Disapproval by stepchild!?!

(63 Posts)
NotaDisneyMum Thu 11-Apr-13 16:03:11

I'm not sure that this is a 'step' issue, but this is the safest place to post without getting an ear bashing just for being a SM!

DSS (9) disapproves of the life and lifestyle that DP and I lead. He is open about it; tells us that we are irresponsible and that our behaviour is inappropriate and bad manners.

We are, I admit, a little unconventional wink We have our own businesses, so don't work 9-5, and we do a lot of volunteering as well. We have a flexible routine; we don't have meals at the same time every day or regular shopping days, for instance. We have a lot of fun in life - dressing up in fancy dress when running a charity stall or making choo-choo train noises when on a steam train ride for instance. Our car has a name, we have wooden spoon duels when drying up, sing along to the radio with funny voices, race each other back to the car; daft things that make us laugh and we enjoy.

DSS has used all these as examples of how we are silly and as grown ups, we should be more responsible. I'll add at this point that while we may have fun,it's never got us into any trouble or offends anyone else - we just enjoy life and make the best of whatever is thrown at us.

My DD sometimes cringes with embarrassment over her Mums behaviour, which is to be expected but with DSS it is different - we clearly don't live up to his pre-conception of how adults should behave.

And I think that's what worries me. I think part of his anxiety when with us is because he doesn't feel 'safe'. The people whose care he is in are not, in his opinion, responsible. He doesn't trust us to look after him the way a sensible grown up would.
He seems very clear that DCs are allowed to have fun (and no responsibility) until they are in their mid-20s but then the fun should stop and adults should be serious and leave having fun to the children.

Help! How can we reassure him that our fun filled life doesn't make us irresponsible adults?

Stepmooster Sun 14-Apr-13 05:55:27

Hi NADM please don't change. DH and I come from a similar school of thought.

My DSS is embarrassed by us sometimes. We just tell him its the job of parents to embarrass their kids.

Homelife here is a lot more laidback, messy and free. DH loves his karaoke, and is a bit of a showman. He is great with kids, he used to dress up as winnie the pooh at parties and has a pirate alter ego that really makes little kids laugh. Now we have a young DD all this is coming back to haunt DSS.

Under DH previous administration his wife used to chide him and nag him to be 'normal'. One of the reasons she left him and DSS knows it (from her). DSS thinks its ok to remind DH and parrots his mums nagging phrases to DH (5 years later) But I encourage DH and often join in. Sometimes even DSS joins in but will refuse to admit it. Both DH and I can see that DSS is itching to take part. DSS has on the odd occassion when not worrying about what his mum thinks worn make-up and girls clothes. I seriously doubt he gets much opportunity anywhere else to express himself without fear of not conforming.

So long as your DSS is safe, never goes hungry or over-tired then I wouldn't worry. If he is so heavily influenced by his DM maybe your lifestyle at his dads is just what he needs to open his eyes a bit.

However if DSS was clearly visibly upset with something I think we would stop whatever it was at that moment. But a bit of moaning and parroting mum doesn't count IMO.

Now I think abt it a bit more, DSS is allowed at mums to watch TV in his room at home and go to bed with his laptop. He eats in front of TV also. We are quite strict about TV use here and eating as a family. Perhaps there are things you are 'not fun' about where as his mum is and try and point out its just different rules and personalities and no right/wrong way to live?

dearth Thu 18-Apr-13 21:38:53

You seem really invested in your 'wacky' identity. When I read your descriptions of your behaviour and exploits I cringe. I think you sound exhibitionist, obnoxious and passive aggressive with it. You are making him uncomfortable in public and complaining about his 'conformity' yet YOU want him to conform to your way of being by becoming someone he is not. Why not be kind, be a bit respectful, stop doing things that embarrass him?

My mother enjoyed behaving like you. I hated her for it then and avoid her like the plague now.

Many people avoid her.

She labels them as uptight, rather than addressing her attention-seeking.

dearth Thu 18-Apr-13 21:43:01

Ps sorry to be harsh. I speak for the Saffy contingent.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 18-Apr-13 22:59:28

dearth I dont know who the "saffy contingent" are, but I hear what you are saying.
You have obviously lived your life ashamed of your Mum, and maturity/adulthood gave you the escape you needed, which caused you significant conflict.

Fortunately, my DSS doesn't have the same emotional bond with me - and if he chooses to have nothing to do with me when he's an adult, that's up to him.
As a WSM, I'm certainly not going to change who I am to spare the feelings of a stepchild. What DP chooses to do is up to him.

dearth Fri 19-Apr-13 00:43:53

Saffy from Ab Fab.

Good manners exist to make others more comfortable. You certainly shouldn't change who you 'are,' especially in your own home, but surely it would be a kindness to refrain from dancing in the supermarket on occasion when you are there with your stepson. Not because you have to, but because it is a small gift to a struggling child. A gesture to validate HIS preferred way of being. Children can be so self-conscious at his age. Are you quite sure you are not winding him up on purpose as a display of power?

Re choo choo noises on steam trains: really?! How do other passengers respond? Do you think they are delighted to be entertained that way?

Jessepinkman Fri 19-Apr-13 01:22:29

Oh dearth I was longing for someone like you to enter this thread. So far its been 'oh we're so fun' 'are'nt we fun'

And I'm like no. no you are not fun. You are lording it over children. Shame on you.

* I'll add at this point that while we may have fun,it's never got us into any trouble or offends anyone else - we just enjoy life and make the best of whatever is thrown at us.*

This^. I wish more people could be like this. It's not lording it over the SS. It's being who they are. The SS didn't have to join in, and some type of discussions with him about life continue to be fun as you grow older need to be had. The stresses of live are such that I am less fun now and I hate that. We are the type of people to leap frog and wear batman capes to the supermarket or a pirate hat. Just because it makes my DC smile. I sincerely hope when he becomes a crotchety 9yo we can still have fun and a bit of a silly giggle together.
Much better IMO than a dour, miserable parent so caught up in responsibilities that laughter is heard no more.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 19-Apr-13 07:21:02

surely it would be a kindness to refrain from dancing in the supermarket on occasion when you are there with your stepson

You haven't actually read the thread, have you?

You are so horrified by the behaviour you imagine, that you've made assumptions rather than read what is written. DSS wasn't there, none of the DCs were.

We don't 'dance' when the DCs are with us, or make train noises when other passengers are there, or even expect them to join in when we mess about at home.

I'm sorry our 'fun' offends you wink

nkf Fri 19-Apr-13 07:36:15

Isn't it normal for children to be embarrassrd by their parents? And, if you are very different to your child, won't it be more so. Not feeling safe is the problem.

I'm confused... In your OP you gave a list of the 'fun' behaviours (not going to judge we do some of them too) saying that DSS has 'used all of these as examples of why we are silly' yet more than once you've said that DSS wasn't there when you did these things, which means he found out after.

Have you considered that he may be dismissing the fun you have because he is jealous that he isn't there and downplays it in his head because it hurts less?

Kids are complex little creatures and if he is being told or overhearing about the fun of you have without him he may be trying in a childish way to tell you it hurts him.

Particularly if his life with his mum isn't 'fun'.

The sight of other people leapfrogging may have rooted him to the spot because it was yet another reminder that his life with Mum isn't like that.

It's a lot for a child of 9. He may want to have fun but feel disloyal to his mum whilst also resenting her for not being fun. Talk about a massive conflict for a young boy. Add to which the knowledge that his dad has fun without him - and then he has to hear about it....

He wouldn't be the first child to vehemently reject something he actually really wants because he's incredibly confused and conflicted.

I hope that makes sense.....?

NotaDisneyMum Fri 19-Apr-13 08:24:35

coola That's an aspect I hadn't considered, thank you. If its the case, then we will need to think about what we say as well as do in front of him.

deXavia Fri 19-Apr-13 08:44:42

He's 9 and being bounced between two families with apparently very different styles and attitudes. Of course you should be true to who you are but he's a kid and from what you say an unhappy and confused kid.
Maybe he's sad because he's missing out, maybe he is genuinely embarrassed, maybe he just doesn't know how to articulate what really bothers him so picks on this aspect.
So if he was 100% secure in every other aspect of his life then leap frog, dance and sing to your hearts content - even crack jokes about doing it if they weren't there to witness it. But actually I do think you need to take his feelings more into account and help him through what sounds like a big struggle for him at the moment. And who knows maybe when he's feeling a bit more on track, he'll appreciate the chance to do a bit of dancing

Twitterqueen Fri 19-Apr-13 08:55:56

I now have an almost irrestible urge to go out into the street and do something bonkers, mad and fun....

Twitterqueen Fri 19-Apr-13 09:00:04

would it work at all if you set aside say an hour every week or so and asked him to choose something 'fun' that he would like to do? or that he would like you to do with him as a fun activity.

I think some children are afraid of 'fun' and think it's not allowed. I keep telling my lot that if and when they go to uni, the point is yes to work hard, but it should absolutely be fun, hedonistic, exploratory etc, without undue consequences.

My your life sounds Luke ours, chilled, relaxed, fun :-) when I first met dp my Ds was a little like your dss, there hadn't been much fun before. One day dp and I were playfighting, And I caught the already loose toilet roll holder and pulled it off the wall. Ds was horrified, and couldn't understand dps reaction, which was to shrug and say oh well. Don't know what my point is really than maybe he can't get his head around fun being ok, or jealously than life at yours is preferable, but can't say for fear of his mums reaction.

Lostinsuffolk Fri 19-Apr-13 11:19:57

nadm you sound fun, life is way too serious these days and I fully support your way of doing things.

I took my DSC to a family music festival and I remember Ex went mental calling DP irresponsible because "the DSC would hate it". I laughed at the time, 4 years in, they're packed before me, have all their sleeping plans sorted before me and can't wait to get there. they love to walk to the wash station in the morning with me in our pj's and wellies. They think its great... But then so do I and I'm mid forties.

It sounds to me like someone else had planted and is grooming this notion that the way you lead your life is wrong. Stick to being you! smile

nkf Fri 19-Apr-13 20:50:27

Some kids, quite unprompted, hate things like dressing up and karaoke and dancing in the street. And the idea of being sent to do drama because your parents (step or otherwise) think you are too uptight is not very kind.

And some kids find it easier to clown around if their parents (step or otherwise) provide the gravity.

Maybe, all this the ex is an uptight bitch stuff is true. But he might be his mother's child in more ways than one and genuinely feel uncomfortable with your behaviour.

I think you could take on board that it's okay to be reserved and reticent.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 19-Apr-13 22:54:18

I think you could take on board that it's okay to be reserved and reticent.

I don't have an issue with him being reserved and reticent - my concern is his willingness to judge the behaviour of his Dad so harshly, the lack of respect he has as a result and the insecurity it leads to in his Dads ability to parent him in a way he (or his Mum?) expects.

Beamur Fri 19-Apr-13 23:04:19

Is there a middle ground?
Kids generally find their parents embarrassing at some point. Parents quite often enjoy this...but teasing SC's is slightly different and less safe ground.
But. are there little things that you could compromise on, knowing how uncomfortable this makes your DSS? Do you really need to dance in the aisles while shopping? Be yourself by all means, and I think Coola's point that your fun life and his reaction to it, might have some roots in his feeling conflicted and confused.
As a SM, a BM and a SD myself, I think you do need to be able to adapt your behaviour to accommodate others rather than have a blanket 'take me as you find me' attitude. If I knew I was embarrassing my SC's, I think I would try and avoid doing so.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 19-Apr-13 23:28:42

If I knew I was embarrassing my SC's, I think I would try and avoid doing so

This isn't about embarrassment. My DD is embarrassed by our behaviour. I know the difference.

DSS feels insecure because we behave in a way that doesn't conform to his model of a responsible adult.

brdgrl Sat 20-Apr-13 00:36:46

If I knew I were embarrassing my SCs or my DD for acting in the way that I think is appropriate and in line with my own values, I wouldn't change a damn thing.
It is a much worse failure as a parent, in my view, to limit my personal expression in order to meet a child's idea of social acceptability, than to let a child suffer a bit of embarrassment.

Here is a partial list of things my DSS is deeply embarrassed by, re: his dad:
- DH's accent. Because it shows his national origin, which is one that is not popular amongst a segment of the population here. (Never mind that DSS has the same origins and a variation of the same accent; he is convinced that he is 'passing'.) For this reason, he has asked DH not to speak to his teachers, football coach, or friends' parents.
- DH's out-going nature. DH talks to people. Mortifying to DSS. For thsi reason, he has asked DH not to speak to strangers, to waitresses, to postmen, etc.
- DH's clothing. Which is apparently too young (he wears jeans and checked shirts, and has a leather jacket).
- DH's music. DH plays in a band. This is horrifying, as he is an old man.
- DH's job. It is not a 'real job' (it is in an academic/creative field).
- DH is politically active, and takes part in public displays of his political views.

In order to relieve poor struggling DSS of his feelings of embarrassment, DH should therefore change his clothes, quit his job, give up his hobby, refrain from expressing his ideological beliefs in public, and stop speaking altogether. No. I don't think so. And yes, it is the same.

And the idea of being sent to do drama because your parents (step or otherwise) think you are too uptight is not very kind.

On the contrary. If as a parent (step or otherwise), you suspect that your child is limited by a lack of confidence, you are being a loving parent by trying to help him or her gain that confidence. Some parents sign their kids up for sports, thinking it will increase their social skills, or help them become more fit. Some parents get tutoring for their kids, because they can see the kid needs a bit of extra help in an area. Some parents enrol their children in art classes, because they believe that it will help their children to learn to express themselves. It's hardly a controversial approach.

brdgrl Sat 20-Apr-13 00:43:25

I do think coola's question is worth considering...but in that case, it is also possible, is it not, that the solution is actually to include DSS in more of those moments - not to pretend they aren't happening or not tell him about them (thereby excluding him, actually, from the reality of his family)? Or by trying to remold the family and environment into something that is more "familiar" for him but is essentially inauthentic?

nkf Sat 20-Apr-13 06:50:34

If I were the father of this boy, I think my priority would be that he becomes more secure in his relationship wih me.

superbagpuss Sat 20-Apr-13 07:15:13

as a child my nickname was jean broadie because I was so formal and old fashioned compared to my blended family. I liked structure and order and they liked fun. in my late teens, early twenties I finally learned it was OK to let my hair down. some kids are just like this. it used to bother me we didn't go to national trust houses enough.

PS, my cat is called saffy from ab fab. I definitely identified with that character

'because it doesn't conform to his model of a responsible adult'.

At nine it's probably not so much 'his' model as one he has been taught.

He is very young to be given sole responsibility for his opinions - they haven't come from nowhere. If he is actively being taught this at home then he isn't responsible for believing it to be true. In that scenario by challenging you are telling him that what his mum teaches him is wrong - more conflict for him.

If it is as I suggested before then it's a reaction to self protect rather than something that he truly believes.

Using the words 'his model' implies that you are blaming HIM and holding HIM responsible for thinking this way. I would suggest that due to his age he ISN'T responsible for these views, and it is the actions of an adult in his life (be that his mum stating and/or modelling certain behaviours as acceptable or you and his dad inadvertently making him feel left out).

He doesn't exist in a vacuum and these opinions are coming from somewhere.

I have really feel quite sad for him. He's a little boy who is either being given conflicting information with a parent on each side saying the other way is wrong, or he feels so left out he rejects fun.

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