One Bite at a Time — Her Perspective
An Excerpt from Blended Families An Anthology
Copyright © 2006 by Valerie L. Coleman
With the car engine running and tears streaming down my cheeks, I decided to give my marriage one more try. I called my friend for prayer.
“Buffy, I can’t take it anymore. It’s been eleven years and his daughter still doesn’t respect me.” I fastened the seat belt to expedite my getaway.
“What’s wrong Val?”
“It’s like Craig just doesn’t get it. She says and does things that are so disrespectful and mean. And when I mention it to him, he tells me that I’m the adult and the Christian.” I rummaged through the armrest console for some tissue. “I’d never let my boys treat him like that.”
“So tell me what happened.” Her gentle voice quieted my tormented heart.
“Well, the other day all of the kids were over — a couple of nieces, Junior and our Godson, Boogie. As usual, the kids were up and down the steps, running through the house. Boogie and I were in the family room when the doorbell rang.”
“Okay, so who was at the door?”
“Well, Boogie had just fallen asleep in my lap.” My voice trembled. “I was going to lay him on the couch, when the stampede raced to the door.”
“Yeah. I’m okay.” I blew my nose and continued. “Now, you know that I can see the front door from the family room, right?”
“Yeah, it’s a clear shot. So?”
“So I’m still sitting on the couch trying to see who’s at the door because all of the kids are parading around like the Energizer bunny.” I revved the engine. “Before I could acknowledge her, she rolled her eyes, threw her hands on her hips, sucked her teeth and asked the kids, ‘Is my daddy here?’ Like I was not in the room.”
“Oh, that was not good.”
“Not good. If I didn’t have Boogie in my lap, I may ha—”
“Let’s not even go there. Be thankful that he was in your lap.”
“You’re right. I don’t mean to sound petty, but this has been going on far too long. She’ll call and then hang up if I answer the phone. And the things that she’s said to me and about me are hurtful. I’ve never done anything to make her hate me.”
“She doesn’t hate you. She just wants to make sure that she doesn’t lose her place as daddy’s little girl.”
“And I can appreciate that. I don’t want to be his little girl, I’m his wife. But this is my queendom and I expect to be respected. I walk on eggshells to keep the peace. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. No one comes over here talking crazy to me, but her. And Craig does nothing about it.”
“He probably feels like he’s being pulled in every direction.”
“Yeah, so do I. It’s like having my arms and legs tied to four horses. Then the enemy slaps them and they charge off in different directions. I’m being ripped apart from the inside.” I grabbed the last tissue.
“Well, how old is she? Maybe she’s too young to know better.”
“Sorry, but I am not going out like that. Whether two or twenty-two, a child needs to know his or her place in the family. She is eighteen and old enough to know better.” I dabbed at the tears. “Look, I just called you for prayer. I’m at my wit’s end. I’m in the driveway, ready to leave and never come back. If she wants her daddy, she can have him. I don’t have anymore fight in me.” I held the phone toward the dashboard and revved the engine again.
“Lord, we thank You for being our source and our sustainer. You are the God of more than enough. We know that You have ordained this marriage and we ask that You bring peace to this family. You have designated Valerie to set the atmosphere in her home and she has created an environment of warmth and love. Lord, let everyone that enters her home come in peace.”
My dear, sweet friend prayed for another ten minutes. By the time she finished, tears cascaded down my cheeks and showered the steering wheel. “Thanks, Buffy.”
“Be encouraged, Val. Things will get better.”
I turned off the car and went inside the house. Lord, I need Your help. The revelation struck me like the slam of a judge’s gavel. I’ve been running to my husband with my concerns about the marriage, the kids, the ex. He’s just as torn and frustrated as I am. I need to go straight to the Father.
“Hey, babe. Where have you been?” Craig greeted me at the door.
“Getting some fresh air.” I kissed my king and then headed for my secret place. I needed some one-on-one time with my Daddy. Everyday for two weeks, I came home from work and went to my prayer closet. Prostrate before the Lord, I asked Him to help me be a better stepmother and wife. On the third day of my spiritual petitioning, I overheard Craig on the telephone.
“Look, baby girl, I love you with all my heart. You know that, right? Okay, then tell me this, who is your favorite teacher? Just answer the question.” He paused. “And what makes Mrs. Johnson special?” By this time, my ears perked up like a hunting dog that spotted the fox.
“So, you like Mrs. Johnson because she sincerely cares about you. That’s fair. Now, I assume that with that ‘like’ comes respect, right?” I pretended to be engaged in Law & Order, as he continued. “I trust your judgment of character. So, since you like and respect Mrs. Johnson, then I do too. Not because I know her, but because you know her. Sound reasonable? Good. Now, I need you to do me a small favor. Show my wife the same respect you show Mrs. Johnson. Not because you know her, but because I know her. She sincerely cares about you. Trust my judgment.”
With my bottom jaw on the floor and eyes wide open, I shifted in the chair. A smile washed across my face. Okay, Lord, I get it. Take it to You.
Since that conversation, our relationship has improved. Not in leaps and bounds, but small steps in the right direction. We have brief conversations on the phone and she’s even asked for my opinion a couple of times. We’re eating the elephant one bite at a time.
Did I stay or go?
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His Number One Girl
An Excerpt from Blended Families An Anthology
Copyright © 2006 by Valerie L Coleman
The family had just finished Sunday dinner. I clanked dishes in the soapy water, while everyone else sat around the fireplace enjoying reruns of The Cosby Show. Ten minutes later, I joined the group in the family room.
“Daddy, aren’t I your number one girl?” The hairs on my neck stood at attention. Our blended family consists of four boys and one girl. Our thirteen-year old daughter, my husband’s oldest biological child, jockeyed for her position on a regular basis. I cocked my head to the left and with my eyes fixed on his mouth, waited for his reply.
“Baby, you’re daddy’s number one girl,” he said as he stroked her hand. My upper lip curled. “But Valerie is my number one lady.” He caressed my back and smiled. My contorted face relaxed a smidgen. The opportunity to affirm me presented itself and he wimped out. Later that evening, I expressed my contempt.
“Babe, why did you tell her that she was your number one girl?”
“Because she is my number one girl,” he said as he slapped some Colgate on his toothbrush.
“I know, but her motive for asking was to force you to choose between me and her.” I slipped on my pajamas, stomped into the bedroom and plopped on the bed. “Why didn’t you correct her?”
“I didn’t see a need to correct her. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
“See, that’s what I’m talking about. You miss all the subtle things she says or does to get under my skin.”
“So why do you keep exposing yourself?”
“Good night, Craig.” I snatched the covers and rolled over. No kisses tonight.
In preparation for my blended family anthology, I interviewed Brenda McKinney, a licensed social worker and family therapist. I shared the event with her. “Can you believe that? His number one lady,” I said, with my head shifting from side to side. “What a cop out.”
“Actually, your husband gave the best possible reply.”
“Really? How’s that?” Curious George walked into the room and jumped on my back.
“His response validated both of you. He acknowledged her position as daughter and yours as wife. He put a stop to the game without creating chaos. I’m really quite impressed.”
“Wow. I wish I had known that seven years ago.”
Consumed with the princess’ attempt to dethrone me, I failed to realize that my queendom was never in jeopardy. She believed that if she lost her place as daddy’s number one girl, then she would also lose his love. Her statement was not an attack against me, but a call for reassurance that their relationship was still solid.
So, after eating a full-course meal of shame salad, meathead meatloaf, stir-fried stupid, topped off with humble pie for dessert, I apologized to my husband. Kisses tonight.
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