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#1 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 01:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello all!
We are sort of at a loss here. We have 50/50 custody across the board, Monday transitions. My dss is 11 and I have known him since he was 1.5, so basically his whole life. The problem is that when we see him outside of our home/week he ignores us. He will walk right past us and not say hello. My husband coaches his baseball team so we get to see him a few times a week outside of our time with him, which is great, or should be! He will go to practice/games and not say hi to my husband, and leaves without saying goodbye. He doesn't answer texts if I text him (on the phone we pay for) and calls my husband about practice and doesn't say hello or anything, just asks a question and basically hangs up as if he doesn't know him outside of being a coach.

I see him at school, both of the kids go to the same school and he will sort of say hi, a quick glance/wave, but no hug, not even a smile sometimes, even if he's bringing me something to take home for him, like his baseball bag.

This is so hurtful, I'm so tired of feeling this way. We try so hard not to take it personally, and know that it's because his mom has basically made it punishable to treat us as family. BUT WE ARE family!!!! WE have been for so long, and do everything she does and probably in many cases more. I hate that my husband is putting in so much time to be there for him coaching his team and he ignores him, it's so sad.

What do we do? Do we chalk it up to parental alienation, therefore not being his fault? Do we tell him we expect to be treated better and tell him it hurts? Is it his fault? At his age can and should he be more responsible for his behavior? Or has he been manipulated so much that he doesn't know right from wrong when it comes to treatment of people that care about him?

We know that she has always talked bad about us, doesn't refer to dh as his father, calls him by his first name, (and calls her *basically abusive* husband, who she is thankfully divorcing, "Daddy") So talking to her won't help, I actually think this would make her happy.

Can we ever undo this? Sometimes I just feel like giving up. I know he doesn't tell her anything about us, in fact, I don't think she knows I am pregnant, and I am due in a couple of months.

It's just so sad, his little friends get so happy when they see us and will go out of their way to even yell hello to us, and run up to us, but he walks right by us with nothing. It's very hurtful, it makes us feel so insignificant and unappreciated, even unloved sometimes. It hurts me more when he does it to dh or dd. I'm used to being the "wicked stepmother" and being treated that way, but really, why his own dad and sister?

I am really hoping for some words of wisdom here, we just don't know what is too much to expect from him based on what he's been through, and how she brainwashes him. (I do NOT use that term lightly, I feel it really is the case here) I really start to feel afraid we will treat him differently subconsciously to protect ourselves emotionally. We don't want to alienate him, we want him to feel loved....but it feels like we are loving a rock sometimes. (does that make sense?)

Thank you in advance for any help.

Artist, teacher, wife and mommy to DSS, DD1, DD2 and surprise baby girl on the way, 7/12!

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#2 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 09:07 AM
 
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No advice but I can offer a . We are dealing with the same thing here except we do get somewhat civil phone conversations. I've considered not going to events because I'm tired of being ignored but then when I don't go to events I get the "Why weren't you there?!?" inquisition from the kids later on.

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#3 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 10:10 AM
 
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Can you give a brief history? How long have you had the 50/50 arrangement? What was it like before?

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#4 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 10:19 AM
 
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How long has he been acting like this? Asking questions without saying "hi" or "how are you?" first, and not hugging/acknowledging parents at school, in my book, is called "puberty". But then if he's been acting this way since he was 3 then that's less likely.

Is he all over his mom if she comes to school/practice? Or does she get the same short shrift? His friends go out of their way to say hi - yeah, my coach was a lot cooler than my dad when i was 11 too (actually my mother was the head of youth group, and while other teens were all over her i would barely look her way at youth club - come on, she was my MUM, who else had their mum there!?), i think i would assume this was the beginning of puberty and not worry too much about it unless it's been going on a long time.
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#5 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No advice but I can offer a . We are dealing with the same thing here except we do get somewhat civil phone conversations. I've considered not going to events because I'm tired of being ignored but then when I don't go to events I get the "Why weren't you there?!?" inquisition from the kids later on.
Thanks! Sometimes we get that too, and other times he doesn't seem to know if we are there or not. I'm not sure he cares sometimes!

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Can you give a brief history? How long have you had the 50/50 arrangement? What was it like before?
Well, we have been doing 50/50 since he was 3 or 4 and before that it was very close. Our schedule was different but then we switched to week on, week off around 1st grade, maybe kg. I don't remember exactly. so this is not new for him, or us. Everything was very good before she got married. She married a very toxic person (I'm talking felon w/ cps issues) who was out for blood it seemed. Everything changed at that point and we have spent a lot of time in court. Things have settled down but the way she talks about us has not. So for about 7-8 years she has been making it very, very clear that we are not really family, etc. Things like, making him redraw family pictures he draws at school, without us and only her and her husband, keeping a backpack or other things we buy him at her house for the whole school year. Luckily now she is not going to be with this man anymore, but I'm not sure what that means, except that we don't have to deal with him or his toxic crap anymore. It's just been going on forever, very obvious Parental alienation but not provable. Honestly he is always scared of making her mad. Even if she isn't doing it as much anymore we feel the damage has been done, he's been conditioned to worry about this stuff.

**another example, skip this if it's too much** We bought a backpack again this year, he won't take it to her house because she kept the last one we bought. We bought him a cell phone. He calls me Mommy, his choice, but will only put my name in his phone. That's fine, but then he puts Daddy for his stepdad. (who he's known quite a bit less than he has known me) He is always, ALWAYS thinking about what her reaction will be, he is always scared she will get mad at him.

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How long has he been acting like this? Asking questions without saying "hi" or "how are you?" first, and not hugging/acknowledging parents at school, in my book, is called "puberty". But then if he's been acting this way since he was 3 then that's less likely.

Is he all over his mom if she comes to school/practice? Or does she get the same short shrift? His friends go out of their way to say hi - yeah, my coach was a lot cooler than my dad when i was 11 too (actually my mother was the head of youth group, and while other teens were all over her i would barely look her way at youth club - come on, she was my MUM, who else had their mum there!?), i think i would assume this was the beginning of puberty and not worry too much about it unless it's been going on a long time.

Yeah, I know that a lot of it is probably his age, but it has been going on for quite a while. He has been afraid to acknowledge us since his mom sort of turned on us. (when she got married) This happened at about 4. Sometimes he has been more affectionate in front of her but for the most part he's very distant. There have been times where we have seen him at school functions and because he is with her he won't even smile at us. He does the same with anyone we are friends with, even if they are his friends' parents.

He is definitely more affectionate to his mom when she's around (though she isn't around much during our time). We actually would not tolerate him acting that way towards her. Not to sound all high and mighty but we have never tried to put a wedge between them, and it seems that she has been working years on this for him and us. I'm just scared it's actually working. We also make sure he knows that she is and always will be his mom and it's okay to love her as much as he can/wants, etc. She also sends him tons of texts during the week saying she loves him, and I can't help but feel, because of the way she does it, that she is very insecure and wants to make sure he doesn't forget that she is there and sort of reminding him not to love us too much. In fact, once when he was talking to her he completely yelled at dd for some silly thing, while he was on the phone with his mom. It was very weird and unusual for him. When she calls him she asks him a million questions and says she loves him over and over again and keeps him on the phone forever (for some reason I can hear her, I think he needs to turn his phone down!). I know he feels okay doing that here, I don't think he would feel comfortable at all talking to us at his mom's house.

So, I agree, some of it is puberty, but much of it is this whole alienation thing. I just don't know how much of it we should tolerate, should we be talking to him about it? Should we tell him we expect more respect from him, at least a Hi and a smile? (especially when we haven't seen him for days?) There are so many opinions about it that I am never sure what is too much to expect when he's dealing with what he deals with in regards to us.

I think in one way we can be proud that he feels comfortable showing her affection in front of us. But at what cost? We get treated like crap. We are really at a loss, and tired of this, it's been going on for years...maybe the impending teen thing is just making it worse.

Artist, teacher, wife and mommy to DSS, DD1, DD2 and surprise baby girl on the way, 7/12!

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#6 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 03:49 PM
 
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It really sound from your posts as though you know WHY this is happening - your dss is avoiding conflict with his mom, because he fears conflict with his mom.

So while one can hope that mom's attitude may improve after the divorce, as long as he is treating you all decently when he is in your home and his mom can't see or hear him, then I think he's probably doing the best he can for you right now. Just continue to be there and love him, and let him grow up and deal with his mom's issues as he sees fit. There's just no way to address this right now without putting even more pressure on your dss. He's already in a hard place - don't add a rock to it.
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#7 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 04:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It really sound from your posts as though you know WHY this is happening - your dss is avoiding conflict with his mom, because he fears conflict with his mom.

So while one can hope that mom's attitude may improve after the divorce, as long as he is treating you all decently when he is in your home and his mom can't see or hear him, then I think he's probably doing the best he can for you right now. Just continue to be there and love him, and let him grow up and deal with his mom's issues as he sees fit. There's just no way to address this right now without putting even more pressure on your dss. He's already in a hard place - don't add a rock to it.
Yes, we do know why, this is where we have a difficult time striking a balance. WE don't want to create a more difficult situation, but how far do we let it go? It isn't always easy at our house...it seems to be bleeding into our time as well. It's certainly much worse when he is away/in front of her. So, as you said, we definitely don't want to "add a rock" we don't want him to think it's okay to treat us or anyone this way, being downright rude sometimes. How much do we treat as a split-home situation and how much do we treat as a pre-teen thing? It's hard to know! I feel like the more we let it slide, the worse it gets, and possibly the less respect he has for us for not sticking up for and having expectations for/of him.

sorry, I can't seem to write short posts!

Artist, teacher, wife and mommy to DSS, DD1, DD2 and surprise baby girl on the way, 7/12!

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#8 of 14 Old 04-30-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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Just keep in mind that he's a human who will grow up into an adult. It's hard now to be treated as a second place person in his life, but he is soaking all this in, and will remember feeling safe with his choices with you and not with his mother. Your relationship with him is what is most important, and through your openness and understanding of WHY this is happening, he will feel acceptance and love. Those feelings will stay with him forever.

This is really a hard thing.
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#9 of 14 Old 05-01-2010, 03:39 AM
 
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He KNOWS what is going on and he I am sure knows that he has to do this as self preservation. Just trust that one day he will come to you and know who was always there for him.

Maybe you can just talk to him. Maybe tell him "I know it must be hard for you going back and forth like you do. I know that it must be akward and maybe you don't know how you should behave with us when it isn't "our" time with you, but know, we LOVE YOU and we will do what ever it takes to make your life easier. If talking to us cause conflict for you, it is ok, but please know, we love you and we want you to know you are OUR family." and just leave it like that. My friend is going through the exact same thing and when she said basically those same words to her ss it made a huge difference.
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#10 of 14 Old 05-01-2010, 12:12 PM
 
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Maybe you can just talk to him. Maybe tell him "I know it must be hard for you going back and forth like you do. I know that it must be akward and maybe you don't know how you should behave with us when it isn't "our" time with you, but know, we LOVE YOU and we will do what ever it takes to make your life easier. If talking to us cause conflict for you, it is ok, but please know, we love you and we want you to know you are OUR family." and just leave it like that. My friend is going through the exact same thing and when she said basically those same words to her ss it made a huge difference.
This sounds like a really good way to handle it. I was trying to figure out how you and your DH could talk to your DSS without a) alienating him, and b) putting him on the defensive.

I'm sure that that this is out of the question given your relationship with the other house, but has your DH thought about some sort of counseling for your DSS? I have a feeling that if it doesn't happen now, he'll be spending a fair amount of time in it as an adult.

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#11 of 14 Old 05-01-2010, 04:21 PM
 
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You can always ask him how he feels, telling him you love him no matter what. If he says he wants to show you affection but is afraid, make up a secret sign (like pulling the ear ala carol burnett) so he can express it without fearing his mom. Then you get satisfaction and he gets to express himself.
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#12 of 14 Old 05-02-2010, 06:03 PM
 
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YIf he says he wants to show you affection but is afraid, make up a secret sign (like pulling the ear ala carol burnett) so he can express it without fearing his mom. Then you get satisfaction and he gets to express himself.
This sounds like a nice idea at first. But it's an excellent rule to never encourage a kid to keep secrets of any kind from either parent.

The type of secret BetterParent suggested isn't "bad". It's not like an adult abusing a child and intimidating them into keeping it secret.

But it isn't as innocent as asking a kid not to spoil the surprise of Daddy's birthday gift, either.

For an adult to suggest to a kid that they create a secret expression of affection so the kid's Mom won't know is undeniably subversive. Without any overtly ugly words, it sends the clear message that:
* Your Mom is so mean and oppressive that other adults in your life will support you, if you sometimes "need" to be sneaky around her.
* You and I have a special bond that's above and beyond your connection with your mother. She's left out of our secret club. I understand things about your innermost heart and feelings that she doesn't.

His Mom may be toxic and oppressive and you may be more attuned to him and concerned with his actual feelings that she is. But those certainly aren't ideas that it's appropriate for you to introduce to him. If they're true, they are things he will figure out on his own, in time.

Besides, the important thing is not getting him to give you some gratifying expression of affection right now. It's teaching him to balance his feelings for people who don't get along with each other and teaching him to fearlessly be himself. That's a huge lesson many people are still learning well into their twenties! How old were you, when you quit feeling sheepish about being friendly to someone you liked, if you were in the company of friends who didn't like that person? Probably older than 11!

I'm not trying to downplay your pain. My husband and I have suffered the same thing (we have a similar situation, down to the 11-y-o step-son!) It sounds like he could use some counseling. It also sounds like he could use periodic open, honest talks: "We love you and it makes us sad when you don't say hi to us during your mom's weeks, or when your mom's around. We'd like to understand why you do that. We know you love us. Do you feel embarassed about having 2 families? (If so, you can discuss how common it is, these days.) Or, are you concerned about how your Mom will react, if you seem happy to see us? (If he says yes, try to steer clear of criticizing her and focus on practical matters: What exactly is it he's afraid she'll do? If it's just a dirty look, can he let it roll off his back? If she says combative things to him about you guys, what might he say in response that is not rude or disrespectful, but that lets her know he doesn't like feeling stuck in the middle of conflict? If it's hard for you to come up with an answer to that, imagine how hard it is for an 11-year-old boy!)

It would be constructive to tell him that you'd like him to try to at least smile and say "Hi" when he sees you guys, because that's basic politeness he should be expected to extend toward anyone he knows. If he starts to do that, he may realize it's not as awful as he feared. It may lead to other things. But if he's not brave enough to hug you in front of his Mom, you need to accept it and he needs to realize he's not brave (yet). Don't encourage him to feel like it's brave to give you a secret "hug" behind his Mom's back. That's not the kind of kid you want to raise, is it?

About the phone: Our 11-year-old boy will talk for 10-30 minutes with his Mom and scarcely says a word to my husband on the phone, when he's with her. The obvious difference: We give him privacy and are friendly, but not pushy, when he gets off the phone with her: "So, how's your Mom?" She makes him talk right in front of her and pushes him afterward, to see if inappropriate or threatening things were said to him, or if he's upset, etc., etc. Who would want to deal with that crap? He may not return your TMs because his mom reads them.

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#13 of 14 Old 05-04-2010, 05:42 PM
 
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#14 of 14 Old 05-07-2010, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Maybe you can just talk to him. Maybe tell him "I know it must be hard for you going back and forth like you do. I know that it must be akward and maybe you don't know how you should behave with us when it isn't "our" time with you, but know, we LOVE YOU and we will do what ever it takes to make your life easier. If talking to us cause conflict for you, it is ok, but please know, we love you and we want you to know you are OUR family." and just leave it like that.
I agree, we have had almost this exact conversation with him but it doesn't seem to help. I think he knows we love him, but I also think he may feel somewhat defensive at times because he has structured his behavior so that he doesn't hear it from her anymore, but knows we don't feel good about the way he acts in her presence, and sometimes beyond. I do feel like we have to continue assuring him of this.

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I'm sure that that this is out of the question given your relationship with the other house, but has your DH thought about some sort of counseling for your DSS? I have a feeling that if it doesn't happen now, he'll be spending a fair amount of time in it as an adult.
We went to counseling for a few sessions, and involved his mom, the counselor basically told her she needs to stop treating us this way that it's hurting dss and she forbade dss from seeing her again. So from then on out he was not comfortable talking to her.

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You can always ask him how he feels, telling him you love him no matter what. If he says he wants to show you affection but is afraid, make up a secret sign (like pulling the ear ala carol burnett) so he can express it without fearing his mom. Then you get satisfaction and he gets to express himself.
We have done something similar, not a secret sign, but if he doesnt' feel entirely comfortable seeing us at school...actually just me, he is usually okay with his dad, but it's worse with me of course. We like to do the "I love you" sign with our hands, it's not a secret though, and we do it when she's not around too.


Jeannine, I understand what you are saying, and we have had issues with the secrets before, on their side. He was very clearly taught at age 4, by his stepfather that what happens in that house stays in that house. VERY scary....it was in response to him telling us he was being spanked. NOT okay in our book, so obviously led to a confrontation.

We do want him to be fearless and I think that you hit it on the head as far as how to get him to learn to cope. That is what we worry about, I know he's only 11, but then again, he is 11! I mean, he should be making some strides at this point, he's still acting the way he did when he was 5....Scared of her. We ask him what is making him scared, a lot of times he just says I don't know, over and over. I think a lot of it is residual feelings left over from the past few years, she has formed this and even if she isn't currently acting this way he feels she will. I wish we could help him move forward.

"It would be constructive to tell him that you'd like him to try to at least smile and say "Hi" when he sees you guys, because that's basic politeness he should be expected to extend toward anyone he knows." This is something we have a hard time with. We want him to be respectful to all people, it's not just us, but do we not deserve the most respect? We would like to have at least a tiny bit!

I think we will talk with him today. We found out he was lying to us again, lying about shaving of all things. He went into our bathroom and tried shaving with dh's razor then started bleeding and has lied to both of us about his scab on his lip, saying he doesn't know what happened. Ugg! We also had a mom's n muffins thing at school today, he is with us so I took him knowing his mom would be there, so I just said we will take a picture really quick then he can go find her...once he saw her he got really rude with me and started acting all weird. It sucked. She decided to cut in line for the pics and I was standing in line (one line for 3 cameras) and he kept yelling at me that he was going to a different line. I am sure she did that on purpose, but it made me feel like crap. After that he just took off and ignored us. It was difficult to enjoy the time with my dd after that. When they do dad's day he could care less and comes late with no cares in the world...in fact she made him late on purpose because he lied to her saying I did something really mean, that I didn't. Phew. Sorry.

I think we will talk to him again today, about the lying and about the respect issue. I don't like being treated like that, but I especially don't like him treating my husband and my dd like that. It's not fair. DD doesn't get it and DH is his dad. His only real male role model and his only sibling, for now. I also have a feeling he has given up to the idea that he will live with her permanently at 12, since she has been working him on the choosing household idea at the age of 12.

Thank you all for your responses, it helps a lot. Sometimes we just need to hear that someday he will appreciate it, and the encouragement to keep on keepin' on.

Artist, teacher, wife and mommy to DSS, DD1, DD2 and surprise baby girl on the way, 7/12!

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