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?

sanityseeker75 Thu 11-Apr-13 16:25:54

Hi NADM, whilst I suspect a certain amount of judging is to be expected as the kids get older, his seems to be a bit extreme.
I have read other threads of yours and can't help ask myself if his attitude and insecurities are driven by his mother.
Maybe you should introduce him to different cultures that are lively and full of life, that have Mardi Gras and that sort of thing. It may help with his acceptance and tolerance with different choices and show him that there isn't a "norm" as such, that life is about having fun and different people have different perceptions of fun.

Is he insecure and reserved by nature? It may well be that if he is very reserved anyway, he doesnt get how to let himself go and if he did, nobody would be judging or watching him.

I dont get how he could feel that you are not able to keep him safe whilst being playful unless he has had an accident whilst with you, or mom has questioned it. DH's ex once told DSS he shouldnt go in thr sea because of sharks as she was worried we would leave him to drown. It took us ages to get him to realise they couldnt swim to his ankle height.

brdgrl Thu 11-Apr-13 16:37:49

It might be pointless to try and change his mind now - unfortunately, it may only be in the fullness of time that he can see this.

Have you discussed this with him head-on? Openly challenged him about it?

My DSS tells us regularly, especially when he is in a foul mood about something else, that we are not like other families, and he clearly means it in a negative way. Not because (well, not just because) we are a blended family, but because we don't behave like his friends' parents or live up to some limited idea he has of what people our age ought to be like.

We don't earn as much money as he'd like us to, for starters. I don't cook every meal and serve up Sunday lunches in an apron. DH and I don't really follow the classic gender divisions in the home. We were both mature students until very recently. We like to go to gigs and listen to music loudly, and DH plays (on and off) in bands. Most of our friends locally are younger than we are (because of the mature student thing). We don't live close to any of our extended family. We would rather spend money on experiences than on things. We have strong political identities and try to live up to them, which sometimes means going against the mainstream, although I should say that there is nothing particularly extreme or wildly embarassing in our lifestyle - it just somehow doesn't match up to what he thinks we "should" be doing. He is pretty vague about it, actually - mostly, we just aren't giving him what he wants often enough, I guess.

I have to bite my tongue a lot. For one thing, DSS's life experience is pretty limited, and naturally he doesn't see this, he just thinks he knows everything! But also, he doesn't or isn't able to acknowledge the benefits to him of the life DH and I have built...he complains that DH isn't a high-earner like his friend's dad the banker - but DH has been home with him almost his entire childhood, gets up with him every morning, sees him off to school, is usually around the house, stops what he is doing to chat whenever DSS has something to tell him, has taken the kids on great days out and holidays, and because of our flexible schedule, DSS gets to participate in activities he'd not be able to otherwise. Not to mention the fact that our 'younger than our years' attitudes and knowledge of popular culture, and the diversity of the people we know, means that we are pretty 'cool' parents and DSS enjoys a much greater degree of personal freedom than most of his friends...we are the 'cool parents' as far as the teenage friends are concerned.

I've gotten fed up enough with the 'poor me, my family is shit' attitude that I have begun to call him on it sometimes, but I think we coudl do it more often, frankly.

NotaDisneyMum Thu 11-Apr-13 17:07:53

brd thank goodness that its not just us!

Yes, we have and do challenge him - in order to make him think outside his own limited experience smile
He doesn't directly compare us to others - but he has very limited experiences; he is almost exclusively in the care of his mum and grandmother, doesn't visit friends houses, has very limited contact with extended family due to distance and attends a school which focuses on the academic rather than learning through play/fun. In comparison to the very few other adults in his life, I suppose we do come across as bonkers! he is definitely of the mindset that if he prefers the way that we do something differently to his mum, that is somehow a criticism of her - which he is at pains to avoid.

He is very critical of our choice to dance down the supermarket aisles when we shop late at night and the shelf stackers have loud music on - something we joked about in front if him once - his explanation for his disapproval was that it is 'bad manners' and if someone like him came into the shop they wouldn't like seeing us dancing! He doesn't disapprove of the music - the shelf stackers deserve to be allowed to listen to music, apparently - but we should ignore it and certainly not dance!!!

FrauMoose Thu 11-Apr-13 17:37:18

Perhaps you could ask him to come up with example of the ways in which you do take care of him, take responsibility etc? So he could see the glass as half-full rather than half empty?

The topic of manners is an interesting one. Maybe you could raise the idea that there is some scope for a range of kinds of behaviour and that being different isn't being rude. Rudeness is more to do with being selfish and/or hurting people.

breaktheroutine Thu 11-Apr-13 17:45:50

NADM from your postings, it sounds like your DSS is ver much of the personality that his sphere of reference, whilst exposed to differences, will remain very narrow in scope and very limited in all likelihood by the opinions of his mother.

He also, unfortunately for you, sounds worryingly similar to my eldest DSS, although a much younger version. My own DSS1's opinions are limited in scope to an almost unbelievable level for someone of his age (17). In his case, this is largely because his mother has such huge control over his life. So any other different influences just appear odd and wrong too him. For him (and apparently to your DSS), anything different from what his mother does is wrong, rather than just different. I have no idea how you combat this. Although I do like sanity seekers idea of taking him to e.g. Mardi gras type things where people are much less stifled than he seemingly expects.

For my eldest DSS, it goes so far that he is seemingly blind to the realities of life. For example he tells us endlessly how clever his mother is, what a great job his SF has, whilst bring seemingly oblivious of our careers and living standards which clearly aren't reflected in his resident home. He believes exactly what he is told, regardless of what he sees. I do think from your posts that your DSS is is a similar space. He sees that you are having fun, but because this is different to his resident home, and he is blinkered to opinions outside of his mother home, then your behaviour/norms must be wrong.

Btw it sounds like you and your DH have a ver happy attitude to life so don't ever lose sight of how precious that is, regardless of what DSS thinks!

Toosexybyfar6 Thu 11-Apr-13 18:31:35

Great thread OP, and may I just add our own little breakthrough in this area.
When dh and I met his kids attended private school, had snooty friends, looked at us, our relaxed lifestyle with disdain and sometimes plain mortification!
Now, over 3 years on... Dsd has switched to a very liberal state school, dss is waiting his turn (mum horrified at both having opinions!), both enjoy the fact we don't judge people according to their parents jobs (again, mum's domain...), and although sometimes dss will ask his dad why he hasn't got a promotion and earns more (clearly a dig from exW, a manager, tsk) we explain dh has loads of time for dc instead! Seemed convincing enough as dss is now moving in, grin .

Alwayscheerful Fri 12-Apr-13 10:16:04

Fab all of you. I am loving this thread.

I have been considering a new thread along the lines of of "How can we help our stepchildren cope with life in two very different households?" Bear with me, I am new and I have not started a thread before.

Cantbelieveitsnotbutter Fri 12-Apr-13 11:10:46

Firstly notadisneymum, can I move in? You two sound fab.
I might be being naive here as I'm not a step mum but is it an age thing? I'd have been mortified at my family being like that, now id be racing them to the car.
The mardi gras idea sounds great, somewhere to really open his eyes and let him see life is for fun and living no matter the age.

brdgrl Fri 12-Apr-13 12:31:30

He is very critical of our choice to dance down the supermarket aisles when we shop late at night and the shelf stackers have loud music on - something we joked about in front if him once - his explanation for his disapproval was that it is 'bad manners' and if someone like him came into the shop they wouldn't like seeing us dancing!
Sorry, this really made me laugh.
He sounds very uptight, from this and other threads you have posted. I agree with the idea of showing him more carefree lifestyle examples, but maybe he could also do with some confidence building/loosening up through something like drama? Perhaps you could involve him in something like a play-acting workshop or dance class (and this would really mortify him in the short-term but he might end up loving it!). Where I live there is an arts centre that has one-off weekend workshops for young people, doing drama or street dance, graffiti art - anything to encourage his own subversive or playful side!

Allnewtaketwo Fri 12-Apr-13 12:39:43

drama is a very good idea I think

DeskPlanner Fri 12-Apr-13 12:45:56

I think you and your dh sound wonderful and I want to be friends with you, and I'd tell dss to stuff off

NotaDisneyMum Fri 12-Apr-13 18:20:39

Thanks all! I'm definitely going to start exposing him to things like mardi gras and have already started drawing his attention to other adults having fun.

I spotted someone today (about our age) leapfrogging bollards in a car park while his family (including DCs) egged him on - so I pointed it out to DSS who looked absolutely stunned - he was literally rooted to the spot!

mummytime Fri 12-Apr-13 18:39:10

Please be careful, it may just be there is something underlying it which does make him anxious about "non-conformity". So try to get him to accept small changes, and also try to have some routines at your place for him. Also give him space to get away from you all, from time to time, just to de-stress.

Some children do just get more stressed over things. 9 is quite a conformist age. BTW it just gets worse as parents existing is embarrassing for teens.

HotCrossPun Fri 12-Apr-13 18:45:55

OP - Will you be my mum? You sound like a hoot! grin

NotaDisneyMum Fri 12-Apr-13 18:47:31

My DD is at that stage - the mere presence of a parent in the same solar system as her is mortifying!

DSS isn't embarrassed so much as appalled that we have such poor standards of behaviour - and actively advises us how to change it!

I understand the importance of conforming to some DCs - but conforming to WHAT? How are his values being formed? Which adults is he using to base his standard on?

DeskPlanner Fri 12-Apr-13 18:48:03

There was a thread a couple of days ago on chat, about a woman galloping down the road on a hobby horse, was it you op ? grin

3rdnparty Fri 12-Apr-13 18:51:46

expanding his horizons would be a good thing but please do small steps....I was very self conscious as a child and reserved and the idea of adults dancing around would have mortified me....he may still be young enough for drama to help but maybe a more structured sort of Perform/stagecoach type thing rather than maybe a free flowing more arty thing

- how about picking some things hes interested in or doing at school eg egyptians and playing games related to that or going to museums...etc child led but steered if you see what I mean.

and there are lots of ways to have fun without being 'silly' too maybe he feels you're disapproving that he/his mum etc are not like you/dh

I don't mean to be rude may not be articulating well just how you describe his behaviour reminds me of how I was.....hth

NotaDisneyMum Fri 12-Apr-13 18:52:37

Not that I remember, but yes, that's the sort of thing we'd do grin

Pinkshaman Fri 12-Apr-13 18:59:25

Well if you are unconventional then so am I. It all sounds perfectly normal to me and much like my lifestyle. Do you have kitchen discos and sing into hairbrushes or the broom when certain "stop whatever you are doing and come to the kitchen to sing and dance immediately" songs come on the radio?

The way I looked at it with dsd was that my lifestyle or who I am didn't need justifying. We were showing her a different way. I just explored with her that there are just different ways of approaching life and that we are all different.

Whatever you do don't change if you are happy with who you are!

AssamAndDarjeeling Fri 12-Apr-13 19:02:39

I would've absolutely died if my parents danced in the supermarket when I was his age.

Children are conventional little things. They like it, it makes them feel safe.

Maybe the wackier side of your personality just doesn't gel with his. It does happen- parents and children can have polar opposite personalities.

I think it would be nice if you could show him a little consideration when he's around.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 12-Apr-13 19:02:55

3rdn I hear what you are saying and we will definitely take things slowly.
He's very clear though that adults shouldn't have fun - we've tried explaining that everyone has fun in different ways but in his opinion, if you enjoy doing something then you aren't being responsible, and adults should be responsible all the time. A reflection of his own experience, maybe? Perhaps when he's having fun, he doesn't feel responsible himself?!?

He also believes that if he's doing something that he enjoys, then he's not learning, and that only teachers can teach him things! He said recently that he'd never learnt anything from DP. We're working on that one, too smile

NotaDisneyMum Fri 12-Apr-13 19:08:31

assam He wasn't there! It's something we spoke about afterwards and he picked up on and told us that we shouldn't have done it!
DD just rolled her eyes - but she's getting used to us wink

We would never deliberately embarrass him- but I'm not going to stop spoon-duelling in the privacy of our own kitchen, especially when he is happy to have nerf-gun fights with his sister; what's the difference?!?

brdgrl Fri 12-Apr-13 19:10:13

I think it would be nice if you could show him a little consideration when he's around.
It is hardly inconsiderate for the child's father and stepmum to simply carry on with their usual behaviour and lifestyle, given that there is absolutely nothing wrong (morally or legally) with that lifestyle, are they supposed to change who they are because a child disapproves? What about the fact that they actually believe that this is best for their kids???

That seems like a preposterous position, and I rather doubt that the advice would be given to the child's mum.

My parents did plenty that embarrassed me, and I survived.

Ragwort Fri 12-Apr-13 19:18:06

I think all children can be slightly 'disapproving' of their parents whether they are as dull as ditchwater or wacky and unconventional. Its all part of rebelling against your parents' lifestyle isn't it? I am not sure its just a 'stepchild' thing is it?

There are some things that my parents do now (in their 80s) that mortify me, even though I am mid 50s. grin. I know my mother thinks I am far too straight laced and boring !

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.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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...?"

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!

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

*work it out

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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