difficult child's problem with stepmother

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by firehorsewoman, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. I need some advice.

    Let me preface this by saying that I, more than anyone on the planet, know just how difficult and trying living with difficult child can be. So, I have attempted to come at this from a very objective place. That being said, the situation is complicated and messy (aren't they all) and I want to protect my son.

    Over the past few weeks, difficult child has been complaining to me that his stepmother acts differently when his father is around than when he is not. (Okay, not surprising) When his dad is not around the stepmother is harsh and from difficult child's description, appears to be blowing off all the frustration she experiences dealing with him that she cannot vent when dad is around. He says that she is especially bad in the car when alone with him and easy child. He says that now he would prefer to ride the bus again and get teased and bullied (some of you may remember this problem we had in the beginning of the school year) versus being yelled at by the stepmother on the way to and from school.

    A couple of days ago when I picked difficult child and his sister up from school he burst into tears, "Mommy you should never have written that e-mail to daddy! She reads his e-mail and now I am in trouble! She screamed at me all the way to school today." What was this horrible e-mail to his dad about you may wonder....the e-mail I had written to his dad was regarding rewarding difficult child for an outstanding report card. Not only did he get all A's (he usually does this) but also got ALL E's on his conduct grades. FIRST TIME EVER. Usually he gets S's and N's!!!! So, difficult child and I agreed that he should get a really nice reward and his choice was to go to a sporting event. Unfortunately, I am still experiencing medical issues myself and do not feel like I can take him. So, in the e-mail to his dad I said that if he was willing to take difficult child that I would be willing to pay for the tickets. Wow, wasn't that a horrible e-mail to yell at the kid about?!
    by the way, no reply from his dad to the e-mail but that is typical for him. He never responds to my e-mails unless he needs something from me or if there is a dire emergency. He will go for days ignoring e-mails about doctors and medications.

    difficult child wants me to talk to his dad about the stepmother. But his dad and I do not communicate well at all, he usually misinterprets what I say and think, we are seldom in agreement, the stepmother will NOT speak to me. She has never spoken to me once. Not once. It has been a bad situation for the three years that they have been married. His dad is almost sure to get defensive and angry and this will only cause difficult child more trouble.

    On the other hand, I don't want my child to feel like I am powerless to help him. I suggested that he talk to his dad. But he says that his dad won't listen to him or believe him. I suggested that he talk to his paternal grandmother. I just don't know what else to do.

    difficult child was so upset, which upset me, that I did sent the ex a text message that said, "I guess the report card reward e-mail was a bad idea since difficult child is now in tears over it." I did not get a response. You would think he would want to know why his child was upset.

    The kids spend 1/3 of the time with me and 2/3 with their dad and stepmother. easy child is being true to her nature and keeping her lips sealed and "just wants everyone to get along." She will not give up any info.

    Am I overreacting to be upset by this? What would you do?
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi CD Hall of Fame

    Does difficult child see a therapist? Perhaps therapist can approach his father about the situation. Or even a school councilor.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm wondering why he's with this father and stepmother so much. She sounds cruel...
  4. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Can you support difficult child in telling his dad himself? I guess you could always give difficult child a digital recorder (office stores have some mini ones or if he has a record function on his phone or???? Would difficult child feel comfortable doing that?
  5. The reason they are with his father so much is that his father has a team of people helping him and I have no one. The ex has a VERY involved mother, father and two sisters who live very close to him. His mother works with him every day and is able to help him with the kids. And he got remarried shortly after the divorce so has a wife to help him too.
    I do not have much family and the family I do have live over 2,000 miles away and all in different states. I am not remarried. The friends that I have in this state live far away.
    We tried doing 50:50 for the first 6 months and most people will tell you that 50:50 is hard on everyone.
    Believe me, giving him majority custody was one of the hardest things I have ever done but I believed that it was best. The stepmother was not in the picture at that time. If I knew he would meet her and instantly marry her I would not have done the custody the way it was done.

    difficult child is not in counseling. I have posted a bunch about my challenges finding an appropriate counselor/therapist. Believe me, I have tried for years.
  6. That is the approach I have taken. I reminded difficult child how much his dad loves him. That his dad says that difficult child is his best friend. So, to go and talk to him. As far as recording devices difficult child is way too afraid of her to try that.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry that your ex met and married this woman so fast. Sounds like difficult child had a good relationship with his dad before her. It is worrying that he is so afraid of her. I understand now having a support system. I never had one either. If it gets bad enough, can you maybe take just difficult child for half the time?
    Where are you looking for a therapist? Is it a matter of money? If so, there are county mental health clinics and I go to them myself...some of the counselors are amazingly good! It's not always what you pay for. This little guy needs to have somebody to talk to when he's with stepmom. If it doesn't work out with dad, is there a school social worker he trusts? A favorite teacher who likes him? Can he pick up the phone and talk to you whenever he wants to? I feel for you, your daughter, and your poor difficult child.
  8. Thanks MM. The worst part about it is that whomever I suggest difficult child talk to about it (I did suggest teacher too) we are both worried about the repercussion if his dad sides with the stepmom. I have thought of going to the ex mother in law myself (difficult child's grandmother) and appeal to her. She doesn't let it show how she feels about this woman the stepmother but I don't think that they are super chummy or anything. I was thinking that if I went to her and confided what difficult child told me she would at the very least be on the lookout for it and it may cause her to worry enough that she will speak to my ex about it. I figure that it is worth a try. And I will tell her that difficult child is extremely afraid of repercussions as well.

    I have not tried county mental health clinics. The place where I live is horrible in regards to mental health services. Even difficult child psychiatrists (at a large children's hospital) concede that there is a real shortage of folks that can help kids like mine. The therapists that we have tried have been horrible experiences. The hospital had a good program that he was in when he was three years old and it helped him and me but they discontinued it and never replaced it with something similar.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    That's too bad.

    Then, yes, maybe grandma can help. Certainly can't hurt to talk to her.
  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Two random thoughts on this...

    1) if stepmom is reading dad's emails... maybe she is deleting them so he doesn't see them? Might account for some of the lack of response?

    2) if easy child won't say anything... then all you have to go on in difficult child's word. you know your easy child and your difficult child better than we do, but... in my house, anything that was THAT bad, easy child would take difficult child's side... as in, if easy child did take difficult child's side, it meant the situation really was that bad or worse... easy child saying nothing meant either that easy child wasn't exposed to the situation at all, or... it was being blown out of proportion.
  11. HaoZi

    HaoZi CD Hall of Fame

    Having read again, I would definitely have a chat with your ex-mother in law about what's going on, take her out for coffee or something, and speak with her heart-to-heart about difficult child's best interests and ask her to really keep an eye on things and look for things that might tip her off that something is amiss in his world. Is easy child also afraid and just keeping a low profile to avoid attack also, or she is "favored" and looking to stay favored?

    Either way something isn't right and mother in law may be just the one your EX will listen to about it, depending on his nature. If he's a mama's boy type, her word will carry - sooner or later - and she'll know how to tell him so he'll listen.
  12. Yes, easy child is definitely keeping a low profile, always has. Is also the favored one by the stepmother, who takes her shopping and does girly things with her. easy child is also afraid of her father and will avoid confrontation with him at all cost even if it is something that she doesn't like or doesn't want to do she will never stand up to her dad or even bring up anything in the slightest that is negative. He is a strict authoritarian type when it comes to parenting (so is the stepmom) and easy child is a people pleaser especially when it comes to her dad.

    I know that the ex reads the e-mails and I am pretty sure that he would go ballistic on the wife if she were deleting them without him reading first. She knows that I will eventually keep asking him via text or in person about whatever the subject was so there is no way she could delete them without him knowing and he just does not have the kind of personality that would let that go.

    difficult child tells me that he does everything possible to get on the stepmother's good side but nothing works. I can see how that would be. He is a very difficult kid and she obviously does not have a strong bond to him. Contrast him to easy child, a quiet, easy, girly girl and it is easy to see how this situation would arise and I am not surprised. I don't want to overreact but also don't want difficult child to think that there aren't any adults in his life that he can talk to about this. When I get them back later this week, I will find out if difficult child got the nerve to talk to his dad. The ex-mother in law and I don't exactly have the "go out for coffee" type of relationship but the next time I see her, I will bring it up or I may call her. Not e-mailing for sure. yeah, the ex is definitely a Mama's boy so that is what I am thinking too.

    thanks everyone
  13. by the way, IC- the ex never responds to my texts or voicemails to his personal cell phone either. So, there is a major trend here.
    They got their home number changed and would not give it to me although this is illegal for him to withhold it from me.
  14. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    First opinion......after reading it is that you should have a meeting with the Ex and maybe have mother in law attend since the stepmom wont come. See if you cant find a way to do it on neutral turf with a therapist or impartial third party if possible. I would stay off the side of accusations but I would say difficult child has mentioned some things that I am concerned about and I wanted to see if you feel they are issues or difficult child being a difficult child. As parents you should be on the same page about issues needing to be addressed. Doesn't mean you have to agree on the resolutions or the issues it just means that for the benefit of your children you should be aware. Let the Ex know you are concerned that difficult child seems to be really stressed about his relationship with the stepmom. Let him know that difficult child is telling you he doesn't want to upset her and that he is trying really hard not to. Ask him if there are things difficult child can do to relieve the stress between them. Remind him difficult child is 9 and really needs to feel safe and know what is expected so he wont upset stepmom or dad. Let Ex know that you want difficult child, ex, and stepmom to be as good as they can be because they are an important part of the family.

    Maybe if you approach it from the angle that you are trying to strengthen the bonds in their home and not as an accusation of stepmom being mean you would get farther? Maybe if you point out that you thought they should be aware that difficult child is stressed with stepmom and really wants to know how make things better they will see it as less of an affront and more of a olive branch.

    Now all of that may make you want to gag but the truth of the matter is that Ex is probably not going to leave the stepmom and difficult child is going to be forced to deal with her. In the long run the most important thing is that difficult child form a bond with his dad and his stepmom that is comfortable and supportive. You can hate her all you want and the ex for that case but difficult child's stress is probably feeding off that as well as the treatment. Having just allowed my difficult child to move out I understand the lack of sympathy for ex and stepmom since they did you wrong but this isnt about them it is about difficult child. His diagnosis's mean he needs stability and support if you have to swallow your tongue in order to give it to him then do it. It is much better to know your enemy than to pretend they don't exist.

    Plus who cares who has to eat the crow as long as difficult child wins in the long run.
  15. difficult child's dad refuses to meet with me about anything and unfortunately we have had way more serious things to talk about than this in the past and actually have some financial stuff to work out yet he refuses to meet. The only way I see him are the times we transfer kids that do not involve picking them up from school or at one of difficult child's doctor appointments. Not exactly good times or places to talk. We have very limited communication and that which we do have is extremely strained.

    But thanks for the suggestion.
  16. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    Considering you have so much to discuss would you be able to have an official meeting with a lawyer he would have to attend? It could be in regards to a change in custody. What the stepmom is doing is basically mental abuse so it would be a valid reason to consider a change. You may not have a ton of support in place but the fact is it is affecting your child.
  17. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I'm a little late to this thread but I have to bring my $0.02 to the table... As a stepmother.

    Now my 2 had some abuse in their past but let me put that aside for now. My husband had to stop responding to bio's texts and emails because of the extreme anxiety they caused him. To be honest, even after the court ordered them to use a neutral website, that could be viewed by the court itself... She was not very nice to him there, either, and even accused me of things like stealing. Basically when the kids went to her house they were rewarded for saying horrible stuff about me and husband... And for causing problems for us.

    Now, to put things in perspective, easy child is a people pleaser and the stepmom is pretty wonderful. easy child wants everyone to just get along. But difficult child says differently, that stepmom is, well, wicked. Stepmom has never wanted to talk to you - not a shocker, to be honest - if you and XH don't get along, what could he have told her? What kinds of acting out from difficult child is she having to handle? If husband is being a complete ostrich, she may have to handle the good, bad, ugly and completely HORRIBLE. You know, I don't - you are Mom!

    So... Is it possible that she identifies more with easy child - both females - and difficult child is jealous of the attention? Considering XH doesn't seem to be terribly involved?

    I'm not saying this woman is blameless. Honestly I've said things to Onyxx and Jett that I never should have. I've not been a perfect stepmom. Especially when Onyxx acts out.

    difficult child needs therapy... Don't ever give up there. And it does look as if you need to sit down with a mediator or lawyer. But... Please don't assume she is just horrible based on what difficult child tells you. difficult children are known for exaggerating... Snapping at someone because you are overwhelmed is a long way from screaming at them, but this is exactly what happened with us! Onyxx told bio I'd screamed at her all weekend... I got snippy once according to husband, that weekend. (It's happened more, I'm human...)

    :hugs: I do hope it's an exaggeration. Still, if XH can't be bothered... You need a custody change, and perhaps XMIL will even help...
  18. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    As a stepmother whose children had four or five stepmothers, sigh, I understand how complex these situations can be...and often are. My children were not treated poorly by any of the steps. Their Dad never could or would accept any advice or share any parenting issues with me. I, on the other hand, have a SD who has never liked me and we have coexisted since 1976 with only one joint outburst (when she was 19 and no longer a child).

    Having raised difficult children I have to think that being a SM to a boy who follows the beat of a different drummer likely is difficult especially if her husband is the inconsiderate man he appears to be. The only two suggestions I would have are these:
    (1) ask your son to make notes in a special book (or electronic device if he has one) of when things go wrong and what he or she was doing prior to the problem. I would suggest to him that "sometimes" all of us do or say things that cause problems with-o even recognizing it so it might help him recognize the problem. This idea appeals to me as it would be enforcing his self awareness as well as sensitivity to how others might feel....and it also would empower him while it defused the situation.
    (2) I would consider reaching out to former mother in law or sister in law's/brother in law's or father in law and expressing your concerns that difficult child seems to feel uncomfortable and asking if they have any insight that might help him feel better. Really, it could just be that he's a "boy" and likely more active, louder, etc. I would not say that he complains etc. I would just say that you know his Dad and SM are doing a great job (lol, barf!) but he seems to feel that he is not being "good enough". Vague but polite request for support from someone who actually loves him.

    Awkward situation for sure. I didn't do a perfect job but, like you, I did my best. by the way, have you considered writing brief notes for the kids to deliver in person...like.."by the way, difficult child got straight E's." Yeah it's like walking through a mine field. Good Luck. DDD
  19. StressedM0mma

    StressedM0mma Active Member

    I also was going to suggest a mediator to get through some of th emore serious issues that you and ex need to discuss. It would be a neutral location, and they could possibly help navigate through some of the stickier points.