As I have stated in previous threads, DSD has been having a real hard time visiting lately. She gets upset and says she misses her Mom.
This past visit, H picked up on that DSD only brought this up whenever she was in trouble for not following the rules of our house, or wanted to do something that we do not allow in our house. He told her that she could not use missing her Mom as an excuse to not follow the rules. That he understands we have some different rules than Mommy does, but while she is here she needs to follow our rules.
Well, she had her first therapy session this week and she told the therapist she is happy with Mommy, but sad at Daddy's. When asked why she said because she has to go to time out at Daddy's.
She does not get sent to time out often. We have a sort of three strikes rule. She gets warned the first time she does something she isn't supposed to do, example from this weekend, not listening to me. She kept taking the baby's hands off whatever she was holding onto to stand. I warned her to not do that because DD could fall and get hurt as she cannot stand by herself yet. DSD got mad and proceded to sit and glare at me with fingers in her ears saying she doesn't have to listen to me.
I told her that behavior was rude and it is not nice to do that to me and to not do it again. H heard and reinforced that DSD has to listen to me when I ask her not to do something.
She was not sent to time out for this... but was told if she did it again she would be. That sort of behavior isn't acceptable.
So we don't really feel we are wrong for setting some boundaries at our house. But it breaks our heart that DSD is so upset here. H has been really upset by this and is doing his best to make things better.
But also... H calls almost nightly to say hi to DSD on his break at work, before she goes to bed, since he can't see her during the week.
Sadly, most nights DSD either hangs up on him, or doesn't talk to him, or tells him she doesn't want to talk to him. Last night was another episode of this, and he heard her Mom telling her in the background, "you better talk to him or you are going to bed." And she said she'd rather just go to bed than talk to him.
I really feel for H. Last night he was especially low and wondering what he should do... his DD is miserable coming to see him, doesn't wish to talk to him... and then he sees how she is with her Mom's BF. She lights up and runs to him first anymore during pick up, before even hugging her Mom. H says he feels replaced, and he doesn't know what to do...
I tried to comfort him and tell him no one can replace your bio parents... but he isn't buying it with the different treatment DSD is showing right in front of him.
I know I have posted issues between H and I... but honestly he has been working on them. The time he lost it and yelled at DSD happened nearly 6 months ago, and since then it was at least a large wake up call to him to treat her differently. I cannot think of a time he has raised his voice with her since then, actually. He honestly has been trying...
I can honestly say, I don't see a reason for DSD to be treating him so.
What would you do in this situation? Should he be seeing her more? Less? Right now we only see her EOW. She is dropped off Friday night after dinner, and is picked up Sunday after dinner.
There is no way H can see her during the week because he works nights. There is absolutely no way he can change his schedule.
At a loss how to help make things better for this little girl...
I'm very glad to read a post where you sound positive about your husband. That's very encouraging - I'm happy for you. I hope you felt good being able to write those things about him.
I think it's important for NCPs to have some weekday visitation and be involved at school, etc. But if it's just not possible now, then it's just not possible. A lot of parents have to deal with just EOW and that doesn't mean the relationship's doomed.
If the worst thing your SD has said about your house is that she gets sent to time out, I also think that's pretty encouraging. If it's a half-way decent therapist, eventually she will be guided to see that it's right for you guys to have expectations of her and some reasonable discipline (instead of the therapist encouraging "I hate to go to Daddy's because he's mean to me"-type thinking).
It can be natural for a little kid to act excited about a shiny, new relationship with an adult who has no responsibility to discipline them (Mom's BF) and to completely take for granted a parent who can't JUST be their friend (your husband). Your husband may just have to tough that out, for a while. (And, hey, if watching him struggle to tough it out makes you proud of him and sympathetic toward him, maybe the up-side will be what this does for your marriage!) He would be grievously wrong if he talked himself into spending less time with his daughter (or calling her less often) just because she's making it painful for him right now.
#1- She needs to know her dad will love her and want to be part of her life no matter what rotten phase she's going through; that she's always his beloved, important daughter.
#2- In the grand scheme of things, her parents have done things that have hurt and upset her, and she is expected to tough it out. Right?
If Mom is involved in the therapy and would be at all receptive to hearing this, her reaction about the phone calls is pretty crummy. She's basically agreeing that talking to Dad is, indeed, an undesirable thing, but saying your SD must do it, or be punished (sent to bed early). It would be far better if, before SD gets on the phone, her mom would give her a little pep-talk about how much her dad misses her during the week and wants to talk to her, and if she would remind your SD of 3 or 4 things to tell her dad about - nice, happy things that have happened during the week, or something she's excited about doing with you guys on your next weekend. Then her mom should praise her every time she stays on the phone with your husband for a few minutes. (Remember, just a few minutes on the phone with a kid that age is a long time.)
Encourage your husband to have some positive things prepared to discuss with her, so he doesn't spend his time trying to think of what to say while she pouts and he gets his feelings hurt. When she IS difficult, he should just say, "OK, then. I love you. Talk to you tomorrow." You don't want your SD to seize on this phone thing as the ideal way to manipulate her dad and have him twisting himself into a pretzel to please her, because she's mean to him. He needs to be consistent and committed to calling her. Every once in a while, he might tell her it hurts his feelings when she won't talk to him, but mostly he should be as positive as possible.
Jeannine is awesome. I have nothing to add except
It is hard to expect a kid at this age to talk on the phone. (we have this problem with international calls to grandparents who are seen infrequently) Try to convince your husband that a one sided conversation is OK... the purpose of the call is for Daddy to remind her that he loves her and she is important to him. He should say what he wants to, give her an opportunity to talk if she wants to, then say good night.
I have to say H is surprising me with how he has been handling the situation with DSD. He has been working hard to work with it and be open minded, even asked me to ask my therapist for ideas on how to handle it to make sure we do the right thing.
He even remember when her therapy appointment was and talked to his boss about going in late that day to attend without any reminders from anyone!
The relationship with Mom's BF is not new however... he has been in her life since she was 2, so over three years...
H does bring up and discuss what we will be doing next time DSD visits on phone calls. As well as asks about school and such. DSD usually doesn't give us much of an answer about school... we have to ask a lot of questions to get her to tell us anything about school. Makes it hard... like we have no idea what she does during the week or who she is during the week.
I doubt DSD's Mom will be receptive to that... H has talked to his ex several times about at least turning the TV off before the phone is handed to him because then he is often competing with the TV show and DSD won't talk to him or gets even more upset about talking to him because she'd rather watch her show.
Ex has never turned the TV off... just threatens DSD with no snack or immediate bedtime to stay on the phone.
H also had talked to her about trying to be positive about the weekend visits when she drops DSD off, instead of leaving with, "it's okay to miss Mommy."
But she didn't listen to that either... she dropped DSD off last weekend and the very last thing she told DSD was, "Remember, if you miss Mommy, call me! Bye!"
I will tell H what you suggested about making it clear that he will always love her though and to continue doing what he is doing. I just hate that it hurts him so much.
I don't like that my family is hurting right now.
i am not in a blended family but i grew up in one...
i think she needs to see you guys more, come over more to get used to your house. she goes too long in between visits. could she come over for dinner one night a week (i know that your husband wont be there but it would still be good for her to be at your house)? or perhaps you could have one extra weekend or at least one extra weekend day every month. or maybe make sure that on days when dsd has no school your husband has her before he goes to work or you keep her after he goes to work until mom comes to get her. this would be at least 1 extra day a month usually. i think every little bit will help. the amount of time inbetween visits is giving her an excuse for not settling in or bonding with you guys.
H has offered on tons of occaisons and still does to have DSD on her days off or sick days... but ex never calls him on it. For instance this past Monday was Columbus Day and she had off of school from it, but her Mom's BF stayed home with her, instead of ex taking H up on his offer to have her over vaction days.
One problem is we live about 35 minutes apart. So Mom can't drive all the way down to us to drop DSD off before she goes to work... H and the baby usually are not up that early, as H works night shift and isn't in bed until 2-3 am, so asking him to get up at 6 to get up to where DSD lives in time, wouldn't benefit anyone with Daddy only getting 3 hours of sleep.
We could probably have our afternoon sitter watch DSD if she was here during that time, say over vacations or the summer...
I know H has been mulling over the idea of asking his ex if it would be possible that DSD could stay at least a week with us in the summer, since there wouldn't be the school issue...
But with the recent attitude that spending just two nights with us is too much, I beleive he has decided that would stress DSD out too much. And he didn't think his ex was going to go for it anyway.
Part of why DSD doesn't come for dinner anymore mid week, besides H's schedule, is the distance between the houses... DSD is in an afterschool homeowork care program... so by time she got out of that and down to our house, it's be going on 6:30... her bedtime is 8:00... On Sunday's her Mom insists that she is picked up at 5:30 to ensure enough time for bath and her night time routine to get to bed on time for school... so I know there isn't time during the week for her to come to dinner.
H has also considered asking for another weekend a month, or at least a day to do something... but he usually dismisses the idea because he thinks it is unfair to take weekend time away from DSD's Mom, as she doesn't really get to see DSD during the week either, with the hours she works and with DSD's activities and such.
Plus the weekend she has her daughter, they go two hours away to her boyfriend's house... so usually when we ask for special permission to have her an extra weekend or a day, she says it can't be done because they have plans with her BF's parents.
Like H asked for DSD to come with us this Saturday for my cousin's little girl's birthday party. DSD and my cousin are friends and only a year a part and pal around together at all family functions. But Mom said no, because they are celebrating her BF's Mom's birthday this weekend.
I didn't grow up in a blended family and I don't have any adult experience with it either BUT I did have an idea with regard to the week-night phone calls. Since the DSD is upset about discipline at her bio-dad's home and is resistant to talking on the phone with him for long...I thought it would be fun for him to start calling her with the expectation a very short, possibly one-sided conversation. First say something like,"I'm looking forward to seeing you on Friday! Only __ more days!" and then have him vary an ever increasingly silly "I love you" to her.
For instance, Monday night he calls her, tells her that he is looking forward to seeing her on the weekend and then says, "I love you more than 57 hedgehogs" or some other ridiculously silly thing.
The next night it could be "I love you more than 26 paperclips" etc.
At first she would probably think that he was crazy
but it would probably make her interested in the phone call. I'll just bet that before long she will be waiting for his call wondering what silly thing Daddy will say tonight. It might be just the sort of ice-breaker to set a new tone for the relationship and change her perspective of her visits. She might even come up with some silly 'I love yous' for him.
My husband does not discipline our children..or at least he didn't until a year or so ago.
If there was an issue, he left it to me to talk to our older two kids... and now with our youngest.. he does most of it.. because honestly, our youngest is more of a handful than I can do most of the time.. Hubby is much more patient.
He also was not responsible for their care until many years into our marriage. That doesn't sound right.. He made sure they were well fed, had riding lessons, ski lessons, braces, and that mom was happy.. so maybe he was very responsible for their care.. but was never 'in charge" of them.
I hired a nanny for when I was at work.. the same nanny that we had before being married and at my house. I did not want him to feel trapped by the children.... to slowly build a relationship built on trust and respect and LOVE..
We have never had a case of the kids being disrespectful or rude to my husband. Part of that is his personality, he is very mellow and allowed them to warm up to him on their terms.
So where I am going with this.. if the children had been rude or needed boundary clearing, I would have been the one to deal with it.. not my husband. I think your husband is setting you up for failure by not allowing the two of you to grow to be friends, unconditional warm fuzzies before putting you into a disciplinarian role.
Our children see their step mom as a woman full of rules and yelling. Their father as never standing up for them.
Our home is not perfect.. but they know that we all love them.. that Kip is their parent.. not because of biology.. but because he loves them and wants to be their parent. I'm not sure they feel that at their dad's.
Originally Posted by JSMa
As well as asks about school and such. DSD usually doesn't give us much of an answer about school... we have to ask a lot of questions to get her to tell us anything about school. Makes it hard... like we have no idea what she does during the week or who she is during the week.
We hardly ever get information about school. Even if mom sits right there and prompts, as she did on the first day of school this year to try to help my husband hear about it from his daughter, she just doesn't really want to talk about it. As she told him one day "I already talked about it all day. I don't feel like talking about it now." I think she has a good point... I don't really feel like giving my husband the play-by-play of my day when I get home from work, but sometimes I like telling him a funny or interesting story... he could try asking her what her favorite part of her day was. (But he shouldn't be surprised if she just says "everything" or "nothing, it was boring.")
I think just calling for a quick "hi, just calling to say I love you" works well for us when my step-daughter is in a phone-resistant mood. It happens to us when she's with mom sometimes, and to mom when she's with us sometimes. It'll be a week or two of really short phone calls, then one night she'll want to talk for an hour.
Along with asking what her favorite part of the day was, he could tell her somethign about his day (or tell her a ridiculous story about something that he pretends happened that day), tell her what the plans are for the weekend, read/tell her a favorite story, etc. Like someone else mentioned, he should probably plan for a short, one-sided conversation. If she wants to talk more, it's a bonus. The point of the call should be to let her know he loves her, he's interested in her life, and he is thinking of her even when they are apart.
I think I wasn't clear enough... he already calls knowing it's going to be a brief phone call. He counts himself lucky if it lasts a minute and if she actually says hi and I love you back... often she is whining and won't even say hi to him, or she hangs up on him, or zones in front of the TV and doesn't say a word to him.
boobybunny... sometimes I wish I didn't have "guiding" responsibility for her... but it's inevitable that I have time alone with her. Her Mom drops her off Friday nights three hours before husband is even out of work. I can't just let her do whatever she wants to the baby during that time with some vague... "well Daddy is going to have to talk to you about that when he gets home."
Ugh.. thats tough..
Can you make it a special girly time? Do things that both of you think are fun, special and just you two.. (with sibling there too.. I get that)
What if every night she gets there you guys make cookies, or bread, or some other treat? That way, the time is a good time and not just marking time till daddy gets there.
I'm not in a blended family, but have a DD about her age, and have dealt with the dread phone issue.
It's REALLY hard to get my kids to talk on the phone w/their Dad. I've tried being upbeat, eliminating distractions, and yes, taking away something fun. It is only recently that they've been at all open to any phone time. It's a very hard age for the phone. Not sure what else to suggest there. However, he could certainly write her letters. send her letters! Postcards, drawings, short notes with stickers. My kids LOVE getting mail!
I think he needs to try to get creative about seeing her more often. Does he work Sunday nights? If not, maybe he could do breakfast/school drop off on the Monday morning after the weekend she's not with you? Yes, it's a long drive, and a hassle, but I just think switching homes for a weekend every two weeks is tough on a kid that age.
Yeah, my son still doesn't like the phone at all and he's 8. The step-daughter shouldn't be forced to do it or made to feel bad if she doesn't want to talk on the phone. And you know...she's 5. Judging from some of the other posts you've written, things have been very, VERY volatile. Some of that's been directed right at her...didn't her father scream in her face and pound the wall or something!...and no doubt she's sensed the tension between both of you. Maybe at home with her mother, that tension with the BF isn't there, so there's no confusion or mixed feelings, I don't know. It's a lot for such a little kid to navigate.
It's nice if your husband appears to be trying to improve, but kids have long memories and pick up on tension easily. When they're confused/nervous, etc, sometimes they act up. He shouldn't expect her to feel instantly comfortable just because he's decided to get his act together and I hope he remembers that it's not about his feelings, it's about hers.
I think the DSD is lucky to have you there. I can imagine this is a hard situation!
I think I would take it back to court. The parental relationship is being damaged by the lack of time he is with her. He should ask the court to insist upon right of first refusal to the days off school. Boyfriend should not be getting her. And EOW clearly isn't enough time. You don't say how old she is, but if she is school age, she is old enough to spend more time with her dad. Also, Dad should be regularly volunteering in her classroom since he works nights. Once a week would be great and an opportunity to be with dad outside of the tensions of the two households issues.
You've gotten a lot of great advice here but I wanted to mention that many new parents and parent of younger children expect the relationship to be somewhat reciprocal and the dirty truth is that parenting is often an extremely thankless job. Kids can go for ages and ages being insensitive trolls and as long as parents continue to take it personally it will be a huge toll on you. It really isn't personal and a parents job is to keep on trucking without keeping score or becoming bitter towards the child (easier said than done I know). Don't give up or feel that the things you both are doing are lost and that she just doesn't like you. Give it 20 more years or so and then you can decide if she likes her dad LOL- not funny I know. Consistent, unbending love that doesn't move this way or that according to her behavior.
Even with asking very specific questions, until this year, we got next to nothing from DSD about how her day went. I thought the kid might have a memory problem - she "couldn't remember" anything. Even this year, we only get bits and pieces. So don't feel too bad about that.
YOu have been given some great advice I just wanted to also suggest that when she comes on Fridays maybe you can help her with a craft or a small project for her Dad. My SD loved drawing pictures baking cookies just fun things for her and I to do for her Dad.
It will give you a fun positive way to interact with her while helping her build a relationship with her Dad.
JSMa, replace DSD with DSS and you have our 12-year-old. We've actually been banned (on bio-mom's orders) from punishing him. So, yeah, he gets away with murder. He's gone exactly two weekends out of the past two years without calling him mom if not once, then nightly. He does call his father during the week, but normally it's about something he wants F to buy for him, or something has gone wrong with his computer or guitar that F needs to fix. (The father-as-wallet has decreased a little.)
They had a fight the other night, and talked about it the next day and DSS decided to do the dishes as an apology. Not a punishment, as I called it, he angerly corrected me, an apology. I don't get it.
But I do keep repeating PoppyMama's refrain: they don't have to like me, it helps, but I'm not going to get thank yous, I'm not going to see gratitude, it's a long term investment.
Thanks for some really good ideas!
I have been trying to do something fun with DSD on Friday nights... not always easy with a nursling... DD likes to stay attached most of the night past 7 till bedtime. But I have played board games and read to DSD while nursing.
I know DSD's school is always looking for kindergarten volunteers... so I will mention that to my H... maybe he can take DD to the sitter earlier once a month or something... I don't know if I'm comfortable putting DD in daycare longer each week. Sorry.
Plus, honestly, financially we can't afford to up daycare hours much at all.
I love the sending mail idea! H and DSD both share a passion for art, and he loves coloring and drawing pictures for her, he usually saves them until she comes over and they hang them in her room. But maybe he can send her some.
We used to actually keep her overnight and bring her to school last year... when she was in a pre-k/daycare and didn't have an exact start time that she needed to be there.
I just don't think we could pull it off with the school she is in now though... she has to be there by 7:30 in the morning, which would mean leaving our house no later than 6:45 in the morning. I'm already at work at that time, which would leave H trying to get a cranky baby from being woken up before time ready, plus DSD... They would have to get up at like 5 in the morning.
I just can't picture putting the kids through that kind of stress/early ness in the morning. It would make DSD get up an entire hour earlier than what she is used to for school.
You've gotten some great advice so far but I just wanted to reiterate two points:
Phone calls: DH and I have started saying "Did anything fun or exciting happen today?" Usually the answer is "No" but sometimes it sparks a conversation. The phone part will hopefully get better as she gets older.
Mail: Go to Hallmark. In the $.99 card section, there are lots of "I'm thinking about you" and "I love you" cards to send to kids. Get a stack of them and just have DH write a short note in one and drop it in the mail each week. Getting mail is a magical thing to any kid. I think that your DSD would enjoy having that connection to DH. As your DD gets older, you can send pictures that she makes to her big sis!
Does school start that early, or is it before-school care? We are 15 minutes from DSD's school, and she would have to wake up at 5:30 to make it there on time if it started at 7:30! That seems like a really long day for K.
If it is before-school care, couldn't she just not go every other Monday and your DH get her there for school itself?
I will say that this is a hard situation for the little girl to be in. My parents were divorced and my father had girlfriends and later remarried. So much pressure was put on ME to make my parents feel better but I hated the whole mess. It was stressful and I had to pretend that all was fine and normal.
I can see many reasons for your DSD to be 'treating' him the way she is. It seems an honest reaction to what she has been through and I would give her more grace. She is a child. She cannot be expected to react to this maturely and a whole lot of pressure, that she cannot articulate, is on her. Please try to be more understanding.
If he works nights, what about volunteering at her school once a week for a couple of hours?
Oh oh, lol, when dh worked nights and dd was in school.....he'd go have lunch with her at school once a week.
I agree that this is a really hard situation for your dsd and will take a lot of time - especially given the turbulence of the last year. If you feel like things are going to work out between you and your dh, then this will be a years long project. But you have time - and things can turn out great. You seem to be taking all the right steps.
In terms of the issue of her saying she's unhappy at daddy's because she gets time-outs there, I have a couple of thoughts. First, just a disclaimer that I don't use time-outs and don't believe them. For more on why, I'd really recommend Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting. I think he might have an article about it available online. But regardless of your opinion on them, I would want to ask her why she doesn't like being in time-out, how it makes her feel, what it means to her. To you, it might seem that she is saying she doesn't like being disciplined at dad's. But she could have a whole set of feelings about it that are very real. It could feel like isolation at a place/time where she is already feeling isolated/lonely away from what feels to her to be her secure base. It might be that finding another method of discipline or other ways of making the points you want to make would be helpful. Regardless, for you and her therapist to help her think more deeply about WHY she feels the way she does seems pretty key.
It sounds like your dh is really trying, which is great. He has to have a long-term perspective because it's going to take some time. My guess is that if things start to stabilize in the environment then that will help as well.
Yes, school begins at 7:45, they would like the kids to be there at 7:30... it's a private Catholic school for grades K-8 and they all start at the same time.
She is only in afterschool homework club/care.
Time-out caused a whole load of friction between my DS2 and his stepmum- and therefore, his dad. In particular, he felt that he was being put in time out for silly, tenuous things (like riding his stepsisters scooter on the grass- who knew?) and I think it's fair to say that there are some battles that just aren't worth fighting. Where you draw the line, only you can decide, but I don't think I'd feel comfortable using time-out punitively to make a child pay me attention. In particular, not THAT child of mine- it isn't the right strategy for him and is devastating to his self-esteem and perception of his place in the world. It might be the same with your DSD.
Other than that, I think bronxmom explains things pretty well. One other thing I want to add, though, is that kids hold grudges like you wouldn't believe, and six months is a very short time when it's 1/12 of your lifetime. She decides when her dad gets the benefit of the doubt. Not him, not her mum, and not you.
Originally Posted by JSMa
As I have stated in previous threads, DSD has been having a real hard time visiting lately. She gets upset and says she misses her Mom.
I have been following your story and while you have gotten some great advice, I want to share my thoughts.
From what you've shared about the Mom and what we've experienced, I believe the girl is being manipulated on the other end by her Mom. We went through a similar situation. My ex decided to start "brainwashing" my kids right after the divorce. He started telling them stories about how things were when he and I were together, how my new dh messed them all up (even though new dh and I didn't meet until a year AFTER the divorce). He especially paid attention to the youngest, who was 1 at the time. He slowly and carefully put things into his head, like Mommy doesn't love you as much since she has remarried, etc. (especially when new dh and I had another child - he really played on that) Ex would put the youngest in his car seat in my car (wouldn't let me do it) and would say things like, "I know you don't want to go with your mom. I know you want to stay with me..." And egg him on to the point where he was crying and refusing to get in my car. Then he'd say to me," See what you have done to him? To the kids? They don't even want to go with you. They want to stay with their dad in their own home." It was really bad. Every time they would go with him, he would ask them if my dh was spanking them or punishing them. Of course, they got things like time out because we don't let the kids do what they want. But he did. And he played on that, too. He NEVER disciplined them.
And you have to understand that we had primary custody. He caused this much anxiety just seeing them 2 weekends out of the month. How much damage can a mom do if she has her most of the time?
Now, do I think your dsd has seen a lot of change? Yes! But so do other kids! My kids saw more change than her at that age. Plus, her mom could help her through the process and help her bond with her new baby sister... if she wanted to. She could also encourage the relationship between the LO and you. But she doesn't. Or you would see dsd welcome you with open arms.
My suggestion is to definitely NOT see less of her. You cannot change whatever the Mom is doing with/to her but you can love on her and encourage her when she's with you. Cards, letters are great. But I would wonder if she gets them. Also, anything you can do to be understanding. After all, dsd is the victim here and she does miss her mom. That's real. But her mom is playing on that emotion. But since dsd doesn't understand, let her call her mom if she says she really misses her. (ex wouldn't let my kids call me and would tell them he was upset because they didn't call him when they were with me) At times we would also listen on the phone to see what was being said between ex and kids. When we found out the manipulation was on the phone as well, we did eventually have to stop letting them talk to him but once or twice a week. Another thing we did, for example, was talk about their dad in a positive way by helping them draw pictures for him to take to him or just by saying what a great dad they had and how much he loved them. It helped them by not making them feel like they had to choose between me and their biodad. (which was what he was doing) It took years of patience but eventually they saw through it. Dd (13) doesn't even go over there anymore because she started seeing that what he'd been saying all those years were lies.
And btw, manipulation/brain washing is hard to prove in court. When my ex took us back to court and tried to prove me an unfit mother, the judge saw right through him and chided him in front of us and the attorneys. He also threatened to take custody away from him for good if he ever saw him back in court. But did he quit doing it to the kids? Nope.
You care so much and that is huge. One day dsd will see it. Don't give up hope. She will see through to the truth if you and dh continue to take the high road.
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. I think she's responding like any mother would to the hurt and fear that she sees her daughter experiencing. My guess is she doesn't think a whole lot of the dad and that's a problem. But I don't think she's actively undermining. Telling your 5 year old that they can call you if they miss you - when the child has been consistently and understandably expressing that emotion - is a completely logical thing to do. I have been on the other end of this. My daughter screaming and crying because she doesn't want to go to dad's - and she LOVES her dad very deeply. Or calling from his house crying because she misses me. Not wanting to talk on the phone or having to make her call him. As a mother this is heartbreaking. I know that the long-term goal of her having a deep and attached relationship with her dad means I have to work through it. But from the mom's end it sucks. And I would certainly offer my kid as much emotional support as possible - including telling her she could call if she missed me.
I think trying to blame the mom for what the daughter is expressing ends up diminishing/not taking seriously the girl's actual and seemingly intense feeling (e.g., she can't really feel that herself so it must be because of the mom). If they want to address the situation, it has to start by acknowledging the girl's feelings no matter how painful.
All that said, JSMa, I think you are doing an amazing job and clearly really care about your stepdaughter. You are in a tough situation. Families can work through a lot of hurt and come out stronger on the other end. This might be an opportunity for you and your dh to break old patterns and create a strong, loving model for what a family can be - a unique, different kind of family but one that can still heal and nurture the people within it. Be patient with yourself, your dsd and everyone else - I'd include her mother in that. I know it's hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who seems to control your life in such negative ways, but all this must be very hard for her as well. The more you can all be a team the better it will be.