A little bit of a back story to begin with:
I have two daughters ages 3 and 9, and two step daughters ages 22 and 19. SD1 is officially graduated and SD2 just ended her second year. Both SD's went to college far away - one 18 hours and the other 6 - not so easy to visit during the year. We live an hour from SD's moms house.
The first time SD1 came home in October she didn't think that she would be able to see DDs as it was only a four day break, so we didn't tell them. She ended up working it out and asked us to keep it a secret - so we did. DD1 had a priceless reaction and was overjoyed to see her big sister again. For Christmas break they both knew that SD2 was coming home, but we surprised them again in February and again just this past weekend after her mom and stepdad got her moved out of college.
DD2 stopped sleeping over at our house at the age of 15 for a variety of reasons that are too long to get into right now. DD1 was 18 at the time, and in college. The custody arrangement ceases at the age of 18, I know - but the girls are required to adhere to visitation as long as we are paying for their college education. We don't force the girls to sleep over, but when they do its treated as a large treat - because it is. While DD's do see their sisters once or twice a week, they love having them sleep over. (This happens every other Thanksgiving, Christmas, one weekend in February and Easter.) When they're here we play games and bake cookies and do anything DDs want to do. The girls have a later bed time too.
Today DH and my SD's got in a large fight and they declared they reached their 'boiling point' - they say they hate coming to stay the night because we always make a big deal out of it. They said that because their sisters are always around they don't spend time with their dad. SD2 didn't like that we made her last two homecomings a 'surprise' (this was our fault - I thought DH had told her the girls didn't know she was coming to dinner - he didn't.) In response to that, well, it is a big deal! Neither of them have spent more than one weekend every few months here in at least three years. Their sisters only see them for a few hours a week, and SD2 even less because she's been out of state for nine months. Of course their sisters and their dad miss them and want to spend a lot of time with them. And DH wants to spend time with all his daughters. He has a full brother 15 years his senior who moved away when he was five and has minimal communication with and DH doesn't want that for his daughters. If they were around more it wouldn't be such a big deal to the DD's.
This is more of a rant than anything else I guess.
Do you make a big deal out of it when your (older) step kids are home? Or your kids in general are home from college? I know I (read: DH) can't force them to stay over more, but would the suggestion make it worse or better? Basically I want to continue to encourage a relationship with their sisters and don't know how else to do it.
They are two grown women who come and visit their Dad and sisters once or twice a week. That's pretty good if you ask me. I know you want for your daughters to have a relationship with them but you need to remember that they have their own lives.
If it makes you feel any better, my sister is 14 years older than me. She moved out at 18yo when I was 4yo. We didn't have a real "sibling" relationship when I was growing up, she was more like an aunt I guess, but now that I'm in my early 30's and she's mid 40's we're very close.
My oldest (20) lives elsewhere, and while it's only an hour and a half away, it's where he has his life so only comes home on occasion. Sometimes, he wants to see old friends, or spend time with his grandparents, or spend time with his sister, or spend time with me, or just hole up in his room and chill. To *me*, "coming home" should be a time of few exoectations, and generally not have to "perform".
And, in a lot of ways... it sounds as though you expect your SDs to "perform" in their role of older sisters. That's a lot of pressure. It also diminishes their place as their Dad's kids in their own right. It does seem as though there is an expectation that they will cater to the younger girls' wants/needs as little sisters, with little regard to their own wants/needs as their father's daughters. I can understand their desire to spend time with their Dad as the adults they are.
Yes, I understand that the littler ones love their sisters and want to spend time with them. But the older ones also want to spend time with their Dad (and you - I'm not ignoring you!). Maybe you and hubby should sit down and figure out how all of those needs can be met. Because the older girls do also deserve their own time, too.
I think what matters isn't whether or not it is typical to make a big deal about older kids or step kids, what matters is that they said what is happening isn't working for them. I think it is definitely reasonable to explain that, from your perspective and from their little sisters' perspective, it IS a big deal to see them... AND to be understanding that they would like it to be more low-key and a normal routine. I would maybe ask them for suggestions, or for more information about what they would like it to look like. You could share the perspective of their little sisters and let the older girls share what their needs are, and I'm sure you can find a middle ground. It might take a couple tries, and you might need to find a way to explain the change to the younger girls (without making an unnecessarily huge deal of it), but I think reworking and renegotiating the family routines and relationships is part of kids becoming adults. This won't be the last time you have to shift your expectations or roles in response to the changing relationship as the kids become adults...
I know younger kids get hugely disappointed when relatives visit and spend little time with them. But the older sisters aren't going to feel "at home" if they need to entertain their little sisters the entire visit. I don't have experience in the blended family situation but have lots of experience with relatives staying with us but actually spending almost no time with ds. I work hard to make sure his expectations are realistic. Ie, Uncle is coming to visit Grandma (with whom we live) and will probably spend time in the city visiting another uncle.
Certain relatives are better than others at spending some quality time with ds. I can't make the relationship happen with those relatives that don't make that effort. The older sisters are going to have to take over that responsibility in your situation. You can ask them to tell you their plans so you can keep the younger sisters' expectations realistic. You could ask them to spend a couple of hours hanging out with the younger sisters then have dh take the older sisters out to dinner, or something. Or you can plan to take the younger ones out for a while so the older ones can be at home with dh.
Well, it seems like you are going to all have to compromise. Explain to the older sisters that kids that age are super excited to see them because they love and miss them-for the little ones, seeing their big sisters is a big event! My dd and ds (5 & 2) see their big sister (my dsd, 10) ~10 nights a month, so fairly frequently, and STILL get really excited when she comes-my dd actually counts down the days until the day of the week she knows she is coming! So while the whole visit doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) about the little girls, I do think it is reasonable to ask the older siblings to perhaps give them some special attention during the visit, even just for a few minutes (read a story together? paint their nails? etc.)
What have the older ones suggested in terms of how they would like to see the visits going? Obviously they don't want it to be a surprise, but do they maybe want their dad to take just them out for dinner by themselves, or plan some special time for them after the little ones are in bed?
I would apologize for the misunderstanding of the surprise thing and just ask them how they would like it to go. Maybe they would be willing to make it a big deal for the little ones every once in a while, while the other visits are more low key and just part of the normal routine.
Good luck-as dsd gets older, I worry more about how things are going to change as she hits the teen years and beyond.
... the girls are required to adhere to visitation as long as we are paying for their college education...
Mistake. You don't tell other adults where to sleep - unless you want them to resent you.
Ask your husband to take them out to dinner and apologize, and then invite them over (invite, not command) whenever they are in town. Have him travel to see them at their schools - not matter how inconvenient it is. Have your DDs reach out and give emotionally to their sisters at whatever level they are capable of - cards, YouTube videos, etc. Give of yourself - care packages, whatever seems appropriate. Your SDs are so much older than your DDs that it's easy, without meaning to, to put them in the role of two more adults who are centered on the littles in your house. But they aren't and they don't want to be, and EVEN IF THEY WERE FULL SIBLINGS they probably wouldn't want to be at the stage of their development. Let them have more of their dad's time and energy that's not diluted by the littles.
I think I missed the portion about visitation being tied in to paying for college. And I do have some thoughts on that.
Our oldest is in college. Just finished his second year. He lives in Philly F/T, and comes home when he can/wants to. He has a life there - an apartment, a p/t job, a g/f... I happily take what I can get. And yes, I help him out with expenses. His Dad, on the other hand, ties his support in with visitation. And yes, our son resents it. He complies, but he resents it. And has told me that he feels almost like he's whoring himself out for the money his Dad provides, but right now he needs it. Note - he works p/t during the school year, two jobs during breaks/summer, maintains a 3.8 GPA - so is no slouch. But he does need that help, so will do as commanded. But... when he finishes his undergrad? He's done.
Our youngest? Refuses to play his game. She has said that she will not be bought, that she is not a toy for him to play with when he feels like it, and she will make her own way.
Just something to think about.
Side note: I love the sound of your DD. ;)
OP, I toooootally understand where you are coming from. It's not about making them preform or not letting them relax or whatever...it's about trying really hard to make a big, fun, exciting time...a SPECIAL time for all the sisters to come back together. I completely get it.
But I also think that a lot of the PPs are right when they say that if the "you guys coming home is a special event" thing is not working for the girls, well, then it's just not working. :( I'm sorry because I understand what you are trying to do and as the eldest in a family of four kids with one of the kids being 5 years younger than me and the last being 11 years my junior, I know how hard it can be on younger siblings when the older ones stay away and move on to build their own lives and how intensely exciting it is for them when the older kid comes back around! I loved the fan-fare and super special feasting, etc that was always planned when I came back from traveling or whatever else....but my family and all of us children are just more "like that".
If it's taxing for your SD's, you have to let go. Though, my personal feeling is that they are being a couple of whiny sticks in the mud. !! ;)
Me and DH ...lovin' DD (6/08) and DS (11/09) Plus NEW BABY!! DD (UC-5/12) We Water Birth/Homebirth/No Vax or Circ/BF/BW/Country Livin'!
I'm 36 and I have 2 baby sisters, ages 13 & 14. I also have 4 adult sisters. While I love my baby sisters and love seeing them and spending time with them, I really cherish the time I have my mom's undivided attention. It doesn't happen often. It's perfectly reasonable for an adult to desire one on one time with his/her parents. I think what your stepdaughters might be feeling is a need/desire to have their dad's undivided attention. Maybe he can take them to dinner, brunch, a walk in the park, to see a movie, etc. where the younger girls aren't present. Then maybe they'll have more to give back to their younger sisters, although this shouldn't be the expectation. I also have 2 stepdaughters, ages 13 & 15. They live far away and visit during the summers. This year they requested to come for most of the summer, 8 weeks, but we anticipate the time will come where they will want to spend less time with us. We figure we'll take what we can get. DH and I have 2 sons, ages 27 months and 8 months. We do things as a family, but DH also takes the girls out--just them without the boys. I take the girls out, as well. And DH takes them individually on Dad/Daughter dates that are super special to them. The Dad/Daughter dates are prized. Absolutely prized and always their favorite thing of the entire summer. A simple date with dad. One on one time spent with him. I strongly recommend that. Your stepdaughters need to know that they are still their dad's pride and joy, that he loves them, as well as but also separate from his younger children. My guess is that your stepdaughters may feel resentful being expected to "perform" for their younger siblings, giving the younger siblings attention, while not receiving their dad's attention. I really believe that if they received more of their dad's undivided attention, they would have more to give.
Regarding overnight visits, it is not to your family's benefit to insist on that. I find in life that when one requires less of others, others are able to give more. I agree with other posters that tying finances into things will only cause more distance, resistance and hard feelings.
I think the PP who recommended you have your younger daughters make things to send to their older sisters is an awesome idea. Also, if you were to send the recommended care packages or letters, that would also speak positively of your intent. These things, with your DH making one on one time with his older daughters will absolutely benefit your family.
I wish you the best in navigating these waters. :-)
This thread resonates with me, so it's been on my kind... So... Another thought...
My kids have stepsibs... . The oldest is roughly the same age as my youngest (~6month difference) and the younger is 2 1/2-3 years younger. The overriding issue they had was that they never really got time with just their Dad. He had a "policy" where each of the four children got one day (a year) with each parent. EVERYthing else was family time with the six of them. And yes, our kids really resented it - as well as the fact that their stepsibs had their own Dad regularly. plus my kids' Dad. Yes, they asked for time withjust Dad - not even one-on-one, but the two of them together. They were told it wasn't fair for them to have ore time than their stepsibs did.
And yes, it has affected their relationship badly.
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