Marking Territory

One of my favorite shows on TV right now is “Parenthood”. I find it has some realistic family stuff, some interesting plot lines, and can be funny and emotional.

The other night there was a story line about Crosby – the youngest son in the Braverman family, who has a young son (Jabbar) with his old girlfriend. He broke up with this girlfriend/mother of his son, and although he really wants to get back together with her, she has moved on.

Not only has she moved on, but she moved on with this guy (Dr. Jo) who is taking a great interest in not only her, but Jabbar as well.

During the episode, Crosby is faced with his son making positive comments about Dr. Jo – the “step father figure” – about how they watched a movie together, played together, are going to a football game together etc. Crosby is pretty upset about it. He is jealous that HIS son is sharing all these things with some other guy. He bursts into Dr. Jo’s office and reads him a bit of a riot act: “You may be dating my ex, but he is my son, and you can’t be doing things with him that I am supposed to do with him” etc. Dr. Jo says nothing; Crosby leaves, likely feeling “he showed him”.

Near the end of the episode, you see Dr. Jo burst into Crosby’s office and gives Crosby the tickets to the football game that he was planning on taking Jabbar to. Nice thing to do. Crosby is happy; he will now get to take Jabbar to his first game – something that “the father” should be doing. Crosby must have felt victory. He marked his territory and got the enemy off his turf.

But did he?

As Dr. Jo is leaving, he turns to Crosby and tells him while he might have given in on the football game, Crosby better start getting used to having to “share his son”. He (Dr. Jo) is now in the picture, and like it or not, he is there to stay. Crosby can’t change that, so might as well start trying to accept it.

Back to you Crosby.

It reminded me of my early days as a step mom – and of having my kids have a step mom.

I remember my ex telling me his new girlfriend was going to come to the boys’ Christmas concert. I said, “No way. Not a Christmas concert”. We discussed it, and he conceded and she didn’t come; I think he realized I was not ready. However, he did say to me, “Like or not, one day she will come to Christmas concerts and do other things and you will have to be fine with it”. It was so true, but I didn’t like it. It did take time, but I did become fine with it. Eventually, I didn’t even think about whether she would come to activities or not, or do things with or for my boys or not. It didn’t change how I mothered my boys, so what she did or did not do with my boys didn’t affect me personally: but it did affect the boys.

When I was first with Rob, I had a similar experience with his ex. She didn’t like something I did, and sent me a nasty email. In the last paragraph she marked her territory with a “You will be in my children’s life only as far as you are married to their father, but you will have no say in anything about them or any decision related to them”. I politely responded to her that I respected the fact that she was their mother, and that I had no plans to take over her mother position. But, the cold hard truth for her was I was now in their lives, and like it or not, I was there to stay.

Needless to stay, we all know how it turns out. To this day, I hear all the time, “Who does she think she is”? “She is not your mother”. She seemingly resents anything that I do that vaguely resembles a “maternal” thing. Unfortunately for her I guess, I am not a shrinking violet. I am happy to respect her role as a mother, but at the same time I am not going to sit back and not do things for my skids because of her own insecurities. I am not going to leave them out of things, not do things for them, not sign their test when they bring them to me, not attend things that are important to them because she has a jealousy factor that she needs to get over. I will fill in the blanks when things are missed. If she doesn’t do it, I will. The ironic thing is, if I didn’t do these things, she would likely criticize me for not doing things, for leaving her kids out, for not being a nice Stepmother. There’s no winning anyways.

So, I will do what is right for me and my skids. I will nourish and develop a relationship with my skids independent of everyone around us. I am not going anywhere. I am here to stay.

So, Crosby has two choices. He can fight Dr. Jo on everything or try to villainize him – but it won’t help Jabbar (in fact it will hurt his relationship with his son in the long run), and it doesn’t change the fact that Dr. Jo is there to stay and will spend time with Jabbar and do things with Jabbar regardless of Crosby’s jealousy. Or, Crosby can just accept it, embrace the role that Dr. Jo will play in raising his son and try to make a happy environment that Jabbar can thrive in. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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