Waa...waaa....waaa. Ok, now that I've got that out of my system, I really am interested in feedback/advice.
DH has 3 sons (7, 10, 13) and I have 2 (6, 8) and we have a daughter (8 months) together. We've been married for a year in April so we're VERY new to this. DH grew up with divorce and remarriage (and divorce and remarriage ad nauseum) but my parents are still together so I've never experienced ANY of this. My boys are with us most of the time. They go to their dad's EOW when he has nothing better to do. His boys are technically 50/50 but they're actually with us about 75% of the time. Week-on/week-off but they go to school in our district so they come here after school every day and their mom or her husband picks them up at dinner time on her weeks. If they have a birthday party or other event on her weekend, she'll take them to the event and then we pick them up and keep them for the rest of the weekend.
She's been playing up the disneyland parent thing bigtime since we got married a year ago. She bought the 7 year old an iPod Touch for his birthday 3 weeks before Christmas. She gave the 13 year old her old iPhone just because. She's threatening to move the kids out of our school district and closer to her because she supposedly can't afford gas to come pick them up on her weeks, but she can afford the gas to go to school and have lunch with them when it's our week.
Now, here's where I'm torn. On one hand, I'm glad she's even pretending to try to be involved. I mean, going to lunch with them is all about making a show (the school knows who the "real" parents are...who checks their homework every night and bakes cookies and donates supplies and volunteers in the classroom and all that) but at least it's something. My kids' dad is nowhere to be found....he doesn't even talk on the phone to them between visits! On the other hand, it's extremely disruptive for all of them.
She goes to school and takes McDonald's for her kids, while my kids are in the cafeteria, even at the same table sometimes, doing nothing special. When it's time for her to leave, every single time, at least one of the kids gets weepy and has a tummy ache (McDonald's? :P) If she makes him stay at school, then he comes home whiny and cranky and out of sorts. If she checks him out, she brings him to us in the middle of the afternoon knowing he's not really sick. So he "wins" because he got checked out of school but he didn't get any extra time with Mom and the other kids know as well as he does that he wasn't really sick so then they're all cranky and whiny and out of sorts.
DH and I go and have lunch with the kids from time to time but we have the rule that if anyone whines or pitches a fit when we leave, then we just won't do it any more. It's a special treat for us to have lunch with you, but we still have to work and you still have to go to school and if you can't handle that, then we won't bend the routine at all. We sometimes take a special treat for all the kids at lunch (cookies or something) but we don't do fast food and I'm not taking a special meal for all five of them so for the most part, our presence is the treat. That sounds bad doesn't it?
But my kids are asking why I never come and bring a treat for just them and not the other boys. I mean, their mom brings them treats and leaves my boys out. Or why their dad never does anything special with them.
When the 13 year old was playing football, we ALL went to all the games. We took snacks to the game for the kids when they were with us but whether they were with us or not, she would show up with pizza and soda or buy them nachos and candy from the snack bar. My feeling is that when it's her week, if she wants to do that stuff, then fine, but when it's our week, they're with us and we'll take care of them. Because if she bought her kids something from the concession stand, my kids got jealous. But then if I bought something for my kids, then her kids saw it as their dad doing something for my boys and expected him to do something for them too. And I REFUSE to get in that kind of battle with her.
I have a cousin in FL and in the past, my boys and I have always gone to visit them in the summer. We stay in their guest bedroom so it doesn't cost much and everybody has a good time. Last summer, we didn't go because I was pregnant. This summer, we won't be going because all 8 of us can't stay in their guest room and a hotel is not really practical for all 8 of us, and a 12 hour drive is not really practical with all 8 of us. My boys are really disappointed, but they understand...as much as little kids can understand this kind of thing. But today, my stepsons came in bragging that their mom is taking them to Disneyworld this summer. They're going to FL for a week and stay in a hotel with a pool and eat in restaurants every day and do all kinds of fun stuff. They're not really *trying* to rub it in my boys' faces....not any more than you'd expect out of little kids anyway...but my boys are very jealous. If they can go on vacation without us, why can't we go on vacation without them? If their mom can bring them fast food at lunchtime and then check them out of school early, why can't our mom bring us fast food and check us out early? Their mom takes them to the movies and amusement parks and all that when they're not with us, but we don't do anything fun when they're not here....we always wait till they're home to do fun stuff.
I don't want his boys to feel left out because we're doing fun stuff without them. I don't want to go on vacation with my boys without 3/8 of our FAMILY. But as it is, my boys are being left out because they're doing all kinds of fun stuff with their mom and we make a point of doing NOTHING when they're not here. How do you balance that when the schedules are different? How do you explain to his kids that oh well, you missed out on something we did while you were with your mom, but you do all kinds of special stuff when you're with her too? How do I make my kids not feel jealous and left out when his kids do special stuff with their mom? And I assume, that as our daughter grows, it will eventually become an issue for her too (maybe not as much since she won't know anything different) but she'll be with us all the time and only have one family while all the others come and go and have two families. It's something I NEVER wanted my kids to have to deal with or understand. So maybe I'm the problem. I don't WANT them to understand it and accept it. I don't want it to be that way. How do I let go of what I wanted for them and accept all of this myself so that I CAN help them to understand?
But as it is, my boys are being left out because they're doing all kinds of fun stuff with their mom and we make a point of doing NOTHING when they're not here. How do you balance that when the schedules are different? How do you explain to his kids that oh well, you missed out on something we did while you were with your mom, but you do all kinds of special stuff when you're with her too? How do I make my kids not feel jealous and left out when his kids do special stuff with their mom? And I assume, that as our daughter grows, it will eventually become an issue for her too (maybe not as much since she won't know anything different) but she'll be with us all the time and only have one family while all the others come and go and have two families. It's something I NEVER wanted my kids to have to deal with or understand. So maybe I'm the problem. I don't WANT them to understand it and accept it. I don't want it to be that way. How do I let go of what I wanted for them and accept all of this myself so that I CAN help them to understand?
I think you should do some fun things when they aren't there -- may be start of tradition of game nights or pizza nights or whatever. Get into a routine. Keep it simple. But don't make a point of doing NOTHING when they are there. Do the same fun, simple things when they ARE there.
One thing that I've explained to my kids is that the Buddha said that all people teach me how to behave, some teach me what to do, and some teach me what NOT to do. That's the only way I would be able to explain this woman's behavior to them. She is rude and she doesn't consider how her actions make them feel. They can take that and learn from that, and develop more empathy.
Yes, it is crappy. But that's the best I've got. You can't control this woman, and you ability to let it go will pave the way for your kids to let it go.
but everything has pros and cons
Thank you! I talked to DH about it tonight and he said kind of the same thing. As a child of divorce, he was mostly with his mom but her new husband had kids that lived with their mom and only visited. His dad had a son from his first marriage who actually lived with his grandparents (his mom died) and just visited his dad. His dad's various wives and girlfriends had kids that lived with them and kids that visited. So yeah, it sucked, but there were all different families and different rules and standards and traditions and activities and they just came to accept it for what it was.
He said he never really noticed that I was trying to schedule EVERYTHING for the times that his kids are here and that while that's sweet, it's not necessary. He thinks that big things like vacations and campouts should be family events when the whole family is together, but there's nothing wrong with going to the movies when it's just my kids or going to a restaurant (can't do that much with 8 of us!) or even to an amusement park in the summer or something (their mom bought season passes to the water park and they rubbed that in my boys' faces all summer last year). His kids need to understand that the world doesn't revolve around them and my kids need to understand that they're just as important to us as their stepbrothers. Which makes sense...I just don't want anyone to feel left out. I want them all to be with us all the time (ok, the occasional grownup weekend wouldn't hurt my feelings!) and not have to deal with "blending". I mean his boys' mom is married to a guy that has four kids by four different moms. Two of them are grown, one lives with them and has no contact with her mom, and one visits frequently but irregularly. My boys' dad just divorced a woman who had a son that only saw his dad once a year...now he's living with a girl who has two daughters that are (as near as I can tell) 50/50 with their dad. So even IF we could make everything perfect here, there are factors beyond our control and that's just the way it is. The kids ARE going to have to deal with the fact that they have different families and there will be differences.
He also pointed out that his ex-wife is doing special stuff for the boys when everyone is together at her house. Can't really deny her that. The fact that she's doing cooler stuff than we do kind of sucks, but at the same time, even as young as they are, the boys get the whole disneyland parent thing. They still refer to our house as "home". They just vacation at her house every other week. He is going to let her know that she doesn't need to have lunch with the kids at school on our week any more because it's too disruptive to everyone. I'm not sure how that's going to go over. I mean, I don't want it said that we're interfering with her relationship with the kids, but it's pretty well documented that these little lunches are causing problems...for her kids, for my kids, for the teachers that have to deal with her whiny kids after she leaves. School's almost out for this year anyway...it'll be a whole new set of games for summertime. She's a sad, sad woman who is jealous of our happiness and feels compelled to try to interfere with that even if it hurts her own children in the process. That's sad, but in the end, I guess it will make all the kids stronger.
Re Mom eating lunch at school on your weeks: I don't think your husband necessarily needs to put an end to lunches on your week. IMO, parents ought to be allowed to attend school events (whether they are special events or routine events) any time, not just when they fall on their custody time. However, checking kids out of school early and dropping them off with you would be an issue for me. If it is mom's week and she wants to check her child out and take them home with her, that's her call. If they get sick on a week you have responsibility for them, she should walk them down to the school nurse (or whatever the usual process would be for kids who feel sick at school) and then it is between your husband (or you, if you are allowed to make those decisions) and the school whether or not your child comes home or stays at school.
If the nurse called and your husband decided his son ought to come home and mom drove him to you since she was already there, that would be one thing. But checking him out and showing up on your doorstep with the assumption that you are available to care for a sick child is something different.
Also, at our house, staying home from school means staying in bed and resting. No TV or video games, no special snacks, and no friends or activities after school. Perhaps if coming home from school early wasn't much fun, the kids would be less likely to ask to be sent home early?
Why do you hold off fun stuff until his kids are there? That sucks for your kids. Life does not stop just because they are with their mom. Is there anyway just you and the boys could go visit your cousin while they are at disneyland? Being a blended family is complicated but it sounds like you are making is way more complicated than it needs to be. Try and relax and enjoy the time with all of the kids when ever it is and with just your kids when she has hers and so on. Also the more you worry about what she is doing the more everyone will think about it. If your kids bring it up and so on just address it and move on. Showing anger , frustration, or sadness over the unfairness of it all really just enhances the kids feelings about it. This is the dynamic of your family now and everyone will adjust. I also doubt she will maintain such a high intensity for too much longer.
I think all of you should show up at your cousins with a tent... you could sleep in the guest room with the baby and DH can camp out in the yard with the 5 big kids, lol!
My family situation isn't as complicated as yours, we just have 2 big kids from my previous marriage and the baby... but even I have had to say "Look, it's not going to be fair. I do my best to make it as close to fair as I can, but it's impossible for everything to be totally even all the time. We love you both, we want everyone to have a good, happy life and that means taking turns being the one who gets something extra."
I agree with the others that you should do some fun stuff when DH's kids are at their moms. You might also be able to get a bit of mileage out of very simple things like was there a meal that you used to cook a lot for your boys that you've forgotten about because one of his boys doesn't like it? When I was single, the kids used to push the couches together and make a 'pirate ship' on Saturday nights and they got to watch a movie for bedtime... that was something that became a HUGE treat once their step dad and I got together because usually we were in the living room in the evening then. Anyway, you might be able to think of some little things that your kids will appreciate and his kids won't get too bent out of shape about having missed.
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