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Am I way off base about dp's ex?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

The backstory: When I met my partner 3 years ago, he had just gotten full time custody of his three kids. CPS had removed them from her care, because she allowed them to spend large amounts of their time with her parents, who are toxic drunks. Her dad molested her as a child, and finally her little brother (16) tried to get her dd, then 7, to touch his genitals. She was awarded supervised visitation on the recommendation of the GAL, and if she would complete therapy and parenting classes, she could go back to court and try to get unsupervised. She never did. DP was the designated supervisor, and in 21/2 years, she came maybe five times. In the meantime she had another baby with a guy who was jailed for multiple incidents of violence.

 

Six months ago, her other dd was removed by CPS because she was living with her parents, with baby. She finally started going to the parenting classes, and got a free apartment through CPS. She is transitioning into getting her younger dd back.

 

My dp is letting her have the kids, unsupervised, at her apartment. He reasoned that since she was doing what the court had required, and since CPS saw fit to let her have her daughter, that it was ok to send his kids over there for visits. He doesn't want her to go to court and be officially awarded visitation, because he wants to be able to stop the visitation if anything fishy happens. He said it would be every other weekend.

 

This sounds like a good strategy, except:

 

1. She has this boyfriend who is about like baby's daddy. He is not supposed to have any contact with the child. When dp went to drop the kids one friday, he was there, drunk. Dp refused to drop the kids, but then brought them right back when she called and said he had left.

 

2. Bad judgement is bad judgement, and she is still exhibiting it. It's not like she did a 180 and now "gets it". Her apartment is constantly full of people, basically whoever else is around the complex with no life. I don't trust her at all to filter the people who come over, and I'm afraid someone is going to harm the kids, especially since they could have access at night.

 

3. Every other weekend has never happened. She has had the kids every weekend for the last two months. Ok, not all the kids, because the younger two don't want to be there very often. Yesterday my dp gave her a car, then let two of the kids spend the night on a school night, so she could bring them to school in the morning. This is after insisting that he would not let them go over there during the week. I don't see any boundary setting here, and it worries me. Dsd really wants to go live with her mom, and I'm pretty sure at this point that she will be doing just that when school's out in a few days.

 

4. Dp insists that her only crime is her parents. Oh wait, and her boyfriend. Without them around, everything is hunky dory and she's a great mom. But this doesn't make sense to me. What kind of mom lives 20 minutes away and doesn't come to see her kids for three years? And when I've been around her, she acts like they're pesky kids belonging to someone else. She just doesn't act bonded to them, if ykwim. She is a terrible role model, because all she does is smoke, eat, and watch tv (which she also doesn't filter for the kids). Her sons don't even want to spend the night there, most of the time, what does that tell you?

 

5. She always has some kind of drama going on in her life, which she is happy to share in detail with dsd. Her (ex's) mother plays nasty games with ex and her brother, trying to pit them against one another. Currently the mother is on the brother's side, so dsd gets to be a part of things like not getting invited to family functions because she's on her mom's "side". I also heard dsd talking the other day about how her mom told her that her violent ex boyfriend found out where she lives. This is not a good environment for a ten year old.

 

6. Dsd is ten and very heavy. She is quite active, but we are working on getting her to a couple of regular sports activities that she enjoys, and improving everyone's diet. Ex is almost a poster child for how bad health habits can wreak havoc on a person's body. I don't want all of our efforts to go down the drain because she's spending a significant amount of time with her mom.

 

It's Dsd that loves her mom to the ends of the earth, and wants to live with her. She's the one I've spent the last three years nursing through the grief of abandonment. She has truly been traumatized by this experience, and in that way it's good for her to be around her mom. But what will happen to her if she's over there all the time, and then her mom flakes out again?

 

I've explained all of these points to dp, and he sort of says he agrees with me, but his actions say he doesn't. It's not that I don't want the kids to visit their mom, I just want to stick with an every other weekend schedule, and I want him to put his foot down about her boyfriend. That if the boyfriend is there when he comes with the kids, or shows up while they're there, she can't have them until the next scheduled visit. I think this lack of boundaries could come back to bite us all in the butt in so many ways, and it's scaring me.

post #2 of 4

He's offering opportunities for the kids to have their mom in their lives.  And he's made the choice to allow visitation since she is doing the things she is supposed to be doing.  Change takes time.  She's probably not the worst person, just someone who needs help with being a good parent. 

post #3 of 4

From one custodial stepmom to another:  hug2.gif!!!

 

On a certain level, I think it's impossible to ever get completely comfortable with this role.  When the kids need you to fill all the functions of Mom, you do it.  But when your husband handles things with them in a way you completely disagree with, in the end he's the parent and you're not.  Your step-daughter is desperate to bond and identify with a woman who hasn't taken proper care of her, hasn't invested the time and effort to BE there, and doesn't set a good example.  And you're expected to be/feel supportive of this, because that woman gave birth to her (...and nothing you've done matters as much as that?  Why not?)  How in God's name can anyone expect you to care for and about kids as though you're their mother, and also expect you to essentially "put up and shut up", when they're not being properly cared for?  It's against nature.

 

On occasion, the thought has crossed my mind to just throw in the towel.  Fine.  I accept that I don't have a primary role, here.  I don't get to call any of the final shots.  Everyone can overrule me, even when I know my instincts are right.  But everyone can't have their cake and eat it, too.  If my strong opinions about the kids' needs can be dismissed...like I'm just a nanny...then why don't I insulate myself with some boundaries, like a nanny?  Set limits on my work-load for these children who aren't mine, and the depth of my emotional investment?

 

Well...of course you can't.  However it happened, you have been put in a position to care for these kids.  Your instincts about them sound spot-on, from what I've read.  By your description, their mother can't be relied upon to always be as clear-headed about their needs as you are.  And potentially their father is more motivated to cooperate with their mom and reduce conflict, than to parent them carefully.  So, whether it's fair to you, they need you, yet you'll never have the same voice in what happens to them that your husband does.  You must continually juggle both facts.  

 

Keep telling your husband what you notice and think, because it may eventually influence him.  But don't let it be a battle for which you sacrifice your marriage (and your step-kids wind up losing you).  Accept that even if you may be right, you're not in charge.  

 

Make sure you have meaningful things in your life unassociated with your stepkids, so your whole identity doesn't revolve around what's going on with them.  Keep loving them and caring and trying to do the best you can for them, but acknowledge that if there are limits to your decision-making power about them, then there are also limits to your responsibility for how they turn out.  Your step-daughter's weight is an excellent example.  You have no control over whether she ultimately follows her mother's examples.  All you can do is set a good example in your own home and guide her toward sports - and you're doing that.  Care enough to keep doing what you're doing, but convince yourself that you're not a failure if it doesn't work.  You're not her only influence.

 

Hang in there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by singin'intherain View Post

The backstory: When I met my partner 3 years ago, he had just gotten full time custody of his three kids. CPS had removed them from her care, because she allowed them to spend large amounts of their time with her parents, who are toxic drunks. Her dad molested her as a child, and finally her little brother (16) tried to get her dd, then 7, to touch his genitals. She was awarded supervised visitation on the recommendation of the GAL, and if she would complete therapy and parenting classes, she could go back to court and try to get unsupervised. She never did. DP was the designated supervisor, and in 21/2 years, she came maybe five times. In the meantime she had another baby with a guy who was jailed for multiple incidents of violence.

 

Six months ago, her other dd was removed by CPS because she was living with her parents, with baby. She finally started going to the parenting classes, and got a free apartment through CPS. She is transitioning into getting her younger dd back.

 

My dp is letting her have the kids, unsupervised, at her apartment. He reasoned that since she was doing what the court had required, and since CPS saw fit to let her have her daughter, that it was ok to send his kids over there for visits. He doesn't want her to go to court and be officially awarded visitation, because he wants to be able to stop the visitation if anything fishy happens. He said it would be every other weekend.

 

This sounds like a good strategy, except:

 

1. She has this boyfriend who is about like baby's daddy. He is not supposed to have any contact with the child. When dp went to drop the kids one friday, he was there, drunk. Dp refused to drop the kids, but then brought them right back when she called and said he had left.

 

2. Bad judgement is bad judgement, and she is still exhibiting it. It's not like she did a 180 and now "gets it". Her apartment is constantly full of people, basically whoever else is around the complex with no life. I don't trust her at all to filter the people who come over, and I'm afraid someone is going to harm the kids, especially since they could have access at night.

 

3. Every other weekend has never happened. She has had the kids every weekend for the last two months. You might discuss with your husband that if, during the school year, the kids never have weekend "down-time" with you guys (if they always have a regular schedule and responsibilities when they're with you, but are always on weekend breaks when they're with her), they may associate her place with fun and relaxation and yours only with work - and want to live with her.  Ok, not all the kids, because the younger two don't want to be there very often. Yesterday my dp gave her a car, then let two of the kids spend the night on a school night, so she could bring them to school in the morning. This is after insisting that he would not let them go over there during the week. I don't see any boundary setting here, and it worries me. Dsd really wants to go live with her mom, and I'm pretty sure at this point that she will be doing just that when school's out in a few days.

 

4. Dp insists that her only crime is her parents. Oh wait, and her boyfriend. Without them around, everything is hunky dory and she's a great mom. But this doesn't make sense to me. What kind of mom lives 20 minutes away and doesn't come to see her kids for three years? Perhaps he has trouble admitting to himself that he made not just one, but multiple kids with a woman who's not a responsible mother.  Maybe you need to steer the conversations away from anything that sounds like an assessment of her as a person (which he may see as a reflection on him) and instead focus on specific facts and concerns.  And when I've been around her, she acts like they're pesky kids belonging to someone else. She just doesn't act bonded to them, if ykwim. She is a terrible role model, because all she does is smoke, eat, and watch tv (which she also doesn't filter for the kids). You may be right about her.  But then again, I assume you're not there at her house all weekend.  Even if the kids are telling you this is "all" she does, they may be exaggerating.  Even if you don't mean to, the kids may sense that you respond better when they say derogatory things about their mother, and that you're skeptical if they say good things about her.  Try to keep in mind that you don't know for sure what life is like at her place.  At best, you have educated guesses.  Her sons don't even want to spend the night there, most of the time, what does that tell you?

 

5. She always has some kind of drama going on in her life, which she is happy to share in detail with dsd. Her (ex's) mother plays nasty games with ex and her brother, trying to pit them against one another. Currently the mother is on the brother's side, so dsd gets to be a part of things like not getting invited to family functions because she's on her mom's "side". I also heard dsd talking the other day about how her mom told her that her violent ex boyfriend found out where she lives. This is not a good environment for a ten year old.  Try to distinguish these in your mind.  That Mom's life has a lot of drama - particularly coming from her family - may not be something Mom can entirely avoid.  And it's not necessarily a reason for the kids to stay away from her.  It might be a reason to diplomatically discuss relationships with your SD and help her realize there are healthier ways to conduct relationships than what she sees with her mom.  On the other hand, a dangerous ex-BF stalking Mom IS a reason to investigate and try to shelter the kids.

 

6. Dsd is ten and very heavy. She is quite active, but we are working on getting her to a couple of regular sports activities that she enjoys, and improving everyone's diet. Ex is almost a poster child for how bad health habits can wreak havoc on a person's body. I don't want all of our efforts to go down the drain because she's spending a significant amount of time with her mom.

 

Argh!  My step-son, who's very short and only just recently started puberty (and the accelerated metabolism associated with it) has gained at least 20 pounds every summer he visits his mom.  He's there just under 2 months, meaning he gains about 3 pounds a week.  We work hard all school year to help him get healthy without humiliating him (like you said, sports and the whole family eating well, not singling him out for a "diet").  It's so frustrating to see him leave fit and active and see him come home at the beginning of the next school year chubby, out of breath, embarrassed about how he looks in a swimsuit and unwilling to ride bikes and run around with the neighborhood kids, because he can't keep up.

 

So, I get it.  But there is nothing you can do.  And this - in and of itself - is not a reason to limit the kids' time with their mom.  So think of this separately from the other issues.

 

It's Dsd that loves her mom to the ends of the earth, and wants to live with her. She's the one I've spent the last three years nursing through the grief of abandonment. She has truly been traumatized by this experience, and in that way it's good for her to be around her mom. But what will happen to her if she's over there all the time, and then her mom flakes out again?

 

I've explained all of these points to dp, and he sort of says he agrees with me, but his actions say he doesn't. It's not that I don't want the kids to visit their mom, I just want to stick with an every other weekend schedule, and I want him to put his foot down about her boyfriend. That if the boyfriend is there when he comes with the kids, or shows up while they're there, she can't have them until the next scheduled visit. Remind him, his original reason for volunteering visitation (instead of forcing Mom to get a court order) was so that he could control it and not be forced to leave his kids in unsafe situations, until the court granted a modification.  What is the point, if he's not going to set any limits based on the circumstances at Mom's house?  Maybe talk less about your own (understandable) frustration and more about wanting to support and follow through on what HE - very wisely - intended.  I think this lack of boundaries could come back to bite us all in the butt in so many ways, and it's scaring me.

post #4 of 4

Vocal, that may be one of the most accurate, perfect descriptions of the step-parent role I have ever heard. Thank you for putting so much of what we, as the steps, deal with. OF COURSE we can't just NOT love these kids as much as our hearts do. And our roles are limited, even with the other birth parent is not in the picture!

 

We went through a very tough time with my DSS's mom, involving substance abuse. Fortunately her sister was living with her at the time so a) she alerted us to what was going on (he was still very young and not all that verbal, and b) there was another adult around to help DSS when things were bad. My DH was really wishy-washy about it - and honestly, it all came from dealing with his own issues about his mother, who was an alcoholic, not available when he was young, etc. I too came from a family with similar issues. Unlike him, I had spent YEARS processing all this. Anyway, my point is, there is probably something in the way for DH of being able to be 100% responsible & straight in his communication & actions with the ex. And unless you are a trained pscychologist, you might not be able to get to the root of what that is. Deep, safe conversations about how he is feeling & why could be a good starting point, though!
 

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