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How do you respond? - Page 2

post #21 of 28
I was the oldest child in a blended family. My full sister and I still remember and occasionally even re-experience the sting of injustices in the distribution of material resources and attention in our family. For us, it was not really about the stuff. That was just the measurable thing that we could point to, so sometimes we really focused on that. However, it was really about our dad's attention, support, time, love, and generosity with us. We did not feel as teenagers that he wholeheartedly loved us, and part of the reason why was because we saw him and our stepmom enthusiastically buying the younger ones every latest gadget and taking them to Paris while he niggled with us over things like whether we really needed music lessons or SAT prep--while also not showing up at our school events. Our stepmom floated along oblivious to our issues with our dad, and expressing strongly that we should be grownup enough to help out at home and never grudge our siblings their toys and adventures. The truth was that we actually loved our siblings wholeheartedly and wanted the best of everything for them; she never got that it was all about our dad. I'm sure we seemed immature and jealous to her. To us she seemed always to wish that her kids were the only ones in the family and not to be able to empathize with us.

It sounds like the family in this case is much more inclusive of the older child and evenhanded with him, so these aren't parallel situations. Still, based on my experiences I encourage the stepmom to try to understand whether there are deeper family dynamics at play than just inappropriate jealousy of the stuff a younger sibling gets as the family builds wealth. I suspect this is could be more about the person who wasn't discussed at all in the original description of what's going on: dad. Also, it doesn't feel the same to be included in something the whole family gets/does as it does to have something special for one's self. If the older son has only ever had birthday parties planned by his mom, and never been celebrated at dad's house while his brother has, no wonder he is looking for ways to express his feelings that he has gotten the short end of the stick. My guess would be that it's more about that than the bouncy castle.

P.S. About the approach of telling the son to buck up and stop his jealousy: coming from a stepmother, I think this may or may not produce better behavior, but almost certainly won't produce deeper, happier, more loving family ties and more maturity on the part of the teen. I'm for the try-to-understand-it approach. Teenagers who've been through a family split are often emotionally regressed and insecure when it comes to their place in the family. It makes for a tough adolescence and young adulthood when memories of growing up don't give one a sense of "bedrock" from which to grow.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by beep View Post
I was the oldest child in a blended family. My full sister and I still remember and occasionally even re-experience the sting of injustices in the distribution of material resources and attention in our family. For us, it was not really about the stuff. That was just the measurable thing that we could point to, so sometimes we really focused on that. However, it was really about our dad's attention, support, time, love, and generosity with us. We did not feel as teenagers that he wholeheartedly loved us, and part of the reason why was because we saw him and our stepmom enthusiastically buying the younger ones every latest gadget and taking them to Paris while he niggled with us over things like whether we really needed music lessons or SAT prep--while also not showing up at our school events. Our stepmom floated along oblivious to our issues with our dad, and expressing strongly that we should be grownup enough to help out at home and never grudge our siblings their toys and adventures. The truth was that we actually loved our siblings wholeheartedly and wanted the best of everything for them; she never got that it was all about our dad. I'm sure we seemed immature and jealous to her. To us she seemed always to wish that her kids were the only ones in the family and not to be able to empathize with us.

It sounds like the family in this case is much more inclusive of the older child and evenhanded with him, so these aren't parallel situations. Still, based on my experiences I encourage the stepmom to try to understand whether there are deeper family dynamics at play than just inappropriate jealousy of the stuff a younger sibling gets as the family builds wealth. I suspect this is could be more about the person who wasn't discussed at all in the original description of what's going on: dad. Also, it doesn't feel the same to be included in something the whole family gets/does as it does to have something special for one's self. If the older son has only ever had birthday parties planned by his mom, and never been celebrated at dad's house while his brother has, no wonder he is looking for ways to express his feelings that he has gotten the short end of the stick. My guess would be that it's more about that than the bouncy castle.

P.S. About the approach of telling the son to buck up and stop his jealousy: coming from a stepmother, I think this may or may not produce better behavior, but almost certainly won't produce deeper, happier, more loving family ties and more maturity on the part of the teen. I'm for the try-to-understand-it approach. Teenagers who've been through a family split are often emotionally regressed and insecure when it comes to their place in the family. It makes for a tough adolescence and young adulthood when memories of growing up don't give one a sense of "bedrock" from which to grow.
I think this is a great post, Beep. You articulated a lot of what I feel regarding this sort of thing. I am also an adult who has half-siblings who are 20 or more years younger than me...and the difference is astounding. It really is about Dad in my case. I don't blame my stepmom for how she treats her kids (although I don't get along with her). I do blame my Dad for how he neglected us. Really "neglected" is not the right word...but in my case there was a big party for one of my half-sibs that clearly cost a lot of money, while my sister was having trouble getting my Dad to help pay her tuition that year. Amusingly, I think there was an inflatable bouncing platform at that party.

I don't want to project too much into this, but I guess what I'm saying is that it is probably worth talking to the kid about his feelings on this, and I'd try to keep shame out of it. Maybe he has legitimate concerns or fears. Maybe he needs to be reassured in some way.

I had a visceral negative reaction to what Smithie wrote. I don't agree with that idea at all, although I suppose if you are certain you are above reproach in this area, you could go with Smithie's suggestions. I think it is difficult to be completely above reproach in this area, though.
post #23 of 28
I wasn't actually suggesting that that OP do anything at all (and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear). I was suggesting, am still suggesting, that the the DAD talk to his SON about the resentment he's expressing. It sounds like that's pretty universal advice from everybody here, even if our preferred approaches vary just a bit.

If this 15-year-old is not having his own material needs met, that obviously puts a different spin on the whole deal, but I don't see any reason to assume that's the case. It really does suck when a father treats his second family better than his first - but OTOH, a 15 year old can feel slighted with no actual just cause, and part of getting beyond the mental age of 15 is to learn not to inflict manufactured injustices on the people you live with.
post #24 of 28
People seem to be saying, pretty explicitly saying, that it's good to be ashamed of negative emotions. So my question: when a stepmom comes on this forum and says that she feels so terrible that she has different feelings for her stepkids than her bio-kids, do we shame her? Do we tell her that it's useful to feel bad because that will keep her in check with her stepkids? Or do we try to empathize with the difficult feelings she has, explain that they are totally normal and THEN also talk about how to manage them and show love to all kids - because all the kids NEED to feel loved unconditionally.

There are some very dark feelings that I see expressed here. As a mom to a girl with a step-parent, sometimes they break my heart because they amplify the fact that my partner also has these complicated feelings. And I desperately want my partner to feel the same way about my daughter as he does about his infant son. But he can't. He needs a safe space to express that. BUT from there we can talk about how to treat my daughter with love and empathy and how to build their own unique relationship.

It probably breaks the OP's heart that her stepson seems to begrudge her child, his sibling, nice things. It feels mean and hurtful. And certainly he should not be allowed to act on these feelings - either through saying mean things to the younger child or being able to affect the amount of things the younger child receives. But he should be allowed his feelings and helped to figure out how to act on them in an appropriate way.

And I agree with pp's who have pointed out that no one, not even adults, should be subjected to shame as a form of behavior control.
post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
First, I want to thank everyone who has responded. You've all given me much to think about.

I also want to expand on a couple of issues from my original post, in the hopes that you can all offer further guidance.

Right now, my stepson seems to be emotionally 'stuck' over three things: the birthday party, the Wii and the vacation we took this summer (which was a week at the Jersey shore, nothing really elaborate).

Here are the reasons I'm so frustrated about his take on these situations:

The birthday party. In my family, children's birthdays were always a HUGE deal. You were like prince or princess for the day. You got breakfast in bed, you got to choose what you'd like for dinner, and the WHOLE extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, even neighbors) would converge on your house for cake and ice cream. My Grandma made wedding cakes for a living, and she would make you any kind of cake you could dream up. And we all dreamed big!

On the other hand, in my husbands family (and, I have come to learn, in DSS's mom's family) birthdays were just another day. My husband would get $10 and that was about it. No special dinner, not even a cake. So my husband (and I guess to some extent, DSS's own mom) doesn't make a big deal out of birthdays.

I, however, intend to carry on the tradition of fun birthdays with my son, AND (AND!) with DSS. I have asked him (and will continue to ask him) what dinner he'd like, what kind of cake, if he wants to invite friends. I put up the birthday banner, I buy balloons. And every year since they've known him, my mom and dad drive 8+ hours to be here when we celebrate his birthday.

I'm not saying all this because I want a pat on the back. I just wanted to clarify the differences between all our families.

Ever since DSS started talking about all the things that DS has, I've wanted to say to him "But DS is my son. I'll make different decisions for him than your mom made for you." I'm beginning to feel like his mom is dictating how I should raise my son, because I am expected to keep things equal.

I'm glad that DSS feels like he can say these things to me, and I want him to be able to talk to me. I don't think I'd ever say to him "these are things you should discuss with your dad, not me", because if he chooses to talk to me, I want to respect that (and because in 10 years, I can't imagine ever telling my own son to go talk to his dad about something instead of talking to me). And his dad has been involved in these conversations and has told him over and over that he and DSS's mom were raised differently than I was and they didn't begrudge him a party because they didn't love him, they just weren't "those" parents. It's like being jealous that his little brother has green eyes when he has brown eyes.

And DSS has had lots of experiences that DS will never have because of HIS mother. They take a cruise every year - I hate boats, so DS will have to wait until he's all grown up to do that. DSS has been to Disneyland 6 times - DS will have to do that on his own when he's a grown up, too, because I don't like Disney. I was so worked up last night, that I almost made a huge chart of all the awesome things DSS has/does that DS does not, but I figured that was kind of childish.

I had a sibling, and I understand that they are not always going to love each other. I'm OK with jealousy and fighting and I don't expect it to be a love-fest all the time. But the pettiness bugs me, the 'tit for tat' attitude. I'm struggling to stay kind and understanding when it gets to that point.
post #26 of 28
With all your points in your new post... the fact that it seems DSS's Mom is very involved and they go on neat vacations too... I don't think your DSS should be upset as he is.

Not that he isn't entitled to his emotions... but it sounds like self-absorbed teenage stuff that should definitely be talked to him about.

If he gets other cool things at his Mom's house and does things with her, plus does cool things and is included in your house, I'm not understanding where the problem is.

It sounds like teenage angst stuff to me. I don't think telling him that jealousy isn't an appealing character trait, and that wishing to deprive his brother of things isn't very nice either is shaming him... it's guiding him to make more adult decisions about the proper adult way to act in the situation.

I didn't see anyone saying to shame him of his feelings... validate that it does suck having two different home styles... but I think it is imperative to guide and educate the proper response to that.
post #27 of 28
Have you ever seen this book? http://www.amazon.com/Moms-House-Dad...2597636&sr=8-1

It may help your DSS a lot. I know that it helped my DSS 14 when he read it a few years ago. If I remember correctly, it discusses some of this stuff.

While I agree with you that a chart may be childish, it may be helpful to point out some of the stuff that you did in your last post. The fact is that they have different moms. And because of that, they will do different things. Maybe point out that your DS will have to wait until he's older to go on a cruise because you don't like boats but DSS gets to go on a cruise every year.
post #28 of 28
The addititonal information from the OP helps a lot in understanding this situation. Sounds tough and frustrating.

I do continue to think that dad should be involved because his response will be very important to his older son, and I'm glad he is. I think the OP's impulse to deal directly is also good, as long as dad is actively involved.

My thought would be to answer complaints consistently with two things:
1) You boys are different people, different ages, and are growing up in different families with different norms and traditions (even though some members are the same). So the things and experiences you two have will be different. The cruises with your mom are an example, as is the fact that you have divorced parents. Dad and I have had to face up to these differences and hope you will come to be comfortable with them too.
2) I request that you tell me what it is that you want and need from us rather than what your brother should or shouldn't have or do. Within reason, we will try to provide it, but we do need you to communicate with us about what is going on with you.
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