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Growing up - or not...

(32 Posts)
glasscompletelybroken Tue 26-Jul-11 10:37:40

It seems to be a common thing amoungst step-children to be very immature in their abliity or willingness to do the most basic things for themselves - such as dressing, choosing clothes, organising their school stuff, even eating!

I would guess this is all linked to the seperated parents wanting to "make it up" to the kids and not expect too much of them. It really makes me despair though as to how these kids will ever manage in the real world.

Surely the whole purpose of child rearing is to produce independant adults who are capable of looking after themselves!

theredhen Tue 26-Jul-11 10:49:23

For some seperated parents the whole purpose of child rearing is to treat the children as possessions and seem intent on the kids "liking" them rather than being prepared to "parent" them.

My DSD are all highly intelligent children and yet none of them have any inclination to do anything but sit in front of a screen when they are with us. If we go out, they literally cling to our sides and moan that they are bored. I have given them money and told them to go and amuse themselves on holiday etc. and they refuse to go off and choose to carry on moaning by our sides.

DP has told me that DSS aged 12 is incapable of picking up a towel from the floor as he is younger than his 13 year old sister who is expected to do her and her siblings ironing. None of DSD open their own curtains, preferring to sit in the dark all day (eldest is 15, youngest is 8). DSS aged 12 still can't hold a knife and fork properly.

When my DS (of a similar age to DSC) is home alone, he has a list of chores, including putting washing out, feeding pets etc. I daren't even consider giving a list to DSC as I know they would make excuses and do nothing and DP would probably do them for them! angry

I know of posters on here who will have much worse stories than me though....

Petal02 Tue 26-Jul-11 11:11:20

I completely identify with both these posts, although admit there are people in far worse situations than me.

The remit of the part-time parent is to be the popular parent, to compensate for the break-up, and generally shield the child from any less savoury aspects of reality.

However I tell myself that if DH and his ex want a child who literally can’t do anything for himself, then that’s their problem ……… I’ll save my energy for the battles I stand a chance of winning!

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 11:21:12

I relate with this as well. I wonder if there is an element of the RP being happy to pick up after the child because they're not there all the time?

I don't feel compelled to do so with my DD grin but my DSD's mum won't allow her to so much as wash up or wipe the sink down as she says it is "her job"

I have pondered endlessly over why you would choose to raise your children to be incompetent. My conclusions have ranged from - deliberately making DSD difficult so that mine and DP's lives are harder (a bit conspiratory!) to the fact that she doesnt work and so has more time to mollycoddle... to using her daughter to validate herself i.e. she can't manage by herself therefore she needs her mum... I don't know what it is. But it does make it difficult for the poor kid spending the other half of their time in a house where they have chores.

(DSD still can't hold a knife & fork at nearly 13. And will happily sit at the table with her face covered in food with no shame) Still, as DP says, she's as much his responsibility so the balme isn't all with her mum.

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 11:21:23


brdgrl Tue 26-Jul-11 11:26:52

yep, totally relate.

My DSD is actually pretty competent. She is 16 now, 13 when we met. She likes to think of herself as a partner to DH (spousification!), so she will take on tasks when she wants to but mostly things that let her feel like she is in charge, rather than things that need doing but aren't very pleasant. Think - all the privileges of a wife, with no responsibilities. She likes to cook - but not to clean up after. She will fix cups of tea when she wants to play hostess to dad's guests, but otherwise she wouldn't move from the couch to get a glass of water. Bottom line - she is well able to do age appropriate things, but would prefer to be waited on hand and foot (well - who wouldn't!). (Also, I should be honest and say that things are improving a LOT, so this situation isn't as bad as it used to be.)

But DSS who is almost 14 is the opposite - I suspect partly because by treating his sister like a spouse, DH kept DS infantalized.

We went on an overseas trip in April. DH asked DSD to pack a suitcase for DSS. (I was annoyed when I found this out later.) So she did - DSS came to me complaining that she was packing girls' socks for him. I tried to step in and give him the right socks, but DSD wasn't about to let me take over, so she finished packing it for him. I had a row with DH about it, because I felt that DSS was old enough to pack his own suitcase, and that if he needed help doing it, DH and/or I should help, instead of his slightly older and bossy sister, who wasn't even getting it right. This is all in a larger context where we've been consciously trying to shift DSD back to a more appropriate role in the family. DH agreed, but it was too late - and the thing is, I know he'll do the same kind of thing in the next situation, because he tends not to see what is happening.

Fast-forward, and we are on our holiday. Turns out that DSS doesn't have appropriate jumper or hoody, no he's furious and asking why he can't pack his own bags...I just sat in the other room listening to him rant and thinking "thank god! now maybe DH will get the message!"

Truth is, he isn't allowed to learn and he is too lazy/unmotivated to do it under his own steam. DH would need to care enough to insist on it, and lots of times he is just too with the suitcase incident, DH just took the easy way out because DSD wanted to be in charge, and DH didn't want to take time to stand over DSS and help him get it right.

It is so frustrating.

brdgrl Tue 26-Jul-11 11:31:16

Of course, my Dh is the full-time parent. I suspect there is compensation - making up for the loss of their mother - but it is clear from what DH says about it all that it began way before First Wife died, too. She had a health scare when the kids were very small (same thing that later caused her death, but on the first occasion she recovered) - so I have wondered if she spoiled the kids because she felt that her time with them might be limited? I do know that DH waited on HER hand and foot, so I suppose DSD is imitating that, too.

Petal02 Tue 26-Jul-11 11:34:16

Brdgrl: DETACH!!!! (That's my answer to everything this week ........) !!!

brdgrl Tue 26-Jul-11 11:34:38

ok, one more post from me and then I will shut up!

my DSD's mum won't allow her to so much as wash up or wipe the sink down as she says it is "her job"

YIKES! That really sets you up, doesn't it?
My DSD has a friend whose mum takes that attitude...the kids think she is the best mum ever because she does everything for her kids and gives them loads of cash etc etc...I kinda resent this woman, because she makes our job harder.

brdgrl Tue 26-Jul-11 11:35:47

I've been giving it a lot of thought, Petal, trying to figure it out...

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 11:56:58

It really does brdgirl! How can you come back with a response to that without saying "your mum is wrong" ??!!

I find, "different home, different rules" works sometimes, but then again, that's not very nice for the kid is it.

allnewtaketwo Tue 26-Jul-11 11:57:18

Also empathise with this a lot

DSSs do not exhibit like skills at all appropriate for their age. "Teaching" them to use a knife and fork took years - until DSS1 was about 13 as I recall.

The main cause, in our case, is due to their mother's controlling nature and her need to feel needed. She controls everything they do, including their thoughts, and hence is seemingly resolutely against teaching them life skills.

DH tries, to be fair - but due to the polar opposite approach from his ex, for him to change any behaviour is pretty difficult as it would effectively result in him nagging constantly, which he is clearly not always wanting to do during his limited time with them.

Any comments from me to DH results in him accusing me of a character assassination of the DSSs

So I disengage, and accept that they are growing into young incompetent adults. But their mother is confident that she is doing a sterling job, so hey ho.

glasscompletelybroken Tue 26-Jul-11 12:16:41

My DSD's are with us half the time and their mother half the time and as far as I can see there is no "normal life" in either house. I think their mother does all the housework, shopping, boring things when they are with us and spends the time they are with her doing "fun" things. Their dad is the same. When my kids were 10 they were changing their own bed-sheets - I don't think my 10 year old DSD is even aware that this has to happen!

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 12:18:38

Allnew, I could have written most of that post - apart from the bit about DP as he doesn't mind me speaking my mind fortunately, and usually gets in first with the character assasinations wink

The last line made me laugh - DP had an email conversation a little while ago whereby he asked his ex if she would stop smacking their DD (nearly 13) as he thought it wad degrsading and not age appropriate. She came back with "If I'm such a bad mother, how do you explain that our daughter is turning in to such a wonderful, outstanding and impressive young woman?"

Err... we just looked at one another and said "is she?!"

What she means is "pretty" DSd is very attractive. In her mother's eyes having an attractive daughter is the ultimate acheivement.

Petal02 Tue 26-Jul-11 12:19:25

GCB – I don’t think my SS gets ‘normal life’ at either house either. His mother is too busy with her new baby to bother about him (which is sad), whilst DH goes off to the other extreme.

Allnew – I’m in the same boat as you; if I say anything about SS’s lack of development DH interprets it as character assassination against SS.

Do our men-folk react so defensively because they know we’re right ???????

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 12:20:30

That's really sad glass. My DSd complains that things are broing in our house because we carry on as normal when she's here.
If that means doing food shopping, or cleaning the kitchen floor, or all stripping our beds, that's what we do.

glasscompletelybroken Tue 26-Jul-11 12:55:57

It is sad because it is them who will suffer in the long run. Life isn't all having fun and doing exactly what you want all the time.

allnewtaketwo Tue 26-Jul-11 13:18:59

I think it's their future wives/relationships that will suffer in the long run

theredhen Tue 26-Jul-11 13:24:48

I used to think that DS was disadvantaged because he only had one home and one consistent parent. I used to wish he had another parent who really wanted to see him not just occassionally had him as a "visitor".

Having now lived with kids who have both parents fighting over them and treating them with kid gloves for fear of giving the "other side" ammunition, I would not wish that on DS in a million years. He is far better off emotionally than they are. sad

NotaDisneyMum Tue 26-Jul-11 15:57:09

Ladies, it's good to finally feel that I'm not alone! grin

As I outlined in my recent ramblings about DSS8, i have been battling with this myself, too.

DSS has only begun to independently toilet in the last 12 months - I know children develop at different rates, but really!

I can totally relate to the concept of DCs being viewed as possessions by one (or both) their separated parents; nearly three years after the divorce, DSC's needs are not top of their parents (particularly their mothers) priorities sad

DP has quite recently begun to see his role as equipping DSC with the skills to lead a rewarding life, making a positive contribution to society, and he's changed from a DisneyDad to someone who can apply tough love when necessary and I love him all the more for it! Their mother seems to have a very different agenda - and manipulates and controls them to achieve whatever it is she wants (I haven't worked out what her goal is yet, though!).

There are so many complicated psychological issues at play it's impossible to know how to unpick it - childhood experiences, social pressure, personality disorders.....all are influencing factors, I'm sure!

I do know that I have certain lines that if ever crossed, would end my relationship with DP - I will never, ever share a bed with DSS (he co-sleeps at his mums), I will not get involved in DSS personal care (washing, dressing, toileting) and if his manners don't improve as he gets older, I will not take responsibility for DSS in public wink

As for the rest, we'll muddle through - but I fear that there is going to be a generation of incapable, entitled adults in a few years time!

berkshirefem Tue 26-Jul-11 16:05:45

(I haven't worked out what her goal is yet, though!)

Hmm, it's tricky isn't it.

NotaDisneyMum Tue 26-Jul-11 16:06:17

Spare a thought for those bioMums/Dads whose DC are 'Disney-parented' too; they have to work twice as hard to overcome the mollycoddling!

My DD10 views her home with me as 'boot camp'; she has chores, responsibilities and expectations - which she finds a lot harder because in the other half of her life, her dad is totally committed to 'making things up to her' and ensuring that she enjoys her childhood for as long as possible.
He shields her from all household chores and routines - saying that he enjoys the time she is living with him so he wants to make the most of it and not have to spoil it by doing menial tasks.
I haven't the heart to tell him that DD and i have most of our fun together doing day-to-day things wink

NotaDisneyMum Tue 26-Jul-11 16:09:08

She's turning her daughter into a mini-me, that's fairly clear; but I don't think she's worked out quite how DSS fits into their life; all she knows is that she doesn't want to share him with DP sad

berkshirefem Wed 27-Jul-11 10:28:01

Yes, maybe that's it - turning her in to a mini-me... Hmm I will ponder on that for a bit. It does make sense actually because DSds mum has told me she never wanted to work and her goal was always to "marry well" get a maid and be looked after. Because "what woman wants any stress in their life if they can avoid it?"

She and I once had a heart to heart where she said she was devastated she had done such a bad job of achieving her goal because she married someone who wanted a woman who could do things for herself (my DP). Apparently she pretended to be independant while they dated (6 months) and then once they were married she showed her true colours and thought as he loved her he would be fine with it. He wasn't... maybe she's making damn sure it's obvious to everyone that her DD is an incapable damsel in distress so she attracts the right husband...?

Bit deep but you could have hit on something there grin

HappyWanderer Mon 01-Aug-11 15:24:03

We've had similar issues on and off with my DP's daughter. At 5, DSD is capable of dressing herself, putting on her socks, putting on her shoes if they are velcro or wellies, and brushing her teeth. She's refused to do all of these at some point or another ("You do it Daddy"). She is also capable of saying "please" and "thank you" but has to be re-coached into doing it almost every time she's dropped off at ours.

I think part of it is definitely a clash of parenting styles. My MIL dresses DSD and brushes her teeth when looking after her for us, and we suspect DP's ex does a lot for DSD too. Maybe they aren't patient enough to teach her, or maybe they just like to feel needed. And maybe they aren't thinking when they jump up at the first "I'm thirsty."

It might also be conflict avoidance. DSD is a sweet kid, but sensitive and prone to cry when she's in trouble. My DP felt very guilty last night that he had told off his daughter for disobeying him just before he dropped her off with her mum for a week, because she burst into tears when he did. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist was it was his last day with her, he wanted to have fun, he snapped at her for giving him attitude and not doing as she was told, and he misses her now. I had to remind him that DSD is still a kid, even if her folks have split up, and that she still needs boundaries just like a kid whose parents are together. DSD is prone to cry when you are firm with her about her independence too, so maybe there is a bit of guilt (or impatience for tears) on his ex's side too.

It's not all bad with MIL and DP's ex - despite everything, they both have DSD doing chores at their houses on a regular basis, which we haven't yet been organised enough to set up. blush

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