I debated for a while on what I was going to say to my 8 year old step daughter about yes all women. I myself having worked in construction for 8 years and having completed an engineering degree and always having been interested in the maths and sciences that are predominently male led, had experienced plenty of the stories myself, nothing as major as some that I read, but plenty of subtle and not so subtle statements have always gotten to me but I was always able to brush them off and move on. This is probably not the right answer, but I have always had a supportive group around me from my parents, friends, family to my husband and I never doubted I could do anything a man could do. However, I needed to somehow tell katlyn this without getting into details.
I took the chance last week, and just talked to her about others respecting her body, as well as her respecting others. As we talked, she asked very appropriate questions, and I answered honestly. We never got into the sexual discussion because she never took it there. I wanted her to know though that in no case is it acceptable for her to feel uncomfortable and not tell me or someone about it. I told her it could even be something I did, she needs to tell her mama or daddy. I told her it could be a teacher, Mike’s sister, my sister, our parents, anyone, as long as they took what she said seriously. It was a really powerful conversation with an 8 year old. I realized that just having these open conversatioins with her on a regular basis will cause her to open up more. She offered a lot of information to me about what’s going on at her mom’s house that she didn’t feel good or comfortable with. Nothing harmful to her, but with her mom going through a divorce and her step dad cheating on her mom and her concern for her 4 year old half sister is real, and if it’s something I can help her through, I’m more than happy to.
This weekend, she showed us a side of her that comes from her mom trying to show she is better. She had the audacity to tell her dad that she had been to more school than him (she just finished 2nd grade) and he said no, I finished school, and she said with attitude, yeah but you failed like a hundred times, and he said no, and she said well you never went to college, so I’ve done more than you and you’re just an electrician!! It was the hate and attitude behind it that stung the most. I could see it in my husbands eyes, the ultimate betrayal. This happened while at dinner, and she was quiet for the rest of the night. In the morning I asked if he talked to her about it and he said no he would just blow up at her again. I couldn’t take it, so I brought it up. And I explained to her that she just did the worst thing she could do to someone, especially someone she cared about.
She made them feel like they were nothing.
I had to explain that the amount of school someone goes through does not define them. This discussion led to the fact that the way people look doesn’t define them, tall, fat, skinny, brown, white, mixed, I don’t care, we treat everyone the same. And clearly her mom was talking bad about her dad behind our back, and that is her right, but as his daughter, she should know better. This conversation went on for a good 30 minutes, and the kid took it in. Every comment I made, every analogy I said, she cried through parts of it. I told her he could’ve been the smartest man on the planet and had 1 thing send him to be a homeless person, to be a killer, to abandon his child, or he could be the poorest person out there, with no education but be happier than we are.
It was a rude awakening for me as well. Our children look up to us. Clearly she had been with her mom for the last 8 months and truthfully in the last 2 months she had really pushed away from us. I now see why… We make our children who they are, they repeat what we say, they mimick what we do, and they want to be like us. If her mom insults people and laughs, she wants to be in on it too and starts doing the same. All I can do is try to lean her in the right direction. I will never talk bad to her about her mom, it’s not my job to influence how she feels about her, she can make her own decisions over time, but it is my job to positively change her life at every chance I get. She will always be a huge part of mine and my other childrens lives, and she deserves the best like they do. I hope the conversations that happened over the weekend can teach her how to be a better person, if they fell on deaf ears, at least I learned something from it…
Raising kids and especially step children can be really difficult, but sometimes the hardest lessons are taught to both of us. I love her like she was mine, but I will never allow her to speak down to me, her father or any other family members in my presence, and I hope to someday have the same deep conversation with the other kids.
Sorry for my long rant, if you’ve made it this far, I don’t know why, I simply had to put down somewhat in words how I have been feeling the last 2 days.