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Didn't see this one coming

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
We live 2000 miles away from DSS (7) and DSD (barely 4). They visit us here for long school breaks, and we visit them when we can. We talk every other day or so, send them mail weekly and video call weekly. The kids get super excited when they are getting ready for a visit. DSS gets especially excited, and for this trip he was marking the days off a calendar for his visit and he packed two days in advance! They both always have a great time here -- very happy, well-adjusted kids. They each seem to adjust very rapidly to being back here -- reconnecting with us and all their stuff. We keep them on a regular routine and it all seems great.

So, anyway, their mom and I were discussing the summer. Since the order says 42 summer days (but she gets to visit them twice for a weekend each during that time, though she'd likely only come once due to expense) she was worried that the little one wouldn't adjust well and might need to come back early. I assured her if she did need to (the longest we've had her at once was 3 weeks, but that was without a visit from their mom) then we would definitely send her home, but that she always does well here so we hope she won't have any trouble. I just figured she was being a protective mom and didn't think too much of the request. I mean, 6 weeks does sound like a lot if you've never seen her here and don't know how happy and well-adjusted she is here. She never even asks about her mom here.

So then she told me that DSD told DSD's mother, grandmother, and a family friend, all separately, that when she comes to visit us this last break (10 days) that she would be crying for her mother and grandmother every day!! I couldn't believe it! Why would DSD say that? She came for ten days without incident. There was one time I thought she seemed to be missing her mom (this is highly unusual for her) -- just mostly talking about her mom more than normal, so I had her call her. That was it. Once. And she never cried for her. She certainly didn't even mention her grandmother.

She only just turned 4 -- can she really be so manipulative already?? Or did she think she'd be unhappy? But if so, why? So I asked her (gently) why she told them that. She admitted to saying it, and said "I was tricking them." I don't know if she's manipulative enough to be "tricking" at this stage, but maybe that's just her way of saying she didn't mean it. So I'm confused.

Any thoughts on why she did this? And how can I reassure her mother? I can definitely see now why she was worried -- the thought of that sweet child crying every night for Mommy.. But it never happened!
post #2 of 27
I'd be inclined to let the child have whatever feelings and not try to make her guilty for saying she missed her mom. It seems that you don't want to hear she misses her mom and the child attempted to mollify your feelings too. She is stuck in the middle.
post #3 of 27
I'm always surprised at the way things get translated between visits. DH and SS's mom have had conversations where situations in our home are described and I am thinking "What the heck?". Now in my case, SS is 11 and was almost 7 when visits that involved me started, so he was more able to be articuate and also gauge the reaction he got from his mom to what he shared.

DH always asks SS directly what was said and why. In our case, it is a lot of his mom prodding for information and then extrapolating what she wants to believe from what he tells her.

With your SD so young it could have been as simple as mom asking, "Are you going to miss mommy when you are gone? Mom is going to miss you a lot." Depending on how she heard that, your SD could have felt the need to reassure mom. We never know how kids are going to interpret adult feelings and words, or how sensitve your SD is to her mom.

It does seem unlikely that she would conscioulsly manipulate at her age. Maybe she just expressed what in her world demonstrated that she would be sad. The "tricking" comment could have just been another language choice. Like when my little one says she's "joking" and laughs, even though she doesn't totally understand what that means yet.

It sounds like you have a good relationship with her mom at least, so you are not having to defend yourself.
post #4 of 27
All I can guess is that at that age kids change their likes and dislikes so often, that it might be tough to keep up with it. Maybe she didn't miss her mom last time, and now she feels she would. It's great to have good history of a previous visit, but it's ok to accept that she feels more anxious about it this time around. She might have been "tricking them", or she might have been feeling guilty about feeling scared this time, and trying to calm you down by saying that she "tricked" here mom and grandmother. Or she might have been just a silly kid saying silly things she didn't mean either time. Who knows... *shrug*


I wouldn't go down the path of trying to find fault in the way a four-year-old is expressing her concerns, I'd simply try to reassure her that you'll try to make her stay with you fun and exciting, and she is welcome to call her mom if she misses her whenever she'd like.

I hope everything works out for you
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by kkj323 View Post
With your SD so young it could have been as simple as mom asking, "Are you going to miss mommy when you are gone? Mom is going to miss you a lot." Depending on how she heard that, your SD could have felt the need to reassure mom. We never know how kids are going to interpret adult feelings and words, or how sensitve your SD is to her mom.

It does seem unlikely that she would conscioulsly manipulate at her age. Maybe she just expressed what in her world demonstrated that she would be sad. The "tricking" comment could have just been another language choice. Like when my little one says she's "joking" and laughs, even though she doesn't totally understand what that means yet.
I totally agree. I know we have had conversations with my step-daughter during which she tells us all sorts of outlandish things she is going to do ("I'll be so excited I'm just going to run around my classroom yelling "Papa's coming today" all day and I won't even listen to the teacher during centers!" or "I'll wake up really early before mommy and I'll ask [step-dad] to take me to the airport and I'll get on a plane to Vermont, and when Mommy wakes up she'll look around and say 'Where's [DSD]?" and [step-dad] will say 'She's in Vermont!" We think it is the way she is able to express her feelings about the situation and talk about it in a way that makes sense to her.

As for what to do for mom... when my step-daughter is here we encourage frequent phone contact (even if it is brief by DSD's choice) and my husband sends email every so often about how she is doing. If she misses mom a lot we have her call or set up a video chat, which seems to help even more than a phone call. Maybe reiterate that the daily crying didn't happen, that if it did you would certainly let her know, and let mom know what plans you have in place for if your step-daughter IS upset and missing her a lot. Good luck!
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pranamama View Post
I'd be inclined to let the child have whatever feelings and not try to make her guilty for saying she missed her mom. It seems that you don't want to hear she misses her mom and the child attempted to mollify your feelings too. She is stuck in the middle.
Please know that I actually expect her to miss her mom and am always surprised when she doesn't appear to. She's still so little. I know I'd miss my Mommy at that age! The time she was talking about her mom (as she rarely does), she never really asked for her, but it was clear she missed her. So I reminded her it's ok to miss Mommy and asked her if she wanted to call. She said no (always says no to calling Mom), so I asked if maybe she wanted to say goodnight to Mommy, and she said yes. So, no, it doesn't hurt my feelings at all her her to miss Mommy and the couple times she has, I have told her that's normal and I tell her when she'll see Mommy again.

When I asked her if she said that, I tried to be all light and casual so not to tilt her response. And I asked her if she thought she might miss Mommy and stuff. Can't be too probing with a 4 yo, but I think "tricking" means "kidding" to her, and she uses that line to retract statements. She also told me she was staying with us forever, and when I mentioned that again she also said she was tricking. I certainly never acted like my feelings were hurt. I'd never dump that on a 4 yo, even if my feelings had actually been hurt.
post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kkj323 View Post

With your SD so young it could have been as simple as mom asking, "Are you going to miss mommy when you are gone? Mom is going to miss you a lot." Depending on how she heard that, your SD could have felt the need to reassure mom. We never know how kids are going to interpret adult feelings and words, or how sensitve your SD is to her mom.

It does seem unlikely that she would conscioulsly manipulate at her age. Maybe she just expressed what in her world demonstrated that she would be sad. The "tricking" comment could have just been another language choice. Like when my little one says she's "joking" and laughs, even though she doesn't totally understand what that means yet.
That sounds right. I bet they did ask if she'd miss them. We've learned not to do that with DSS, as it makes him cry. So we never say we'll miss them. We only say that we *did* miss them, once we see them. Otherwise they tend to get upset. Maybe that's what they said and she got upset, or at least a little dramatic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kkj323 View Post
It sounds like you have a good relationship with her mom at least, so you are not having to defend yourself.
That good relationship is new, and I'm trying my best not to mess it up!
It's hard to write a perfectly devoted mother with the "good" news that her little one does great without her..

But otherwise the poor woman thinks her baby is crying for her every night! I'd worry too!
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post
I totally agree. I know we have had conversations with my step-daughter during which she tells us all sorts of outlandish things she is going to do ("I'll be so excited I'm just going to run around my classroom yelling "Papa's coming today" all day and I won't even listen to the teacher during centers!" or "I'll wake up really early before mommy and I'll ask [step-dad] to take me to the airport and I'll get on a plane to Vermont, and when Mommy wakes up she'll look around and say 'Where's [DSD]?" and [step-dad] will say 'She's in Vermont!" We think it is the way she is able to express her feelings about the situation and talk about it in a way that makes sense to her.
This sounds like exactly the same behavior! Maybe I'll send your description to DSD's mom. Thanks!
post #9 of 27
double post... oops
post #10 of 27
At that age the child is just happy wherever they are and don't like the idea of change too much. She was probably just trying to get to stay there, and she will likely do the same thing when it's time to go back to her mom, "I don't want to go back to mom's! I cry for you (or dad) when I'm there!"

It's kind of the same type situation when kids start preschool or school. When you drop them off they cry and don't want to be left there and when you go to pick them up, you have to drag them out.

I wouldn't take it personally if I were you. I would continue to encourage phone calls to her mom when she seems to miss her.
post #11 of 27
I don't think manipulate is an accurate term for a preschooler. I think that preschoolers don't have any sense of time, and so in their telling they're going to emphasize the things where they felt the strongest emotions, not the things that happened most frequently."

I remember when DS was 2 and in daycare and I'd pick him up and ask him "what you'd do today?" and he'd say "I cried because you weren't there." And of course my heart would break and I'd rush over to the teacher and say "How long did he cry? Why didn't you call me?" and they'd say "He didn't cry at all today, maybe it was when I was on my lunch break or something, but not that I saw." and so I'd go back and say "sweetheart, tell me about when you cried, what were you doing" and he'd say "I cried 'cause Joey wouldn't let me on the slide, and he was being mean to me" so I'd ask about that and the teacher would laugh a little and say "He and Joey played together happily on the slide for an hour, once Joey got their first and your child pouted a little because he had to wait about 30 seconds until Joey got to the bottom of the slide -- and yes, maybe during those 30 seconds he said "I want Mommy"".

What he told me was true, but the way he told me blew the incident out of proportion, because preschoolers have no sense of proportion.

Your SD might miss her mom every day, maybe for a few minutes as she's drifting off to sleep, or maybe when she's done something she's proud of she has a little pang of "I wish I could show Mommy". Not enough to change your plans, not enough to make her cry, but a little. However, when she's retelling the story, and Mommy's right in front of her, that's what she remembers.

I wonder if it would help if Mom checked in with big brother who has a more accurate sense of time. Also, if you emailed pictures of her doing things with a little journal that might help. Finally, I think if you said "I'm sure she misses you while she's here. I can't imagine that she wouldn't. However, she seems to manage it really well. We never see her crying about it, and she's generally in a really good mood." Rather than "No, she doesn't miss you", it might be easier for Mom to hear?
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momily View Post
I wonder if it would help if Mom checked in with big brother who has a more accurate sense of time. Also, if you emailed pictures of her doing things with a little journal that might help. Finally, I think if you said "I'm sure she misses you while she's here. I can't imagine that she wouldn't. However, she seems to manage it really well. We never see her crying about it, and she's generally in a really good mood." Rather than "No, she doesn't miss you", it might be easier for Mom to hear?
Yes, hopefully she'll ask DSS. He's a drama queen the other way -- fusses about not wanting to go back to Mom. But he was ok this time. It's true they just like where they are and hate transitioning.

I did try to phrase my note like you said. I told her I know she's missed but usually DSD handles it pretty well.

And the little one is a bit dramatic, as you say -- no sense of proportion. I heard her on the phone with her mom saying she had smashed her fingers in the car and fussing a bit. When I asked DSD which hand it was (since I wasn't in the car when she did it), she wasn't even sure.
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momily View Post
I don't think manipulate is an accurate term for a preschooler.
Well, I don't mean it in the scheming sense. I meant it more like the way they'll throw a tantrum to get what they want or cry until you tell them crying won't change the answer, then they stop. She's using a technique (drama, in this case) to get something she wants (sympathy? cuddles? approval?) I don't think she's scheming "now I'll make Mommy worry and tell her how sad I'll be -- but it's all a lie!! [bwa-ha-ha-ha] "

On the phone just now with her (she's with her dad), she told me she loved me and said bye. DH joked, "and you'll miss her and cry every night?" and she giggled loudly and said "yes!" She's at this weird (to me) cognitive stage where she *almost* gets it, but not quite, you know?
post #14 of 27
What 4 yo wouldn't miss and cry for her mother if separated for days or weeks?

Whether or not you saw her with tears on her face, I'm sure she's being truthful when she shares these feelings and experiences with people she trusts. I don't think it's any reflection on you or your home. It's normal and typical.
post #15 of 27
1. Yes, of course children that age are manipulative. They're learning how. I watch it all the time at my daughter's daycare and when we visit other families.

2. Yes, of course it can be legitimate. My kid is 4; she misses whichever parent she isn't with. Sometimes it's manipulative (time-outs here result in "Daaaaaddeeeeee" and I hear we have similar things go on at the other end), and sometimes it's out of the blue ("I miss Daddy so much I can't stand it," and wanting to make things and get presents for him). She sees both parents every day, mind, just not at the same time. She and I were away for a few days last week, and it was the first time she'd been away from her dad for more than a day. Talked about him every few hours, asked when she'd see him again, just plain missed him.

I don't think it's necessary to react to these things as if the child is being manipulated by adults or is describing some sort of threat. I just validate the feelings and, when it's clearly manipulative (after not getting a treat, losing a privilege, etc), deal with that.
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama41 View Post
1. Yes, of course children that age are manipulative. They're learning how. I watch it all the time at my daughter's daycare and when we visit other families.
She is definitely learning to do this. And the split family setup gives her the perfect grounds to practice.

I picture her in a few years as Scarlett O'Hara:

""Brent and Stew, do talk, you handsome old thing, you...oh, no, you're not, I don't mean to say that. I'm mad at you."
"Why Scarlett honey..."
"You haven't been near me all day and I wore this old dress just because I thought you liked it. I was counting on eating barbecue with you two."
"Well, you are, Scarlett..."
"Of course you are, honey."
"Oh, I never can make up my mind which of you two's handsomer. And I was awake all last night trying to figure it out."



Quote:
Originally Posted by mama41 View Post
2. Yes, of course it can be legitimate. My kid is 4; she misses whichever parent she isn't with. Sometimes it's manipulative (time-outs here result in "Daaaaaddeeeeee" and I hear we have similar things go on at the other end), and sometimes it's out of the blue ("I miss Daddy so much I can't stand it," and wanting to make things and get presents for him). She sees both parents every day, mind, just not at the same time. She and I were away for a few days last week, and it was the first time she'd been away from her dad for more than a day. Talked about him every few hours, asked when she'd see him again, just plain missed him.

I don't think it's necessary to react to these things as if the child is being manipulated by adults or is describing some sort of threat. I just validate the feelings and, when it's clearly manipulative (after not getting a treat, losing a privilege, etc), deal with that.
I don't think DSD is being manipulated at all -- I think she worried her mom with her hyperbole. The thing is, I know she misses her mom. I just know she never cries about it and she's happy here, so her comments didn't fit. But if I remember to hype it up with toddler-esque fantasy and exaggeration, then I suppose it makes sense.

We used to hear "I want my mommy" anytime she was mad at us, but we stopped reacting fast once we saw that pattern. The last time she tried that it was because we were being big meanies and making her get dressed. So she told me "I want my mommy!" and started to fuss. I looked at her and said, "Ok, do you want to call Mommy and see if she thinks you should get dressed? Let's ask her." And she said no, stopped crying, got dressed, and quit that ploy entirely. She doesn't really do that one anymore. Now we rarely hear any "I want my mommy" statements, but when we do, they are out of the blue and legitimate.
post #17 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by violet_ View Post
Well, I don't mean it in the scheming sense. I meant it more like the way they'll throw a tantrum to get what they want or cry until you tell them crying won't change the answer, then they stop. She's using a technique (drama, in this case) to get something she wants (sympathy? cuddles? approval?) I don't think she's scheming "now I'll make Mommy worry and tell her how sad I'll be -- but it's all a lie!! [bwa-ha-ha-ha] "
Just to clarify, I didn't mean that preschoolers can't manipulate -- they certainly can. Just that in this case, I think we have a preschooler who probably doesn't have enough understanding of time to realize that "every day" is hugely innacurate.
post #18 of 27
I agree that what you have here are normal kid communication skills. I think the only traumatized people here are the parents and with good reason. I would just reassure the mother that you will watch DSD closely for signs of sadness and make sure that mom is kept up to date on how she is doing. Reiterate that if DSD can't handle the long visit she will not be kept there. You know she will be fine but the mom doesn't so just let her have that bit of reassurance and maybe update her a little more than you normally would during the visit. It's the kind thing to do. I wouldn't worry though I'm sure everyone will have a grand old time.
post #19 of 27
We do 50/50 for 4 years now and mine are 8 and 6. I have their dad's number posted on the fridge, so they know they can call anytime. I also say - do you want to call dad? But when they were littler, I might say "let's call dad later" then I would just call their dad and say - "hey your dad is on the phone" - when he answered - I'd give them the phone.

I did this so they knew they could call. I waited for their dad to answer before handing the phone over because if dad wasn't there - this led to devastation which was hard to manage.

It's so important to me that they are free to love both of us. We have always talked about this. They also can have all the feelings at the same time - they miss dad, but they're really glad to see me. That's hard for them too - hard to understand and really hard to articulate.
post #20 of 27
One thing the pp just reminded me of... we bought a "special new phone" for my DSD that has speed dial that is really easy to use. We programmed it with her mom's home and cell numbers and told her she can call mom anytime she wants. She wanted to try it out immediately and called and told mom all about it. In our case she still has to be reminded to call and the speed dial is merely an incentive to do so... and she still needs help remembering about the time difference so she isn't calling at 5am mom's time... but in your case it might ease mom's mind to hear from her daughter that she has a special phone for calling mom that she can use whenever she wants and can dial all by herself. Also, I wonder if the videochat might help mom, too, to actually SEE her daughter happy and doing well. I know I talk to my stepdaughter on the phone almost every night, but something about the videochat really helps me feel like it hasn't been so long since I've seen her.
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