,threatening and  hyperventilating when it even comes up. It would be more than I can handle. 

I am horrified that someone who clearly sees himself as a grandparent figure would even "pick" a favorite grandchild. Especially based on the fact this poor baby never met his grandpa. One of the saddest feelings I have is when I remember that my baby will never remember my mom. 

You have every right to ask him not to include Roo in his count. Your dad plays too vital of a part in her story to let someone whom he never even met take his credit. I can tell you that I'd my dad ever does get remarried (tears welling) my kids will NEVER call this person anything other than her first name. 

I also completely agree with Lara. I love my in laws. They produced, loved and molded the person my husband is today, for which I am eternally grateful but I would never call them mom or dad. They have a history that I am not apart of.  

Sorry that I completely turned this into my own therapy session but thanks for the outlet :)

kristinanne said...

My dad once married an awful person, I made my daughter call her by her first name. And, we pretty much stayed out of my dad's life because of it. I felt all of your sentiments about this person not being anything near my mother. I called her "my dad's wife." My dad tried to take me to counseling with him and MAKE ME like and respect her. You know what the counselor said? She told my dad that I was perfectly in my right to decide who to associate with and who to let my children associate with. Actually, not letting an abusive person such as "my dad's wife" into my life shows emotional maturity. (Not that I know if this "Rick" is emotionally abusive to you or not.) But, eventually, my dad saw it too and got an divorce. Just my two cents.

Janae said...

I don't comment her often, but I do read your blog and I like it Ü. My Dad died when I was 8, I'm 30 now. My Mom dated here and there and was even close to marrying a few of them. But ultimately it didn't work out. Just for the record I didn't like ANY of the men she dated. I felt like there were stealing my Mom. I knew our relationship would change and I did not want that. I couldn't handle that. While my Mom and I both agree that the men were not a good match for her, I would do anything now for her to have someone to make her happy. Now as a married adult I understand how satisfying to be in a loving relationship. I wish she could find someone like your Mom did. I know our situations aren't exactly the same, so we are not comparing apples to apples, but I would embrace a step Dad and even love his quirks. He I wouldn't be living with the Man. I would love for my kids to have a Grandpa who would love them and claim them as his own. My FIL isn't exactly the warm fuzzy loving Grandpa you picture. I wish for that in my kids' life. Be patient with him and know he is trying.

Savannah said...

So many thoughts.

First, my mom's dad has a second wife, through divorce. She is my FAVORITE grandma. But they were married before I was even born, so I think that makes a difference. She has been a part of my life my entire life.

But that is not the case for Rick. Rick hasn't even been there for a year. I think what he said about L was very disrespectful to your dad. That has me seething and I'm not even a part of the family.

I can see how its easier to just say ,"oh, we have nine kids." But really, it doesn't take that much longer to say, "I have four kids and she has five." And I think that is more respectful. It might be different if Rick had actually had a hand in raising your mom kids, but he didn't.

Maybe Rick does in hopes your moms family will accept him better. Maybe by claiming them so over fully, he hopes they'll accept him in a more friendly manner. Its hard to be the second husband.

I'd tell you to stand up and say something, but I can't even do that with my divorced parents. They've been divorced 8 years now, but my dad's family just pretends it never happened. When they have ANY kind of family function, they invite my mom before they invite my dad. Then they will remember my dad's girlfriend and invite her too. Then they question why he hasn't ever remarried and why the girlfriends keep leaving. HELLO! He's not married to my mom anymore, she doesn't need to come to every little family gathering. If I had my way, she'd be to funerals and maybe weddings. That's it. She can keep a relationship with all the siblings on the side as friends, but at family gatherings she needs to not be invited.

See, I have my own issues.

Him claiming Roo, wow, that is a big jump. He wasn't there for the pregnancy. Or those first 9 weeks. Or the heart tearing placement. Or that first hard year after placement. I'm with you, he has no claim to her.

Hope things get better.

Black Betty said...

I guess if mom hadn't married Rick this wouldn't be a problem. Really, it wouldn't be cool if mom says she had 11 and Rick says he has 10. It's okay to feel the way you do. However, it's what mom wants, and if Rick didn't bug you so much you wouldn't be wasting time thinking about him. He probably thinks that you like him to claim Roo as his own.
I want you to be the happiest!

Jill Elizabeth said...

I don't dislike Rick, I want to be clear about that. He's a good man, and he makes me mother happy. He just doesn't have much of a filter - he says things without thinking most of the time.

I don't know if this is awful, either, but I don't feel that the label of "blended family" fits. All of my mother's children and all of Rick's children are adults. We don't typically have anything to do with one another ("we" being my mom's children and Rick's children respectively). I don't see Rick as a stepfather. He's my mom's husband.

I can appreciate his wanting to be inclusive or to belong or whatever, but would it be so hard to say, "She has four and I have five?" I honestly don't think it would bother my mom. Rick's family and my mom's family aren't one family. There are definite divisions. My mom and Rick joined their lives together, but my siblings and I are adults, and it's kind of up to us who we consider family.

Blah. I feel like a total brat, I really do, but I think that if Rick is going to say he has as many grandchildren as my mother does, then my mother only gets to say she has 10.

Is that awful? I know that my mother loves Roo. But I also sort of think, I don't tell people I have a child, because I don't. So why should my mother get to count Roo when I don't? Not that Roo doesn't count, because - blah. I can't think properly right now. I mean, of course Roo COUNTS. But if someone asks me if I have kids, I say no, because I don't. I'm not Roo's mother. M is Roo's mother. And If I'm not Roo's mother, how is my mom her grandmother? Urgh. I think I'm going to see my therapist again soon, in any case. My brain is a mess.

Red said...

Absolutely do not think of yourself as a bad person. Honestly, I think he is overstepping by doing this without your permission. If he asked you at some point "would you mind if I count Roo as one of my grandkids?" or "Are you ok if I count you as one of my kids?", maybe with the qualifier that he isnt trying to be your dad, he just feels so proud to be part of your family... MAYBE then it would be ok. ONLY if you said ok though. For him to just start saying it with no input from you is very presumptuous and kind of rude in my opinion. I guess I equate it to this scenario in my life: I am currently in the process of getting paternity determined in court for my daughter (her bio dad doesnt believe she is his) and after talking with my boyfriend (who has raised her since she was 6 months old and is the only Dad ahe knows) we decided that to us he will always be called by his first name. He is not her Dad, he didnt earn that right. He hasnt been around and tucked her in every night and said "I love you" and dealt with her tantrums and let her puke on him and held her while she cried. I would feel very uncomfortable calling him her "dad". "Dad" is an earned title, not something to be thrown around willy-nilly. He cannot step into the shoes of your father, that role is an irreplacable one. I think you should let him know how important that title is, and how important the title of "grandpa" is to you for your daughter. He needs to understand this is not ok with you.

Anonymous said...

I see where you're coming from. I guess it'll really be up to Roo to decide who she sees as what when she's older. Of course, M is her Mommy and P is her Daddy. But I guess family's all family. My cousin is adopted and of course I see my aunt and uncle as his parents, his mom and dad, but I also consider his birthmother to be his mother in a way, and him her son. And my aunt K is adopted, and she still says 'my father' when speaking of her birthfather (which, under the circumstances she was adopted under, I really don't see why she does.) I get where you're coming from though, that totally makes sense.

jgirl said...

I dunno Jill, the comment "Rick" made about being glad that "L" being his favorite was at the very least insensitive. The very least. In all honesty, I would be very bugged the whole situation too.

Jake and Terri said...

I think that part of being a family is time. Time to be together and time to make memories together. That hasn't really happened yet for Rick and your mom and eveyone else.

After my grandmother died my grandfather remarried. She was a wonderful woman. We couldn't have asked for better. But at first I felt that I was forgetting about my grandmother by including her and doing grandmother and granddaughter type things.

To make a long story short- as time went on we wroked it all out. We called her Aunti (instead of grandmother) and most of the time introduced her as our grandmother (it was easier than telling the whole story which most people aren't interested in anyway).

Basically my advice is give it time (however long that may be). There has been a lot of change in your family and it takes a while for everything to settle. Keep in mind that how you feel now may not be how you feel in a few years.

Jenn said...

It is kinda weird that he clumps you all together. I know my MIL (husbands step-mom), always distingushes between the kids, they are a 'family' of 6, but not their mother, and that somehow makes a difference. Like often she'll say when introducing to people "This is my family, my step son Travis and step daughter Nik, and my daughter hannah, and son Josh.

As for your Mom counting Roo, I think that's amazing. I too am an adopted child that was counted... sortof. My adoption was hidden, her pregnancy wasn't talked about. However, my Grandmother always remembered me in her prayers, and talked about me to my birth mother often. Once she got dementia, she would talk about her 13 grandkids... but to everyone in the younger generation (grandchildren like me) I don't exist. Her daughters (my 1/2 sisters?) once questioned it, and everyone passed it off as her dementia... but she knew what she was talking about. When she died, all the kids were going to chip in for her headstone, and a rosebud was going to be engraved for each grandchild. 12... But my birhtmothers husband (who is awesome!) INSISTED that I be counted, because "they all knew that she (my grandma) counted me, why the hell shouldn't they!" He said he would by the stone himself, if that's what it took to get my rosebud on it. So, in a grave in New York, I'm counted...

The Blessed Barrenness said...

I don't think you're awful at all. I think it's just a complicated family dynamic coupled with your circumstance around Roo's placement & your dad's passing that leaves you with many mixed emotions and conflicting feelings.
My husbands family is made up of a multitude of blended families and I see he and his sister struggle with the same kinds of conflicts you refer to above.
But you are anything but awful!

Danya said...

I was going to leave along lovingly therapeutic comment about what I think you should/should not be frustrated about with Rick but it looks like you've got more then enough cooks in the kitchen right now, lol.

So here's my comment:

I read your blog post. Although I am not in a place to properly judge I felt compelled to advise you on how you should feel on the situation. Then I realized it's past midnight and I'm going to Disneyland tomorrow so I should log off and go to bed. Love you. You so totally rock. Goodnight :)

Havi Andersen said... many good, insightful comments. I'm not from a "blended" family, but my husband's parents divorced when we were already married with our own kids, and your viewpoint makes a lot of sense. That said, I think you're still sensitive about losing your dad. You're entitled to be. Sounds like rick has rushed the grandpa thing just a bit. With time I think your wounds will heal more and perhaps you will begin to feel comfortable with him in your life. Until then, I don't think you need to apologize. We all have issues that reflect where we're at and what we've been through, and that's okay. Thanks for another insighful post.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I'm sorry I am just now jumping in the conversation, I've been in the mountains since the 30th and my internet connection has been spotty. Anyway, you're not out of line, I think with all his comments, he was just a little hasty; a level-jumper. (Except the one about the gratitude that L had never known your dad... yikes.) Anyway, they had a pretty quick courtship and marriage... maybe after some time has gone by, things will be more comfortable.

Anonymous said...

I'm really late to this one, but I wanted time to think about what to say.

I think Jake and Terri had some very good advice.

My grandmother died when I was 4. My grandfather remarried 8 months later. My aunts never got over it. Never accepted my "new" grandmother's daughter as a part of the family, nor her children. My mother and her one brother accepted it immediately. My oldest uncle took some time.

You need to have a talk with Rick, in a nonjudgmental, not defensive/offensive way. You both need to know where the other is coming from. Ultimately, it's not up to you how Rick defines his family. I'm not saying this in a mean way. My aunts didn't have to accept my grandmother as their mom, or her daughter as their sister. But their attitudes - especially one of them - make family gatherings tricky. Hopefully, talk and time will help you work this out.

Karin Katherine said...

I find this post so interesting because I'm a stepmother and have been for 11 years. My husband would like me to count all of the children and say I have 8 children. Or, WE have 8 children. I do not wish to do this. Truthfully I don't think his kids would wish for this either (based on their disgusting behavior for 11 years) but now they want to be on the Christmas card...and they are Jewish. Because its all a power trip.

So, from Rick's side I can say this. He is trying to make you guys ONE family. He wants unity. He is trying to show that he loves your mom and acknowledges that part of that is loving her children. Loving ALL of her. Since she counts Roo, he wants to too. It's really not about erasing your dad. My husband's ex wife is still alive and isn't being erased any time soon.

As an adoptive parent I wanted to bawl when you said Roo already has grandparents etc. That is why your adoption situation (for lack of a better word coming to mind) works. You acknowledge that she received a new family with her adoption.

My heart breaks and rejoices a million different ways when I read your posts.

Cat Mama said...

I know I'm a little late to this party, but I wanted to share something I've never told anyone.

When I was 17, my mother remarried. Her marriage to my father was awful and abusive and this new man apparently treated her well. But I was scarred from how the divorce went down, and at the time was living with family as both parents were too busy taking care of themselves to take care of me (I'm an only child).

My mother and new stepfather visited me for my high school graduation and took me out for lunch to meet my stepfather's train wreck of a daughter and her children. Afterwards, in a quiet moment my mother referred to those kids as her "granchildren". I lost my s**t. I begged her, and not in a particularly nice way, not to EVER call them that - the only grandchildren she'd ever have would be MY children. She apologized and to her credit, never did it again - at least not in my presence.

Fast forward more than 20 years - I am 39 years old and due to a variety of reasons, including choice of partner, infertility, health issues and general immaturity, I have not been able to have children. I have never given my mother those grandchildren I insisted she exclusively claim. This makes me really sad. I feel like my selfishness stole 20 years of grandparenting from her. Who was I to say that she couldn't claim ANYONE as her grandchild and love them as such. Particularly with all of the things I have learned as we took the road to our current journey...

By the end of this month, my husband and I will be licensed foster parents. We will finally have the opportunity to parent, albeit usually temporarily. Our hope is that we will be in the right place at the right time to adopt a child that needs a forever home. And my mother will finally have a grandchild. I can only hope its not too little too late.

My long-winded point? He wants to love all of you, every one - child and grandchild. He wants to claim you and bring you under the wing of his life. This is an honor. Let it happen.