My husband and I started dating in January 2009. At that time he had an 11 month old son. In March 2010 we moved to Memphis together. September 2010 is when my stepson came to live with us full time. My husband was granted full physical custody. We had to file for an emergency custody hearing. My stepson’s mother was not taking care of him at all. He was severely neglected. Just a bad situation. So I became a full time mom over the course of 5 days. From September 2010 until about April 2013, my stepson’s mom was very much absent from his life. She was wrapped up in her own problems and just didn’t have time to be a parent to my stepson or her other child, who also lives with his father. She was hoping back and forth from friends couches to her parents home. She was partying, doing drugs, and completely obsessed with boys. When I would reach out to her and try to talk to her about my stepson, she would talk to me and seem concerned but then her actions would prove otherwise. When I would speak to her mother, the grandmother, she would go back and forth. One month she would be tired of her daughters actions and want nothing to do with her. The next they would be on good terms and she would defend her daughter to me. My stepson’s mother was very flaky. Sometimes she would not show up for her visitation with her son at all. Sometimes we would not get a phone call from her for 2 months at a stretch. It went on like that for 2 and a half years.

Then in the last year, things have slowly started to change. My stepson’s mother moved back into her parent’s home. She began being present for every moment of her visitation. She graduated from barber college. She got a job. She started have consistent contact with my stepson, calling on a weekly basis. She actually attended a few of his sporting events in the fall of 2013. She came to parenting day at his school. She really seems to be showing improvement. She still does things that we do not particularly like, but we realize that there are many ways to be a good parent. And most of the things we have problems with are more of our opinion than anything.

For so long I have been a mother to a child who I did not have to love. I choose everyday to love him and care for him. I have been here for him when his mother has walked out the door with him screaming behind her saying, “Please don’t leave me Momma.” I have been mad at her so many times for hurting him. I have had some many conversations with her about how to do better and what things needed to change. I have talked until I am blue in the face. Then last Mother’s Day, she hurt me like I’ve never been hurt before. She told my 5 year old stepson that he didn’t need to get me a mother’s day card or a present because I was not a real mother.

I was furious. Not a real mother? That’s funny. I sure do feel real. I really take care of my stepson 28 day out of the month. I really take him to school each day, fix his snack to take to school, pick him up, help him do homework, take him to sporting practices and games, get him feed and ready for bed each night. I really read him book every night before bed. I really teach him about God and Jesus. I really went through the two year old and three year old tantrums that she missed because she wasn’t there. I woke up with him in the middle of the night when he wet the bed. I stayed home with him when he was sick with fever. I take him to the doctor and dentist. I raise this child the best way I know how but I am not a real mom because he did not come out of my stomach? That just doesn’t seem fair to me.

Since that day, I have quit trying to help her. I have stopped communicating with her at all. The only times we have spoken is when we are in my stepson’s presence. In the past year, I have had all communication go through my husband. She hates it. My husband hates it. But for me and my sanity, that’s the way it needs to be for now.

And now that she is back in the picture full time, we are faced with a whole new set of problems. Now she thinks she is completely better and is entitled to all of her rights as his mother. But as it stand right now, she has supervised visitation only per court order. Her parents are both supervisors. We found out recently that the grandmother has been allowing her to have unsupervised time with my stepson. Which she is not allowed to do presently. But because she is his mother, she doesn’t understand why we wont allow her unsupervised time. So she lashes out at us and puts us in a position where we have to make tough decisions that ultimately only hurt our son’s heart.

So my dilemma is this: I want her to be in my stepson’s life as long as it is in a positive way because that is what is best for him. I know it is best for him to have a good relationship with all of his parents. But how do I forgive all the things that have happen in the past. How do I let go of the neglect, the abandonment, the hurtful things. How do I forgive like God has forgiven me. How do I forgive like God forgave Israel in the book of Hosea. How do I forgive? It is so hard! Especially when she continues to do things that are breaking the court order and showing no respect towards my husband and I. I don’t want to be a push over, but I also don’t want to be hard hearted. I am tortured by this. I just don’t want to forgive so quickly and have her turn right back around and hurt us all again. I am stuck in my heart because I truly do not know what is the right thing to do. It’s hard.