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What are we doing next Dad?

(82 Posts)
groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 08:32:13

DSSs (17 and 14) come round every other weekend, as per strict access schedule since they were young. Court order has of course now expired for eldest but rota unchanged in practice.

DSS2 is lovely child to get along with, has his own interets, hobbies etc. DSS1 is a whole different ball game. Every other weekend in life, before he comes round "What are we doing this weekend Dad?". When he's at ours, "What are we doing next Dad". So, so wearing and frustrating from a child/young adult this age.

Half of the problem is that when at his mother's house he does absolutely everything with her. Food shopping, gardening, out walking, looking after the younger children. So he's 100% occupied by her. Doesn't ever see friends outside of school. No hobbies of his own. No part time job. No learning difficulties, does well at school. But socially and emotionally you would draw the conclusion that he's quite under-developed. His mother imo has encouraged this dependence and she is very strictly controlling of him. Actively discouraged friends when he was younger, still not "allowed" to do a very long list of stuff for no valid reasons etc etc etc.

So when at our house, when he's not 100% "occupied" by a parent, he is at a complete loss as to what to so with himself. Hence the constant "what are we doing next dad?". DH hasn't been a Disney type and for years has been trying to turn this question back and ask DSS1 what he would like to do, what ideas he has himself for the weekend. But it falls on deaf ears.

When I spoke to people about this, say 5 years ago, people said "He'll grow out of it", "He'll develop his own interests". But he hasn't. I personally can't see him changing in any sort of medium term future. I am completely envisioning a 20 odd year old coming round and asking "What are we doing next dad".

BTW he doesn't "have" to come over. DH has had various conversations about him about this, and he definitely wants to come round. So that's not the problem.

So - what do you think DH should do about the constant "What are we doing next Dad?" questions? Any ideas?

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 09:42:00


Petal02 Wed 09-Jan-13 10:24:35

I don’t have any words of wisdom, but I wanted to sympathise with you, and we have a very similar situation with my DSS, who is 18.

DH is keen to encourage him to engage in a more age-appropriate lifestyle, rather than the fixed access rota with a structured entertainment schedule, but DSS is still very keen to visit as per the rota and DH won’t challenge this. The problem we have, is that if DH doesn’t entertain DSS, then DSS simply spends the entire visit either on his computer or lazing on the sofa in front of the TV, basically watching the clock tick round til it’s time for him to go home again.

This insistence on a visiting schedule actually impedes occasions when they could do normal father/son stuff together – ie there’s a Cricket Masterclass taking place next month, on a Sunday morning, DH and DSS would both enjoy doing that together, but as it falls outside of rostered visiting, it won’t happen.

In an ideal world, DH would tell DSS there’s no point in coming to visit for days on end if he just hangs round the house, but that’s never going to happen. By now, I thought DSS would be popping in and out on an adhoc basis, but scheduled access has to be adhered to.

So as I said, no words of wisdom from me, but I feel your pain.

Petal02 Wed 09-Jan-13 10:26:14

And before anyone suggests this – DSS does not have any mental health issues, he’s simply very young for his age, very clingy and very lazy.

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 13:27:54

Petal how do you cope with the actual weekends? I'm getting stressed already and it' 2 days away. How do the access weekends pan out for you?

flurp Wed 09-Jan-13 15:33:23

My step children will be like this in a few year too I'm sure.
They can't just play or entertain themselves like my dc do. It's always where are we going what are we doing ... Etc If you don't have an answer they whine continuously that they are bored! I have been saying for years that they should learn to entertain themselves sometimes but they simply can't or won't! Poor DP is run ragged every other weekend trying to think up things to do with them. He is rather jealous when my kids go up and play with their Lego for a few hours leaving me free to do my own thing!!!

Petal02 Wed 09-Jan-13 16:07:19

Groundhog, when we were on the “old regime” (Thurs night til 6pm Sunday EOW) it was really difficult. If DH and I wanted to go anywhere, we had to take DSS with us, which used to get very silly. We had to take him with us when I needed to choose new glasses, he had to come to Tesco with us, we had a failed attempt at choosing new kitchen work tops (DSS always used to position himself between us and the goods on display, making it impossible to shop). It seems perfectly natural to have DH with me, but when you’ve got two 6ft males trailing round the shops it’s quite impractical. So many completely nroaml weekend activities had to wait til child-free weekends, which I could understand if he were 6, but not at 18.

Sunday were the worst; DSS didn’t usually get out of bed til 2pm-ish, and as he had to be back at his mother’s (having had his evening meal) by 6pm, we could do very little with Sunday afternoons, and basically used to watch the clock tick round til it was time for him to go home.

In the early days I often used to go off and do my own thing on access weekends, but this didn’t always work – it just used to make me feel resentful, so I didn’t actually achieve anything. Also, DH used to get upset at my absence, which caused rows.

Basically, alternate weekends were “dead time”, all due to the fact that DH had to babysit his 18 year old. I used to post about it here, and generally got slated.

But DSS then started working on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, his workplace was 2 mins walk from his mother’s house. It made access weekends completely unworkable; DSS still wanted to come to us as usual but then Saturdays/Sundays were backwards and forwards (and then backwards and forwards again) between our home and the ex’s village. And then repeat on Sundays.

So I suggested to DH that we changed the arrangements, and to my surprise he agreed that DSS now visits from Thurs evening- Saturday lunch time each week, so it’s “little and often” rather than a protracted fortnightly residential that didn’t work for anyone. DSS doesn’t get any less time with us (we had to work this out very carefully) but once DH has dropped him back home on Saturday lunch time (he’s then in the right place to go work on Sat/Sun afternoons) the rest of the weekend is ours. It’s made the situation far more bearable; we tend to make Friday evening ‘family nights’, then DH takes DSS to the snooker hall on Saturday morning while I play (indoor) tennis, so they get some quality time together. As one of my friends pointed out, that’s probably about the same amount of 1-2-1 time that a resident father would spend with an 18 yr old, so I don’t think DSS is losing out.

But to answer your original question – having a young adult, that you’re not allowed to kick up the backside, hanging round the house EOW, living the lifestyle of a much younger child, was almost too much to bear sometimes. DH really struggles to parent DSS as a young adult, he finds it much easier to revert to parent/child mode. In fact only last week DH was wondering if we could find a child-friendly activity that we could all do together on a Saturday morning – until I reminded him that his “child” is 18 and that a trip to the Wacky Warehouse or Soft Play Zone probably wouldn’t be suitable.

I realise that your situation is made more difficult as you’ve also got a younger DSS, and that your older stepson “piggy backs” onto the more normal arrangements you have with DSS14. But I want you to know that I totally understand your frustration.

NotaDisneyMum Wed 09-Jan-13 16:30:30

My DSS is a lot younger but used to demonstrate similar behaviour - we knew that he was capable of occupying himself because he spends days at a time in the care of his elderly grandma who is disabled and housebound and is in bed a lot of the time.
Possibly because of that, and the expectations his Mum had given him about visits to Dad, DSS used to assume that the weekend would be wall to wall entertainment.

We resolved it by planning household chores for some of the weekend - so if he asked 'what are we doing today?' DP would tell him that they were going to clear out the shed, weed the garden, put up shelves or something similar. Some of the tasks captured DSS imagination and he'd happily help change the car tyre, for instance, but others were a drudge - but DP never said that he had to help; he could go and do his own thing if he wanted to smile Over time, DSS has learnt to wait and see what we have planned wink

purpleroses Wed 09-Jan-13 16:43:32

I find suggestions that they help with the gardening, tidy their rooms or help me cook a meal tends to get rid of most of the expectations of entertainment. Thankfully DP tends to use the same tactic, as he gets pretty much no leisure time except when the kids are here, so has to do all those sort of things with them around. Could you see if your two DSC could do anything more together? Or offer lifts into town, to a friend's etc to help facilitate more independent life? Or would it help if you and your DH made some rough plans for the weekend that include whatever you'd like to see happen, and then when DSS asks what is going to happen, there's an answer to give him. And make it clear that if it isn't what he fancies doing, he can make his own plans.

Nice to hear your situation has got a bit better, Petal

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:28:21

Thanks all. Petal omg at the thought of finding a "child friendly activity" for an 18yo!

NADM I used to use the chore response. So if DSS said what are we doing next, I used to say "well since you're stuck for things to do you can empty the dishwasher, or whatever". Tbh though, it didn't make any difference and I ended up giving up.

Purple roses one if the problems is that he doesn't appear to have any friends. Or well none he sees outside school anyway. I suspect this has a lot to do with his unusual lifestyle and that hes happy to hang around with mum all the time. What on earth does he say when the other students are talking about what he did at the weekend, I wonder?

The trouble with us having a loose plan for the weekend is that it's providing him with a solution rather than making him think? DH wondered if a new tact of pretty much letting him feel very bored might force him into action. I'm not convinced but we can try both those tacts in turn I guess!

I think he still views himself as that little kid who goes to dads so dad can have "access" and that it is dads job to entertain him. I don't think his behaviour will change until that mindset does iykwim?

purpleroses Wed 09-Jan-13 17:31:35

But if he's the same with his mum, then it's not really a result of the "access time" thing though, is it? Sounds more a result of him not really having much of a social life. Does he have friends at school/college? Boys can need a bit of a prod to set up social things with their mates I think.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 17:33:09

My DP takes DSS1 and DSS2 to the gym for a session with a personal trainer every Sunday morning (including the weekends they are at their mother's). DP is clear with the DSSs that they have to be prepared to do whatever the trainer requires. DP always tells the trainer to massacre them grin.

The DSSs love going to the gym with DP... and we both love that we don't hear another squeak out of them all afternoon grin.

They also have regular activities (English tutor, tennis coach) on Saturday. Honestly, at this age boys need regular structured activity.

NotaDisneyMum Wed 09-Jan-13 17:35:34

Groundhog - it means you get 5 minutes to put your feet up while he empties the dishwasher, though! wink

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:38:59

He says he doesn't "have time" for structured activity. In reality his mum likes his time free so he can help her with shopping/kids/gardening whatever (although she is married)

Purple he doesn't have the same issue at mums because she keeps him 100% busy with the above things. Also he does all is homework at her house which means he has almost no homework to do here. I don't think he has mentioned a single friend since he was about 8.

We don't have this trouble at all with DSS2. He doesn't enjoy structured activities at all, but us totally happy put on his bike, with football, art/music.

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:39:46

Yes NADM there is that!

purpleroses Wed 09-Jan-13 17:41:19

Yes, but he's not learnt to entertain himself at either house - he's used to being kept busy by parents.

I'd try your letting him get really bored approach alongside some suggestions of things he might like to do, and see if that works.

If you have a loose plan for the weekend, it might not fix DSS's behaviour, but it might stop it bothering you so much as you'd be doing whatever you'd like to be doing anyway, rather than building the weekend round him.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 17:43:39

Children who haven't got any hobbies (because their parents never paid for activities for them when they were little) are often really bored or find it difficult to entertain themselves.

Perhaps you should try paying for something that he could learn to do?

Petal02 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:44:59

Bonsoir, you honestly think that males of 17/18 years of age need structured weekend activity????? At what age, in your opinion, should they cease to need this?

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:46:19

Tbh I do come up with plans for the weekend, but increasingly these involve me being out of the house at weekends. DH has just spoken to them both on the phone. With DSS2 there was an animated chat about DSSs week. With DSS1 the first thing he said was "what are we doing this weekend?"

Yes purple you're right. The main difference is that his mother appears to like him being this way ( she has never wanted him to mix with others really or having any outside 'influences'), whereas I find it infuriating and DH finds it a mix between worrying and annoying

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 17:46:40

Yes of course they do Petal02.

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:47:07

The thought of this for the next 5+ years is sad.

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 17:47:48

I'm not planning on denying the DSSs sport etc any time soon? Why would I? They make great progress and it keeps them out of trouble!

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:47:58

DSS1 went to plenty of paid activities, so I don't agree with your theory at all Bonsoir

Bonsoir Wed 09-Jan-13 17:49:19

And why doesn't he do any anymore? Tennis? Gym? Wakeboarding? Chess? Etc etc.

Poor teenagers, why are they expected to have such boring weekends and not complain sad?

groundhogday17 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:49:46

Tbh I think it's the dominance of paid organised activities that ate partly to blame for the lack of imagination in many teens. There simply wasn't this trend a couple of decades ago yet kids still found plenty of things to do. It wasn't all laid on a plate do more creativity was required

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