[posting this here, as well as in teens forum, since everyone here always has such good advice and perspective.]
Help! We are getting into such a weird, stressful situation with my step-daughter, and it's kind of freaking me out.
Background: she is 15, and came to live with us six months ago after her mother's alcoholism was getting too severe for her to take anymore. Growing up with a mom with such deep problems (which include, as part of the alcoholism, an inability to process feelings, have rational discussions about disagreements and emotions, etc.) has of course created lots of difficulties for my dsd. She has inherited a lot of her mom's methods of operating. Principally, she has a really hard time discussing how she actually feels about anything, either shutting down and saying everything is "fine," or being generally nasty about any number of things.
In addition, she is in a tough spot with our family. My dh and I have an almost-four-year-old, who of course wants and receives lots of attention. This must create lots of issues for my dsd, but she can't process or verbalize any of them.
Okay--so the current issue: my dsd became a vegetarian about two weeks after she moved in with us, after she decided she was a Buddhist. No problem--I tend to mostly cook this way for myself and dh, though I cook meat for my dd b/c she has lots of food allergies and needs the protein she gets from meat. Problem: my dsd hates almost all the food I make. She basically survives on mac and cheese and ice cream, no matter how many other things I whip up. I've shown her all my veg cookbooks and told her I'll make ANYTHING she requests--she's never taken me up on it. So we've lapsed into this weird situation where we all just kind of eat whatever we want, whenever we want, for dinner, with either my dh or myself at least making something nutritious for our dd.
So two nights ago, dsd says to dh, "I want french fries. Will you make me french fries?" There were some frozen ones in the freezer, so he suggests that she heat them up in the microwave herself, since he was in the middle of trying to get dd to bed. She adamantly refuses to make them herself, saying, somewhat jokingly, "If you love me, you'll make them for me." I wasn't home to witness this, but according to dh, they go back and forth like this for awhile. He starts to get angry, because he had been at work all day, while dsd had been home doing nothing all day. So he says, flat out, he won't microwave the french fries. She announces she's on a hunger strike till he makes her french fries.
This all sounds really petty, right? But the thing is, dsd is very stubborn. She'll go as far as she can with this. It's now been a full day and a half, and she won't eat anything. And dh won't cave either, because he feels like he's being treated like her servant (her tone is pretty darn awful with him, I must admit). This is between them--if it were me, I would just make the damn fries and be done with it. But he feels pretty strongly that he doesn't want to give in.
Strangely, she's treating this like it's a joke, and you can feel how empowered she feels to be forcing such a crisis. When I tried talking with her about it, she just laughed.
I find myself enraged. After I've offered to make her any kind of food for so long, and after giving up, she draws a line in the sand for her father and is now trying to starve herself to make a point.
At the same time, I KNOW this is her way of expressing so much anger that she must hold about her dad moving away when she was young, about feeling like she's not as important as her younger sister, about not having control over many aspects of her life. I understand that, and I want to be sympathetic.
Thankfully, she is scheduled to see her therapist today (we started bringing her to someone about two months ago), and her dad is usually there for the start of the session (per the therapist's request), so he can try to bring this up.
But I don't know what to do from here. I find myself so angry with the whole situation, my chest is tight. I'd love to just let it go, and let them figure out between the two of them, but I can't seem to do that. Any advice would be soooo welcome. (sorry this has been so long)