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Blended family - kids going absolutely bonkers whenever they are around each other. At our wits end!

(18 Posts)
HepHep Tue 04-Mar-14 21:57:14

(I've posted this in Parenting as well as I know that gets more traffic, but thought I would post here too)

Hello all, I hope some of you might be able to shed some light on this issue as it is causing some contention and we are both really unsure how to move forward with it. I'll try and be concise but obviously don't want to drip feed.

So DP and I have been dating for about 14 months, it was a long distance relationship at the start and we are both women. Not sure the latter is relevant but it slightly affects the parenting dynamic as we are both mothers and the main carer for our respective children, IYSWIM. I moved in with DP fully in November, until then there had been a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and I still spend about a week a month in my old location a few hundred miles away so my DS can spend time with his dad. But we for all intents and purposes live together full time. I home educate my DS, and DPs DD goes to school and is with her dad ever other weekend, sometimes more. Our kids are around each other most evenings, alternate weekends and all holidays etc.

We were always delighted with how eerily well the kids got on together from the outset, but it has been getting more and more draining how incredibly bonkers they get when around each other.
DP has a DD of almost 8, and my DS is 5.5. When they are around each other they both behave like they are 3 or 4, and I am not exaggerating. Screaming, shouting, being quite naughty and inconsiderate and just generally being hell to be around. They seem to show off to each other or egg each other on in terms of using rude words or laughing after one of us has told them off, etc. As soon as they are on their own, or with any other children at all, they are both fine - their normal selves. And individually they are both great kids, who can act their age and be a real pleasure to be around. Together, they wind each other up and just become a bit hyper and horrendous.

It is getting more and more difficult and we are also at odds on how to deal with it. My DP thinks they are happy, kids will be kids and we shouldn't bother too much, although it also irritates her what they can be like at times. I would prefer to be stricter and more firm about what is and isn't acceptable behaviour, even if that means punishing them with timeout or withdrawn privileges or whatever until they understand that they can't dominate every situation with shrieking and horseplay the whole bloody time. This isn't just when we are in the house, it is when they are out as well. Every car journey, walk, trip anywhere. On one particular trip to the bank while I waited with both kids, I asked them about 5 times with increasing crossness to stop what they were doing and they looked at me blankly and just carried on each time. It was like they couldn't help themselves. Especially DPs DD will ignore what I say and only toe the line for her mother, which is demoralising and frustrating, although I know it's a common issue in step families, not that we are quite that yet.

There is an element of 'you child is leading my child astray! My DC is lovely when your DC isn't around' that I can feel creeping in when we discuss it, and that's why I want to deal with it because it's starting to cause tensions and resentment. DP is a MNer too grin so she will no doubt be along at some point to explain how it is for her. Sorry for the ramble. What on earth can we do to encourage to play with each other the way they do with any other children? Why are they going mental when together - does this ever happen in blended families that the kids get on SO well it's almost deafening? smile

mymiraclebubba Tue 04-Mar-14 23:04:40

I am inclined to agree with your DP that kids will be kids! Be glad they get along so well! However, I can see why this is frustrating for you and if it is causing you stress then a middle ground needs to be reached.

If your DS is home schooled, do you take him to local play groups etc so that he gets to interact with other children? If not this could be the issue and it may be that he is over compensating for this by being hyper around your DP's dd. At 5.5 he is old enough to join groups like Beavers - if you check out the scouting website you should be able to get details for your local group and hopefully that additional interaction may help to calm him down.

Good Luck!

HepHep Tue 04-Mar-14 23:36:13

Thanks, that's helpful smile he doesn't get loads of interaction with other kids, but some, and the thing is with other kids he is his usual lovely self and so is she. I am worried I guess as he is getting quite rude when they are with each other, and DPs DD behaves totally differently as well. If anything she is regressing more because they act about 3 and she is 8 while he is 5. If that makes sense.

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Wed 05-Mar-14 00:00:22

They must be trying to outdo or out attention grab each other grin

As I've got no real useful advice wink Ask about the parent nurturing course at your local SureStart centre its excellent

steppemum Wed 05-Mar-14 00:06:45

I wonder if it is the novelty.
They are sort of testing each other out, egging each other on. At some point they will get to a place of equilibrium, but of course their equilibrium may be more manic than you would like.

I think mymiracle may have also hit the nail on the head about other kids. He has a days worth of kid interaction stored up inside waiting for her to come home. Does he get lots of physical play too? He may need tiring out a bit more!

HepHep Wed 05-Mar-14 00:17:34

Excellent, thank you! See, this is why I love mumsnet grin They are actually very competitive, I hadn't considered that some of that bravado may be being channeled into being louder and ruder than each other.
I will try and get him exercised and socialised more and see if that helps his behaviour with her.

purpleroses Wed 05-Mar-14 08:32:25

I think it could be mainly them getting used to each other, dropping their barriers and generally settling down. My DD and DP's DS were both 7 when we got together, and 9/10 when we moved in and we had lots of trouble at first with them fighting - DSS would prod and poke DD whenever he thought no one was looking, she'd come running to me in tears.... partly it was DSS not really knowing how to deal with a child his own age (he has older siblings) and partly it was jealousy from my DD in particular who hated DSS having anything to do with "her" mum or "her" older brother.

They are hugely better now smile and mostly play happily together.

You say your DP tends to say kids will be kids and leave them to it - I'd be inclined to agree with her as long as both the DC are happy about things. And as long as they're not breaking stuff or otherwise doing things that are dangerous or making your life hard. If they're just being noisy I usually send ours upstairs so they can make a racket in their own rooms.

The "your child is leading mine astray" thing is a ongoing one I think though - I find I need to make a constant effort to say lots of good things to DP about his DC, so that I can also raise the odd bad one - and similarly try to be the first to acknowledge my own DC's faults.

Setting clear house rules also helped us a lot - these included things like no physical violence, the right to privacy in your own bedroom, as well as agreed rules about hours on computers or TV. Might be worth sitting down with your DP and trying to iron out what some of the issues that bother you and maybe don't bother her so much are, and whether you can agree to some compromises. When you're both used to being solo parents the change to being part of a family and having to go along with ways of doing things that aren't the way you'd have chosen yourself can be hard. And possibly even more so for you and your DP who are both mums, and used to having that central role in your DC's lives.

Breaking up the time together, arranging play dates, and spotting the trigger points for riots also helps - eg ours were always worst in those little bits of inbetween time when waiting to go somewhere.

HepHep Wed 05-Mar-14 09:25:12

The noise thing is definitely much more of a flashpoint because we live in a flat, and there is no way of not hearing them sad They also have a habit of deciding to be whereever we are and then horsing around, so the racket follows you from room to room.
Some great points there, thanks! I would love to get to a point where I don't have to shout over them 5 times just to be heard. I never thought 2 could make so much more noise than 1 - is it reasonable to sometimes do separate things with each child? Just to get some peace. I don't even know what is normal, it still feels like we are 2 family units rather than 1 so doing stuff away from the family feels almost like undermining something we are trying to nurture.

Kaluki Wed 05-Mar-14 09:50:04

I think you get used to your own child(ren) as well. I have 2 boys and although they have their moments they are on the whole fairly quiet and well behaved. Throw the two DSC into the mix and the volume doubles as well as the number of bodies! My DSD can't speak normally, she has to shout and the three boys all talk at once over each other! I struggled with it a lot when we got together but I have had to accept that four kids are louder than two!! I find the giggling and silly behaviour harder to deal with than the naughty stuff tbh - how can you tell them off for laughing?!!
I find taking them out and exercising them works wonders and also divide and conquer - when they get too much I physically separate them into different rooms to chill out a bit.

HepHep Wed 05-Mar-14 09:53:32

Yes, DPs DD is definitely about a thousand times louder than my offspring, although I have been told she can be quiet and peaceable. I have yet to see it as I am only ever around her when DS is grin

Xalla Wed 05-Mar-14 09:56:39

I loved reading your post OP. I have a DSD8 and a DS5 who behave similarly; I dread them being together because it's just carnage. They behave like imbeciles, egg each other on to be louder, sillier, ruder and completely ignore us when we try to get them to calm down. At some point it always ends in tears but then escalates again within the hour.

I'm stricter than DH, he's more able to 'play' than I am and can tolerate it for longer than me but even he gets frustrated with the screaming and idiocy.

My DS is well socialised I think, he's at a school he loves and does lots of after-school activities and sports. DSD is less keen on school and does less outside school. They're not together all the time; we recently moved some distance from DSD and contact went from being 50:50 on a week on / week off basis to her just being here for school holidays and every third weekend. I think the long periods apart have made it worse; they're literally hysterical when they see each other so I agree with the steppe mum; on some level it's the novelty factor. Sometimes I think there might be an element of jealousy, especially from DSD, and that she's trying to wind DS up to get him into trouble.

I had to fly on my own with them both recently as well as with my then 8 week old baby; they were so naughty on the plane I actually burst into tears when my DH met us at the airport confused

I'll be watching your thread with interest!

HepHep Wed 05-Mar-14 10:18:30

Oh god Xalia, you have my life! Minus the 8 week old baby, of course - respect. So glad that it's not just us in this situation.
I have been near tears on occasion over their behaviour. It is very hard. Perhaps you're right and it is the distance/novelty factor that is driving the massive amounts of hyped up madness. Or competitiveness/jealously. Who knows! I will keep you posted.

mymiraclebubba Wed 05-Mar-14 10:38:01

The lady who mentioned point scoring off each other's definitely on to another reason for it!

As hard as it is try and not let it get to you or it will ruin your life! The flat thing won't help, it drove me mad having dsd and dss in a flat with the noise but now we are in a house it's a lot less noticeable!

Time will tell but try the things suggested here and if not just up your wine intake or buy some ritalin and dose them both (joke obviously before i get shot)

purpleroses Wed 05-Mar-14 11:39:10

Yes definitely to having some time as separate units. I don't think that detracts from being a family. I think that a blended family is never going to have the kind of self-contained feel that a conventional nuclear family might. I do stuff with just my kids, and also try to do a bit of one to one stuff with just one of them. I encourage DP to do likewise, though he finds this a challenge with 4 of them and mostly it's just a case of taking one child with him on some errand, or to Tescos! Gives them a bit of one to one time though.

We also have quite a bit of time when it's just my kids or just his kids, which is nice for giving you a chance to get to know the DSC without the complication of worrying about your own. Sounds like there's a lot of complicated logistics in your lives with contact with their dads, but if you could arrange things so that the kids aren't always at yours at the same time you might find that a bit easier.

And YY to the suggestion of getting them out the house as much as possible - do you have a garden at all? We have a trampoline in ours which is absolutely fantastic for sending kids out to when they're bounding off the walls. I think that managing two or more kids is just a very different style of parenting from having one. Sounds like your two are enjoying the company though, so maybe mainly you and your DP who need to adjust to the change. A clear bedtime routine - maybe with some quietening down time beforehand with either TV or a book, and then making time together once they're in bed is also a great way to stay sane.

steppemum Wed 05-Mar-14 11:59:35

I have to say, if you are only used to one, then the interaction of siblings may also take some getting used to.
I have 3, and there are moments when they are daft and sort of gang up together to sabotage everything. It isn't naughtiness, it is more a sort of giggle catalyst where they get dafter and dafter.

So they go upstairs to get ready for bed, and one of them hides behind the door and pounces on the other and for 10 minutes they are just hysterically chasing each other (nice calm bedtime moment that!) Until I go up and restore order, but when they have hit the ''everything is SOOO funny'' point, I just have to put each one in their room and shut the door and then stand on the landing so they don't come out until in their pjs and heading for the bathroom.

I remember reading a book about siblings where she said
-remember they have their own relationship with each other, which is not your relationship, it is theirs and as far as you can, you need to butt out and let them form it and negotiate it-

I was very struck by that, and it has made me stop stepping in a lot more, unless someone is getting hurt, or repeated picking on someone.

Your 2 are right at the beginning of that and there is a lots of finding out who they are and what this new relationship is that they have to get past

Kaluki Wed 05-Mar-14 12:14:47

Oh yes Steppemum - the 'hilarious' jumping out on each other from behind the bathroom door!! Never fails to incite mass hysteria in my house!!
That and 'armpit farting' and silly voices!
I like the quote about siblings - it is very true!

steppemum Wed 05-Mar-14 12:47:38

armpit farting, silly voices that make normal words sound rude hmm singing alternatives to normal songs, quoting the ONE THING guaranteed to make your sister jump up scream and chase you round the house.

To keep order (there is some, honestly) we have time and place boundaries, so mealtimes at the table, remain at the table, no singing shouting etc, real normal conversation is required. We are quite strict about interrupting other people speaking (kids or adults). And we can send them all upstairs to let off steam.

They can also be lovely.

mymiraclebubba Wed 05-Mar-14 13:11:32

Ohhh my sister and I still do this to each other in our thirties!! My dad gave up in the end and joined in and often started the madness!!

My dsc's are like this too - steppe is right with the idea from the book, get some ear plugs and let them get on with it, they will find am equilibrium soon enough!

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