In keeping with the developing pattern, DSS (11, lives with us) returned from his post-Xmas week with his mom, across the country and seems absolutely fine, friendly and happy to be home and back with his friends at school...but is sneaking his phone past bedtime and sending furtive, midnight texts to his mom that she's the only one he wants to be with and "Will she tell him what he needs to do, to convince the judge to let him live with her? This is REALLY IMPORTANT."
As usual, half of me feels very sorry for him, being torn between his parents the way he is; and infuriated with his mother for encouraging him to feel that the measure of his love for her is his willingness to devalue and walk away from his dad. Put differently, instead of DSS's mom moving back here (or at least moving closer); or MAKING USE of the money provided to her (by my husband forgoing child support) and visiting DSS twice as often; she pushes this idea that she knows DSS wants to live across the country with her; that he would celebrate leaving his dad, not feel torn or mourn it; and that the most important thing in her and DSS's lives is this secret build-up to the upcoming battle with their common enemy - my husband - when DSS is 14.
I tell myself to concentrate on having a happy family life here and making DSS feel loved and welcome and trying to accept my lack of control over the future, with regard to his custody. I even remind myself that I have 3 other kids and there will never be any question, uncertainty or insecurity about them residing in my home for the rest of their childhood. Then I feel guilty for reassuring myself with that thought, as though DSS is the disposable child in our home - which is not how I perceive him, by any stretch of the imagination!
But the other half of me feels angry with him. Is he FAKING, acting like he's happy being here and like he feels the slightest attachment to any of us? He consciously worries about being disloyal to his MOTHER, but he doesn't pause and feel disloyal to his FATHER while he's sending these texts, making it sound like there's nothing about his life or relationships here that holds value for him? What a little sneaky, duplicitous s%#. He ought to be reminded of the absolutely cruel, self-centered crap his mom did, for years, that made the court take custody away from her; and be reminded of how devotedly his dad weathered all the heartbreak, humiliation and frustration, because HE'S the parent who puts DSS first.
Then, of course, I think, "My God, what kind of a person am I, thinking this about an 11-year-old!?" None of this is his fault. Even the sneakiness and playing people against each other, or telling people what they want to hear. That is a mechanism for coping with stress he learned directly from his mother. And I'm going to blame him for employing it, when he's under more pressure in his parental situation than I could handle, as an adult??
I don't actually need feedback about this, since it's not the first time I've described it. I just wanted to write it out and think someone else is hearing me. I'm great with kids and it just sideswipes me, sometimes, how difficult it can be to open yourself up completely, as a mother, to a child that you know doesn't think of you as his mother and that you suspect may not have any feelings for you at all, even when he acts like he does. I wonder, is this some sort of cosmic punishment, for taking another woman's child away from her? OF COURSE that's not what I did. I know that. But certainly that's how his mother looks at it. Maybe that's how God looks at it?
Usually, we get long reprieves between DSS's visits with his mom, but she has a new schedule and will be coming for the weekend in just 2 weeks, then coming for another weekend, a month later. Then, it'll be about 6 weeks before he sees her again. So this "adjustment to being home" could be a little rocky, for the next month and a half.
Well, things have calmed down into usual family life. Tighter policing of the cell phone after bedtime = an end to midnight messaging. It's pretty hard to believe DSS is just faking all the time, when we're all playing board games, having snowball fights, he's gushing about my wonderful cooking and the yummy lunches I send him (???) and he's being pretty good for DH and me, about his school work. It's just too bad his life has to be so divided: a completely different life, different name, different friends with one parent and with the other. Then being pressured to choose one and reject the other. It'd be so much healthier if he had what my older kids have, with my ex - half the time he's the one involved at their school, with their sports, inviting their friends over. They have 2 different houses, but not 2 completely separate lives.
Ugh, this sounds so hard for your whole family! I would guess that he is not really faking with you guys, just that he too separates his life so that when he is with you he is happy and when he is alone and his mom is asking for reassurance, he truly does feel like he needs to be with her. While it may seem that he can't really mean all of the things he says, he probably does in the moment. It sounds like you guys are doing a great job helping him navigate both sides of his life, so no advice for you especially since you didn't ask for any :) Good luck and stay strong!
Oh how I know this. DSD14 is the same here. DF has custody of his 2, the mom is only 15 minutes away. Though, she chose to move out of state (we live on the boarder) and rent a 1 bedroom apartment during the divorce, basically making it impossible for her to have custody. I go through this with DSD almost every day. It's the same emotional roller coaster that you are on. She is vocal about loving it here, the home cooked meals, the family time, the individual time I try to give each of the 4. yet, she will text/call/talk to mom about "i just want to live with you" all the time. When she needs something, she comes to me. When she wants to talk, she comes to me. Yet, I feel as though it's being thrown in my face everytime I hear or find out what she is saying to her mom. It's hard to swallow. No advice, other than I understand what your feeling.
Part of me wants to say "listen your mom made these choices, we didn't TAKE you away from her. She could pick you up from basketball on 'our' nights, and bring you home later, she could make an effort to see you, but she doesnt. Dad and I do. " but I'm the grown up, so I just swallow hard, and smile.
Best of luck
I've also had a really tough post-Christmas adjustment (but in the other direction, with my step-daughter leaving and going to her mom's)... 95% of the time I have a great mindset about the whole thing, but right now I am just feeling bitter and sorry for myself about my lack of importance in comparison to mom (regardless of how absolutely appropriate I know that hierarchy is).
So, my thoughts are with you! Hopefully we'll both get back to our "happy places" soon :)
You're such a great stepmom. I'm sure that your stepson loves you and truly enjoys his life with you - and equally sure that he's going to want to go back to his mom when he's old enough to have a say. He didn't choose to leave her. She was his primary caregiver during his early years. Of course he wants to go back to her. That says nothing about the relative quality of your two households - it's just the way kids are. Kids who have been horrifically abused and taken away by child services still want to go home most of the time... is it what it is. I'm sure it hurts very much, but it's not a personal thing against you or your DH.