Such a Newbie... in so many ways...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Jewlz0113, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Hello All... I've been lurking for a few days and I can see already that there are some FABULOUS ladies here with not only a plethora of knowledge and experience, but a hefty dose of compassion as well. It appears as though this may be just what I'm looking for and I couldn't be happier!

    As the title of my thread indicates, I am such a newbie. Not only am I new to this board, but I'm new to the world of difficult child. I have only been "dealing" with these new challenges for a little more than a year. My husband has two children, one of which has ADHD/ODD and lives with us (SDS). His daughter (12) lives with their mother. The children see and spend time with each other every weekend (one with their father; the next with their mother, etc.). The "official" reason the children are not living together is that they cannot get along. Mom claimed that SDS was physically threatening SDD and that she was frightened by him. That it was not healthy for them to live together. Although some of that may be fact, the truth of the matter is that Mom did not and does not want SDS. (I could go on about Mom and her antics, but I'll not bore you with the details. I'm sure you'll learn about her as we go along...) SDS was adopted at the age of 4. Bio mom did drugs/alcohol during pregnancy and then the boy spent 4 years in and out of foster care. And not all that care was provided in a loving environment. Needless to say, he's got some real issues beyond the official diagnosis. All in all, he's a good kid. When he's not being manipulative, disrespectful, and/or defiant, he's incredibly loving. You know that saying: when he's good he really good and when he's bad, he's horrid! I'm sure this all sounds very familiar to you all...

    husband wants me to play an active role in his upbringing as I have the "moral compass" (his words) that he's always wanted in a mother for his children. The problem is that SDS HAS a mother. Albiet a poor excuse for one, but she's there nonetheless and has no interest in giving up her "position". Especially to me. (Yeah, there's a little bad blood there.) She, however, also has no real interest in doing what it takes to give this boy everything he needs to succeed. She'd just as soon set him in front of the TV with a gaming system all weekend while she does her thing.

    As I said, I'm such an infant in this world. I have 4 daughters, one of which is raised and has her own family, and I've been so incredibly blessed. When I use the term "easy child" for them, I truly mean it. I've had the normal every day challenges of parenthood, but NOTHING compared to what I've got now. And I have learned very quickly that I cannot use the same methods with SDS as I did/do with my own DDs. So I've got a lot to learn, ladies. A truck load. I've been a researching fiend online and have picked up a few books. So much of what I'm reading and hearing here I've read or heard about elsewhere. It's nice, though, to see it "in action". And see what really works and what doesn't.

    I'm struggling with my role as stepmother. How far do I go? How involved should I be? What about discipline? husband does want me very involved with SDS and encourages me to be a part of his discipline and general upbringing. But what counseling he does go to, I'm not invited. (Mom makes it very clear she does not want me there.) It's difficult for SDS, too, because he's quite confused, I would imagine, as to where and how I fit in. Sure, we've sat down and talked with him about how I help make the rules and that I'm "in charge" as much as Dad is, especially when he's away. (husband travels often for work and SDS often stays with me, not Mom. She doesn't want him.) But when it comes down to it and I have to discipline, he throws the whole "You're not my mom!" or "You're not the boss of me!" and other much more hurtful words in my face. Normal for any step child, I know, but when it's one with ADHD and ODD... Well, you know it's a WHOLE 'nother ballgame.

    Anyway... I said I would keep this brief and I managed to write more than I wanted anyway. I just wanted to put a bit of my story out there so that when I start posting (and I'm sure I will!) you'll have a little background on me and my family. I realize I don't have it nearly as "bad" as many of you out there - my hat's off to you all! - but my hope is that by reading about how many of you deal with these situations, I can be better equipped for things that are happening in my world now and, God forbid, should things get worse in the upcoming teen years, be prepared for it.

    I look forward to getting to know all of you!

  2. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome. Glad you found your way to a place that seems supportive to you. :)
    You will get a whole variety of views on the stepmother role thing. My own take on it is that your wisest course IS in fact to step down from the (unwilling on your part, anyway, I realise) position of honorary mother. You are not his mother and he is too old, with too chequered a history, to ever accept you as that. You can be his wise big sister, aunt, friend, mentor, helpmeet, I don't know... don't give him an opportunity to resent and hate you by trying to step into some replacement parental role (he WILL only resent it) but just see what you can do as your husband's consort, as it were...
    I guess we are all learning about difficult children. I certainly am :) It is definitely an acquired taste...
  3. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Hello and welcome aboard. There's plenty of stepmoms here that can help you out with some of your questions, I'm sure they'll be along. Has he been tested for Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) or something similar? Does he want you to join his counseling sessions sometimes? If he has a good counselor they can play a vital role in his transitions and advocating what is best for him to his BM.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Since he had a very tumulus young life with drugs and alcohol ingestion prenatally he could have some real brain damage from that too. That would make him hyper and hard to control and inconsistent. He may also have attachment issues since he has had so many "moms" and "dads" in his life. I did foster care and adopted an older child (older is more than an infant) and they can be quite damaged by that alone.

    Would you be k ind enough to give us more input on his behavior?

    I think your famly situation is unique because his other mother wasn't his biol. mom any more than you would be wise to seek serious family counseling and get him a neuropysch evaluation to see if the drugs/alcohol have harmed his ability to control his impulses. I'd be surprised if all he has is ADD/ODD after such a rough start and then all the changes!

    Welcome to the board! :)
  5. exhausted

    exhausted Active Member

    Welcome to the site! I do not have the expertise or experience of the whole stepmom thing except as a stepdaughter. I did not like my stepmom and did not like her trying to be a mom, but then again I was 16 and knew it all! I was a brat really.My dad made it clear I would follow her rules when in their house-that seems fair. I offer no advise just a hug and a hope that the therapist "grows a brain" and realizes that they are leaving out an important link in this boy's life. If I understand right he spends most of his time with YOU. I'm confused how you are not a huge missing link in this therapist's mind. Something to address with your husband perhaps. Keep us posted and continue to read-so much knowledge and support here!
  6. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Hope my views were not blundering in feet first... Sometimes I "see" things very clearly and then express them equally unambiguously. It is, needless to say, simply my own view. :) But I do suspect that you will be doing yourself a favour by not trying to play "mom" as your husband is (understandably) hoping. You are in the best place to judge the situation, naturally.
  7. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Thank you all for your feedback... I know my situation is a little different and am trying to keep that in mind. Because he is not my child, I am presented with my own set of challenges.

    A little background that may help... his behavior is rather typical ODD (from what I've been reading here). He's better when he takes his Vyvance. He's able to keep a little better control of it and stay more focused. One day he could be absolutely fine - follow direction without complaint, even do things and follow the rules without being prompted. And then the next he'll dig his heels in and insist that he's the boss and will listen to no one. He has a mouth on him - he just doesn't know enough to stop talking (got to have the last word) that absolutely infuriates his father. He's learned the art of manipulation and tries to get away with it as often as he can.

    As far as my role as his stepmother - I understand and appreciate the advice of stepping back. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to be able to be completely hands-off. He is with me more than his own mother (who is not the BM). He'd, in fact, rather stay with us than visit with her. And quite frankly, she's not got much interest in seeing him every other weekend, either. There have been many times she's begged off for "valid" reasons ("He's sick and I don't want him getting his sister sick so perhaps he shouldn't come this weekend." "I'm sick/his sister's sick and I don't want to get him sick." "His sister and I will be out of town and I don't want him missing school" (but his sister can miss? don't understand that one) Etc.). Mom and SDS do not get along - she doesn't really know how to handle him (nor does she care to learn, it seems) and he takes advantage of that. He's said to his father on more than one occasion that he feels more loved by me than he does her and wishes I were his mom.

    Counseling has been a bit tricky... He has not requested that I go to any of his counseling sessions. HE hates going to them (naturally). husband has only been to a few of them (Mom has taken him most of the time) as he believes they aren't helping. Mom does not walk into the sessions with the right frame of mind. She basically takes him, drops him in the counselors office and says, "Fix him" and walks away. According to SDS, she does not stay with him during the session. husband has stayed with him during what sessions he's attended, but says he's hearing the same thing he's heard before. (This is the third or fourth counselor she's taken him to. The others "didn't work".) As far as I know, the counselor knows little about me and the role I play. I would LOVE to go in and talk with him if for no other reason than to find out what I should do/not do to help in this little boy's development because I'm clueless. The last thing in the world I want is for my well-meaning behavior to be harmful to him!

    The most stability SDS has felt has been in the last 2 1/2 years. My husband and I provide for him the structure he needs. We both love him dearly and do what we can to ensure he's getting what's best for him. That, unfortunately, is where I struggle. I know how to handle "normal" kids. I know what works and what are reasonable expectations. I'm concerned that I'm being unfair to both SDS and husband, though, if I expect of SDS the same as far as his behavior and consequences as I do of my easy child. (I run a pretty tight ship and I'll admit my expectations of my children are a little higher than the average parent. Not unreasonable, mind you, but definitely higher.) I'm also afraid that if I DON'T have the same expectations that it may create some negative feelings between the children. Mine have already indicated that SDS seems to be able to "get away with" more than they are. It's that whole choose-your-battles game husband and I play with SDS. Some fights are worth fighting while others... I've tried explaining things to them and I think they're starting to understand, but I know it will be a conversation I will have several more times.

    So, my hope is, as I said before, that I can glean from you how one parents a difficult child. What are realistic expectations and what are not. What works and what doesn't. I've already felt validated in some things just reading about some of the stories and how you, as a parent, have dealt with the behavior. I've also been put in my place, so to speak, on other things and realize my expectations are a little out of line. What a wealth of information I'm getting from you all... :)

    Thank you for listening... it's nice to have someplace to go for some REAL advice. :)
  8. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member


    Do your 3 girls live with you?

    Not sure how relevant that is. Well, I wonder how well he gets along with them if he did not get along with his sister. Are they biosiblings? or is StedDD a biological child of husband and ex?

    Is he attached? Does he look in the eye? Give hugs? Ever?

    As a stepmom, please do not judge BM. I was judged by my difficult children stepmom. I heard it all and it was all assumptions on their part. I moved my child to her dad's for a 1 year period. Did I want her? you bet I did! But, I felt it was best for her. And has she had a sibling that was feeling threatened - I might have made it a permanent move, too. As hard as that would be to do, I would do it. Parents of difficult child have thick skin. We call ourselves warrior moms. We have to make very difficult choices when it comes to our kids. Things we never imagined we would even consider let along actually go through with.
    I know you will come back with, "no, I know DHs Ex does not want him.....etc" all stepmoms do. And I am sure my difficult children stepmom would, too. I guess it is natural for that judgement to occur. But, realize you were not there and you can not possibly understand what she went through. Neither can husband even if he were right there with her.

    As far as discipline, it is different for a difficult child. It has to be or you will beat your head against a wall for years doing the same thing over and over and it will never improve things. So, you try something for awhile and when you see it not working, you try the next thing.
  9. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Thank you for your response... I appreciate what you're saying about BioMom and trust me when I say I give her EVERY benefit of the doubt. I really truly do. So much so that at times I defend her to both husband and SDS. I try very hard to keep the emotions and fact separate and not be judgmental. Thank you for reminding me of needing to do that constantly... :)

    SDS does make eye contact and freely gives hugs. Including to me. He's often surprised me by wanting to sit next to me, walk up and give me an unexpected hug, and is disappointed if I don't make it to his room at night quickly enough to give him a hug and tuck him in for the night. He just does not like authority and can be incredibly defiant. And the less respect he feels he's getting, the more he digs his heels in.

    My three girls live with me half the time. Their dad and I have joint custody in that they change houses every Friday. (I, thankfully, get along well enough with my ex that we can make this work and it does work well for them.) SDS does get along with them. He can be incredibly annoying to them at times (he likes to pick and annoy just for the sake of annoying) but they tolerate his behavior better than most. There have been times, though, they've had enough and nasty fights have broken out. I don't leave my 12 year old and him alone - she doesn't tolerate his constant picking as well and will turn on him without warning (and he then wonders why she's so angry). SDD is bio daughter of husband and his Ex. The two of them have NEVER gotten along. I wonder if in the past there has been favoritism played and that has made SDS bitter and then takes it out of her. She doesn't help any by rubbing in to him when she's gotten to do something that he didn't. "Normal" sibling rivalry for most. Because of his ADHD/ODD, it's exacerbated. And, because his reaction is so vocal and violent, he's the one that gets blamed for it. I've witnessed the vicious cycle on more than one occasion.

    Again... thank you for your feedback. You have no idea how valuable it is to me. :)
  10. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Hey there!

    I'm a stepmom, too. Jett lives with us... Onyxx did till almost 4 weeks ago, at which point the behavior became too much. We have a similar situation in which BM parks Jett in front of the TV/video game console almost every visit. At least this is what he tells us.

    I can say - I try very hard not to judge BM, but I have seen so much, and been the direct and indirect recipient of so much... That it is insane. I have no doubt she loves Onyxx and Jett... But on her terms. She made no effort whatsoever to contact Onyxx for two years... Onyxx initiated it... To be rebuffed several times and then, when Onyxx got upset with husband, suddenly BM will listen. It's not hard to connect the dots.

    Honestly... This is going to hurt... But. In your home, you have the right to be respected, and to be considered. If husband wants you to be hands-on, he needs to work it out with the ex. Until he does - you may only do a limited amount of discipline. I've always been hands-on with my two - with the caveat, and they KNOW it, that I am Step and BM is BM, and if she has a problem with something that I do, she needs to discuss it with husband via the court-ordered website. (So far I have supposedly tried to run her off the road, flipped her off -from a room where she would need to see through 3 walls and heavy drapery to even know if I did- in front of her stepdaughter, and been nasty to her on the phone - I texted and asked her not to call me again if it was not an emergency.) I liken what I did, before husband and I married, as a "babysitter" - but I was shoved into actual parenting by circumstances. I never want to replace BM. For many reasons. The kids need to have a healthy relationship with their mother. I emphasize healthy.

    As for counseling; you are, whether mom likes it or not, part of the family now. ANYONE WHO LIVES IN YOUR HOME should be in counseling with SDS. Perhaps not all together. But - mom needs to understand - you are a part of SDS's life, and have influence. husband needs to do the counseling as well. Just because it doesn't "seem" to work doesn't mean it isn't having an effect on SDS. Right now, the effect is confusion. If everyone participates (the "village" thing), he'll see that it makes a lot more sense to him.

    :hugs: step-parent-hood ain't easy, trust me.
  11. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Thank you, Stepto2.... this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. You validated and clarified all in one fell swoop and I great appreciate it. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
  12. april1974

    april1974 New Member

    Jewlz you sound like a very warm and compasionate step mom and I won't pretend to know what it's like to be a step mom...but my daughter had a step mom and she could have taken lessons from you.

    How long have you been involved in his life? If it's recent then a hands off approach is wouldn't be your place to discipline, unless alone with him and husband is gone..but if your husband is gone maybe sds needs to go to his bio-moms house...if his bio-mom is not being a mom then maybe you and husband need to sue for sole custody to give him some stability.

    Counselling you should phone the counsellor and tell her the extent of your role in sds life....she needs to be aware of all the players in his life.

    Keep loving him, and you will muddle through there is no black & white....stop letting bio mom get out of having what daughter is sick....he can still go there, unless she has a newborn baby and is concerned with rsv...which doesn't seem to be the case.

    Have your husband keep a journal of everything, conversations, excuses, sons behaviour. No reason you can't see a counsellor and get some proffessional advice of where you need to draw the line.

    Blended families are murky pools!
  13. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member


    We do have full custody of sds. He visits his mom every other weekend and every Thursday for dinner. I have been in his life almost 2 years. husband travels often for work and Bio-Mom (who by the way, is not his bio-mom - he was adopted by husband and his ex) has first right of refusal to have him when he goes out of town. She is always told of when he'll be gone and given the opportunity to have sds. 80% of the time she refuses, giving one reason or another why she can't do it. We ALWAYS not only encourage him to see Bio-mom, but insist. I am a firm believer that he should have a healthy relationship with his mother. Based on what I've seen, I'm not sure how healthy it is, but we do try to encourage.

    I am not, in anyway, shape or form, trying to take his mom's place. He has a mother... However, given how much I am a part of his daily life, I want to only do what's best for HIM. Some days I think I've got it all figured out. Others, I'm at a loss and pray that what I do is in his (as well as the other children's) best interest.

    You couldn't more right when you say blended families are murkey pools... Having a situation like this can make the water just downright muddy. Thank you for your input...
  14. april1974

    april1974 New Member

    Just because she adopted him doesn't make her less his mother, adopted parents usually feel their kids are equal to bio kids, and I only refer to her as bio mom because you have refered to her as bio mom, so the point that he is adopted is moot since she is in all legal sence of the term his mother.

    Since you have full custody you have the right to also give discipline, you and husband should be united and it sounds like mom isn't going to be much help. But since he is with you full time that is a good thing, you two will have the most influence on him. You are right he should have a relationship with his mom and it sounds like the only one preventing that from happening is the mom. SAD.
  15. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Thanks, April... I'm sorry. I wasn't sure if you knew whether or not she was his bio-mom. You're right, I was referring to her as such just to help keep the players straight. :) They also have a bio daughter between the two of them and she is treated much differently than sds is (by mom). It's sad to watch... and unfortunately, sdd has caught on and uses it to her advantage. It truly is very sad that they can't have a healthy relationship. I would love to see nothing more...
  16. april1974

    april1974 New Member

    :biggrin: Gotchya!

    Has anyone (husband in particular) ever said this to her? I mean maybe she needs a wake up call, is there any way of getting through to her the damage she is doing? her son knows how his mom feels, she might like to think he doesn't know but he does, and that can have a profound affect on kids who feel like they are loved less than other siblings. I really feel sorry for him. What would help him is for her to step up and be his mom and take him more often, even though it's difficult it would show that she loves him, what is really scary about all of this is this : what if she doesn't love him? what if she doesn't want to be his mom anymore? since you and husband have custody you can get him therapy regardless if she approves, and too bad for her, you also as a major caregiver should be part of that.
  17. Jewlz0113

    Jewlz0113 New Member

    Unfortunately, there is no talking to her. Not by husband and certainly not by me. Anything we say, no matter how it's said, is seen as an attack. Truth is, her actions speak loudly as if she doesn't truly love him and if she had it her way, she wouldn't be his mom any more. They adopted another girl (his bio sister) at the same time and she "gave her back" because she couldn't handle her (she had several issues, too). She's tried to do the same with SDS, but by the time she tried, they were told it was "too late". He says he doesn't want to go to mom's because "they don't get along". It's a difficult situation for him and it breaks my heart. He wants so badly for her to love and accept him the way she does her bio-daughter, and will do anything to get her attention. Often times that includes lying to her about things that husband is doing (or not doing) because that wins her attention. But it also causes HUGE issues between mom and husband. I think husband has managed to get through to him the damage that causes, but he's a kid looking for his mom's attention. He'll stop at just about nothing to get it...

    I've decided to talk with husband about family counseling for all of us. She has to approve and know about all dr. visits according to court papers. I have a feeling she's going to try to stop me from going, but it's at least worth a try. I'm wondering if we can talk to the counselor ahead of telling her and see if he can help her to see the fact that it's what's best for sds... One can hope.
  18. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I don't know of any law that says you cannot attend counseling. Or, counseling with you and husband. And family counseling? Courts LOVE that stuff!

    Hon, she cannot stop you from going to counseling. Nor husband. If she throws a fit? Easy. A single motion to the court to allow/order family counseling, to include anyone else living in either home. :biggrin:

    If she still throws a fit? Either she is in contempt - see last sentence - or you can get an emergency injunction to stop her interfering with family counseling for the children. If she goes to counseling (in to the session) it's not interference. If she refuses to allow it? It is.

    The kids need the counseling, family counseling included. If she does not want to be part of it, someday, it will be her loss.

    But remember - she cannot stop you getting counseling.

    Another thought... If you & husband paid for it - it might be considered a "second opinion at the requester's expense" in court. We had to do this medically...
  19. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Welcome to the board Jewlz

    Since I've been step parenting for almost 30 yrs I thought I'd chime in. lol (notice my step daughter is also a difficult child)

    I'll say up front I'm an old fashioned sort of gal/mom. I don't buy into the whole "I'm not your parent so I don't get any involvement in your parenting" routine. pht. With Katie I had no desire to be her "mother", she had one already....but when she was in my home it was my rules and I enforced them right along with husband....actually I did 99 percent of the enforcing and husband was back up. (he's too wishy washy)

    Obviously you care for your stepson quite a bit. He's also living in your home. Makes a big difference when they're living 24/7 in your home. House rules were for any child in the home and katie was expected when she was visiting to follow the same routine, chores, and rules as her siblings. In my opinion, it's what gives a child a sense of home/family. Take that away and you're begging for chaos. It couldn't have been too awful for katie since she spent most of her childhood begging us to try for custody.

    I took great pains to keep a friendly relationship with her biomom. But I realize that is not always possible.