Granny Witch

By Geneviève Hone

Where There Is A Family

There's always advice from Granny Witch

Watch your 'step'

Hone, small image.

01 March 2014 — In a family, there are big people and little people. The big people are meant to take care of the little people. It’s as simple as that. The big people will continually engage in conversations with the little people. Some conversations will go beautifully and others will go wrong, of this you can be sure. Does this apply to all families? Yes. Let’s see how Granny Witch responds to a letter about big people, little people, and a conversation that went wrong.

Dear Granny Witch,

Image: Painting by Julien MercureThree months ago I moved in with the only boyfriend I’ve ever had who deserves to be called “love of my life”. We had been together for three years without actually living under the same roof because of his children, an 11 year old boy, Alpha, and a 14 year girl, Omega, (not their real names). The children live half time with their mother. My boyfriend and I both knew that step-parenting is not an easy proposition, so we took things slowly, one step at a time, that’s why it’s called step-parenting, I believe.

Alpha and Omega seem to have accepted that I am part of their father’s life, and they didn’t object when I moved into their home. I have come to like the children a lot. They are nice kids and fun to be with most of the time. They know that our relationship is serious and that we plan to marry one day.

As I mentioned, Omega is 14, and I understand that she needs to assert herself. Recently, however, she has become obnoxious and occasionally rude to me. My boyfriend spoke to her about that and he has encouraged me to put my foot down when necessary. It didn’t help much because when I do put my foot down, Omega stamps on it, figuratively of course, but it still hurts. Yesterday she became very angry with me when I told her that she had to be in by 10:00 p.m. She lashed out at me, yelling that I was not her mother, so bug off, yes those were her exact terms, and she rushed out the door. 

I ran upstairs and threw myself on the bed to have a good cry. When I finally came up for air, I spotted a large box that I had shoved in the corner when I moved in. Granny Witch, I don’t remember exactly what is in that box but that is not the point. The point is that it is still unpacked as if I had kept a part of me ready to quickly depart from this family which I am trying so hard to love. That thought required a fresh bout of crying, but once that was taken care of, I felt more angry than sad, which felt good.

I washed my face, combed my hair and went downstairs, firmly decided to have it out with Omega at the first occasion. Well, Omega had come back into the house and both children were sitting on the sofa watching a DVD. Alpha looked up and said: “Hi Gamma, (not my real name), do you want to watch this with us? It’s silly, but you’ll like it because the good guys squash the bad guys.” So I sat down with them and watched the movie. Omega acted as if everything was o.k. between us and later Alpha said that it was nice that I had stayed till the end because too many adults pretend that they want to watch a movie with kids, but then walk away to go do something else.

Afterwards, I made us all a snack of grilled cheese and chocolate milk, and everybody went off to bed, as if everything was well in our family. I had trouble falling asleep because my stomach hurt. Perhaps it was the grilled cheese, but I think I missed my boyfriend who is away for the weekend.

Today, I’m feeling o.k. but I’d like to get some advice from you on how to deal with the “You’re not my mother” issue. It really gets me, Granny Witch. Please help.   



Dear Gamma,

I am thinking that Alpha and Omega are lucky to have you as a stepmother. You come across as a generous and loving woman who wants the best for her new family. You took great care while preparing to move in with your boyfriend and his children. You and your boyfriend knew to watch your step. You took things slowly, recognizing the complexity of introducing a new person into a well-established family system.

You mention leaving an unpacked box in the corner of your bedroom. You surmise that maybe you left it unpacked so a part of you could depart quickly. Well that is as good an explanation as any, I guess, but let me suggest a different approach to unpacking the box.  

Find a quiet moment to go sit on your bed and just look at the box for a few moments. It’s a given that it contains something useful to you because you brought it to your new home. But you have forgotten what exactly is in it. So, just let yourself imagine that you are opening the box to discover the objects you have put there. You are happy to recognize what belongs to you, but also surprised to find two envelopes that you haven’t put there, envelopes containing the advice that you requested from Granny Witch. The first letter, just a paragraph long, reads: “In a family, there are big people and little people, all living under the same roof. The big people are meant to take care of the little people. It doesn’t matter who the big people actually are. What is important is that all the big people know with their hearts and brains that it is their job and privilege to take care of the little people, and that they decide together how they will do this. The official roles or titles of the big people don’t matter.”

The second letter reads: “Don’t change the subject of an important conversation, nor allow anybody else to do so. If the conversation is about the proper time for a 14 year old to come home on a Saturday night, stick to that. Within that conversation, there is room for dialogue, active listening, empathy, negotiation, agreement and even disagreement. ‘You are not my mother’ is a drastic shift in the subject, one that will derail your talk. You and Omega should not be talking about your role as a stepmother, while you are discussing curfews. Just keep reminding yourself that you as a big person have the right and the duty to take care of the little person that Omega still is because you live under the same roof. Just say something like ‘We may discuss my not being your mother another time. Right now, we are talking about the time at which you must come home.’ 

In your box, you might also find other useful writings, perhaps reminders that you are learning to be with your family, that you are doing your best, that it’s o.k. to make mistakes. All you need is in that box, Gamma. It’s yours for the unpacking.

All my best to you and those who live under your roof,

Granny Witch

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