New here...any other step-parents??? This is long...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by LoveMyDuke, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    Hello all. I have posted here a couple times before, but I forgot my password and the Captchas were giving me grief on requesting a new one…so I just created a new screen name.

    I am wondering this: is anyone else on this board a step-parent to a mentally ill child who also has severe behavioral issues? I feel so alone dealing with all of this. My situation is not the same as a bio-parent’s is. I didn’t carry, deliver, nurture and love this child from the moment of his conception. I’ve know him for just over three years. I am overwhelmed and frustrated and just need to vent. I hope to find some support and maybe even someone else who is “walking in my shoes.” Here’s my story.

    My stepson (I’ll call him SS from now on) is 11 years old (12 in February). I call him my SS although his father and I are not yet married. We never marry because I don’t know if I can commit to this child for the rest of my life. We all live together and there are the three of us, 2 dogs and 2 cats. SS has two brothers, one 9 and one 5, who he never sees. I have no biological children of my own, but I am like a second mom to three AMAZINGLY beautiful, respectful, intelligent, fun children who I love like they were my own. These are my two nephews and one niece who I am wildly proud of!!!

    Anyway…I digress, back to SS. When I came into the picture 3 years ago, I knew almost from the get-go that something was “wrong” with this child. He had no rules, limits, expectations, discipline, consequences…he was basically an 8-year-old boy ruling his own world. He would play violent first-person shooter videogames on a 52” TV while chatting online with other players via large headphones with a mic attached. He came and went from his dad’s house as he pleased (mostly to his grandparents’ house down the street). You dared not tell this child “no”—he would go into a screaming rage like nothing I have ever seen. However, if an adult asks him to do anything, the response was invariably “no,” “do it yourself,” “I’m busy,” …you get the picture. Compliance is not one of his better qualities. He is unbelievably disrespectful with adults. When he does not get his way, he goes into an all-out rage of screaming, slamming doors, kicking, pulling at his clothes, punching things. A couple times he assaulted a cousin. Nothing major, but assault nonetheless. He received repeated discipline referrals at school for behavior, one time having the police called for assaulting a teacher. He goes from melancholy to giddy in a New York minute…although he tends to be more melancholy than anything. He has expressed suicidal ideation on a number of occasions. This is a child who has never had any friends (save for one juvenile delinquent down the street from the old house), has severe language/reading Learning Disability (LD), has no hobbies or interests, performs poorly in school, does not engage in sports or extracurricular activities, has no responsibilities or structure at home, and spends his entire life outside of school in front of a TV or videogame.

    His mother is almost entirely out of the picture. She rarely calls him or bothers to spend time with him, even though she lives maybe 10 minutes away. She is an alcoholic and we suspect has mental illness (Bipolar?) as well. She has never been an integral part of SS’s life. Sadly, SS would see her every day last year at school. He has a 6 y.o. stepsister who went to the same elementary school and the bio-mom would pick her up every single day from school. Pretty sure I don’t need to go any further…anyone reading this understands how sad and disturbing that scenario is.

    In the last 3 years, some things have changed. Videogames are now regulated and he no longer has a TV or computer in his bedroom. He cannot come and go as he pleases anymore because we have moved across town, too far to walk to his grandparents’ house. I don’t think he even knows where his mother lives. Beyond these things, though, the behaviors and activities have not changed a bit.

    Last Fall SS had become so unbearable to be around that I urged his father to take him back to counseling. He did and they upped his Straterra. (SS was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 or 6). This sent him into even worse behaviors and violent, destructive rages. In December, again at my urging, we got him in for a NP evaluation with a reputable psychologist in a Midwestern town which boasts a renowned University. The NP was a disappointment and frankly…just a joke. The guy said SS was “borderline” ADHD, had severe learning disabilities that placed his IQ in the “borderline retarded” range, and sent us on our way with the recommendation of two books. No diagnosis, no treatment recommendations, no follow-up, no nothing.

    So we took him back to the psychiatrist who had prescribed the Straterra and at this point he added Abilify to the mix. It helped some, although SS’s moods and behaviors were still erratic. But he managed to make it through the school year with no major incidents at school (although home was still a living hell).

    Then after school ended, SS’s father—in all his brilliance—decided to take SS off his Abilify due to weight gain concerns. No consultation with the doctor, mind you, he just took the kid off his medications cold turkey. SS became crazed and violent—worse than I had ever seen him. He threatened suicide, became physically destructive of things in the home, would leave for days on end (to his grandparents), called me names I’ve never been called by a child, and was just downright vicious.

    Again at my urging, we took SS in August to a new psychiatrist I had found. This doctor was much better and we had a positive “feeling” about him. He suggested SS go back on the Abilify and add Fish Oil and Metformin into the mix. He did NOT suggest Straterra, as he explained how it can trigger mania in Borderline (BPD). He said there was a clear indication of Bipolar Disorder, but because we cannot get a family history out of the bio-mom (no mental illness hx on dad’s side), he could not make a firm diagnosis. So he diagnosed Cyclothymia but is treating for Bipolar. The medications stabilized SS quite a bit, but he was still having screaming, raging episodes at least a couple times a week. The Abilify was recently upped from 5mg to 7.5/day. However, I have yet to see any notable difference in behavior.

    That’s the history—now comes the part about being a step-parent. His father refuses to address any of SS’s problems beyond giving him pills twice per day. He takes no initiative to get this kid into counseling. ALL of the treatments, doctors, evaluations, etc. over the last year or so have been because of me. If I do not take the initiative, it doesn’t get done.

    Frankly, Dad just doesn’t know how to be an effective parent. When SS refused to go to school one day this week, he never discussed with SS or the school what might be at the root of the issue. Instead, he called the kid in sick and let him watch TV all day. Dad sets no expectations for this child at all—no chores, no rules, no responsibilities, no nothing. There are few consequences (granted, the kid doesn’t have much to lose except TV or videogames). The kid does what he wants, when he wants. He is not expected AT ALL to regard me as an authority figure, even though Dad wants me to be a sweet, loving, understanding step-mommy to his poor, motherless child. SS often tells his father to shut up, f*** off or some other such disrespectful thing, and Dad says or does nothing about it. When SS called me a b***h, Dad never addressed it with the kid.

    Dad has never been involved with the school system—he doesn’t follow up on the IEP, never communicates with teachers, and basically feels like while SS is at school, he is the school’s responsibility. Dad did not even know his own son can barely write until I pointed it out! The kid is in 6th grade and cannot write cursive at all, and his printing is barely legible. Some of this is the Learning Disability (LD)—but some of it is SS’s laziness and lack of applying himself. Dad has never bothered to help him develop any skills, writing or otherwise.

    Dad also never follows up on any of the psychiatric recommendations. Frankly, I think he is just too damn lazy. The kid gets no counseling and Dad gets no counseling. I tried to get us all into individual, couples and family therapy…but Dad didn’t exactly put effort into any of it. I finally gave up and quit making the appointments.

    So here I am, living with a mentally child with severe behavioral problems, with a father who is essentially useless. I am smart and intuitive and know “how to get things done.” If Dad would listen to me, I could help him. I don’t have all the answers—but I know where to go and what to do to get help. But he refuses to listen to me. He has never been one to put his children first and that doesn’t change even with all of SS’s massive problems. I really think that Dad thinks the problems will just “go away.”

    I live a nightmarish life where every day you walk on pins and needles, not knowing how the kid will react to a given situation. Last night, for example, he was asked by Dad to get his math book. He refused, argued, started getting attitude. He walked out of the room and responded to his father by saying “shut up.” I had had enough and said something. I told him, “you know what, maybe your father doesn’t mind your awful behaviors, but I do. I am done doing nice things for you just to be nice. You want dinner, make it yourself from now on. I’m done.” And I meant it. (I had made a really good supper that I knew SS would love. No more.) He responded to this with an all-out rage that lasted an hour.

    Is anyone else a step-parent in a situation like this??? How do you cope?? I have resolved to locking myself in my study so I don’t have to deal with it. I am NOT the parent here…I am the STEP parent. Dad needs to take control of this situation and he refuses (out of sheer laziness and some denial). He told me the other night “well if you’re not going to help, then why should I bother.” Ummm…because he is your CHILD!

    If I was given equal authority and allowed a “say” in decision regarding SS, it would be different. But Dad doesn’t like when I point out his parenting flaws. Doesn’t like to be told he has to actually do something and not sit back and make me do it all. Doesn’t like hearing that his kid is all screwed up (even though he knows it). Doesn’t like being told he needs to man up and take responsibility. Doesn’t like ANYTHING that makes him have to put forth effort on anyone but himself or me (he is very good to me).

    He truly does not acknowledge the frightening reality of the situation his son is in and what it will lead to if he doesn’t start intervening RIGHT NOW. I have done loads of Internet research, read books, gone to counseling, educated myself as much as possible on Borderline (BPD) and parenting difficult children. Dad has done nothing. Literally nothing.

    I have stepped back—disengaged, if you will. I do nothing with, for or because of that child. Nothing at all. I don’t wash his clothes, wash his dishes, buy him treats, take him anywhere (although the kid really never leaves the house)…I do nothing for him. I’m not mean to him, but I only speak to him when absolutely necessary and for as briefly as possible. I am so damn tired of doing nice things for this kid who is out of control and always ends up kicking me in the a** in the end.

    Any other other step-parents out there who relate?? I am desperate for someone who “gets” my situation…..
  2. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Hoooooo boy.

    I am working on a longer reply, however...I have to your significant other's initial B? lol

    I promise, a longer reply soon. You are NOT alone.
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I do understand where you're coming from. The situation is a bit different, but I know the "gotta get away from this child" feeling.

    Something I found - I disengaged - but let Onyxx know that I loved her nonetheless.

    We are still having problems with bio-mom (BM), but things have settled quite a bit since Onyxx figured out what BM was up to.

    Rather than get into major detail here - since I doubt I can remember everything - I am sending you HUGE HUGS.

    Been there. Have that shredded t-shirt. Not exactly the same, but...

    Also - there are lots of bio-parents on this site that understand, too. Never underestimate the power of a difficult child!
  4. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    Thanks to both of you! I look forward to more responses, but even these give me hope that I am not the only one dealing with this situation.

    As for my SO's initial...nope, it is "D." We live in Wisconsin. Or did I put that in my tag already? I don't remember! All that writing I did fried out my brain--LOL.

    Sorry it was so long but it sure felt good to get it out!
  5. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Ok, a nutshell, here's my story.
    A decade or two ago, I met my DEX. We started dating. He had a 2 year old son that lived with the mother. Mom had a boyfriend, DEX thought they were great people, mom would get mad at DEX on occassion and not let him see the boy, but DEX accepted it because mom and boyfriend were good to the boy.
    So mom disappears with the boy for 6 or 8 months, at the end of which we find out she's in jail. DEX hunts down the boy and gets custody. I take very much nothing more than a step-parent role, and 6 or 8 months after the boy moves in, we get married.
    Then I learn first hand that mom and boyfriend weren't the stellar people DEX beleived them to be. Then, the new wore off our relationship for DEX, and that with the boy, and DEX started doing nothing. The more time passed, the more I fell in love with this little boy, despite his challenges, and by the time I knew the relationship with DEX was a mistake, I was not about to walk away and abandon the boy - now known as my difficult child 1.
    I can share your horror stories, but I'll spare ya. I did all the interactions with doctors, teachers, school, daycare, etc for difficult child 1. Tho his bio mom got out of jail and lived less than 15 miles away, he never saw her. After that first year or so, his own father had very little to do with him, despite living in the same house. With the help of DEX's family, I basically remained married to DEX, but raised difficult child 1 as a single parent. Even the school saw the sitaution and dealt directly with me and not with his father. There was a note in his file til the day he graduated that said all correspondence went to me only....
    Fast forward to now. difficult child 1 is 20. He is in the military, married, with a little boy of his own, and (holding my breath) doing ok. I worry about him, but I've done all I can. He has nothing to do with either bio parent (tho, ironically, his dad has a girlfriend that is giving them all sorts of hell right now, cause she wants to be a grandma to that baby...she's never even met difficult child 1 or his wife because bio dad hasn't seem him in over 2 years, and that was in passing on the road...!) I am grandma to a beautiful little boy and mother in law to a nice young woman. I have no idea what the future holds for difficult child and his family, and I'd be kidding you if I said I didn't have serious reservations, but for now, things are good, and I don't think about tomorrow. One thing I learned with him, being a difficult child, long ago, was to meet him where he's at.
    Sometimes I look back and try to think if I would do it again or not, and I can't answer that. That boy caused me immense grief. I also love him dearly and I don't know what would have happened to him if I'd have left him. I commend you for not marrying the dad. I would have serious questions about a life-long relationship with a man who can't step up to the plate for his kids. Unfortunately for me, I didn't see that til I was already committed to the man, so I didn't have to ask these questions before hand. While I chose to take on difficult child 1 when both of his parents didn't, I wouldn't condemn anyone who chose to walk away. The less and less I saw them do, the more I stepped up and just did. But I also came into difficult child's life when he was much smaller, and I truly loved that little boy, and he still tested the limits of my love when he was your SS's age...but by then it wasn't much of a question.
    So anyway, that's my story of my difficult child 1. Obviously, there's a lot more to it, but that's the nutshell version. lol
  6. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    WOW. Thanks, Shari. Your situation is very similar to mine. However...I feel almost guilty being "commended" for anything. I don't love my SS at all. I could walk away from him right this second and never, ever miss hearing that whiny voice or seeing that miserable face again. Yes, it is THAT bad. Not only do I not love this kid...I don't even like him. In fact, I grossly DISlike him.

    A big part of the problem is that SS doesn't care about me, either. It has never been confirmed by any professional, but I think he has issues with women. And frankly, why wouldn't he? His own mother has abandoned him and after her, there were two other women (SO's ex-girlfriends) who were part of his life, then not part of life--but this time each of them taking one of SS's brothers with them (one with whom SS is deeply bonded and mourns the loss of this relationship, especially during rages). And then there's me, another female and also the ONLY person in this child's life who has ever enforced rules, limits, boundaries and consequences. What's to like about me, either?

    I've TRIED with this kid...I really have. My sister is the most amazing mother I know and her kids are such neat, well-rounded little people. I see what she does with them and want to do the same with SS. But SO won't get involved and I truly cannot do it alone. If I tried enforcing a rule that SO didn't...SS would laugh in my face. Or more likely, just tell me "no" and walk away.

    I don't know. Have to run now but I will be back reading responses and other posts!! This board is a life saver.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there.

    My hub was the stepfather, but I can shed a little insight.These two are a bonded, lifelong package deal.

    SO and is what it is. You can't change them, and he is the parent, not you. That won't change. You have a snapshot view of what life with them will be like. I strongly urge you to all seek counseling before EVER getting married. And also if you don't love this little boy, it's may better not to stay involved. For the most part, adults pick their kids over SO's and this boy IS mentally ill. You can't compare him to your nieces and nephews who aren't. Your sister is lucky she doesn't have a differently wired child because they don't respond even the best intentions/parenting.

    Did his mother drink while she was pregnant? That could have resulted in brain damage.

    At any rate, I feel for you, but you need to think long and hard about sticking this out as it is unlikely to get better and the boy will be a part of your life forever. I think SO should stop worrying about his love life for now and refrain from bringing live-in girlfriend's into the house while the focus should be on stabilizing his son. If it were one woman ok, but two more before you and two more kids? That is so bad for SS. These relationships are probably making the child even worse. I won't go into what I think of him as a father. He can date without doing the live-in bit, however I wonder if he is more concerned with his romantic life than helping this child.

    Welcome to the board:tongue:
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2009
  8. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    MWMom, thanks for your candor. Believe it or not, I am well aware of the situation I am in—SO’s parenting skills (or lack therof), the fact that I can change nothing and HE is the parent, the reality that SS will be sick for the rest of his life. All things I know to be true all too well. But I am in a position right now where I can’t leave. Not now. I’d rather not go into all my rationale behind that, but at this moment it is what it is. I am part of their lives and that is the reality I have to deal with.

    I believe SS’s mother DID drink while she was pregnant. A lot. SO’s own mother told me as much. However, SO doesn’t remember it that way. He says he remembers seeing her drink a beer once. Now, that may sound like he is just blowing it off or unwilling to admit the truth…but read further below for my impression of his awareness of things and events around him. This is a weird story, but it makes a point. When he and I first met, my dog (Duke) and I were at SO’s house. Now, Duke is very well trained and certainly house trained. He never has accidents or marks. But that night, he apparently got it in his head that he should lift his leg on SO’s entertainment center. He and I were watching a movie and the living room in that house was very small. We were sitting probably 6 feet or less from the TV. To my horror, Duke stood there peeing, but SO never so much as flinched. He never saw it, never heard it. And Duke was RIGHT in front of him. This is an example of his perception issues—he just doesn’t always notice things or see things for what they are.

    As for my sister, careful making assumptions. My oldest nephew is 13 with Tourette’s Syndrome and had brain surgery at 7 mos of age. My middle nephew is 11 and has severe ADHD and just last week had heart surgery. My niece is 8 and has speech difficulties. My point was one of example and not comparison between SS and them. I was trying to express—and maybe it didn’t come out just right—that parenting plays a huge role. SO is a lazy, uninvolved parent where my sister is amazingly involved and lives to nurture/develop her kids. Granted, none of them has mental illness, but the difference between SS and those kids is worlds apart. I have to believe parenting factors in somewhere.

    I hope I’m not sounding crabby here. I am so tired and worn out and just trying to deal with a difficult situation like everybody else here. I do NOT hate my SS. In fact, more than anything my heart aches for him. No, I do not love him, but I do possess a pretty decent dose of human compassion. On a human level it pains me to see this child suffering and he can’t do a damn thing about it for himself. His DAD needs to help him. Dad doesn’t know how. The only one who knows how is me. I am trying desperately to get through to my SO so that he sees what HE needs to do.

    It is sometimes especially hard for me sometimes because I do have a daughter. She died in 1992. I get so unbelievably frustrated and heartsick to see my SS thrashing and hurting. I would do anything in this world to have Ashley back and be her mom—and here SO has his son and he doesn’t do anything for him. Some of my anger over the situation stems from this.

    SS was taken over to Grampa and Grandma’s last night because he was being so unbearable and out of control. He usually settles down at their house. He told his dad “my head just goes crazy sometimes and I don’t know why.” SO also commented to me that he wonders if SS has autism (he rocks and sways A LOT). I have always suspected Asperger’s, but the psychologist who did the NP said no way. Now I’m not sure. SO wants to bring it up at the next psychiatry appointment. This is a huge step…SO does not exactly have a history of taking initiative on much of anything.

    Thing is, I don’t WANT to change this situation and be in charge. I want him to. He just doesn’t know how. I have sometimes wondered if he is not an Aspie himself. He has a lot of the hallmark characteristics for adults. But he has never really had issue with social relationships, so I don’t know. I’m no clinician.

    I would never, ever even remotely consider marriage without significant counseling—family and couples. You are absolutely right about SO and his history with girlfriend’s. I’m sure you and I would agree wildly on his virtues as a father. The thing with him is that he it’s not that he doesn’t care….he just seems not to be aware of what he needs to do as a father. I don’t know how to explain it. He is intellectually bright but just doesn’t perceive situations the way other people do. I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum—highly intuitive and perceptive—so I notice a lot of his nuances and idiosyncrasies. Like I said, I can’t explain it. He is just different from other people. He has an extraordinarily difficult time establishing priorities. Not because he doesn’t care, but seemingly because he just has no clue. He does what seems right for him at the moment and doesn’t think of long-term or big picture ramifications. It’s not out of lack for concern for others—it’s just this weird thing I don’t know how to describe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending his actions. More than anything I want to understand them.

    I hope I can vent here and not be judged. Sometimes I get really upset and worked up and say things just because I need to get it off my chest. And if you didn’t notice…I have a love for words and tend sometimes to say too much! It’s just my way.

    Anyway, good news is I have the whole house to myself today….woo-hoo!!! I fully intend to curl up with homework and a fire and just worry about me today.
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Hi! Welcome. I think I remember your situation from before.

    The situation sounds bizarre. Your SO really sounds like he has some sort of autistic spectrum disorder. Many people who are on the spectrum are social.

    He also may be suffering from depression or some other form of mental illness. He sure doe not seem "right", in my opinion.

    Not sure how you got into this mess so deeply, but I assume financial issues are what is keeping you tied to this man and his strange situation.

    I also would assume the grandparents encouraged the back and forth arrangement because they were nervous about what would happen to the child. It sure seems like there is a LOT of room for serious problems to happen if the child stays at home with a father who has no clue. The difficult child probably has them buffaloed into compliance with whatever he wants. They probably have NO idea what to do with their own son, much less their grandson. So, like you, they are doing the best they can.

    To be totally honest, you really NEED to figure out a way to get out of this lifestyle. Maybe you could stay with your sister and help with her kids? Almost anything would seem safer than life with the SO and SS.

    You have used several roadblocks to help keep yourself in the thick of things. "I would leave, but....." and
    I know I cannot change anything but...."

    The but's are what is trapping you. You need to stop just before the but is said. If you change your thinking you may find solutions that you never thought were possible.

    Your SS's life will not change in the near future. Maybe not ever. It is hard to accept, but it is true. SO may even resent you for the things you have already tried.

    It really is time to step back and do what you can to enjoy life while living with the situation the way it is.
  10. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    Thanks for the comments. SO is not mentally ill or depressed. This I am certain of. Whatever is going on with him, it is not mental illness or drug/alcohol abuse. As for me--let me be arrogant for a moment. I am probably the most self-aware person I know. No one knows the oddity and dysfunction of my situation better than I. Moving is simply not an option. My sister lives 3 hours away in a small town, which would make for a challenging commute. I choose not to go into great detail about it, but do not assume finances are at issue.

    I was hoping to learn about how others deal with their mentally ill kids through this board. I wasn't so much soliciting relationship advice. It's kinda like when I talk to my friend who is in a bad marriage...I don't tell her to leave, I support her and listen and give whatever advice I can, but I never say "leave." That is HER choice. I never assume to know what the best course of action is for another person.

    So with that, I think I'll linger here without posting anymore and see how others have responded to others' situations.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi and thanks for explaining. We can tell ya how we deal with our kids, but we have one BIG advantage. This is nothing against you at all (honest)!, but it's hard enough to deal with a differently wired kid whom you cherish with all your heart. I can't imagine living with one you didn't love. That makes it much harder. So our advice is a lot of "Well, we have no choice. Not like we can check out on our own kids. We love them." So it IS different. We have a huge investment in our hearts for their well being and their futures no matter what they put us through.

    I do want to bring up something though.

    There are A LOT of people who can help SS. They're professionals. in my opinion he needs a new evaluation by a neuropsychologist, a psychiarist, and a therapist and you should probably all go into therapy. Even if SO lacks the necessary instincts to parent well, he could learn or even be lead by the hand. But he needs to reach out and ask for help. in my opinion good parenting isn't going to be enough for all this kid has wrong with him and all he's been through. And he could have alcohol affected brain damage too! (sigh). Well, keep your chin up. Oh, and it does seem that SO could be an Aspie and if SS rocks a lot and does repetitive stuff and also doesn't "get it" (as in understand social norms) even if somebody said he doesn't have it, he could. Trust me, they misdiagnose it all the time. Do you know if he had any speech delays?

    Welcome to the board (again) :D
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2009
  12. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    LMD, I am so very sorry that my post upset you. I think I probably didn't express myself well. We all have baggage and sometimes mis-speak or just plain get it wrong. PLEASE don't let my ill-chosen words chase you off! They were not meant that way.

    For assuming there are financial reasons you stay in this relationship, I apologize. I simply cannot fathom staying in a relationship where my partner allowed his child to treat me that way. I also cannot fathom staying in a household with a difficult child (difficult child) unless I loved the child beyond reason. Maybe I have just spent too much of my life with family who is wired differently, I just don't know.

    But that is MY bias and I did not mean to whomp you upside the head with it. You can whomp me back if you want.

    I grew up with a father who very clearly has Asperger's. My bro also has it and I would probably be at least a borderline Asperger's if I ever got evaluated. My dad and bro have NOT been evaluated, but they are even more Aspie than my difficult child (Wiz). Each of them has his or her problems, they very much think and process info differently than other people.

    Having Aspergers or another autistic spectrum disorder is NOT the dire thing it is often portrayed as. It means the person thinks differently and doesn't "get it" in social situations. It would be one possible explanation for your SO's behavior. For example your dog peeing on his entertainment center - SO may not have blinked an eye because his dog did it so he may have just thought all dogs did it.

    It would be one very plausible explanation for the way he isn't aware of how to handle problems, set priorities, or see the big picture ramifications.

    If you do some research on adults with Asperger's you may get that explanation you want. Or you may not. Either way it doesn't change who he is or what you love about him. It would give you a framework to understand him, and ideas for ways to help the entire family.

    Also, people with Aspergers are NOT antisocial and cut off from the world. My father was a very effective and loved teacher for 37 years. He taught in inner city (read ghetto) schools in one large city for 12 years. He had jr high and high school students and taught wood, metal, automotive and other shop classes. He then moved (with the family) to a small city in OK where he drove 90 minutes to a large city and taught science for 25 years. His students, hundreds of them, call, email, write and visit.

    So I mean NO insult when I suggest Asperger's. NONE. I KNOW how far an Aspie can go. There really are no limits. I just mean to look at it as another way to understand what may be going on.

    What I said about the grandparents was not phrased well. I am sure they were not afraid SO would hurt him. They may have worried that he might not understand what SS needs or how to handle a situation. So they gave SS the right to come to them whenever he wanted. Though it was done with the best of intentions, it has spiralled into some not as wanted behaviors and coping skills.

    Is that clearer? About the grandparents, I mean.

    Your SO may not have any problems. I only have the info you posted to try to understand the situation. Again, if I am wrong (and I fully expect I am at least partly wrong), I mean no offense. I apologize if anything I said hurt or upset you or made you angry. As with all things here, take what helps and forget/ignore the rest. No hard feelings will ever come from me on that.

    for ways to cope I have a few suggestions. Of course more testing could be helpful. But that won't give you a life preserver when you feel you are sinking. One book we recommend highly is The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. What Your Explosive Child is Trying to Tell You by Dr. Riley is also excellent.

    I also suggest reading The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz. It explains sensory integration disorder en the brain cannot handle input from the senses in the "normal" way) and how to help if your child has it. Even MORE helpful, in my opinion, is The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Kranowitz. It has a lot of activities that provide various types of sensory input. The activities are fun and many are inexpensive or have tips to modify them to make them free or inexpensive.

    I follow my kids on the activities. If they like something then they probably will benefit from the activity. If they just cannot stand it then clearly it isn't the right thing for that child to do.

    Often if you can provide the right sensory diet you end up with a calmer child who melts down less. Or that is what my kids did.

    I also find if I keep high protein snacks on hand it makes every outing better. I hide those balance bars (the ones with the 40-30-30 ratio of carb-fat-protein) in my bedroom. When we have to run an errand after school or go do a long list of errands, or have an activity that means a late dinner then I grab one for each kid. It really cuts down on meltdowns, tantrums and rages.

    Too much sugar also contributes to meltdowns with my boys. My bro was like that also. I did not react that way as a general rule, and my daughter does not react that way either. The boys though, WOW. They will spin themselves into a fury and can be horrible. I have said for YEARS that I would prefer to deal with my brother drunk than after a candy bar on an empty stomach. He is a MEAN drunk, by the way.

    These are a few of the tips/tools that I use. The ones I can think of offhand.

    Oh, IF you decide you want to tackle the evaluations, or help if SO decides to, you may want to take a look at the Parent Report. It is a format to help you keep all the info on your difficult child organized and at your fingertips. Some parents here came up with the format years ago. Many of us find it helpful when communicating with a doctor or other professional. It si also helpful for those infernal forms!

    Anyway, here it a link to the report:

    I hope you will accept my apology and ignore anything I have said that is off the mark. I truly do NOT mean to be rude or upsetting.
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm coming late to this. Also struggling on my laptop, so please ignore any typos!

    I'm not in a step-relationship but I have seen these issues, plus we have major autism/Aspie issues in our family. I also have a friend with an autistic son who I have tried to help. But his parents are both in denial in different ways, the mother will 'toe the line' with her husband and will avoid challengingh her husband's inability to accept ANY imperfections in his son. It's been weird, because this man thinks difficult child 3 is fabulous, wants his son to be like difficult child 3. But buddy, in order to get that it takes A LOT of parental stepping up to the plate!

    We believe husband probably has some degree of Asperger's. WHen I think back, I probably also had "Aspie-lite" because I know I had some issues socially when I was younger. However, my upbringing was very sheltered and narrow, it alone could have been responsible.

    SS could have any one of a number of conditions. The behaviour you describe - we got that, when difficult child 3 was put on Strattera. I was really wondering if we had a suddenly psychotic kid on our hands. With hindsight we should have taken him to hospital. But we stopped the medications (he'd only been on it 3 days) and over the nexct few days the behaviour improved.

    From what you describe, SS has a range of things working against him.
    First, he was born with a brain wired differently (in some currently misunderstood way).
    Second, his parents have been inconsistent and ineffective. For whatever reason, including the possibility of them simply feeling incapable, or even themselves being wired differently. The reasons don't matter.

    SS needed help from a very early age. Instead, he's been allowed to run wild. Sometimes this can actually help a little, but you need to start from there and bring him into a more normal existence. And it sounds like nobody has tried this until you - and of course, it meets resistance.

    It is vitally important (and I'm sure you know this) to not try to implement any discipline methods you can't enforce. With SO not stepping up to the plate, it makes it virtually impossible for you to do anything in this department.
    So you need (if you're going to try to make a difference in this kid's life) to find a different way that you CAN do something with. The best angle is to try to teach this kid self-discipline and self-reliance. And do it without using discpline.

    Read "Explosive Child". Whatever the diagnosis, the book should help you get into the kid's head and find ways to help him help himself. Try it out on SO as well. I use the techniques in the book even on our education system!

    That neuropsychologist you took him to - what an idiot! I think you indicated in your first post that SS has language issues. In which case, you can't apply the usual assessments to the child and expect a meanignful result. The "borderline retarded" label is undoubtedly a gross underestimate. We had the same thing happen to us, with each of our boys. Later results proved the first assessments to be major underestimates. In each case we got the "borderline" label, when tests done a few years later showed IQ scores in the top 1% of the population. Big difference!

    You've said a lot in your posts. Now let's analyse a little.

    SS's life has been unstable. His discipline has been erratic and inconsistent. He is allowed to do what he wants although recently his gaming is more controlled. So what are the stable influences in his life?
    Apart from you, SO is at least there physically. However, he seems to have got into the habit of finding a female to take over the parenting role for him. Not healthy for SS, not healthy for SO.
    But the grandparents - can you enlist their involvement and support? They are of the generation that beleives all mental health medicine to be quackery, but hopefully they're not of that view. How are they with him?

    His behaviour to you - the insolence, the refusal, tha tantrums at "no" - read "Explosive Child" for a different approach to handle this. It's not easy, but we've found that trying to discipline that is bnot the way to go. We handle it differently, because this is not simply a child being deliberately rude. There is a lot more to it. Once we changed our direction, we saw difficult child 3 begin himself to control his own behaviour. HIS choice.

    Also, have a look at Do the Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) tests on SO and SS, see hwat you get. It's not officially diagnostic, but it can give you some ideas.

    The problems now with SS are complex in origin (environmental plus genetic) and won't be easily remedied. Even if you had free rein, it wouldn't be easy. medications are not a cure, but in some areas they can help manage. But you have to be able to go on from there and use the advantage gained to work on what is left. Regular counselling (with parental follow-through) is needed.

    Your SO's behaviour in this is like a person who has paid to do an expensive course on, say, painting in oils. They attend the classes, listen to the teacher, admire the work - then go home and do absolutely no painting whatsoever. Or if they paint and the teacher says, "Try adding a bit more light in the background," and the student makes no changes whatsoever - then the student has forfeited the right to complain about the course or the teacher.

    We pay for expert assistance and information, but we must be prepared to follow through and do something ourselves. Otherwise nothing is gained whatsoever.

    As for why you choose to stay - that is clearly your choice and you do not have to explain. To go into details distracts from your main question - what, if anything, can you do for this child?

    There are things you can do. But because your situation (and SS) are outside the nomral run of the mill, you will need to learn how to think (and act) outside the square.

    But many of us have learnt how to do this, so feel free to dump on us as needed.

  14. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    I'm going to jump in late with a suggestion:

    While I am pretty sure you aren't dealing with a situation like this member's, you might want to search the site for postings by a user call WSM.

    They very clearly show the family dynamic with a SO in denial, a very ill child, and a stepmother who is trying to keep her head above water.

    Last I heard she wound up filing for divorce for her own wellness.

    It's a very sad story but it is an object lesson in just how bad things can get if not treated early and aggressively.

    Also, though I don't intend to offend, you need to ask yourself where you see this relationship being in five or ten years.

    If you find it unbearable now, you will still find it to be so as time goes on. Sadly, no matter how much you want it, or how hard you try, you CANNOT change another person.

    They have to want change and be willing to work for it.

    Best of luck

  15. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member


    I was thinking how similar your situation is to WSM's too.

    It not my intention to cast dark shadow, but you are not the parent and don't have much decision making power. I want to give you hope, but honestly, without getting SO on board it is going to be very difficult. difficult child is 11 now, in a couple of years hormones are going to set in, and that can take GFGdom into a completely different stratosphere.

    Whatever direction you decide to take it is your decision. We'll offer support whatever road you take.
  16. MyFriendKita

    MyFriendKita Member

    I think a lot of parents, but especially fathers, have trouble admitting that their kids (especially their sons), have mental health problems. My husband fought gettting our son any kind of mental health help until things got so out of hand with our son that the only choices left were that or juvenile detention. I had started suspecting our son needed help around the time he was ten or so, but husband got angry whenever I brought it up.

    Oh, and as far as not liking your stepson? There were many, many, many times I despised my son. It's hard to like them when there's nothing about them that's remotely likeable. We're only human.
  17. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Duke, is your SO in denial of his son's problems, or just doesn't know what to do? I have some thoughts/ideas.

    I have been dealing with extremely hyperactive difficult child's for years, and I often forget what's an "accepted norm" and that I have become accustomed to living outside that norm while others have not. Perhaps this is the same way with your SO? Just wondering.

    PM me if you'd prefer to keep it offline.
  18. LoveMyDuke

    LoveMyDuke Guest

    I realize this is a bit after-the-fact...but I wanted to thank you all for your comments. Quite frankly, I am so overwhelmed by it all that for now I've just shut down. I live upstairs in my study, they live downstairs in the family room. We sometimes run into each other on the main level, but that's about where the interaction with both SO AND SS ends.

    I am convinced that SO displays Aspie tendencies. I've done a ton of research and there's no question in my mind. But really, what does it matter? He is who he is regardless of an official diagnosis or not. He says "this is who I am" and displays no desire to change that.

    Marguerite—The grandparents are no help at all. The coddle him and blame SO for all SS's problems. They would NEVER give credence to a mental health diagnosis. They have such a low opinion of SO's parenting that I doubt they would believe a single thing other than to point fingers his way. Grandma is a 'closet' alcoholic, and Grampa can be brutally mean to SO...although SO doesn't see it this way (typical of his perception issues). He once told me 'I could never say a single bad thing about my dad,' and this after I had just heard his dad earlier that day say what a lazy, irresponsible loser SO is! It's not denial—it's different. It seems to be a true inability to 'see things for what they are.'

    As for stable influences for SS, that would be me. There simply is no one else.

    GoingNorth—Thanks, I will definitely do some searches on WSM and her situation.

    Shari—SO is definitely NOT in denial. He is well aware that something is 'wrong' with SS. It's this weird dynamic I've said before that I have a hard time explaining…he knows SS is screwed up but doesn't 'care.' Not that he doesn't love his son. He loves him very much; I am 100% certain of this. But the only time he wants to do something about it is when it affects him (SO), such as during the bad rages. (This is very typical of his self-centered ways—it's always about him, never about the other person.) When the rage ends, in SO's mind the issue is over because now is not having to listen to a screaming child. No need to do anything or follow up.

    SO truly has no comprehension of how SS's problems are affecting him, both now and long-term. It's not for lack of love—it seems to me to be a true lack of ability to perceive the situation for what it is. SO is not a cold-hearted, pathological person who overtly disregards others' feelings out of malice. He just doesn't 'get' what is going on with his son or what to do about it.

    MWMOM—you are so very right about the bio versus step relationship. It definitely IS different when it's a child you have loved since infancy. Not so with me. I've known this kid 3 years. The relationship with him is so damaged that I'm not sure it's even repairable. I have effectively 'given up.' I've tried, but forcing love with this child just is not happening. Right now all I can hope for is tolerance.

    I don't know about speech/developmental delays. SO doesn't even know. Again, these are things he just doesn't take notice of. He has no clue about any of SS's developmental history…none at all. He doesn't even remember potty training. All he could recall of SS's development is that he had a lot of gas as a baby and has had constipation issues his whole life (which the Fish Oil has helped some with).

    I don't know. As I contemplate my comment about giving up…I feel guilt and remorse for even saying that. How can I give up on this kid? I'm his only chance. Yet he is not my kid, not my responsibility. He doesn't care about me at all. He is intolerable to be around and does nothing to endear himself to me. All he does is make my life miserable. So why bother? Because he's an 11 y.o. boy who is screwed without someone with some sense intervening on his behalf. This is the constant moral struggle I go through every single day.

    Sometimes I feel like such a whiny, broken record! I complain about the same old same old and nothing ever changes. For now I just don't know what to do. All the books and advice in the world will not change SO and honestly, and I cannot take a lead role in addressing SS's issues. SO has to do it or there is no hope for us. That's the bottom line.

    I'm meeting with a counselor (today, actually) to talk about my role in all this and taking care of me. There has to be a better way than living in my study. I am in this household for the time being whether I want to be or not....I need to learn ways to deal with it.

    Again, I thank you all for the support. I have no hard feelings whatsoever on any comments made. I'm first to admit that when I am feeling very stressed out, I tend to be a bit reactive!

    Take care, all, and thanks for being here.
  19. I am not a step-parent myself, but my husband is to my oldest son, who is now 18. My husband became a step-parent when my son was 7 years old and his bio-father was in my son's life growing up. The only advice I could ever give to my husband was to never give up, because one day it would pay off. After marrying my husband, my son was continuously challenging for him and they barely talked for days at a time. At 14 yrs. old, my son went thru a deep crisis and I thought for sure my husband would walk out. Instead, something clicked with him and my son and they have been great ever since. The bio-father did not step up to the plate during the crisis and my son saw and felt it. My husband saw an opening where he could make a difference and prove his commitment to his step-son. All I can say is, children always know where the unconditional love is at. I was raised by a step-father myself. I admit feeling resentment and great hatred for him while growing up. My step-father never threw in the towel, as cruel as I was and now I wouldn't trade him for the world. In all fairness, my husband having a step-son, felt out of place, lower on the totem pole in comparison to the bio-father, he even doubted that he even loved my son like he loved the children we had together, until my son's crisis. Giving up is the easy thing to do and step-parents are just as important as parents. Especially when a child has challenges, regardless of the type, more love the better!