Blogging openly means sometimes sharing things you’re not really comfortable sharing, but you share them anyhow because 1) it’s free therapy and 2) sharing your story lets someone out there having the same problem know they aren’t alone. It’s a chance to make a difference.
Recently a good bloggy friend of mine posted a difficult piece on her stepdaughter and why she had to leave. While there were some very supportive comments left there were also some very nasty comments left judging her way too harshly. Please take a moment to click over and read the piece. Also, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys Springer read some of the comments, too.
This unreasonable, uninformed, and caustic judgment enraged me enough to put a hiatus on my hiatus…for two reasons. One, I know the full story and completely agree with and support my bloggy friend. Two, I have been in a similar situation and have been in the unenviable position of having to choose between a stepchild and his siblings. Having to make a decision like this is not easy and there is no comfort in knowing you did the right thing because you still feel one-inch tall for having chosen to tell a child to leave your home.
In my first marriage I was a stepfather to a young boy and an even younger little girl. When their mother and I met, that little boy was 6 and the little girl was 2. Two years later I officially became Twindaddy.
My stepson (we’ll call him Doug) had behavioral issues before I ever knew him. He was hyper, rowdy, inattentive, and prone to chaotic outbursts when he was held to account for his behavior. He spent a lot of time in the corner and/or grounded because of his transgressions.
As he grew older he grew more violent and defiant. He was first diagnosed with ADD. Then ADHD. Then ODD. The last possible diagnosis they gave us (when he was 12) was psychotic, but they don’t officially diagnose someone as psychotic until age 18.
Doug became a habitual runaway. When he was punished for his misbehavior he had to be physically taken to his room, literally kicking and screaming obscenities. We had to turn the knob around on his door (at the insistence of the police) so we could lock him in his room to prevent him from running away. The police were tired of tracking him down. That failed when he leaped from his second-story window to run away once again.
I was at the end of my rope. I was worried about what the perpetual police presence and how the frequent violent outbursts were affecting the twins. They often broke into tears whenever there was a confrontation, be it verbal or physical.
At my insistence, we filed ‘beyond control’ charges against Doug. After many of the state programs failed he was taken into state custody and placed in a boys home. We visited him every weekend, but the reports were unpleasant. He was assaulting the staff on a regular basis. He was assaulting and injuring other boys in the home.
After two years, they told us he had completed the program and it was time for him to come home. Not even two days later is when our world came crashing down.
After work, all four of the kids were playing in the basement when I heard my stepdaughter begin to yell at Doug. I immediately called Doug up and asked him what was going on. Unsurprisingly, he was unsure why his sister was yelling at him. Of course, no sibling is ever sure why he or she is being yelled at. We’re all innocent, right?
Then I called my stepdaughter up and what she told me froze my blood. 11-year-old Doug had been trying to force his 7-year-old sister to sit on his lap.
I immediately separated Doug from the rest of the children. After some questioning later that night my stepdaughter revealed that Doug had been molesting her for years. Even before he had gone to live in the boys home.
The next day his mother reported the crimes to the police department and Doug was immediately taken back into state custody. When questioned by the detective handling the case, Doug freely admitted to everything he had done.
This was devastating in a variety of ways. The most crushing blow was finding out that this had happened under my roof without me having a clue what was going on. Then there were other disturbing ponderings, such as “where does a young boy learn how to molest his younger sister?” I still don’t have the answer to that question. The best answer we ever came up with was that something had happened to him when he was a toddler, but he denied anything happened and he shed no further light on where he learned this disgusting behavior.
About a week later we had a meeting with Doug’s social worker in which he unveiled a treatment plan which culminated with Doug coming home and living with us again.
I will spare you the profane details of my objection, but suffice to say I vehemently disagreed with this…plan. The social worker was undeterred, however, and insisted that once treatment was complete there was no reason he couldn’t return to our home. My argument about making a victim live with her rapist had fallen on deaf, and idiotic, ears.
That night I gave my wife an ultimatum. I told her if Doug ever stepped foot into our home again I would take the twins and leave. I didn’t care how she did it, but I was not going to have my children living in a home with a sex offender.
To be completely forthcoming, she didn’t want him to come home either. She had been abused as a child and knew exactly what her daughter was going through. However, the only way to keep him from being put back in our care was for her to give up her parental rights to Doug.
She struggled mightily with that. I can’t imagine having to have made that choice, but she ultimately decided to give up her rights to him. It’s a choice that is really no choice at all, but a choice that rips your heart to shreds nevertheless. Her obligation at that point was to protect her daughter and our children. From her son. It’s a decision that haunted her then, and probably still haunts her to this very day.
Those tempestuous days are merely a speck in my rear view mirror now. Still, if I had it all to do over again I’d make the same decision. It’s not that I didn’t care about Doug. It’s not that I didn’t want to help him (if he even can be helped). But ultimately Doug had to go to ensure the safety of the other three children in our home. We obviously couldn’t protect them from him. We had to sleep sometime and it was evidently those times that Doug turned dreams into nightmares. We made the best decision we could from a plethora of shitty choices.
Kristi, I get what you’re going through. I really do. And I support you wholeheartedly. It sucks to not want your stepchild around. It sucks when your stepchild makes your life a living nightmare. It sucks to feel like a shitty person when you have to do shitty things for the sake of protecting your child, but that’s your job as a parent. If you don’t protect your child who will? Obviously those folks piling up on you have never faced such a clusterfuck, and they should all count themselves lucky for that.
Keep your chin up, Kristi. You are an amazing mom, and sometimes being an amazing mom means making horrible decisions. Don’t let these uninformed assclowns make you feel inadequate for doing what you had to do.