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?

taxiforme Sun 21-Apr-13 00:34:02

Oh I love this convo. My dad used to come downstairs dressed as a cowboy (when I was about 14 and trying to be cool) then he threw a sheet full of balloons out of the window when I was in the garden having a BBQ! I loved it!

I am the same with my dsc. I don't have my own kids to take up the slack!
My motto to them is "who wants to be wallpaper?!" And we have a big artistic motto running up the stairs.. "Always be the picture, never the frame"

They have deep self confidence issues. I come from a theatrical close family. They and my dh are really buttoned up. Their mum is like a timid mouse. However, my dss (12 with ld and what seems to me to aspergers) has really come out of his shell..I am hoping that it is, in part to my ballsy look at moi attitude and that I am showing him that it's ok to let people into your life and share your feelings.

Whatever, life is about balance and bringing kids up in a happy home. One where you have convos with the oven glove puppet with the tea cozy on your head pretending to be the bishop of bath and wells.

allfornothing Sat 20-Apr-13 18:42:07

I agree. Your partners son is too young to make this decision. There may be short term upset to maintain the status quo, but I'd strongly advise sticking to the court order. He doesn't realise the magnitude of such a decision and needs his dad to realise that.

mumandboys123 Sat 20-Apr-13 17:32:36

at 9 years old he shouldn't be allowed to vote with his feet - your partner now needs to fight for his son.

NotaDisneyMum Sat 20-Apr-13 11:10:23

all carrying on as we are is no longer an option available to DP. DSS has started to vote with his feet sad

We do this confused
The singing, the in jokes, the piss taking, the dressing up, the dancing......
Thankfully the teenagers join in.
We are the weirdy, childish familee....
( wouldn't have it any other way)
DSS will get with the programme once he realises the sky won't cave in and the earth won't stop turning, if the adults eagerly and tunelessly sing and act out the parts of " you're the one that I want" on demand in the street..... maybe..... confused

allfornothing Sat 20-Apr-13 10:42:00

*work it out

allfornothing Sat 20-Apr-13 10:40:27

I honestly think there's a lot of over thinking going on here. You can't really be sure that the reason the child has those views are because of his mum, any more than you can be sure they're not. Kids are often mortified by their parents, I don't think it's helpful to psychoanalyse every move this kids makes and see it as some kind of sign that he's messed up. He's just 9, and is working all these things out. Carry on as you are and let him reach his own conclusions by himself. He'll work ou out!

nkf Sat 20-Apr-13 10:09:22

And, I don't think it's your role but I thought you thought it was because you posted asking for help. "How can we reassure him...?"

nkf Sat 20-Apr-13 10:07:56

I meant "you" as in "one?" How does one reassure a child? It's really something for your partner to think about. I'm sure it must feel awful to know or feel that your child does not feel safe with you.

NotaDisneyMum Sat 20-Apr-13 09:54:27

I think this is the only bit that matters. How do you reassure him that he is safe? How could you do this? What does he need to feel safe? How can you give this to him?

Is it my job as his SM to try and give him that reassurance? How effective would it be if my reassurance is constantly undermined by his parents?
DSS solution to his insecurity is to spend less time with the adults he doesn't feel 'safe' with.

nkf Sat 20-Apr-13 08:39:49

"I think part of his anxiety when with us is because he doesn't feel 'safe'"

I think this is the only bit that matters. How do you reassure him that he is safe? How could you do this? What does he need to feel safe? How can you give this to him?

I'm sure if you both gave it a lot of thought, you could find ways to reassure his son that he is safe.

NotaDisneyMum Sat 20-Apr-13 08:23:55

I'm sure a model of 'fun' is being used as well - it's the word DSS used to describe our behaviour, and went on to say that adults shouldn't have 'fun'.

There is a battle going on for DSS approval - his Mum has openly expressed her desire for the DCs to have nothing to do with DP. DSS lack of 'approval' of his Dad supports his Mums position.

nkf Sat 20-Apr-13 07:22:54

I agree with your post. That said, I also think that a model of "fun" is being used. And a false dichotomy of safe versus fun. It sounds like a competition is being staged and the child's approval is the prize.

'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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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