I’d appreciate some insight. My stepson is 16 and recently crashed the car (no one was hurt). He asked me for the car knowing his dad had already said no. He lied when I asked if it was ok and also lied about the reason he wanted the car and he had friends when he said it would only be him. The car was totaled.
When there were repercussions at home. No football and you’re grounded, etc. On his weekend with his mom, she had a temporary custody form signed. Full of lies i.e dad is abusive and he has no utilities…to make a long story short at court the judge scolded both my stepson and his mother for manipulating the situation. He decreed that dad was in his right (and more) to ground and take privileges away. Stepson was court ordered to cool down and be home in six weeks. Six weeks have been come and gone. (has been seven weeks) Dad finally told him to come home. Stepson said he wasn’t ready, dad said “too bad.”
Today he’s home, dad went to pick him up without me (that hurt, but I’m a big girl) and brought him home. Apparently they had a discussion (sans myself) and decided that since my stepson has football practice that he should stay at his mother’s mon-thur and be home with us on the weekends. I disagree!
I think he should stay home and deal with the repercussions of his choices. We don’t have a car to take him to football practice at 5 am every morning. I have done that during the summer months for last 4 years (we’ve been married six years and together for nine years) so he could go to practice and I’ve done every other chauffeuring needed for all the kids. I did agree he could stay in football but he needed to arrange transportation. Mom doesn’t live far and isn’t working. So she could come and pick him up for those days till school starts. School starts in less than three weeks. What should I do?
Triple H (helpless, hopeless and heartfelt).
Dear Triple H,
Watching stepkids get away with things with little or no consequences can push the deepest, loudest buttons of unfairness in many a SMOM. Sometimes I found it so infuriating that I had go driving in my car so I could scream and yell, and I mean really yell-to the point of exhaustion. before I could get a grip. According to my husband (and he was right) my reactions almost always seemed disproportionate to the isolated incident. Unfortunately, being aware of that still didn’t make each incident any easier to deal with.
I can understand why the situation is upsetting. Just one thing, maybe not so so bad but combined with the other things going on, its touching a few tender spots that deserve your attention. Since I only know what you’ve written, I’ll offer some ideas to consider. Please sift and sort through things to see what feels right for you, OK?
Seems to me there are a couple of issues:
How you feel about your ss “getting away” with something, when what you feel he deserves differs from the consequences he faces.
How it felt to have your husband make a decision about his son, that impacted you without including you or asking for your input beforehand.
And perhaps a feeling of being left out of activities and the parenting & decision making.
As I mentioned, it’s common for stepkids to get away with things out of a parent’s hesitation to make the child angry and the underlying fear the parent will lose their child’s love. It’s really a scary and sad place for these parents. Their fear is real but their method of dealing with the fear almost never eliminates it. Stepkids play off that fear and manipulate their parents-a skill many kids have and use all the time.
My “intense” reactions to my skid getting away with things was really about all the times I NEVER got away with anything as a child. What I realized is that I had a lot of stored up resentments/hurt/rage about my own lack of freedom as a child and it was being triggered by watching this skid get away with things that I didn’t. Make sense? I was raised by a couple of rule-followers and was one of those “good girls.” I never spoke back, acted up or gave them any trouble. I never had the freedom to lash out and there would have been serious consequences for my mis-actions. As soon as I realized that some of my reaction to my skid’s “hall pass” was due to my own childhood stuff, there was a shift in my reaction to what happened to him. This is something you may want to look at to see if any of this applies in your life.
As far as his parents agreeing, when you disagree. This is one of the hardest things to accept, I think, in our role as Stepmom. We really don’t have a say or, to put it more precisely, we have about as much authority as our husband’s give us. Ironically we often have a lot of responsibility for the stepkids without the authority to act on many levels, school, sport, doctor, discipline, etc.
What would it feel like to put all the issues about this car incident and the football and where he lives on a big imaginary platter and give it all back to your husband-with love and the choice to no longer “care” about it? Can you imagine how your life would be different? Can you feel the weight that could be removed from you and your marriage if you decided, “Today, I’m going to let go of parenting decisions and defer to my husband’s judgment”?
When we imagine something this big, usually a few “Yeah buts” rush to the surface of our minds. I can hear a few:
“Yeah, but I deserve to have a voice, look at all the things I do for him!”
(True but day care providers rarely expect to be involved with parenting decisions and sometimes all the things we do for the stepkids turn out to be free nanny, day care, house-keeper kinds of things and sadly the Dad’s don’t see this investment of effort as we do. This can be hard to accept when you’ve done so much to be helpful, kind and caring.)
“Yeah, but if I step back and let his dad do what he wants, this skid is not going to learn responsibility!” (this one was big for me)
“Yeah, but if I step back his ex is going to manipulate him and that stinks!” (this may or may not be the case but it is the fear, rightly so, of many of us. Why? Because the bio-moms often do play games and manipulate our husbands and they often can’t see it without our input. At least that’s what we have seen and/or fear. The reality is that our husband’s may be manipulated or make mistakes but that is all part of the journey. If we can shift our attention from parenting to being a super supportive spouse, recognizing they will parent differently that we would, good things can happen.)
These are just a few of the reasons you may not want to step out of the parenting, disciplining role. There may be other reasons to stay in the fray but one of the things I wish I’d done years and years ago, was exactly what I did 3 years ago and what I’m suggesting to you now. Please consider, even if just in your imagination, how your life and your marriage and your relationship with your skid would change if you took a conscious, detached position on parenting and disciplining your stepkids and deferred, lovingly to your husband? Sit with this possibility and you will learn much about yourself and your situation.
Some times, even the idea of stepping back makes us fear we will be even more left out than we are feeling now. I know I was hesitant. I wanted to be involved but I wasn’t welcome. I wanted to be involved but it caused more stress on many levels. When I did step back, I was indeed left out of some discussions and decisions, but the benefits was the when my husband and I were together, we were not arguing about this issue or that. We didn’t have anymore Mexican standoffs about the right course of action in reply to a skid or bio-mom issue. Pieces of joy and spaces of happiness began to return to our lives and it was such a welcome change that I never considered going back to the old way. Well OK maybe there were a few tempting moments but they passed fairly quickly. 🙂
The transition may be hard at first. You may need some friends support, some new ways to spend time. You may find it awkward at first to NOT argue about skid things-helping you see how much the stress was part of your lives in a moment to moment way. I’m not saying this is the only option but from what you’ve said, it could be the option that brings you the most peace and happiness in your home and marriage.
Have you read my Smommentary, “Do you want to be right or happy?” Have you read the about “Feeling Powerless?” There might be some supportive ideas for your consideration in those essays. Please check them out.
You’re in a tough spot. No question about it. You’ve made a significant investment in time and energy for these stepkids and it can be very hard to NOT be making some important choices for them and for their growth and development. What I’ve learned is that these stressful times call for us to focus on the choice we need to make for ourselves-given the situation and people we’ve inherited.
With your new detached approach, (should you decide to try it on for a day, week, month) along with that may come the realization that you want to revisit all the things you presently do for your stepkids. As your involvement changes, so too do you have the right to re-evaluate your actions on their behalf. Not from a hostile or resentful place but from a practical, self-respecting place. I know I held onto doing a few things because it made me feel I was involved with his life. When I saw that he was using me, (and my need to be included) to get from me what he couldn’t get from either parent, I shuttered at how easily I’d been manipulated. I’m not saying this is happening to you. What I am suggesting is that you look at how you are using your time and energy on them and see if you want to make any changes to better serve your needs and new detached role. Something to look at.
I hope this is helpful. Being very gentle with yourself and finding ways to take care of yourself is always a good use of time and energy. Your role in those stepkids’ lives may be to model someone who is respecting themselves enough to not be taken advantage of. Who knows? You may find that as you let go of being involved in a parental way, your less pressured self may be able to offer them other gifts that are unique to you and your presence in their lives.
May you find something here that gives you relief, a greater sense of power and a closer connection with your husband and stepkids.
May you become a new Triple H, (Happier, Hopeful-er & Heart-filled with Joy)
All the Best, Cathryn
PS If you want more ideas from your sister SMOMS, please post a question on the BB as I am sure they will have many other ideas as well.