I didn't give birth to them. I don't even get to say I'm their step-mom because I'm not married to their dad.
Does that matter? No.
Most mornings, I wake up with them and help them get ready for the day. Make sure breakfast is eaten, teeth are brushed, bed is made and they are dressed properly. I make lunches, enforce naps, pick up A from school and help him with his homework. I do laundry, cook dinner, kiss boo-boos, hold them while they are sick and make sure they know their pleases and thank yous.
Does this automatically make me a saint? No, it really doesn't. Hundreds of thousands of people do this every day and I deserve no praise for it. What I do deserve, though, is respect for actually doing it. Their dad thanks me every day and supports me fully, but their mom acts like I'm a demon.
It's a different world for them, and it's hard. I know that, and I'm sorry they have to go through it, but I love them and I am doing my best for them. I'm not trying to replace their mother, but it's still my responsibility as an adult to prepare them to grow up and be their own people. I don't want them to be forced to live with their parent at 30 with no job and no money because they didn't pick up the skills to take care of themselves when they were younger.
The oldest, A, repeated Kindergarten. This was before I knew them. His mother was his primary care giver because his father was working more often than not. Despite progress reports stating that A was not up to standards and warnings that he may have to repeat, the person who was left in charge of his education made the decision to not help their son. It's hard. I know first hand that A struggles, but that doesn't mean I should just let him fail. I push him and encourage him as much as I can. He hates it and fights against me, and may not appreciate any of it until he's my age. I'll live with it.
He was also tardy one or two days a week while he was under her care. How? I don't know. I've been told that he had no set bedtime, and hers was even later. Have you ever tried to get a tired child to do anything? Yeah, that's what I thought. What about when the person responsible for motivating them is just as unwilling? Now, when he's at our house, there is a bedtime routine and a bedtime. Now that it's summer it's more lax, but there is still that general time when things should be quite and you should be in bed reading, movie watching or sleeping. Times A has been Tardy or extremely hard to motivate, besides when he has been sick: 0.
We don't serve a lot of sugary treats to the kids simply because it's not healthy. They get treats, but they don't regularly get desserts, pastries or candy. I know, we're evil. Someone call the SS to take me back to my homeland. SIEG HEIL!
I've encouraged them to grow and be self-dependent. A couldn't even pick out his own clothes when he started living with us. He is now picking out and dressing himself, making his own breakfasts and lunches, and helping me chores here and there. J helps with chores, picks out clothes and dresses himself, and I even potty trained him.
It has nothing to do with being "hard" on the kids and everything to do with being supportive, patient and encouraging. They will cry, fight and complain, but in the end, when they realize what they can now accomplish by themselves, the joy it gives them is priceless. When A learned how to cut his own waffle up? He was excited. He says it's tough but he can do it. J regularly announces that he's done things all on his own, like poop and put on pants. "I did it, Kirsten!" It feels amazing. It makes me so happy that I can be an important part of their life.
I love them. They have their own personalities, their own quirks, and their own sneaky bad things that they (think) they are doing. I'm not ashamed if they want to pretend they are wizards out in public. If they want to fly around on imaginary broomsticks flinging spells with their wands, then so be it. Those are the things they like and I am proud that they have interests and participate in them. I would never try to steer them away from those things or suggest that they are acting like fools in public. I don't care how my friends and family judge them for it (which they don't because I only keep amazing people close to me).
I'm upset, despite being told that I should not be and personally knowing that it's ridiculous to be, because I have done so much not only for these children but for BOTH of their parents, and people still want to try and put me down and mock me.
Consistently, for whatever reasons, the other party has been 'unable' to come get their children; who is usually the person who watches them during this discrepancy? Me. After all the fuss that is made that a woman who is NOT their mother should NOT be watching the boys, I am the one that, day after day, is here with the kids.
If I have plans, they are moved to another day because the children and this family are my first priority. I'm not going to say it doesn't piss me off a little bit that my plans have changed, but it's because I dislike not being able to uphold my plans as I have planned them. It's frustrating that someone has no consideration for others and gives no thanks for whatever sacrifices they make. In the end, it's okay. We have made a home for them here and they will ALWAYS be welcome. I will ALWAYS be here for them. If they need to be picked up 1.5 hours away and I have diarrhea I will put some newspapers down and bring some wet wipes because I never want them to think they aren't important enough.
Dislike me if you must. Mock me about things you know nothing about. Say horrible things about me to your family and friends. You can even try to impress upon your children that I am a horrible, inconsequential person. At the end of the day, I am the person they are spending a significant portion of their time with. If they don't love me or want anything to do with me once they grow up and move out (or even at this very moment), so be it. If I have at least contributed to them being mature adults who know what they want and are productive members of society I will be happy.
Their dad and I are partners. We talk about everything together and make decisions together. I'm not doing all of these things on my own volition - everything has his approval and input. We are a team and everything we do is for the kids. Because he has a hectic work schedule, this is how we ensure he gets to spend time with his kids.
(Sorry for the uncharacteristically scrambled and rambling post.)