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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 !

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