Be Kind. Guide for Step Parents to Avoid Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Be kind

Step parents are in an unenviable position.  Those who are doing an awesome job are often abused by an insecure parent who undermines them at every turn and those who are abusing a child with Parental Alienation Syndrome are destroying live, none more at risk, than the child entrusted in their care.

Adding children into a home, especially when they are not your own, is a difficult thing to do.  Well, it can be done, but achieving the goal that everyone gets out alive is a big undertake.

I found this article by Douglas Darnall PhD. for Psycare Inc to be pretty thorough:

Stepmothers (and Stepfathers too)

As adults, we wake up to the fact we are not only responsible for ourselves, we are responsible for others.  Nowhere is that more evident than when children enter the picture.  What is more, it is not a symbiotic relationship.  We give and take care of them, often ignoring our needs in the process.  This is really the way it has to be.  You wanting to take five minutes to clear your head, cannot happen when a child has just broken your favourite vase and glass is shattered all over the floor.  In addition to the physical realities there are emotional realities as well.  You needing a night out with a friend you miss who is only in town tonight, gets put aside when a child has been bullied at school and is devastated.

Step Parents have to know, marrying into a situation with children, means that they are going to have every insecurity button pushed and every need probably ignored at some point.  There is no coming out ahead or coming out even.  There is raising children, and the thousands of little acts of selflessness all parents make.  There will be times alone spent crying in frustration and hurt, that no-one will see or possibly care about.  It is just life.  You being a step parent is not about what you get out of it.  If you go in with that attitude, you will fail.  Being a step parent is going to cause you to have to dig deeper into your compassion and humanity than you even knew was there.  Your biggest assets will be your openness and willingness to learn.  It will be your ability to take the higher road and to always remain focused on one thing, how what you are about to do or say, will ultimately impact the child.  THAT has to matter more than being right, or “winning.”  It has to matter more than your dislike of the other parent, or the need for retaliation when they do things that make your blood boil or hurt you incredibly.  It has to be that way because YOU are the adult and if you don’t understand that or CAN’T do it . . . then you have no business putting yourself into that situation and saying you will parent someone else’s child.

The rewards of raising children are not about what they do for us.  It is not a balance that equals out the give and take.  It really is the ultimate test of our ability to love without condition, to put the needs of another human being above our own.  Parents feel that love and sense of purpose when they see their children happy and connected with the world around them.

None of us are guaranteed that our children grow up, realize all we did, and love us forever, treating us well and seeing us often.  Even the best of parents miss out on those perks sometimes.   We do it because some things matter more (or should matter more) in life, than ego gratification.

Raising children is simply NOT about us.  It is about the child.


Daily Quote

‘Letting go of the fixed self isn’t something we can just wish to happen. It’s something we predispose ourselves to with every gesture, every word, every deed, every thought. We’re either going in the direction of letting go and strengthening that ability or going in the direction of holding on and reinforcing that fear based habit. We can choose reality – stay with it, be here, show up, be open, turn toward the sights and the sounds and the thoughts that pass through our minds – or we can choose to turn away. But if we turn away, we can pretty much count on staying stuck in the same old pattern of suffering, never getting closer to experiencing wakefulness, never getting closer to experiencing the sacredness of existence.’  Pema Chodron

It Is Supposed to Tie In The Back.

ties in back

With all the medical advancements made over the past few decades how come no-one has come up with a better idea than the “tie in the back” hospital gown?  It has not evolved to any great extent, it is exactly what it once was, what it has always been, the description of which involves words I am not allowed to type here.

As if it was not bad enough with the cloth version, someone came up with the paper one.  If that was meant to divert our frustration it failed.  So now you can tell how high class, or not, your doctor’s office is, according to their choice to gown for you to wear.  Now you can say, I may look completely stupid, but at least I am sanitary and HEY, I can pretty much be assured that the patient before me didn’t also wear this one.  (unless of course there is a new university degree for being able to fold items, once used, in such a way that you can repackage them and they look brand new – which I am not denying could have happened.)

Personally I don’t think it matters one way or the other because they are all ridiculous.  The distance between my main concern upon seeing the gown and being vaguely aware of my own body and the improbability of one fitting into the other and issues regarding sanitary are so far apart you would have to pack 3 or 4 lunches and bring your pillow to walk that distance. As an adult woman over the age of 30 who has had several children, (you will understand the need for the bold italics further down)  I am beyond giving a crap about getting naked in front of the doctor or anyone else for that matter.  I don’t bother looking at myself, I am certainly not going to look at someone else looking at me.  Go look at yourself if your curious.  Want the opposite sex?  Turn on the internet, the naked people will find you.  Try heading for the sites that are for children.  They are always there.   I have learned to ignore my body, if you wanna gawk, you have to figure out your own coping method. I figure that is what they pay as doctor the big bucks for.  Someone has to deal with the medical concerns for those of us least likely to ever be chosen to appear in Playboy.

And while I am at it.  One size does not fit all.  Seeing people wandering the halls, waiting for their name to be called for a medical test of some sort, where the gown can’t make it up over their upper arms and hangs around their chest and flaps open in the breeze makes that pretty apparent.  And all those beautiful, size 0 women have private doctors at Playboy or Disneyland, and any men that size are with the rest of the Pygmy tribe somewhere in a jungle. In short your offering of your “one size” does not fit anyone who is attending your office. Fire that statistic dude who comes up with the “normal range” for everything. HE has to be completely abnormal because all of his work is shoddy.

Okay so the doctor asks me to take off my bottoms and leave my underwear on. He wants me to put on the gown and tie it up in the back (depending what he is looking at), except no-one ever ties anything. If we could reach around our back we would be able to do up our bras properly instead of doing them up in the front and sliding them around. Yes that is what those scars are on your wife.  It is basically a sheet to cover me … with arms.  Then I either lay face down or face up, again depending what I am there for.  I have never understood going in with an eye or toe complaint and having to undress completely.  My point is that what he needs to examine is open and bare and what he doesn’t … is underneath and unseen, so please speak really slow and explain to me why the “modesty gown” is even there?

Do some people actually feel comforted with … “He sees me – full frontal nudity –  but thank God he did not see my back or my butt?”

And what is with the stepping out of the room so I can get undressed??  Does he think I am going to do some kind of seductive dance for him if he stays?  Concerns for my own modesty? You can see me naked but let’s stay away for the pants half on and half off or we could just lose all control. Hello, go back and read paragraph 3 and the part about children.  I lived through a marathon of never having any privacy … not in the bath tub, the shower, on the toilet … and certainly not dressing.  I know how to fend for myself when getting dressed and cover up the offending parts. I could get dressed in a crowd of strangers and offend no-one … I mean let’s pretend the crowd of strangers even cared that I was getting undressed – I am such a professional at the whole thing, I could do it.   As for me being inappropriately stimulated by his presence … please go and reread  paragraph 3 and understand I am too exhausted for that kind of nonsense.

And then, after he pushes and prods my naked body with the “modesty gown”  dangling off one hand where it ended up after moving it a bit here and there for the examination, because let’s face it, it just gets in the freaking way … he leaves the room again so I can get dressed.  I am laying on the table practically butt naked.  He has just touched parts of me I had forgotten I even had.   Like again what?  He needs time to collect his emotions over having me put all that awesomeness away where the sweat pants and t-shirt hide it all from view? Get real. Paragraph 3 people, paragraph 3!!! People pay me to keep my clothes on.

I’d be quite happy to show up for the appointment in a trench coat, commando underneath and just save us all time and needless expense for modesty gowns.  I think it would be much better if those who are uncomfortable just close their eyes and they don’t have to see their own body, anyone’s possible arousal, etc.  Then play some church music and they can just pretend they are somewhere else.

Evidently that technique can get you through 75 years of marriage, it can certainly get you through a 15 minute doctor visit.

First Aid For Dummies.

first aid

I went to a first aid course once.  It was mandatory for all of us in the department so we were attending with other people from the office and let me tell you,  when we walked in there and saw there was a dummy for each of us I didn’t even try to restrain my relief.  It is such a heavy burden to know that everyone would want to be partnered with me and that some would probably want to fight it out and others might become suicidal.  All that emotion gets tiring and I was already a little fatigued.  But when I saw those dummies,  I was so relieved,  I hooted and hollered and jumped up and down on the table until I choked on my candy and the instructor had to do the Heimlich manoeuvre  on me.

Once you have a strangers hands all over your chest and you projectile spit a candy across the room hitting your boss and knocking out a tooth .. . there really is no need to waste any more class time on things like ice breakers.  Hysteria pretty much tears down those walls we keep around ourselves.

We got straight into the instruction right after the boss was in the car and on his way to the emergency dental hospital with his tooth neatly wrapped up in a tissue with a bit of ice.  I offered to pack it for him but everyone else thought it best if I sit down and rest … on the other side of the room . . . behind the screen.

The instructor told us to spit out any other candy or gum we might have in our mouth.  I showed him my candy was still embedded in the wall where it landed after it ricocheted off the boss’s tooth.  I like to get points when I can.  One of the other women was chewing gum and he had to tell her three times to spit it out.  The third time he took her over the garbage can and held it out in front of him demanding she put her gum in there.  She dutifully moved her hand to her mouth and then to the garbage can.

And kept on chewing as soon as his back was turned.

He told us we had to do that in real life if we ever had to do CPR because it would be awful if we were giving someone mouth to mouth and then ended up losing our gum or candy in their mouth and they choked to death.  I also pointed out that the gum might accidentally land in their hair and then it would be really hard for them to comb it out before surgery and the person might not only have scars from the accident but the other patients might laugh at them and call them names like “sticky bubble hair” or “gum head.”

The instructor had us watch a short video and then he demonstrated on his dummy.  Half way through he thought he saw the gum woman chewing again but she said “no.”  They had a stare off and gum woman won.  Then it happened again … and again!!  Finally he made her open her mouth and show him and she did.   None of us saw any gum.

Gum woman 5, Instructor Zilch.

The instructor got all flustered but you could tell he still did not believe her.   He asked if we had any questions and then it was our turn to work on our dummies.  He pointed out these were incredibly life like and expensive and we were very fortunate to have them on loan to us for the day from the fire department’s stash.    We were all practicing away, counting out our pumps on the chest, listening for breath, pinching the nose and tilting the head back and breathing in to their mouths.  It was cool their chests rose and everything.  I was really attracted to mine.  That happens in real life too.  When you go through something really traumatic with someone you can form life long bonds.  There is no sense fighting it.  God probably even caused the accident so you would have a chance to meet.

Everything was going fine and the instructor was walking around the room encouraging, pointing out things we should or shouldn’t do,  until he came up to the woman and everything got really quiet.  Her face was all red and she seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time clearing the mouth of her dummy.  Her finger was actually stuck in there.  The instructor had to perform a fingerectomy and he just got her free when we heard him gasp and shout at the woman,  “You lost your gum in his mouth didn’t you?  DIDN’T YOU???”  She kept insisting she hadn’t.  He tried to grab the dummy and she grabbed it back.  They were tug-of-warring back and forth.  He was trying to walk away with the dummy but she would not let go so he kind of had the dummy underneath the arms and she was holding onto the waist and he was pulling one way and she the other.  He eventually ended up dragging her across the floor.  She got some awful rug burns before she finally let go.   There was smoke and everything.

The instructor was shaking the dummy and holding it up and listening to it and you could hear this “clunk clunk” inside the chest.  He turned it over and was thumping it on the back and doing the Heimlich manoeuvre again and nothing.  I thought perhaps the dummy might have inhaled a piece of metal from the car crash he was in but no, the instructor said it was gum and the dummy was permanently contaminated and ruined!!

I think he forgot that we are just first aid people, NOT doctors, and we are supposed to refrain from making any type of medical diagnosis, not even if we have dozen of friends who had the exact same thing happen to them and we are pretty sure we know what is going on.

He looked around the class.  Several of the other employees were gathered around the woman where she had crumpled on the rug.  They were wrapping her floor burns and practicing other first aid techniques like putting her arm in a sling, splintering her leg and getting a hollowed pen ready to do an emergency intubation in the neck.  I think someone had gone to fetch the jaws of life.  One lady was stitching the hem of her dress … best to focus on your area of expertise when you have so many helpful hands.

I was practicing French kissing with my dummy.

The instructor lost it and kicked us all out without any certificate for the course or anything.  He took his dummies and went home and we never had any more first aid courses, ever.  Evidently our office was banned by First Aid Canada.  They said we had killed all the dummies.

I didn’t think any of those dummies had much of a chance of making it anyway.   You kind of get a nose for that kind of thing.    They should be looking for the guy who caused the accident and not blaming us good Samaritans who took the time to stop and try to help them even though we knew it was a lost cause.  Most of them had already lost their arms and legs anyway.  At least they had someone with them when they passed and didn’t die all alone in the middle of the conference room.

Government Assistance and The War We Wage Against Each Other.


According to the Courier Mail, the Australian Government has another proposal to cut welfare payments. (see article here) I applaud the government’s efforts to look at everything and see where we can cut costs.  I applaud their seeming commitment to the idea that the solution has to help people, not just dump them and leave them off worse than before.  I admire that about the Australians, they seem to think a bit more before they jump, or at least make an effort to see the whole picture.

What irritates me is the immediate discussion that ensues where people use their own anecdotal situations as proof that everyone else could/should be able to do the same as they did.  Someone states that  they have a disability  and when offered, they refused government assistance and went out and worked 3 menial jobs just to be able to buy bread and they are happy.  Good for you.  YOU are not everyone else.

1.  Stop thinking your life and your experience is relative to the entire world.  It is just one example of one way among billions of differing ways.

You have people who immediately want you to know that everyone/most of the people on welfare or with a disability are bludgeoning the system.  They again, can tell you that they see these people applying for jobs all the time, inferring they know everyone/most of the people on welfare or with a disability.  They insist that they know of jobs that are available and so the person who says they cannot find work is lying and just lazy.

2.  You can’t possibly know more than a mere point percentage of the people who are on welfare and no-one should take your limited experience with a handful of people, for a few moments on a given day, as proof that you are capable of completely evaluating a single human being, let alone the entire group, to the point you can speak to who they are and what their intent is.

You have people who insist people on welfare abuse the monies given to them.  They see them “all the time” buying alcohol and cigarettes and they know they are doing drugs.  They see them buying crap in the grocery store.  They insist they can’t afford ice cream and so neither should anyone on government assistance.

 3.  Please see number 2, same applies. 

You have people who insist all those who are on welfare. are overweight, lazy, wanting a free ride to play games all day. They are drug dealers and criminals and are probably responsible for every crime and wrong doing that happens in our neighbourhoods.

 4.  Please see number 2, same applies.

I have no doubt that there are people out there on benefits who do exactly what these people have observed but I am not willing to accept even the anecdotal evidence to be true because, just like I do not know the people we are talking about, I do not know the person judging and have no reason to believe them any more than I do the recipients.

I don’t know what the situation is.  I am not on welfare.  I don’t have a disability.

I do know that sometimes when people cannot afford television or trips to the theme parks at the Gold Coast that “ice cream” might be the biggest thing that happens in their life.  It might be a treat they allow the children a couple times a month.  That is just as possible as is the idea that they eat it all the time when there are healthier choices. Food is incredibly personal and has a whole range of meanings for us that don’t always have to do with health.  When people are not at the top of their game food can be a source of comfort and self medication.  I see complete irony in complaining they buy drugs and then complaining they are buying food.  It makes me think the point is just to complain.   In those comments condemning them I hear people telling me that they would be happier if these people simply did not exist.  The fact they do exist, the fact we have to see them, makes them angry.  That concerns me more about the people complaining than it does about the supposed assistance “abusers.”

I have compassion for my fellow human being which includes a  sense of responsibility to help and care for those that need help and care.  I know that when things fall apart in a person’s life it is difficult to find coping methods and have the sense of self esteem that allows one to get out there and change their circumstances.  I know that one of the biggest hurdles to that self esteem are the people who stand and judge them without ever knowing them and who paint them with broad strokes of their limited experiences.

I also know that people get stuck and sometimes it is easier to throw money at a problem than it is to roll up our sleeves and actively engage with people in a way that addresses the source of the problem.

I know that we cannot go on supporting growing numbers of the unemployed and it concerns me that it is growing and I want to know why and understand how we can all contribute to a better outcome for future generations.  I may not be able to do much for the whole country but I can have an impact on my own family and friends and if each of us would do just that . . . problem solved.

We have to stop looking to the government to give us magic answers and we have to stop the adversarial position of just attacking any idea that is put forward or from getting carried away with our anger over the problem and doing really destructive things … for us and our country.    We have to start working together, taking responsibility for both the problem and the solution.

Identifying the problem is not placing blame, it is identifying those areas we need to work on and improve.  Can we stop the “us” and “them” and realize there is just “we.”  We have to look at this, understand it, change it, heal it.

We can do it.

But not if we are going to put our energy solely into name calling and further marginalizing a whole segment of society that is already marginalized.  When a natural disaster happens no-one bothers with who might have “deserved” the losses or the damage they suffered.  We just start pulling people from the debris.  The sorting out of what happened and why and how it can be prevented is another discussion to be had when all the fact are in and we are calm enough to sit and think of what can be done.

The problem is the enemy.  Not the people.  Perhaps the greatest thing we can all do to start this ball rolling is to take down the wall we have put between “us” and “them.”  We are all just human beings, none of us perfect, none of us doing all the right things that we can sit and judge others and none of us really having any idea what that person next door, on welfare, or a millionaire, is about or what they have been through.  So let’s stop the fighting and start the healing.