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Blended family/houseshare complications...

(9 Posts)
zenzrrrr Tue 26-May-09 22:14:17

Hi all,
and thanks for clicking on this. I am looking for honest feedback even if it is "against" me because this is super important.

I am a single mum sharing a house with another single mum. My daughter is six and her son is four.

The thing with the kids is that the other mum -Sarah- says my daughter -Anna- bosses her son -Thomas- around too much. Thomas adores Anna and quite happily lets her take lead when they are playing. Eg. Anna will suggest they play a car race and then she will let Thomas decide which out of two cars he can have instead of all the cars -she'll usually have some logical reason for these- then Thomas will want to start the race from under the table instead of from the start line Anna had in mind and she will somehow get him to agree that it is a good idea to start from the line etc etc.... and yes... looking at it you can either think that she is completely bossy or that it is just the age difference and the only way she can play with him (his play is very chaotic compared to hers). Sarah is convinced that this is because Anna has been going through so much with the break-up of my ex and me and she has picked up on the controlling nature of my ex.... and I don't know what to think, I think yes, she is definitely trying to play with him but finding it hard when he is so much more babyish about things and this is why she ends up constantly giving instruction... Sometimes it turns into some argument -not often at all- and Thomas may hit her or scream (like he screams when he doesn't get his way with grown-ups)... which makes Anna withdraw; she'll start to ignore him altogether or try and find a room where she can be alone. Then Sarah will say that she is being mean because she is not responding to Thomas (like a grown-up would)... and I feel sorry for Anna because she is trying hard to be with him but sometimes it gets too much. But yes, it is true that she very much tries to get the play to go a certain way. I am trying to get her to understand that Thomas should be given freedom to make his own choices (however babylike) and obviously am trying to understand Sarah and do what I can but it's all quite complicated. I think that the fact that Thomas really likes Anna and always talks about her and misses playing with her must mean that things aren't very serious but they certainly seem serious when Sarah's reaction is so extreme.... I've never seen Thomas to be particularly skilled with other children; he is an only child with the idea that he should have his own way (on a bad day I'd go as far as to think that it's a belief supported by the methods Sarah rears him)... but it's true that Anna is dominant as well, even with children at school where she is running the secret club. Perhaps she needs a shrink. I DON'T KNOW.

Despite all of this, Sarah and me are in good terms and wanting to find solutions and really like each other. It's just that the children don't get along that well.
We have a temporary lodger who has the room below the kitchen and particularly the mornings can be difficult when we try to keep the children quiet so the lodger can sleep.

The thing is, I really don't want to give up with it - I'm certain there are solutions if we try to find them.

Please, please let me/us have soem honest feedback, what ever it is.


FluffyBunnyGoneBad Wed 27-May-09 01:27:53

This is normal sibling behaviour, even though they are not siblings. They will be trying to establish who is in charge. It's nothing to worry about. Maybe some family games with you and your friend aswell as the children so you can show them how to play together and get along?

I really admire what you are doing. It's lovely that your children have the opportunity to have a relationship like this where they have a 'sibling', even if they do argue at the moment, they will remember this as a positive experience and the bond that they will have will stay with them for many years.
Play the 'quiet' game in the morning. The first one to make a noise looses.

Chandra Wed 27-May-09 01:37:08

Agree about sibling behaviour. Both children's behaviours sound absolutely normal.

I think the only thing that I can suggest is to accept that they are children, with children problems and that you should take them lightly. (i'm sure they don't even remember a handful of the problems that may be troubling you).

What about creating some house rules that apply to both children?

And how about you talking about what you can realistically expect from each other's children. Don't forget though that although you may have already have the experience of how a 4 year old should behave, all children are different so "standards" may not apply. On the other hand, perhaps if your friend could see Anna around other 6 yrs old, she may realise that she is not mean but just a simple 6 yr old who is doing what 6 yr old do.

zenzrrrr Wed 27-May-09 09:51:37

Hello Chandra&Bunny,

thanks for the replies... greatly appreciated. Good ideas from both of you.

If only I dared ask Sarah to write her side of the story... I am sure she would convince you that Anna is indeed too dominant... just as I can convince people otherwise. Sigh.

Some objective outside opinion would be good...

OK, please keep the replies coming.


zenzrrrr Wed 27-May-09 21:47:44

Hi again,

if anyone could let me know where they draw lines with kids - what is an ok amount of an older child to control play and what you think is excessive?

please&thank you

zenzrrrr Tue 02-Jun-09 14:56:22

hmm... not much success here...

you who have kids with the 2 -year age gap: how do they play together? how much does the older one advise the younger one?

this'll be my last try here... please let me know your thoughts. thanks

pranma Tue 02-Jun-09 15:50:16

It is normal for an older child to want to control the reason is that the 6yr old will have a more developed imagination and may have a mental picture of where the play is 'going'.She will be uite wrapped up in her own perceptions of the role play and irritated if he deviates from her ideas.I would leave them alone,dont intervene during play and they will resolve things on their own.It is great that the want to play together at all.You and your friend sound like lovely mums and the kids will be fine.

Takver Tue 02-Jun-09 15:55:15

It is a really hard situation. We've lived in a housing co-op for the last 5 years, since dd was 2.

My dd has been on both sides of a 2 yr age gap. For all the time we've been here she's spent loads of time with a girl 2 years older . . . they have been through all the things you describe, although my dd is also very bossy/confident/whatever you like to call it so we often get fireworks!

I think the only answer is that you have to be really truly tolerant of other people's parenting styles, hammer home rules about sharing & turn taking, have some way in which a child who doesn't want to play right now can get away (maybe a designated 'quiet space' or even an 'I don't want to play right now hat' if you don't have separate physical spaces).

Yes, the relationship between children (who I have heard described as 'commune sisters') is very like a sibling relationship - but with the complication that they don't share a parent and there is a totally innate tendency to 'side with' your child. All you can do is fight against it, and probably go too far the other way to compensate.

zenzrrrr Wed 03-Jun-09 16:33:10

Thanks pranma&takver for these replies. Much appreciated.

If I could find a way to try an get Sarah to look at it from another point of view and see that maybe, just maybe there isn't major cause for alarm.

When I suggested - some time ago - that we get other people to look at their play and let us know their (more objective) opinions, she said that if it goes to having to ask other people then we've clearly failed.


Any ideas...?

Thanks ever so much

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