A psych specialist we consulted long ago as we began our co-parenting journey told us something that stuck with me... While the personality we are dealing with may be irrational and maddening and make us all feel insane, over time it will become predictable... and once we are able to anticipate the craziness being flung our way, the easier it will be to deal with it. Eventually, she said, there would be "predictability in her unpredictability."
Every year, before summer vacation, which my step-daughter spends with us in its entirety, her mom reacts to what I assume is the impending loss that is handing her daughter over to other people for a few months. It takes the form of her accusing my husband of something-- not taking proper care of something related to their daughter, not sharing information about their daughter, somehow failing in his duties as a father or co-parent. Sometimes it comes with restricting phone access or shutting down co-parenting communication... We always have an initial "WTF?!" reaction, then remember that we go through it every time... Each time I think it gets easier to recover from the defensive, reactive response that naturally happens when one is unfairly accused of something terrible.
This year it was late in coming, and I guess I let my guard down... but now that we've weathered the accusations and I have recognized them for what they are, I've been able to turn up my empathy for what it must be like to put your daughter on a plane to live with people you don't like or trust. I think I have recovered more quickly than usual. It is a bit of a relief, actually, to stop wondering what is coming. Hopefully we will get off easy with tonight's mild (and unfounded) accusation and we can just breeze on into our summer.
Whatever is ahead, I hope I can remember to be thankful for the understanding and empathy that allow me to see her actions as a reaction to her own mental state, and to respond with compassion. I hope it serves as a reminder me to be thankful for the unconditional love and support from my parents that gave me a positive self-image and sense of self-worth, and that it reminds me how important those things are to instill in my children (biological and step alike).
Someday I hope I can immediately respond to her accusations with compassion, remembering that her words are more about what is going on for her than what is true for me. How freeing it would be to not have to even visit that hateful place that is so easy to go to when you are attacked and accused. This relationship between us, which neither of us ever really wanted, has been incredibly challenging, but it has been one that has caused me to truly examine my beliefs and to confront the parts of myself that I'd rather not own. It is easy to be kind, understanding, and compassionate when you are around those who treat you kindly and fairly, but you can't truly know how deep your commitment to kindness, peace, and forgiveness goes until they are put to the test. Someday I hope to be grateful for this unwanted relationship, thankful for all it has taught me about myself and for the new-found strength of my convictions.
For now, I am grateful that the shoe has finally dropped, and hopeful that my compassion is done being tested for now. My thoughts are with all of the blended families with upcoming transitions and the challenges that inevitably accompany them.