Sometimes I just feel hopeless - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-21-2010, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure if this is a vent or a plea for advice or what, but sometimes this whole stepmom thing seems hopeless.

What if I'm just not cut out to care for a 11 year old boy.

To be clear, my DSS is a good kid. He is bright. He is empathetic. He is athletic. He has more self esteem and self confidence than I did as a child and perhaps do now!

But, there are so many parenting choices and standards that Dh has made that are just different that what I would have chosen or what I am used to growing up. It seems like almost nothing is on the table for discussion, and I spend so much of my time either being tense (because I am stressfully tolerating things) or just removing myself.

Little things that add up. I think kids (and all people) should almost always say please and thank you. (Like, to waitresses, doesn't have to always say it to me) I don't think we kick soccar balls around the house or airport or other crowded spaces. I really don't like crude language, not R rates, but I just don't like how "crap" and "frickin" and that level of thing sound and they turn me off. I think adults, and other income earners, can have some expensive nice things that kids don't have (iphones, for example). I think if you are not able to sit upright in a restaurant and remain in your seat without the need for a toy (electronic, ball) perhaps its not the right time to be in a restaurant. I think you should draw a line between specific complaints and upsets about authority figures, but not be able to just call them names. I don't think getting marked down on a report card for behavior issues is cool, a sign of not being a nerd, or a reflection that a teacher can't deal with kids. I don't think you discuss bathroom activities at dinner.

To get real specific with one instance, and how things usually go down, I think dirty clothes should go in the hamper. DSS will often come in, take something off, and it ends up in the floor in the living room. (Don't ask me how his underware ends up on the living room floor, I don't want to know) So, I talked to Dh about it, and proposed what I thought was a good compromise. A laundry basket was put downstairs. There is a laundry basket in DSS's room. I don't even care if the dirty clothes remain on his floor in his room. I just don't want random clothes flung around the house. Dh agreed. But now, I'm still either putting up with the clothes, or I'm just the naggy one. Even though we agreed on the solution. And DH says that I can't expect a kid to be perfect. But I don't see how a kid can learn any standards without consistency.

I also think this list makes me sound like an anal PIA. And I've truly never felt that I was one. I've never had that complaint about myself in adult relationships. I've just always been kind of a mannered person, and I've never felt so much that it is a failing.

Right now I feel like the nerdy kid in school in my own house who's getting teased and having their buttons pushed. (Which I'm sure is easy to do) But, and think this is the crux of the matter, I don't know how to change the dynamic so that I'm not either withdrawing or being someone very untrue to myself to play along.

Anyhow, I'm not sure what to do. Dh hears any request for discussion and a complaint about his parenting or a complaint about the intrinsic goodness of his son. And its not. But I'm a stepmom, not an equal parent, and it sometimes is a crummy place to be.
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Old 07-21-2010, 06:47 PM
 
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I am not in a blended situation, but I don't think you sound like you are being overly anal. Almost everything you described is a rule in our house. (I don't care about colorful language.) Our kid isn't absolutely perfect at following them yet, but she's 2. She gets more of them right than wrong.

I have no advice on how to deal with your situation but I want to validate that your values are not inappropriate or over the top.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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Old 07-21-2010, 08:12 PM
 
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I don't do laundry that hasn't been put in the hamper. I DO say "I plan on doing laundry today, you might want to make sure all your clothes are in the hamper, because I won't be doing a special load for you tomorrow when you realize you don't have any clean socks"

If there isn't a 'please' in a request, I won't help. We don't go to a restaurant until the kids' at-home table manners have been reasonable of late (our rules at home are: sit properly, use utensils, no bathroom talk and no leaving the table until everyone has said their favourite part of the day) You could say to your DH that you won't be eating in a restaurant with DSS if he can't behave himself.

I'm the bio-parent, SO is the step, but we both do this... if the kids want us to do things for or with them, they will behave as we expect them to. It's up to them, they decide through their behaviour what kind of life they're going to have for the next few days or a week.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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Old 07-21-2010, 08:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Posts like these are nice to read. But they do make me worry about DH's and my relationship. The hard line/ultimatum doesn't work with him.

I actually tried to have a conversation with him about how to deal when DSS does the toilet talk thing. (I return from bathroom to "So, how'd everything come out?" or "Was that number one or two?") I really don't want to deal with it. Perhaps, it's gotton to the point where it is just fun for him to get my goat. But DH just says I have to work this out for myself and he's not going to create stress and new rules about it.

THere's no way, for example, that I can insist that DSS sit up in a restaurant if his father doesn't care.

But, it is nice to know that I'm not completely whacky.
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Old 07-21-2010, 09:03 PM
 
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Posts like these are nice to read. But they do make me worry about DH's and my relationship. The hard line/ultimatum doesn't work with him.

I actually tried to have a conversation with him about how to deal when DSS does the toilet talk thing. (I return from bathroom to "So, how'd everything come out?" or "Was that number one or two?") I really don't want to deal with it. Perhaps, it's gotton to the point where it is just fun for him to get my goat. But DH just says I have to work this out for myself and he's not going to create stress and new rules about it.

THere's no way, for example, that I can insist that DSS sit up in a restaurant if his father doesn't care.

But, it is nice to know that I'm not completely whacky.
I don't think your whacky at all! Those are some pretty basic rules that even my seven and two year old are expected to adhere to. Some potty humour slips through, but never to the degree that you're describing. I would be quite disgusted if someone asked me something like 'How'd everything come out?' My seven year old would be sent straight to her room.

My gf and I struggle sometimes in that I suffer from working parent guilt and tend to negatively reinforce whining from my two year old. It causes some tension, but I sit back and look at it from her point of view. If she's disciplining, the toddler screams for me, I intervene - it sets us up for failure, kwim? We really try and stay out of each other's way when it comes to situations like that.

Both kids are already learning that we both carry parental authority, and when one lays down the law - that's it. End of discussion.

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Old 07-21-2010, 10:48 PM
 
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Will your DH care about the issues once you remove yourself from the situations, though? He might not WANT to go out for dinner without you, and sitting at the dinner table with no-one but a rude 11 year old will get old. I'm not saying draw a line in the sand, just be totally honest about whether you have the patience or energy to put up the stress that DSS's rude behaviour creates for YOU on a time-by-time basis.

For the clothes, since there isn't consensus on how it should be handled, maybe each person should do their own. IMO, if you're doing all the laundry, you get to set the rules. If it's more work for DH to not back you up, he'll get on board.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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Old 07-21-2010, 11:08 PM
 
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There's no way, for example, that I can insist that DSS sit up in a restaurant if his father doesn't care.
That's true and in some respects you may just have to accept that this kid is not going to be like a kid you might raise. It's wonderful if you wind up loving your stepchild like he was your own, but I've read in this forum that it just doesn't always happen - and that's logical.

But under any circumstances, you can insist that people treat you with respect. If your stepson says something rude when you come out of the bathroom, you're perfectly entitled to say, "You may not speak to me like that. It's rude." even if your husband is too lazy to correct his son first.

I don't know the dynamics of your household, but if the kid doesn't quit, turning on your heel and walking out of the room may make him and his dad feel uncomfortable. Or you may need to take a stand. What do he and your husband expect you to do for them? For example, I think it's legitimate to say, "I'm sorry, but I'm not cooking dinner tonight for a child who is persistently rude to me, even when I ask him to stop, and a husband who does not show enough respect for me to tell his child not to say crude things when I walk out of the bathroom. I'm going out for dinner and the two of you will have to fend for yourselves tonight."

It's not an ultimatum. You aren't threatening, "Scold your child right now, or I'm walking out that door!" You are calmly, rationally telling him what you are and aren't willing to do and allowing him to choose: make dinner for his son by himself (possibly every night he has visitation for the next few months, if the kid really makes a point of showing his derriere); or backing you up and telling his son to show you basic courtesy. Certainly, he will act like you're unreasonable, at first - but that's just because you're behaving differently. His laxity with his son shows that he's a path-of-least-resistance type of guy (at least in his personal interactions). Right now, it's more comfortable for him to permit his son's rudeness than it is to correct it. You need to kindly but firmly swing that pendulum the other way, so correcting his son is less uncomfortable than continuing to deal with you.

Same with the kid's laundry. That's ridiculous. Underwear in the living room? I say you either let it sit there until it piles up and your husband asks why you're not cleaning the house; or if you feel compelled to pick it up, you stick it in a garbage bag in the back of the garage and when the kid finally starts asking where his clothes are, hand him the bag and tell him how to work the laundry machines.

Again, you don't have to be mean. You can be patient and smile while you reiterate that it is not your job to collect his laundry from the living room floor, therefore if he will not show the rest of the family the respect of picking it up himself, he now knows where to find it and how to wash it. You just hope the mice don't get into it while it's sitting in the garage. They've been known to do that. And you will happily wash any clothes he chooses to put in his hamper, on your usual laundry day.

You just can't do this about every little thing. You can't make your husband parent him the way you like, in every last respect, like sitting up straight. But no one can legitimately fault you for insisting on the things that directly affect yourself.

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Old 07-21-2010, 11:44 PM
 
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Right now, it's more comfortable for him to permit his son's rudeness than it is to correct it. You need to kindly but firmly swing that pendulum the other way, so correcting his son is less uncomfortable than continuing to deal with you.
Never had to deal with this with my fiancee and his daughter... she's a joy... DEFINITELY had to deal with this in regards to his mom though! I learned pretty early on that when I sucked it up in regards to her treatment of me, he pretty much LET me suck it up. And when I sat him down and kindly but firmly explained... for days at a time.... how that was making me feel... he decided he'd rather listen to someone complain who DIDN'T live with him than someone who did. In our house, it really is about, "if mama's not happy, NOBODY'S happy." I try not to abuse the power!

I do get the impression that you're already making your displeasure known, though, and I'm sorry. I can't imagine being with someone who didn't hear me when I was deeply upset. *Hug*

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Old 07-21-2010, 11:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate all the feedback.

First, I do want to reiterate that I don't think my Dss is a bad kid. This has nothing to do with loving or not loving him.

I love the ideas from the previous poster. They are just very hard to impliment in our household. My husband was divorced when my Dss was 2. He had over 7 years of being a single dad, and plenty of time to establish his comfort limit with messes and chores. He got in the routine of time with his son being filled with activites, fun, male bonding and weeks off without son being the chore/ clean the house time.

Dss used to actually be able to skateboard in the house. He used to sleep in his dad's bedroom. My husband is a high powered attorney time during the day and seems to relish being able to revert to fart jokes at dinner. I, on the other hand, feel like I have two preteen boys in the house, and miss the sophistocated, romantic, deep thinker I was dating less than 3 years ago.

So I just withdraw more. And the tension spills over, so, even on off weeks I don't feel like I have my adult partner back. We're both just decompressing from each other.

And they would not be phased by my not cooking dinner. They'd just cook dinner and consider it a treat to be able to eat in front of the TV. (Dh is a wonderful cook.)

It kills me in a way, because I feel like I have so much to offer a child as me. I remember as a kid (and I was such a different kid than DSS) I loved adults that were serious with me. I have a physics geek uncle that would play computer games with me or explain math or answer tricky questions seriously.

I love those moments when DSS actually engages and asks me something (why are some words bad? what does my sister (2 yo) think about when she's talking?) I even loved, after I explained that it was really rude to keep yelling "panties" in public every time my shirt rode up, that he suggested picking a different word that was not embarrassing but would still let me know my panties were showing. (Hey, I thought that was actually quite empathetic and about 90% of the way there) But most of the time I feel like I have always going to be an outsider.
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Old 07-21-2010, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You just can't do this about every little thing. You can't make your husband parent him the way you like, in every last respect, like sitting up straight. But no one can legitimately fault you for insisting on the things that directly affect yourself.
Oh, and I'm not asking him to sit up straight in restaurants. I want him to sit up. As in not spend time lying down across chairs or climbing on his dad.
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Old 07-22-2010, 12:09 AM
 
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Okay, probably weird suggestion, but since it seems like DH enjoys acting like a kid at the dinner table, why not make a deal where YOU get to/have to pick a night X number of nights per month where anything goes? Fart night. Put a whoopie cushion on DSS's seat, serve carbonated drinks so they can practice their belching and some kind of fun food, etc... just let it go completely wild with the understanding that for the rest of the week there WILL be manners.

Another idea for the restaurant... if you choose a place where the chairs have armrests, he won't be able to lay on them. Of course, it won't help for getting out of his seat and climbing on his dad, but it might discourage him from slumping over.

~Teresa, raising DS (Jan. 02) and DD1 (Jun. 04) and DD2 (Dec. 11) with DH.

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Old 07-22-2010, 12:33 AM
 
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a lot of his behaviour sounds like typical 11 yo behaviour. at least that is rather how my son was about two years ago or so. except the potty humour at the table, not allowed. but he would still try to slip them in...
mostly what i am hearing from you is that you are finding it hard to know where you fit in their little pack of two. and it doesnt seem as though dh sees or understands that you are feeling this way. if i were in your shoes i would make two lists, one of things that i could tolerate but didnt like, and one for things that were a definite no holds barred rule breaker. maybe a third of the things that you love and care about most in your ss would be a good one to make at the same time, just for the sake of doing it and it would feel good... maybe i am a whacko. anyhow. i would read over each list and really think about each item and how i really felt about it. why it bothered me, was it something that triggered feelings from my own childhood, what was at the heart of why it offended me. i would try to figure out for each item if it was a me issue or a ss issue. as in is it something that just happens to bother me personally but most others wouldnt care a whit, or was it a ss issue, that any parent or caregiver wouldnt put up with or allow, or at his age perhaps allow at school either would be a good gauge. once i had a handle on which issues were which i would put another list together of the things that were my issues and the things that were truly ss related issues and i would talk to dh about it. because the list of your issues are the things you can compromise on, and make the list that you wont compromise on not seem like an ultimatum, it shows that you are willing to compromise in some areas and not in other areas. and you need your dh to back you up on this. would he respond positively to that sort of discussion, you know a well thought out, written down, not in the middle of something happening that might be an item on the list talk. you dont say how long you have been living together, but you have been together three years so it is obvious you love one another, and if his son displays the good behaviour you describe then he sounds like a good father, pretty much like most single dads i know, way lax on language and potty talk and a mini little boy frat club, but loving and caring and kind and empathetic and compassionate, it sounds like he has a good sense of humour, all good qualities.
it is a matter of getting dh to understand that you need to know where you fit, how he is going to help his son accept you into their pack and be a part of their team. and also be one that has authority that will be backed up by dh. when he says that he is going to just leave it to you, it is unfair to both you and ss. he just gets to sit back and not be the bad guy, or bethe good guy either by encouraging, if he is just doing nothing then he is letting his son think that you are not only not really on the team but you have even less staus on the team than he does. and that will lead to resentment royale on your part and eventually when ss is older and bigger than you, well not being taught to respect your feelings and respect your rules then you could be in for a big mess of trouble.
i hope i am making sense here. i spent the day in the sun at the beach and am all sunheaded and dazy...
what i am trying to say is get the things you feel in order, see where you are willing to compromise and where you arent, talk those things through with dh and come to some resolution and then hold your dh to it. be careful and make sure that if dh doesnt stand behind you that you talk to him about it asap that you are not in front of ss, but later on where ss doesnt hear what you are saying.
eventually i imagine dh will get on board. and depending on how long you have lived together, how much of your home has your stamp on it too if you moved into thier house, where you are in the whole learning to live together process of blending a family.

be gentle with yourself, remember to breath and never be afraid to say you are sorry if you lose it, we are all human,

hth~

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Old 07-22-2010, 12:13 PM
 
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You don't have a stepkid problem, OP. You have a husband problem.

Most of the practical suggestions I would make have already been made. If your DH is paid the way most "high-powered attorneys" are paid, you might also consider hiring a cleaner to 1) help you on the weeks that the place is getting trashed and 2) possibly provoke a fit of tidying from dh and dss the night before she comes. It's a well-known fact that people will perform courtesies for a hired cleaner that they never would for their wife/mom.

Other than that - join a book club, plan a biweekly girl's night, take an overnight trip to see your family, do what you have to do to get enough respite that you can avoid showing anger to DSS, even as you continue to reinforce your expectations (no underwear in the living room, etc.). When (if!) they ask you why you keep taking off, tell them "Guys, I love you both. But the pottymouth and the chaos makes me unhappy and hurts my feelings, and makes me feel like I'm not welcome in my own home. I need to get out of here before I get mad at you."

I suspect you'll find that if you avoid conflict during the "on" week, your dh might be more the guy that you remember furing the "off" week. He may get angry at your leaving, but just keep pounding away, calmly, with "When you guys do X, I don't feel welcome in our home. I feel disrespected and bullied. So I leave. If you want me around all the time, then ACT like you want me around." Overandoverandoveragain.

In addition to all that, I'd try to make a point of doing cool stuff with your stepson in the afternoons before Dad gets home, to reinforce that you love him and want to spend time with him, and that fun can be had while simultaneously behaving like a human being. You can bet your booties that his MOM doesn't let him misbehave in public. He knows how to conduct himself. Give him an opportunity to do so without his dad there to sabotage the attempt.
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Old 07-22-2010, 02:51 PM
 
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i agree with the above suggestions. Id also be tempted to containerize any underwear found in common areas and keep it put away until your ss decides he needs his underwear enough to make a deal. I also eant to second or third this age being extremely annoying. My dd got mean and emotionally unstable but my ds has turned into such an annoying kid. Not the potty humor so much but man is he irritating. I guess this is prepuberty for boys. For you own enjoyment why dont you check out a few mrs. Pigglewiggle books. ;/
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:01 PM
 
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You don't have a stepkid problem, OP. You have a husband problem.
I agree strongly with this. Your DH and DSS have clearly been living like frat boys for years now, and the only way this will change is if your DH steps up and supports you in your efforts to civilize. Odds are DSS's mother doesn't let him behave this way, so he probably knows what to do, but there's no reason for him to do it if your DH won't make him change.

Personally, I'd pick one or two things to start with -- probably the potty humor and the stuff on the floor. Potty humor would get him sent to his room or otherwise ignored, and stuff on the floor would be picked up at a set time by you and then be off-limits to him. Eleven is plenty old enough to understand consequences, but your DH has to support you in this.

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Old 07-22-2010, 10:30 PM
 
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You don't have a stepkid problem, OP. You have a husband problem.

Most of the practical suggestions I would make have already been made. If your DH is paid the way most "high-powered attorneys" are paid, you might also consider hiring a cleaner to 1) help you on the weeks that the place is getting trashed and 2) possibly provoke a fit of tidying from dh and dss the night before she comes. It's a well-known fact that people will perform courtesies for a hired cleaner that they never would for their wife/mom.

Other than that - join a book club, plan a biweekly girl's night, take an overnight trip to see your family, do what you have to do to get enough respite that you can avoid showing anger to DSS, even as you continue to reinforce your expectations (no underwear in the living room, etc.). When (if!) they ask you why you keep taking off, tell them "Guys, I love you both. But the pottymouth and the chaos makes me unhappy and hurts my feelings, and makes me feel like I'm not welcome in my own home. I need to get out of here before I get mad at you."

I suspect you'll find that if you avoid conflict during the "on" week, your dh might be more the guy that you remember furing the "off" week. He may get angry at your leaving, but just keep pounding away, calmly, with "When you guys do X, I don't feel welcome in our home. I feel disrespected and bullied. So I leave. If you want me around all the time, then ACT like you want me around." Overandoverandoveragain.

In addition to all that, I'd try to make a point of doing cool stuff with your stepson in the afternoons before Dad gets home, to reinforce that you love him and want to spend time with him, and that fun can be had while simultaneously behaving like a human being. You can bet your booties that his MOM doesn't let him misbehave in public. He knows how to conduct himself. Give him an opportunity to do so without his dad there to sabotage the attempt.

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