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difficult Step child, ex-wife uses him as a weapon for 'more money'!

(24 Posts)
langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 11:42:27

I have just read an old blog about someone having a tough time with 3 step children and really sympathised with them. I have only one, he is 9 years old and has the ability to woo me one minute, when I become putty in his hand, then cut me down with the severest of hatred the next. I don't know what I would do if there were more step children....probably run for the hills.

My step child lives with his mother and visits us regularly - although access has been cut from 45% of the time with us to about 15% of the time. My husband and his ex-wife both have joint custody. The access has been cut because we are financially unable to pay what his mother wants us to pay (a figure that is a monthly full-time wage for some! originally it was over £1100 pm plus school fees, uniform etc etc! he would give the clothes off his back to see his son) She left my husband for someone with a large income and estate. We can not compete with her current lifestyle so our maintenance to her is bound to be a drop in the ocean, although significant to us.

My husband is a very loving hands on Daddy and he never wanted the family to split, it still breaks his heart every time his son has to go back home. He too came from a divorced family in similar circumstances. I just think it is a very sad scenario and I dont think people really realise what severe damage they do when they split up a family for their own gain. However I have never been in such a scenario so I dont really know how it feels.

Anyway to add...My stepson arrives in designer clothes and has often thrown himself on the floor in floods of tears if he has got them dirty as 'Mummy will be cross'. He will then throw the blame at myself or husband as if we put the mud there....this is typical...if there is a drama to be caused he will work out how best to get there! The clothes he has with us range from Next sale to Sainsbury's and Asda....he always looks nice but if he wants to play football in the garden he can get mud on them...he is 9 afterall! I met him when he was 6 and she has frequently dressed him in ralph lauren jumpers, white armani jeans....need I say more. So I am not surprised her bills are high, along with the ponies, horse lorry, endless competition costs (this is her sport that she is encouraging him to do)...I could go on. It is lovely for him to have such opportunities but if he lived with us, we simply couldn't afford to do such sports.

Being a step mother is a thankless task, it takes up most of my thoughts. I wrack my brain just thinking how to have a simple easy time with him. I have come up with various ways but none seem to be failsafe. Someone said 'detach' yourself. Provide food, clean clothes and bedding but ignore the looks, tantrums, moods, sweet talking when he wants something or wants me to side with him against Daddy. It is hard if you have a heart and all you do is feel sorry for the 'adult' situation he has to deal with and the poison his mother drip feeds him. he brings a dark sullen cloud to our household (Daddy, me and our one year old)and turns us upside down. My husband and I have tried all of the above and insert 'that's nice' whenever a loaded statement is made (on average 1 statement per 30 mins)...i.e. the minimum is.. Mummy's gravy is more thick than yours. Even though he has asked for 2nds. I have resisted him to wear that at least haha! Last week, he went away with his mother he waited for my husband to withdraw some spending money from the cash machine before telling him he didnt love him anymore and wants to change his surname. This is when my husband finds it difficult to just say 'that's nice'.

Hurrumph. Anyone had similar circumstances with successful outcomes?

Thank you

SingingTunelessly Tue 16-Aug-11 12:33:23

First off, yes step-parenting is a pretty tough role <understatement> Secondly, can I just ask why you are saying "that's nice" to a 9yo that is being very rude to you both? (The cash machine incident in particular). If you were talking about 3yo I could understand more but at 9 your DH should be parenting with some discipline. Your DH sounds very 'Disney' and believe me for your own sanity as a step-mum this needs to be nipped in the bud.

Ok, how to do it. That is the million dollar question and are there many of us on here who struggle so you are not on your own. smile Detach is the usual advice and does work to some extent but I've not found it to be the total answer.

Sorry I'm not being more helpful but you know something, I don't think there are any easy answers or in fact answers at all. You muddle on through doing your best and get taken totally for granted. Being a parent can be a slog at times being a step-parent is off the scale.

theredhen Tue 16-Aug-11 12:51:19

Sounds like DSS is trying to get a reaction. At 9 I would suggest he knows that he is being damn rude to you and really can't believe that you are letting him get away with it! Give the child some boundaries as I don't think ignoring is getting you anywhere, to be honest. Explain that it's rude to say the things he does and for example, just take the gravy away next time. No shouting or getting angry just simply say "you don't like our gravy, so you won't be having anymore'.

Hopefully then it will teach him not to say the more serious stuff, which I admit is very hard to give consequences for.

Just to let you know that I've recently had a similar thing with breakfast cereal. DSD aged 8 likes the chocolate cereal that I have always bought for my DS. However, she kept on telling me how much better the cereal is at her Mums, how many more vitamins etc (just a bog standard chocolate cereal, different make) so I bought a box and guess what? DSD won't ask me for cereal anymore but goes running to Daddy because she knows she gets the "super duper" one her Mum gets her when she asks me (which she doesn't really want), but what she actually wants is the cereal we have had all along! hmm

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 12:55:24

Thanks Singing...I could have explained myself better but it would have been a book if I hadnt tried to keep it 'short'.

Husband is not disney at all but we are in difficult situation where if step child is disciplined or has to do something he doesnt want to do he will tell his mother that he doesnt want to visit us. Its all a big game. She appallingly then throws in the 'pay more and you can see more' card. It is such an ridiculous situation as all Husband wants to do is see his son and be responsible for providing for his son on a reasonable level.

The 'that's nice' is just an example for response to a loaded statement that he knows has, in the past, upset me (when I mean upset I dont mean I cry or have a drama though - I will tell him that is rude (his father now backs me...after years of not)- this was his way of controlling a situation and enjoying it. So I will say 'thats lovely' then divert the attention to ask him about his football training etc.

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 13:16:09

Thank you for your input theredhen. We are in a difficult situation with disciplining - as I explained to SingingTunelessly.

I make the same gravy every time and depending on his mood depends upon the gravy's worthiness. He has picked up on the fact that both myself and husband can cook a roast but my husband isnt bothered about gravy, where as step son and I both like to have gravy. It means it is a lever for step son to have a dig.

I spent all Sunday morning playing with him and he opened up to me about how he finds things difficult and I showed him how he can tell me anything he wants and we can try to work out how to make it better.

Then in the afternoon he said something that was so cutting, my feelings for him just fell on the floor. I feel so sorry for him and no child should have to go through this but he makes it really hard to love him unconditionally.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 13:23:43

"Mummy's gravy is more thick than yours."

KAY. You're being oversensitive. This is not a loaded statememt, it would bge if he was 30, but he's nine. It's just a statement of fact that his mother's gravy is thicker than yours.

Beamur Tue 16-Aug-11 13:33:06

You don't have to love him unconditionally. His Mum and Dad do that bit, you're there to support Dad and help provide a safe, loving home - if you have a kind and loving relationship with this boy, thats a real bonus.
He will play you both against his Mum, because at the moment he can.
Personally, I think you and your DH need to bring in some discipline, even if it means he goes complaining to Mummy. It will help in the long run. Would he really not visit, or is it just a threat?
If he says something mean, tell him it's not on - don't 'that's nice', or don't comment at all.
It helps if all parents are on the same page, having one undermine the other doesn't help anyone.

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 13:37:54 you have a step child? If you did you would know that the gravy is the tip of the iceberg of insults. Like theredhen said, his mother's cereal, carpet, curtains, bath, loo even bloody tap water! is better than ours. It is a joke...until you live with it. It is just the frequency of the insults gets you down. I wouldnt chose to be around anyone who enjoys putting you down, I dont think anyone would and this is no different.

It is good to find a site to get it off my chest to you guys out there.

stabiliser15 Tue 16-Aug-11 13:49:07

Good advice from Beamur. I think you have to simply rise above it, and decide on the standard of behaviour which is going to be acceptable in your house, and stick to it, no matter what.

My DH was originally a real Disney Dad, guilty about the situation his DD was in (not his fault) and wanting to constantly make their time together fun at the expense of everything else. He eventually realised that he would do more favours for her in the long run if she was made to adhere to a certain standard of behaviour when she was with us. It didnt take her long to realise that different houses have different rules and now she accepts it quite easily.

It was a battle during the changeover, and we (and particularly DH) had to have a will of iron to deal with the tantrums (lots of "its not fair", "I want to go home", tears, sobbing etc). There was a lot of "Mummy lets me do x,y,z", or "but I dont have to at home" etc. However, I think as theredhen said, be matter of fact and unfailingly logical in responses. So if he doesn't like gravy, he doesn't get anymore, because he doesn't like it. Another example which happens all the time in our house is that DSD never finishes vegetables, because she says she is not hungry, but then she says she has a tiny bit of room for pudding. She simply cannot argue with DH saying, if you're not hungry for vegetables, you can't be hungry for pudding.

It has also paid off, not just in terms of her general behaviour when she is with us, but also she realises what she gains from us, and she's only 5. When a German friend of her grandparents complemented her on her excellent table manners on night at a family dinner at PIL's house, she told him it was because she has to have those manners "at Daddy and stabiliser15's house".

It isn't easy, but in the long run, I think it would be worth it to have your house rules. Good luck with it all.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 13:49:30

Yes, I do, I have two, they are eight and six.

And their comments about my roast chicken being "Really horrible, Colditz! When our mum cooks it, it's nice!" are not veiled attacks on my relationshi[p with their dad. They just don't like the chicken and they are saying so. I can't pretend to care, you cannot possibly please children even most of the time, and I don't try.

I am able to spot this for what it is because my biological children (8 and 5)do the exact same thing to their father's partner, but she doesn't have children and she takes it personally.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 13:52:47

You're treating him as older than he is - you're treating him like a tiny adult instead of an overgrown toddler. When he says genuinely rude things, tell him to stop being rude. When he makes comments about the food, say "Don't eat it then". And stop taking it so personally! You're a grown woman, he's nine years old, he only has the power over you that you give him. Rise above it, for goodness sake! And wait until your own precious baby is nine.....

mrsravelstein Tue 16-Aug-11 13:56:40

i agree with colditz

as for "he is 9 years old and has the ability to woo me one minute, when I become putty in his hand, then cut me down with the severest of hatred the next", that's exactly what my own just turned 10 year old ds is like to me. in fact i think that's what most 10 year olds are like.

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 14:13:37

Hi Beamur.
No, sure I suppose I dont have to love him unconditionally but that is what I have been lead to believe I must.

He isnt a naughty child as such just sullen and awkward. It is just the comments which are unnecessary. I am sure he resents me being in his father's life too. He is very mixed up and it is a sad situation. His mother left my husband 5 years ago but she blamed my husband for it and his son blames him for it too (although he isnt entirely sure why). I came along a few years later (Bit of background info). If he is rude he will be told so and asked to apologise. Even this will be reported back to his mother (I have had it out with her on the phone so I know) and it seemed by her tone of voice that she delights in him saying such things so it continues. It will continue until we pay her more money. Simple as that. She comes across quite sweet and rational but her actions are pretty irresponsible.

I think there are too many exciting things happening at Mummy's house they have many 'toys' which are available with fiscal ease and at 9 that is the draw where as he says it is boring at our house even though he is 'entertained' constantly when here by his father. We live an hour away so it isnt like my husband can just pop over and see him for an hour every other night. He wants and thinks he should have a proper relationship with him.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:17:25

Don't mix the child's behavior with his mother's behavior. He cannot help that his mother's a selfish pig. You DON'T have to love him unconditionally, indeed you don't have to love him at all, but you DO have to treat him with kindness - true kindness, not disengagement from his horrible behavior. This means a sanction from your husband when he's naughty.

He's bound to be a shit with you if his mother's telling him to. Just keep your grown up head on and treat him like the small, confused child he is.

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 14:27:17

Okay Colditz. Yesterday we had been playing cricket outside with step son, all laughing having fun. Within 10 minutes I heard. So Daddy if you die you are going to let HER live in the house? I would sell it and give me the money. Well where will Langalini and your brother live? I don't care.

I'm sorry I just dont understand where this hatred comes from? If I was cruel to him, then yes I would understand. I ask my mother and sister what I was like or my sister's children were like at the same age? They didnt have such venom or wonder about the financial implications of a parent dying. It goes along with the figures that he quotes at his father for maintenance.

I dont know - where did the age of innocence disappear?

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:31:35

he's nine. They can be cruel. In ten years time, with enough appropriate intervention from your husband, he should have grown out of it.

AsI said, if his mother is egging him on, he will keep doing it - because he is nine.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:34:51

My own 8 year old informed me that he wants to live at his dad's so he can play Tower Defence three as much as he wants, and never eat sweetcorn again. And his little brother can stay here so they don't have to share a room ever again. And no, he doesn't want to see me or visit me, he will be too busy playing Tower Defence Three.

Nine year olds don't even know what death means. They don't know what grief is unless they have felt it themselves. It is not the same as an adult saying these things, adults have context. Nine yearolds don't.

So he'd like to disappear you from his life? So? He can't. That's That. Hard cheese, kid, live with it.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:37:21

And WRT his younger half sibling - you feel love beyond reason because it's your child. I'm sure your husband does too.

But don't expect a nine year old to - he has no protective instincts (because he's nine), they don't have the same mother and they aren't being raised together. He may always be indifferent towards his sibling.

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 14:42:20

Yes, I do treat him with grown up kindness, which is why it hurts so much because it is done with genuine conviction. He doesnt see me buckle - that is done in private.

Just never spoken about it until now so it is good to have your support. I realise that there are loads of people in the same boat, but it is becoming so consuming with the ex's demands on a weekly basis that I wish they would all just F' off. We have a gorgeous 12 month old baby who is so contented, sleeps 12 hours a night, never cries, etc and because he is so good and low maintenance our firefighting with the ex and step son seem to take centre stage.

Thank you for your comments, I will take them on board.

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:53:31

Don't rise to anything the ex says. Don't change the way you do things because of the ex. Your husband's job is the ex, your job is to be a neutral grown up being all grown up and stable in the background of what must be a frightening and unstable life for a small child.

Find an interest of his. Snatch him away from his dad and his half sibliing and go and do something cool that you could only do with a nine yearold. Areyou near the coast? Take him rock pooling. It costs nothing and I bet, with a mother as self absorbed as his sounds, that he's never been.

Make friends with him and make a joke of his ridiculous statements about money. Of course he's money obsessed, his mother has taught him that the most important thing in life is money! She cares more about her money than she does about her son's relationship with his dad, so he has learned to care more about money than family ties. Hence his silly comment.

how about (just an idea) instead of saying "Don't be rude!" - you laugh outright and say "Don't be such a baby!"

colditz Tue 16-Aug-11 14:54:58

I suggest this because whilst both Ds1 and Dss don't care if I think they are rude, they HATE to have it pointed out that their maturity is lacking (and it is)

langalini Tue 16-Aug-11 16:24:27

Good plan, and thanks.

Smum99 Tue 16-Aug-11 21:11:46

I do understand why you feel upset - it's natural and very disappointing. I was in a similar situation - DSS's mum is highly materialistic and it translates to DSS. DSS's mum also instigated a campaign to ensure DSS wouldn't like spending time with his dad. It's called parental alienation and is finally being recognised by courts. Fortunately for us it didn't work and now that DSS is a teen he recognises that his mother can be very selfish and unpleasant. We haven't had to do or say anything, obviously we're not the only ones she does this to so DSS sees the behaviour frequently..It is therefore more important that we model the right behaviour so that DSS sees an alternative view.

It will get better so just hang on in there.Also consider why the ex is behaving like this? If she was truly happy and contented she would not be directing such awfulness towards your family. This was the situation with the ex - she had multiple affairs, left DH and jumped into a series of unsuccessful relationships. Rather than take responsibility for her actions she blames everyone else and uses possessions as her feel good factor.

Don't let her nastiness impact your life - be happy, deal with DSS in the best way you can, always with kindness and in the long run your efforts will be acknowledged. DSS now buys a mother's day card and thanks me for my involvement in his life - it means so much and I would not have thought it would have been possible a few years ago.

Oh, and come on here and rant, that also helps

Beamur Wed 17-Aug-11 22:39:08

My step kids have never been hostile to me, but my DSD obviously found it difficult to understand why I was around when her parents were still married. (I met DP after they had been seperated for several months, but were still married). Her tactic was to either present their wedding photo at the dinner table or ask about anniversaries. DP and DSS used to look awkward and refuse to join the conversation and leave it to me! (Thanks guys). But I think it was because she simply did not understand what was happening, she was about 7 or 8 when this happened.
Best of luck with being consistent, but maybe slightly more detached with this lad - but I like Colditz suggestions of finding some ground where you can find some mutual interest. It may well improve over time, but be prepared to take the rough with the smooth!

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