Eating and power - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 06-29-2006, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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[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)
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#2 of 4 Old 06-29-2006, 07:01 PM
 
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I'm having some similar "power" issues with my ds(12). So, I cant really help with advice, sorry. But I can offer an ear (well, I guess eye since I'll be actually reading ) and I can be your safe place to vent, if that helps.

I know when my ds gets the better of me dh lets me go off and I usually feel better - let all the anger out so I can look at the situation with clear eyes, kwim?

I just wanted to add congratulate yourself on being able to see thru her behaviour for what it really is. I understand that it certainly doesnt make it easier to deal with, but to be able to understand whats going on with her (ie: realizing that she's not "just a brat") is awesome and will help all of you in the long run.

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#3 of 4 Old 06-30-2006, 01:04 PM
 
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You're doing a great job. Don't obsess over this. This will be history before you know it. I wouldn't worry about the fact that she's not eating as much as I would about the emotions behind it which you are aware of. This is a combination of all her circumstances with surpressed feelings and inability to verbalize them as well as an inability to deal with and process feelings as you mentioned. Just gonna take time and therapy will definately help. Things will work out cause you sound totally committed. Just keep trying to talk to her or better yet call a family meeting with them and tell her your goal is to find some sort of compromise. I think she is probably seeking validation and I totally understand where your dh is coming from. I wouldn't make the french fries under any circumstances. Redefine her roll of caring for herself. You and your dh can let her know that at 15 you expect her to do for herself. I allow my 7 year old to make her own sandwich, snacks, and drinks. Maybe she feels like someone should be cooking dinner everynight in a "family" and she is rebelling because that didn't happen on the particular night. Maybe you should ask her what the "ideal" situation would be in her mind? Tell her you would like to find a dinner solution that works for everyone and ask her if she can think of any suggestions or what she would do if she was in charge. Maybe you could take turns on dinner menus or let her help out assuming she would be interested. I know you showed her the cookbooks and she hasn't warmed up yet. Just some thoughts. Good luck.
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#4 of 4 Old 07-01-2006, 05:55 PM
 
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I think you are doing fine. Do situps to deal with your anger over this- it really will help.

Don't make her eat, don't make the fries. This is a test.

You all must pass it.

She must get that she is the kid and not queen of the household but that this is a fair and just household so we will accomidate her food preference but won't be ORDERED about.

You are so blessed that your dh is handling this this way- trust me any other way would be awful for you in the long run.
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