Step Parenting Struggles

My stepdaughter stole from me. Again. This makes the second time this trip and the fourth since Thanksgiving. I am not even sure where to begin.

Her behavior is in no way typical. She struggles with impulse control and lying. She is socially and emotionally not meeting behavioral expectations for someone of her age. She can be the sweetest person, has great leadership qualities, is creative as well as has a deep desire to read and learn. On the other hand, she’s inconsistently motivated and can be very ‘self’ focused. Her impulsivity plus her wits make her a tough match sometimes.

As someone who has worked with kids who have disabilities, I have experienced it all (almost). I have been sworn at, bitten, kicked, had a shoe thrown at my head (kid had great aim!), cussed out, and even had a knife pulled on me. And yet, none of that lands the same way as when my step kid steals from me. I know this is common behavior for her, but it looks like she has found my kryptonite. I cherish my ability to make ‘big’ purchases, especially when they take careful planning and saving. I make a conscious effort to keep my nice things nice. I value what I have from clothing to electronics to books, from ten dollars to three hundred, because for me, having money to buy myself something has not always been available. Nothing I have feels replaceable, and so I treat it as such.

So for someone to take my belongings without me knowing is a punch to the gut. The biggest personal violation. On top of that, knowing that my valuables are in possession of someone who does not treat nice things with care is especially infuriating. I’d much rather break my own things than have someone else break them.

How do I navigate this behavior, as a human, as a stepparent, as someone with a background of dealing with challenging kids? It worries me that the behavior is so normed for her that she can flat out tell me that she steals from everyone as a justification for her actions.  The behaviorist in me wants to challenge that. The human who has been violated wants to say fuck this and storm off. The stepparent says there has to be something in between.

And yet, in two days I’ll be on my way back to California and both of these things will be true: It will not be my direct issue to deal with and I will not have any major influence in making changes. Part of me is thankful to be able to leave, especially and regretfully, when her mom is here dealing with her behavior day in and day out. Another part of me is frustrated that I cannot do more.

I know that I can be of great assistance dealing with school and transition planning. My position as a stepparent means that my emotional investment is different and that allows me to see things through a different lens. Those are moments when I shine. But this shit- the daily bad behavior that infuriates everyone in the house- I don’t really shine or fail; I just exist around it.

I guess all I can do is keep supporting her parents, keep doing the best I can to help find solutions or interventions, and make sure that I always hide my stuff.

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