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#2190907 01/10/09 03:13 PM
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Hi everyone...

I've been reading on MB for ages, but I think I've only posted to someone once. I am looking for some advice or words of encouragement regarding dealing with my stepkids and their father, my husband.

I am newly married, and my husband is previously divorced with two kids (girls). When I say 'kids', I guess I mean that loosely... they are both teenagers. They're great kids, and we get along very well. I've taken them out lots for 'girl time' and they were even my bridesmaids at our wedding.

The problem is... I dread having them stay at our home for extended periods of time (they live full-time with their mother and are here every other weekend and for longer visits during holidays). Their relationship with their dad bothers me a lot. To be clear, he loves them VERY much and is VERY good to them and they are clearly very close. But he still treats them very much as if they were small children - they always talk in 'baby talk' voices, he reads them stories and 'puts them to bed' at night. He 'hovers' over every little thing they do and 'manages' every minute of their day. His daughters know that they can manipulate dad by acting very childlike, and so they behave that way always - when they are around him, anyway.

Besides just being extremely annoyed by this, I honestly feel it's bad for the girls. I can't see them being able to communicate in the world in an adult manner, or be independent and think for themselves. There is trouble with not getting assignments in at school and failing classes (his oldest is destroying any chance she'd have at getting into any college). She called the other day in a crying temper tantrum because her boss at her part-time job was scheduling her for too many hours! Now, he did give her good advice on how to deal with it as an adult would, but the mixed signals about behavior must be confusing in the extreme!

I've talked to him about how he communicates with them, and he gets pretty upset with me for suggesting there is anything wrong with the way he parents. He feels that he is just closer with his kids than most dads are, and refuses to see that there is any damage being done.

Now, before anyone jumps in and suggests that they are craving attention because of their parents' divorce, they have certainly always been top priority by both their Mom and Dad, never 'abandoned' (their co-parenting is very cordial). The divorce was also final many years ago and they talk to their dad every single day if they're not together. There is nothing to suggest that they feel neglected by their dad. We've also gone out of our way to make sure they feel welcome with us and that our home is their home too. To me, it just seems that they all get something out of the 'childlike behavior' thing. He gets to feel needed (which he seems to like in general), and they know that they're pleasing dad by being his 'little girls'. I understand the appeal of this, it's nice to always be 'daddy's girl' (I still am too!), but it just seems so imbalanced to me. There should be a certain amount of changeover to 'adult-like' behavior so that they can learn how to be independent women and not have to rely on a man for everything. When I first met them, I thought their relationship was charming and sweet. But the older the girls get, the more warped it seems.

This is a long post, sorry about that. How do I handle this? Do I just leave it alone? As a step-mom, is it any of my business? What about the fact that I can't stand to be around it? Should I have to feel like I can't stand being in my own home whenever they're here? (I should add that they've never had chores in their daily life, and the way they treat our home like some kind of hotel where they expect to be picked up after is so disrespectful - problem is, I don't think they have any concept of what they're doing. They don't even know how to do laundry!).

So in conclusion - I feel very strongly that they've been kept in a child-like state waaaaay longer than they should have been, and I can see them now suffering for it, and I worry so much for their futures. What can/should I do - if anything?

cp



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Well, as someone who had a stepmother who was offended by my relationship with my father, I say BACK OFF. Only difference here is that my S/M actually came between me and my father for many years, and in your case, I'm afraid that you would be the odd man out, not the kids.

They're teens. You can't parent them. You can set rules in your house (pick up after yourself, here's the washing machine, let me know if you need instructions on using it), you can be their gal pal who does cool stuff with them, but you cannot be their parent, and you cannot tell their parents how to raise them.



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Hi CWMI...

Thanks for the reply. No, I never have and never would try to come between them, and I also have never tried to 'parent' them either. I know that's not my place. I've only broached the subject with hubby once, lightly, so it's not like I'm being overbearing and have anything to "back off" from, really.

I'm really just concerned for them, that's all. It's unwittingly hurting them.

Thanks for your perspective as a child with a stepmom. It's helpful.

cp

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I agree with canwemakeit.

You must have known the interaction between hubby and DD's before you married him.

If you criticise or try to help him parent, you will come out the looser.

You don't have them over that much, so you can tough it out.

Also continue being friends with them and do girly stuff.

My ex and I raised 8 kids together. The way he parented his girls drove me crazy - no rules, no boundaries. But I made up my mind that HE was the parent and it was none of my business.

Of course you can sit down with hubby and DDs and establish house rules.

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Believer,

Hi there... I've read many of your posts and I think you're a very wise person. Thanks for taking the time to reply to me.

How did things work out for you when you made up your mind that it was none of your business? Did you find that you had trouble spending time around your husband and his kids when what he was doing drove you crazy?

cp

ps - yes I did know their interaction before we married, but I assumed it would naturally mature gradually as they got older. But it hasn't, and people outside of our home have actually commented to me that they thought it was very strange how much he babies them, given their ages. Now, I don't really care what anyone else thinks, but I know I'm not the only one who finds it concerning.

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Originally Posted by chickpea
ps - yes I did know their interaction before we married, but I assumed it would naturally mature gradually as they got older. But it hasn't, and people outside of our home have actually commented to me that they thought it was very strange how much he babies them, given their ages. Now, I don't really care what anyone else thinks, but I know I'm not the only one who finds it concerning.

Here's something from our church that really struck me: Who and what you listen to influences what you do. Does that make sense to you? If you spend your time around people who say that their relationship is odd, you will fall into the thinking that it is indeed odd! How about that! And we tend to gravitate toward people who will prop up our misconceptions. People who will agree with us, tell us we are not wrong, all the while discounting people who tell us that we are wrong. That's not what we want to hear! We want to be right!

If you can find a way to be a friend to the girls, then you can be there to help them if indeed their parents are 'doing them harm'. From my own experience, the kids can feel your disgust with the way they interact with their father. And they dislike you for it. If your true, honest concern is for the well-being of these children, be their friend. From where I sit, you look jealous.

Of kids! C'mon, even you can see the silliness in that. I can understand the feelings, this is a new marriage, there are bonds that will always be stronger, there is a past you cannot erase. But you walked yourself into a blended family...now blend. You can do it.


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CWMI:

Wow, that is out of left field. I'm not jealous at all of their relationship, never have been. I have always given them all the space they could ever want for time alone with their dad. I know it's very important, that their bond is essential. I have no issues with that.

I'm not looking for anyone to 'support misconceptions' either. It is what it is. I'm glad they are so close, I think it's fantastic. I'm just trying to find my way by asking questions and reading books about step-parenting.

Thanks for your thoughts.

cp

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YOU can not parent some one else's kids.

That is the baggage when one marries a single parent.

Never surprised how the new spouse ignores this as they say I do.

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Having had two step mothers myself I can tell you that taking the back seat and staying out of the parenting aspect of it, is the way for you to go.

My first step mother was in my life during my teenage years and we were best friends and still are. She never made a "parent" decision and never made my dad choose between her or his kids. My current step mom has done just the opposite. She made parenting suggestions to my dad and made him choose between her and his kids. We kids tolerate her but do not like her to this day and it's been almost 20 years. My dad is trying to make amends with us kids now that he's getting up there in years. He knows he made the wrong decision in listening to her "suggestions".

My daughter also has a step mom who is doing the same as my current step mom. It's destroying the father/daughter relationship. I worry what this will do to my daughter and any future relationships she will have with the opposite sex.

Just wanted to give you my life experiences. I'm sure you'll do what you feel is right for you, your husband and his children. smile



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Thanks, everyone.

It's clear that it's best for me to just stay out of it, and look the other way, no matter how I feel about it.

I certainly don't want to get between them at all, or make anyone feel badly.

It's a strange place to be in, when you care so much for someone but you are looked down upon for wanting to help.

I appreciate everyone's advice very much, especially those with the point of view of having been stepkids themselves.

Have a great weekend!
cp

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I think you guys are all being too hard on chickpea. There's a fine line between utilizing one's own past experiences, and letting one's baggage interfere with logical processes.

I understand that so many people here have dealt with step parents in their own lives and sometimes those experiences weren't positive. I think everyone would do well to realize that those were all individual relationships as well, and what is happening in chickpea's life might not closely mirror what you all experienced.

chickpea - From a purely outsider's perspective, all I would advise is to consider how your H's relationship with his children affects your relationship with him. You have every right to your opinion, and you even have a right to express your opinion. That doesn't mean your H has to take your advice or suggestions.

Based purely only on what you've said so far, it would seem that your H is extremely sensitive to any sort of critique of his parenting style. It might have something to do with his divorce. One of the bullcrap examples my XW gave for leaving was that I wasn't an involved enough father. I heard from others that she used to compliment me regularly as a father. To whom was she lying? I make mistakes, but I know that I'm a very involved dad. Sometimes too much so and I have to think twice about backing off and letting my kids do things for themselves. I know that it comes from a fear of being inadequate.

Just bear these things in mind when you feel the need to voice your observations or offer your opinion. Ask yourself if what you're going to say will help or hurt your relationship with your H. Make that your defining perspective. "Will this make the marriage better or worse?". Allow him to manage his relationship with his daughters, and you manage your half of the marriage with your H. Sometimes that might involved situations with his girls.

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Seabird,

Thank you for your thoughts. I have been thinking a lot about all of this since posting the other day, and I have been working on my own plans for things I can do with the girls to keep our 'friend' relationship growing and keep them feeling secure that I am not trying to interfere with their relationship with their dad. I do want to enhance their lives, not make them feel like I'm an invader. Judging from the very strong reactions from others here on the board, it seems that the emotional repercussions from interference from a step-parent are strong, and very long-lasting, and I want to avoid creating anything like that at all costs!

I came to the conclusion that *I* can treat them as grown women (to a point since they do still need guidance at their age of course). But I will speak to them and treat them as grown people and perhaps that will help them with mature communication. They already come to me for advice about 'girl stuff', which I highly value. I know it can be difficult to talk to Mom or Dad about certain things at that age, so I'm balancing my friendship with them with being very careful to try to give them advice that will keep them safe and strong individuals.

As far as talking about this with my husband, I think perhaps just matter-of-fact sharing my observation is best, and then he can do anything, or not, with it. He's asked my advice in the past about how he could handle this-or-that situation with the kids, so I assume he values my opinion... but I know he really really wants his kids to always feel that he is 100% there for them anytime (this may indeed come from the divorce), and I think 'babying' them is part of how he shows that protection. It might be more for himself than for them though... lol. I know he likes to feel needed. I don't think his XW has ever accused him of not being there enough for the kids. They actually co-parent really well. I think it's more the physical distance and the small amount of face time (he takes them every chance he gets for longer than a weekend, but I know he still misses them deeply).

Anyway, thanks again. I'm happy that I've gotten the step-kids perspective on this too though - harsh as it is, it's good to know how intensely they can be affected by negative interactions with a step-parent. Very eye-opening. I will tread lightly and hug lots.

smile cp

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Chickpea,

I am a stepparent to 2 boys and I must say the stepmother role is difficult. Its a minefield of guilt and past relationships and stereotypes and being somwhat responsible for and living with people that you have no real legal or biological connection to.

**edit** is one resource for step parent issues.

Maybe talking to your H about his long range wishes for his children would help. I would guess he wants them to be healthy independant fully functioning adults at some point. How can he help guide them to that role? Maybe talking about it will help him see how they still need to grow in that direction.


Last edited by MBLBanker; 02/25/12 04:43 AM. Reason: Removing link to non-MB recerence

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Thanks Lora _

I'm going to check out the site you recommended. When you say 'minefield'.. you're SO right. It's really difficult to navigate when one inch too far to the right or left and <<BOOM!>>.

Luckily we started off on the right foot, and no explosions yet, so I just want to keep it that way. smile

I talked a bit with H yesterday about what kinds of experiences might help the kids (esp. older one) to become more independent and mature (without mentioning that I felt the babying might be keeping them too much in a child-like state). He was very receptive to what I had to say and thought I had some good ideas. So, so far so good.

smile cp


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