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Stories Pls: Stepfamily *and* special needs kid

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Boy oh boy, I could read allllll day long, I love the Mothering forums!

I'd like to hear your stories, of stepfamilies with special needs kids (I don't know if this should also be posted in the Special Needs forum but I didn't find a lot of special needs kids in a blended/step family there).

So much applies to me but the overlap, I'm not sure how much it affects my situation.

First, I am a sm, married 2 years (Sept) to a non-custodial dh, his son is 7. We have (the normal) discipline issues, we have frustration of my being a new stepmom, picking up/dropping off, phonecalls with bm, she's a control freak, etc. What did you do on your 1st wedding anniversary? I read about 9 stepmom/stepfamily books, any I could get my hands on from the library. Of course not one was perfect, but the collective stories helped me 'shape' my expectations.

Second, my ss was diagnosed with Nonverbal learning disorder and sensory integration (from what I understand, this is considered the very light end of autism). BM has been taking him to therapy for about a year now. Surprisingly, ss has been getting better in all parts of his life.... not surprisingly he is not "getting better" with the dh and sm part of his life (surprisingly, the bm feels the same way. Coincidence? hmmmmm....). The ss is telling the therapist he doesn't want to spend as much time with us (in fact, the two holidays he normally (all 7 years) spends with his father, 4th of July and Turkey-day 2006, don't work for him this year), so though the holidays issue is still up in the air, his eowe visitation (we have a formal agreement, bm completely disregards it) has been *severely* limited.

Is this standard for a special needs kid to determine his visitation with his father? Does it matter that when ss was 6mo, the custody battle requested the same things (no holidays, no overnights ever, no vacations, etc.)?

Of course no one will be in my exact situation, I'm not expecting that. But if you're in a blended/stepfamily and have a special needs child, would you mind sharing your story with me? The stepfamily books out there are great, as are the special needs (NLD and SI) books, but to put them together... I'm at such a loss, what does this look like?!

Thanks!

Chris
post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

This one's a tough one

I know, I've only ever talked to one other mom who had a dd with aspergers who visited her father eowe. I suppose fortunately, even though the mom and dad were not longer together, they seemed to agree about things with the dd.

My sister had found a statistic somewhere that said that a very high percentage of second marriages fail due to kids, and especially kids with special needs. Of course, she hasn't been able to cite that source... ugh.

I'm still open to hearing other ppls stories here/resources; I've tried local support groups for stepfamilies and for families of kids with special needs but after asking a lot of questions to the leaders, there weren't any families that overlap.

Thanks!
post #3 of 11
what does your dh want to do?
post #4 of 11
Ummm...no. Kids (all kinds of kids) benefit from knowing that both of their parents love and want them, and spending time with both of those parents (assuming, of course, that nothing is dramatically wrong i.e., drug addiction, abuse, etc.). My sense is that, since SS's mom is making the same demands she made at the time of the original custody agreement, she's looking for an excuse to keep SS to herself. I'd looking into PAS for this kiddo. It's always hard for kids to have a bio parent re-marry, but I doubt your SS has decided that he just doesn't want to have a dad anymore.

I know this seems drastic, but your DH can call the sheriff's office at any time and have a deputy come enforce the custody agreement/parenting plan that's in place. The onus is on SS's mom to go to court to try to change custody/visitation if that's what she wants; the original custody agreement is a legally binding, enforceable document. IF (big if!) there is some reason that SS is better off living in one place only, that determination would need to be made by experts, which I'll assume that SS's mom is not. It's understandable, of course, that she wants to care for her child during this scary time, but that doesn't mean that that's what's right for SS.

Good luck! If you couldn't tell, withholding of visitation is a bit of a sore spot with me; hope you get it all worked out real soon!
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Major PAS

Wow, thanks!

The visitation time is all we have (and that continues to dwindle), ss's mom is very insecure and manipulative, have you read Divoice Poison? Not only is the bm doing so many things in that book, but ss's therapist is *every single bulleted point* in the Therapists to Avoid section.

The therapist is under the professional impression that the ss 'needs to feel in control' of his visitation, that seems really wrong to me. But again, this is where the special needs grey area comes in: Do kids with NVD and SI need to feel this kind of control, different from other sks? Though the therapist said she doesn't take notes/so she doesn't have to testify in court, she still has her opinion that of course, the bm is all for! Except in abuse/neglect/drug issues, etc., can the therapist be 'in trouble' (whatever that means) by supporting the ss's and bm's 'relaxed' interpretation of the custody agreement?

Some things, even on some of these boards, that I've read say that trying to prove PAS could just as easily backfire.

I'm really trying to stay hopeful but there are more days than not when I feel like completely giving up on this situation. Some days I truly believe that the bm would rather the ss die than give dh time and influence of the ss. That is so sad.

Thank you for your thoughts, UptownZoo, visitation is a sore spot for me too (I've heard/read of sm's who don't want their sks around, I never thought I've be fighting so hard *for* our time with ss.). I appreciate your thoughts, please keep writing,

Chris
post #6 of 11
So what kind of custody situation is there? Where I live, there are two separate kinds of custody: legal and physical. If there's joint legal custody, then your DH has equal say in who SS sees for therapy. In fact, if that's the case, then BM can't make ANY unilateral decisions for SS, other than for emergent medical care. In my state (NM), all custody decisions are heavily biased toward 50/50 custody, but even when there is a primary physical placement, there is almost always joint legal custody. I'd check into that. It could be that your DH has rights when it comes to making these decisions.

It doesn't really matter, at this point, what the therapist says about visitation. There is a visitation agreement in place and that's what's legally binding for the moment. And if it comes down to a court decision, I'm sure it'll be plenty easy for you to find an expert or 3 who will refute what the current therapist says!

If the therapist were worth her salt, she'd be working with the parents in BOTH households to help you all create the optimal living environments/rules/routines for your SS. If it really was in SS's best interest to not spend time with is dad, that information should come from the therapist making the recommendation, who would then make a recommendation to the court. It's just not OK to say it to BM so she has the leverage she needs to do what she wanted to do in the first place!

Part of the reason this is such a sore spot for me is, I HATE sharing custody with my kids' BD! Hate, hate, hate it. I love my kids; I want to be with them all the time. But I'm the adult. I have to sacrifice my own selfish interests to do what's right for them, which is ultimately to be with both of their parents, and to have me rise above all of it and get along well with their dad (which I'm proud to say I do). It makes me more than a little nuts when people make these crazy decisions that because of this or that little thing, their kids should be deprived of the love and devotion of half of their parents. Nuts! There are so many kids in the world who don't have the option of having two parents because of abandonment or abuse or death, and that's tragic, but then there are people just doing it willy-nilly, to suit their own preferences.

Stepping off my soap box now!
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Completely Dig Your Soapbox!!

I feel like the ss is getting the message from the bm that dads are optional. And they aren't. And the reason I feel they aren't is because I didn't have the choice. My father died when I was 9 and death puts a damper on choosing to live across town or eowe visits or phone calls or influence or discipline or love or deep conversations or building that relationship so that someday, when you're 26 and trying to start your own business and you're scared to f*cking death you're going to screw it up or walking down the aisle with your soulmate or... you have the option of calling your dad up and asking him a question, because you know he cares, because he was there for you. And even if he turns out to be a real pr*ck, you had the option, the choice, of calling, or not.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I have had my personal epiphany that there are only two people in this situation that can do anything about visitation: the bm and my dh. The bm is trying, from every angle, to alter the custody agreement non-legally (through therapist's recommendations, etc.) and my dh has not stepped up to the plate to enforce the agreement. I'm frustrated with him for not doing it; I have compassion for him, that the bm *really* scarred him during the custody battle.

I'm hoping dh's new therapist will be more agressive and will help build in dh the confidence to fight for his son; the longer this goes on, the more I see it being on our side (if/when we go to court).

Thank you Uptownzoo, your thoughts are really helping. At the moment, the ss situation is a touchy subject in the house, so I'm going to wait until after dh finds a good therapist to inquire more about the details of the custody agreement.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by PingPong'sMom
I feel like the ss is getting the message from the bm that dads are optional. And they aren't. And the reason I feel they aren't is because I didn't have the choice. My father died when I was 9 and death puts a damper on choosing to live across town or eowe visits or phone calls or influence or discipline or love or deep conversations or building that relationship so that someday, when you're 26 and trying to start your own business and you're scared to f*cking death you're going to screw it up or walking down the aisle with your soulmate or... you have the option of calling your dad up and asking him a question, because you know he cares, because he was there for you. And even if he turns out to be a real pr*ck, you had the option, the choice, of calling, or not.
Oh, yeah. I hear you. My dad was there, technically, but alcoholic and anorexic (weird, I know, but the most dramatic and painful fact of my childhood) and I would have done about anything for my dad to get off the couch and BE MY DAD. Maybe that's why I'm willing and able to lay down my discomfort and support my kids' right to have their dad in their lives. And the fact is (much as I hate to admit it ) that he's a good dad. He doesn't do things the way I want him to, but he loves them and he knows how to show it. Kids can and do grow up without one or both parents all the time, but it's clearly not something to be taken lightly the way your SS's mom is doing. It's so sad that she doesn't understand that her kid needs his dad!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PingPong'sMom
Fortunately/unfortunately, I have had my personal epiphany that there are only two people in this situation that can do anything about visitation: the bm and my dh. The bm is trying, from every angle, to alter the custody agreement non-legally (through therapist's recommendations, etc.) and my dh has not stepped up to the plate to enforce the agreement. I'm frustrated with him for not doing it; I have compassion for him, that the bm *really* scarred him during the custody battle.
Yup. Powerlessness sucks. From where I sit, I always feel like I know exactly what my DH needs to do and how he should handle the situation with SS's BM. I spent the first few years of our marriage tying myself in knots, trying to control the whole situation. I did a lot of damage by being pushy and controlling. Ultimately, though, I had to learn that much as I want to be, I'm not SS's mom and I don't get to make these decisions. I certainly expect DH to take my feelings into account (and he does), but I had to back off a little. I mean, if DH dies on the way home from work today, BM doesn't ever have to let me see SS again. I don't really have the power in this situation. So in a nutshell, you're right. Other than let your DH know how you feel and what you see, there's nothing you can do. He's the only one with the power to enforce the custody agreement.

I hope things are going to be OK for your family. My DH and BM are doing round 326 regarding whether/where SS goes to church. I'm pretty durn tired of this one, but I'll count my blessings and remember that nobody is trying to keep SS away from us!
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Big day

Today was my first test, I think I passed.

Although I'm still having bad dreams about the power the bm has over us and our time with ss, I've really been attempting to give it up to my dh. I've really focused on other things and nothing until today has come up.

Today my dh said he got an email from ss's therapist. It appears that ss isn't sleeping at his house or ours, that he must be worried or nervous about something but can't put his finger on it (or his words, he has a hard time expressing himself/his special needs). Ss's therapist emailed dh and asked if he knew of anything going on.

Dh replied that ss was disappointed this past weekend that dinner plans with dh, ss *and* bm (yes, all together, as if they are one big happy family) had to be changed and that maybe ss is seeing what life would be like with a whole family/mom and dad under the same roof and he's bummed. Now, why dh, ss and bm are spending more time together (I've always seen this to be under false pretense) is at therapist's suggestion: the therapist said it would be good for ss to see his mom and dad be civil to each other and spend time with each other in each other's homes. Dh has spent regular time with the ss and bm at their house during dh's visitation time for a few months now.

Anyway, instead of arguing all this, I asked my dh what he thought of the situation. I was clearly supportive. I was kind. I expressed a bit of disappointment at the situation. I did not judge him. I didn't get overly emotional. And I left it at that.

I do feel time is of the essence, we can begin to change this now. I foresee a year from now, the situation getting even worse and him coming to me for help. And I will have to do the above then too. Argh, but good for me for at least recognizing this line, this boundary, where I never saw it before.
post #10 of 11
Good for you for not trying to control the situation! I always feel like the Buddha or something when I handle one of these situations without getting all wound around it.

Do you think it would be OK to tell him that you're concerned that this situation will get worse? Telling him what you're thinking and feeling is not the same as pushing him to do what you want. Or maybe it is. I never know.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
I've been thinking about telling dh my concerns but also want to bask in this realization or okayness with not controlling the situation. And you're right, one little tweak of a word or emphasis on the end of a word and not the beginning can make all the difference between expressing my concerns and pushing them.

This week has been riddled with nightmares and poor health but I'm also getting the silver/mercury fillings removed so I could also be having poor reaction to that as well.

I've never been one for bottling it up inside, I think I'm really sensitive to that so I'm treading slowly and as carefully as possible while still feeling under the weather.

Perhaps this weekend, Sunday, we have the day together, I might bring the subject up, in a thoughtful sort of way. I'll keep you posted!
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