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#31 of 43 Old 10-15-2009, 08:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bronxmom View Post
Obviously we can't know the mom's motivations and are only guessing. However, based on what I've heard, I don't think she's brainwashing her daughter.
You are right and I should have stated that it just "sounds" like what we went through. So, of course, it hits a nerve with me as we deal with this every day. (sorry because I did get a little emotional writing my reply and I try not to, usually... ) I know better to write on a day when I am sick...

And hopefully, that's not the case. But I have seen it with "lots" of divorces and it's always because the mom or dad dislikes the other parent. It's more rampant for atleast one parent to put the children in the middle than for the two divorced parents to get along.

I do feel like she is lucky that you care so much to try and find a way to help her. My kids didn't get that lucky with their step-mom...

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#32 of 43 Old 10-15-2009, 11:26 PM
 
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I'm not seeing the manipulation from the mom.
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#33 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 08:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Part of me does feel there is some manipulation coming from somewhere... beaucase honestly some of the things DSD comes out with there is no way for her to know without someone telling her.

There is no way she has vivid memories from age 2. All the therapists talked to agree on this point... these memories are coming from pictures or things told to her.

Also... DSD's Mom insists on doing scrapbooks that keep the "intact" family picture still. Like any big event the past 3 years, she only wanted a pic of just her, DSD and H so she can add their family pic to DSD's scrapbook.

I have to say, I think that is really unhealthy!! They are not a family all together and happy anymore... why keep that picture going? Why not instead embrace the new family dynamics in DSD's life and let her know it's okay that her family is different and includes other people besides just her Mom and Dad.

No wonder she is mad and sad at our house... she probably feels her Dad abandoned her and him being with me and her sister is what is keeping him from still living with her and her Mom.

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#34 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 08:55 AM
 
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Part of me does feel there is some manipulation coming from somewhere... beaucase honestly some of the things DSD comes out with there is no way for her to know without someone telling her.

There is no way she has vivid memories from age 2. All the therapists talked to agree on this point... these memories are coming from pictures or things told to her.

Also... DSD's Mom insists on doing scrapbooks that keep the "intact" family picture still. Like any big event the past 3 years, she only wanted a pic of just her, DSD and H so she can add their family pic to DSD's scrapbook.

I have to say, I think that is really unhealthy!! They are not a family all together and happy anymore... why keep that picture going? Why not instead embrace the new family dynamics in DSD's life and let her know it's okay that her family is different and includes other people besides just her Mom and Dad.

No wonder she is mad and sad at our house... she probably feels her Dad abandoned her and him being with me and her sister is what is keeping him from still living with her and her Mom.
There IS a way for her to have vivid memories from age 2!

I think you are in a tough spot. I also think, however, that you navigate through this with tenderness, love, and grace towards all involved. Your dh has more to do with this than he may realize or want to.

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#35 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 09:16 AM
 
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I don't want to quote the whole post, but JSMa, just responding to what you wrote above: I really don't see this and I think focusing on the idea that the mom is instilling these feelings in DSD is actually something that keeps you away from focusing on what DSD is actually feeling.

For ex., clearly the mom is not totally invested in keeping the idea of the intact nuclear family together because she herself has also built a new family with her partner and daughter. DSD seems relatively well adjusted to that situation from what you describe. I think it is healthy that she keeps pictures of her and your dh and dsd - because, in their own way, they ARE still a family. A different kind of family - one where the mom and dad are not together, but still a family in the sense that they share care of your dsd and both love her. I assume that this is the message she is trying to convey. I know my photo albums, to the extent they exist/are organized, have pictures of my ex, my daughter and I - I also have pictures of my current partner, my daughter, my baby and I.

In terms of the memories, of course dsd does not have memories from 2 (though some pple claim they really do). But she may have "made up memories" as stories she tells herself about what her life might have been like. They might be a fantasy that she is trying to work through. They might be her way of expressing a sadness for something she wishes existed - perhaps because she's getting older and realizing that not everyone splits their time between mom and dad but some kids have a mom and dad they see every day.

She can have all these feelings without her mom promoting an unhealthy attachment to the past. I would be more inclined to buy that assessment if the mom herself seemed to live in the past, seemed to want more contact and involvement with her ex and had not moved on in her life and relationships. But that's clearly not the case. I would imagine you'd be more upset if she had taken all pictures of your dh out of her house and "moved on" with just pics of her, the boyfriend and dsd.

I think the fact that you think it's unhealthy for the mom to talk to dsd about her past family, to keep those memories for her, etc, is a way of saying that you feel dsd's feelings are unhealthy or somehow wrong. I don't know how or if that gets communicated, but that can be really difficult for a child. She's going through a LOT of change. I think you guys really need to face her feelings as HER feelings and listen and try to understand and empathize.

One thing I really liked about the book Between Parent and Child (which How to Talk... is based on) is that he tells parents to try not to focus on "fixing" things or talking about how things could be better, but instead on mirroring feelings. In a lot of your stories I hear you say "you must be sad, miss mom" etc but then try to re-direct or focus on some project. I would instead try to really mirror when she says she's sad and stay there for as long as she needs. Maybe err on the side of talking about how sad she is a lot to the point that it seems like she's dwelling on it. But for her it might be empowering and comforting - she may feel heard and supported and like her feelings are totally normal. Just a quick example of this: my daughter (10) was going to Egypt with her dad to see his family there for 3 1/2 weeks (a really long time away from me - she has a hard time doing more than 2 days. Two days before the trip she freaked out, insisted she wasn't going, was crying, etc. Instead of trying to talk about things we could do while she was there so she wouldn't miss me (like Skype) or all the fun things she'd do there or how much it means to her dad, we spent an entire day just listening to her feelings over and over no matter how "stuck" she seemed. At the end of the day, she went to bed still saying she wasn't going. I was terrified of putting her on the plane two days later. The next day she woke up cheerful and ready to go and focused on the future - and she ended up having a great time and not having a meltdown about missing me a single time she was there. I don't promise that kind of immediate result but it really validated for me the approach.

One quick mental shift idea. You end a lot of posts asking "how can I make things better for this poor little girl?" or something like that, which is really great that you care and feel that way. But maybe the goal would be to ask "how can I better understand what she is feeling?" and let go of trying to "make it better". Kids have enormous internal resources to fix things themselves IF they are helped to identify, express and understand their own feelings.

I think your dsd's feelings are really painful for you and especially your dh. You work SO hard to make a nice home for her and for her to be happy there. You had/have a lot invested in creating a new and happy family with your new daughter as well. There's a lot at stake there and I would definitely be in counseling (for you and for dh) to talk about the feelings all this raises for you. But I would try to really also understand how that is working into your approach to your dsd and try to consciously step back from your own hopes and expectations and instead focus in on what hers are.
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#36 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Except that is the part that doesn't make sense...

DSD's Mom isn't just showing/keeping pictures of the past... these are pictures of the three of them in the present. Like the first day of school last month... DSD's Mom wanted a picture of just the three of them for DSD's scrapbook.

Not of the three of them plus the stepparents, not of the two families separate...

She doesn't have any pictures of her BF in her scrapbook. She didn't even ask her BF to be there for the first day of school, and I could tell she was pretty agitated that I went, and the first thing she said was about needing a picture of JUST the three of them.

I understand DSD's feelings are valid, no matter how or why they are there. They still are her feelings... but it would be nice if it didn't seem that ther was someone "egging" them on.

Will it really help her to spend all weekend talking about when she was a baby her Mommy and Daddy lived together and she wishes that her Mommy was my baby's Mommy instead of me, so that they could all live together?

I have a hard time believing that...

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#37 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 10:40 AM
 
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QUOTE:"Will it really help her to spend all weekend talking about when she was a baby her Mommy and Daddy lived together and she wishes that her Mommy was my baby's Mommy instead of me, so that they could all live together?"

It might not end up being all weekend, but yes, I honestly think it would. It would be worth trying as an experiment at the very least. You might find out a LOT about what she thinks would be different if mommy and daddy lived together, about what her deepest fantasies are and why, etc. There's a lot more there and it's worth hearing and learning. So I'd give it a shot.

I do think taking only pics of the 3 at this point is strange and it'd be better to have a whole range of pics from mom, dad, dsd to you, dad, dsd to mom, bf, dsd, etc. I think that's something you might be able to make progress on with mom if you posed it as an "in addition to" kind of thing.
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#38 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 10:44 AM
 
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Sorry - one more thing. If she says she has memories of when she was a baby and she lived with mommy and daddy, she may actually believe that and it doesn't have to be her mom feeding her that. She lives in a society in which the ideal is the nuclear family and she reads story books and sees tv shows and other kids, etc, etc, etc who have that life so it's very easy for her to impose that image on her past and imagine that's her memory. It's a very powerful thing for a kid.

Btw, I'm saying all this also with the belief that kids can totally adjust and thrive post-divorce and with a multiplicity of family configurations. But it takes some time.
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#39 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 02:02 PM
 
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I still do not think the mom is trying to sabotage in any way. On the contrary, if I was her I would have real reservations about my child being with a dad who had been so volatile and when you combine that with the separation anxiety from mom (totally normal for that to happen periodically) I would be torn up inside about sending her. I find what she is saying to her dd to be an acceptable reaction- she is acknowledging her feelings and labeling them alright and normal but still sending her anyway. What more can you really expect from the woman who said that the reason she feels ok sending her dd is that you are there and you are a good step mom. After reading your posts for quite a while now it seems like you are most ok with your dh when you are both united against dsd's mom. I've read from you that one of the reasons you have hesitated to separate is that you feel uncomfortable with sending your dd for visitation. While I might not do the scrapbook of just the three of you I don't think it is wrong or abnormal for her mom to do. I can actually really see some good reasons for doing it especially considering that her mom is not hanging on to the original relationship or pursuing your dh. Having that scrapbook tells dsd that no matter what happened to the original family she still has them both and they still love her and are her parents. She is not married and may be acknowledging that while your dh, she and dsd are a permanent situation her relationship may not be and you as dsd's stepmother may not be permanent either. I can't see anything harmful about having a scrapbook for the three of them it's actually very thoughtful of her mom and a good show of putting aside her feelings about your dh.
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#40 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 02:05 PM
 
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I wanted to add that it could be really nice to make a scrapbook for your family focusing on dsd and dd since they are a permanent family too and enlist her to help pick out pictures of her and dd including some of all of you since you will always be the mother of her little sister and that can remain a special relationship if allowed no matter what happens.
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#41 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 02:52 PM
 
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You really need to be complimented on how hard you work at trying to keep your little blended family happy and healthy. That first day of school picture situation was downright rude and I don't know how it went down (did she get the picture of just the three of them?) but I used to get put through that too...every family function, my DH would get cornered and it was almost like a game....before we knew it he had his son on one side, his daughter on the other side and mommy was snapping pictures. This went on for years and it happened whenever she was in our company. He never saw those pictures, he never got copies of them and if I wasn't at the function, there was no photo session. Yes, I think there is manipulation going on in your case and please don't doubt your instincts. Trust your gut. You live with these people; you've been around DSD's mom for years and you've been exposed to her behavior. You're trying to help your dsd by getting her some help and her mother is against it, why? Are we afraid of what this little girl might say? Unless dsd gets permission to be part of her dad's family, she is always going to be torn, and will never be happy and that's sad. I hope the therapist is able to help identify what is keeping her locked in a past that she can't possibly remember.
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#42 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 02:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JSMa View Post
There is no way she has vivid memories from age 2. All the therapists talked to agree on this point... these memories are coming from pictures or things told to her.
I don't know if it is memories exactly or just a sense. I have a five year old who was also two when his dad and I split. I thought the same type of thing--that it was good that he couldn't remember dad living here. But he does...and he wants very badly for his dad to live here again and for us all to be together.

And my five year old hasn't been through a remarriage and sees his dad weekly. Kids can have some very intense feelings.

This girl has been through a lot. And from other things I've read she sounds like an intense kid. My 5 year old is too.

I have found that the "time in" with a focus on observing what they are doing and also noticing the behaviors you want to encourage to be very effective.

The Nurtured Heart by Howard Glasser has some great info as does The Explosive Child. I also want to read The Connected Child.

The Love Languages for children book is also very good--if her love language is quality time the arts and crafts project pays off. If it isn't her love language then it was just a project. You may have thought you were doing something valuable to her but it really wasn't. Just an example... Speaking her language will build the connection and ease frustration.

I have two sons that are very different. I actually have to parent differently with them. My first, it is a very natural process. My second is so intense that I have to be more structured, but in a very positive way.

Glasser does use time-outs but very respectfully imo. And what are you doing them for? I think you really have to pick battles with this.

You may have to adjust your parenting rather than the child adjusting to fit you. It really gives them a sense of security and acceptance.

This parenting stuff is hard work at times and in your situation so complicated. As bronxmom said, focus less on fixing and more on understanding.
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#43 of 43 Old 10-16-2009, 03:19 PM
 
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"No wonder she is mad and sad at our house... she probably feels her Dad abandoned her and him being with me and her sister is what is keeping him from still living with her and her Mom."

Well, someday she is going to learn what really happened. And that probably terrifies Mom to no end - that she will eventually have to explain and account for her behavior and the consequences of it. No wonder she doesn't want your dsd to have a relationship with her father!

If it seems like your marriage is going to weather the storm, I would really, REALLY suggest going into mediation or something to get this crappy custody situation changed. The idea that your husband would be ASKING his ex for a week in the summer, instead of having a big block of the summer as his time to START with - it's just an impossible situation. And the choice of school next year could make a huge difference, too - a better location and a start time of 9 a.m. could suddenly make it feasible for your dsd to be at home with you living her life during the part of week, instead of being your bimonthly visitor.

All the logistics are stacked against your husband here. You need to change the game. He may not be Prince Charming, but he has always sought to be involved and he has always paid the support and he can provide a stable home, and his ex does not have the right to take away his child just because she wanted a different man in her life. She needs to spend MORE time in your home, not less. You need to find a way to get to the point where Mom concludes that alienating your dsd from your family is a lost cause, because you are never, ever going to stop loving her and fighting for her right to have a home with her father, stepmother and siblings.
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