DSS (9) and my relationship (or lack of) - LONG(24 Posts)
I am a widow with a DS. I met a widower with 2 DSs. We have been living together for a couple of years now and we are getting married next year.
My DS and his youngest DS are lovely and have adapted very well to the losses in their lives and the new people in them. We don't have any problems there (normal sibling relationship).
His oldest DS is 9yo. He is a quiet boy, and has never been one to express his feelings much (so I'm told by DP and various family members).
The main issue I feel we have is that he doesn't like me. Or if he does, he doesn't show it in any way. I wondered for a while whether he had some sort of issue in general with expressing his feelings, or demonstrating empathy/sympathy. But after talking to him - many, many times - it's more that he doesn't demonstrate these to me.
I honestly don't know if he likes me. He doesn't ever help me (unless I ask). He doesn't thank me if I do something for him. He doesn't apologise for anything. He talks back and corrects me when I am wrong about something (although I think this is more a 9yo thing), but never says anything positive to me. He even rarely says hello when I pick them up from school, and the other day he was openly dismissive of me.
If I discuss this with DP he says that he (DS) is "just like that" and that he has never been an emotionally demonstrative child. I don't need hugs and kisses - but some sort of acknowledgement of all that I do for the family and the fact that I exist would be nice. I wonder however, if I'm hoping for the impossible, as he's a 9 year old boy, and he's only going to get less communicative as he becomes a teenager.
Am I asking the impossible? Is it an age thing and I should just suck it up? I feel as though nothing I do is good enough as I never get thanked or helped (by DSs - DP is fab and very hands on). I get hugs and kisses and affection from my DS and DP's other DS so I feel that I am appreciated there. But I honestly don't know if DS (9yo) would care if I was here or not. I don't know if he realises that I am a human being with feelings - not just a person who cooks, cleans and ferries him to school/football.
We're rapidly reaching the point where we co-exist in the house/family, but we have minimal communication beyond the standard "get ready for school/have you got your football boots/please tidy your room" as he doesn't talk back to me - unless to tell me I am wrong.
Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage!
How does he react with his own father, sibling and towards your son? Does he join in with them playing, chatting or even arguing.?
Does he have friends at school and how does he interact with them?
If other family members have said that he has always been like that is it possible that he could have a slight case of Aspergers Syndrome? Is there a SENCO worker at his school who could assess him or get him an assessment?
Or he could still be suffering the effects of the loss and changes? Everyone is different to how they react being older perhaps it has affected him more?
Nowhere - he is a completely normal boy in every other sense, which is why I feel it's personal! He has a normal sibling relationship with his brother and my DS, and a normal relationship with DP - they talk football and enjoy spending time together. He is amongst the top academically in his class and he is one of the most popular boys. He is fit and active, eats like a horse and is completely normal in every other way. I don't think he has any SEN and it's never been mentioned in the 6 years of his schooling.
He was 6 (nearly 7) when his mum passed away, and I know that he has lots of memories of her (while his little brother doesn't really remember her). I wondered if he resents me "taking her place" which is why we have taken our relationship slowly and we talk of his mum and my late husband all the time.
If I'm told that this is a case of grieving or just simple 9yo behaviour, I'm happy to suck it up and accept that it's not personal. If it is personal though I don't know what to do. DP and I have made our lives together and we love each other and our little joined up family. But how do I live with a child who hates me? How do I love him?
Ps thanks for the congrats! We're very excited!
It won't be personal to you but to the role you are playing in his family. Your dp has chosen to build a family with you his ds doesn't get a choice and this may be hard for him.
Does he have anyone to talk through his feelings with? I know you say you have moved slowly but it may not be slow enough for him. He may not want somebody in a mother role at all.
That's what I thought someone would say. I sometimes feel that this could take forever - and living in the limbo of no acknowledgement in the mean time is..... Exhausting.
I'm happy not to be a "mother" to him - I don't want to force a relationship on him that he isn't ready for - now or ever. I just don't want to be a non-person with him. I'm happy to be a friend, or even just an adult in the house - but I'd appreciate some acknowledgement of my position in the family - and not just the cook/cleaner/taxi driver.
We're in it for the long haul, so I'm sure it'll get worse before it gets better - especially with his impending teenage-hood!
I think it could be normal 9yo boy behaviour to some extent. You should expect him to be polite and pleasant to you but If you feel in need of appreciation for all that you do for him you might be best to look to your DP for that. My elder DSS has never really shown much sign on liking me if I'm brutally honest - he was 11 when I met him, now 15. He's OK and we get along pretty well these days but that's about all. He's close to his dad and I respect that. Littler kids are just easier to bond with really
I don't want undying appreciation and grateful thanks - just some sort of acknowledgement of me. But I think you may be right - it's a lot of 9yo boy behaviour in that if it's not football related, it doesn't matter. And tbh - I hate football!
I'll work on not taking it to heart and see how it goes.....
I have experience of this with my step son. I met him aged 12 and he would not communicate with me whatsoever. He is now 20 and only recently communicate but only if I initiate conversation. He has never spoken to dh about his reasons (I was not ow) and this has caused huge resentment on my part to dh who was too afraid to come down hard on him.
Obviously your situation is different and your future ss will probably be feeling some/all of mentioned above, understandably. I would gently but firmly insist that your dp gets him some specialist councelling to help him process his feelings, so that you do not have years of this to come.
Have I read this correctly - he is nine years old and was six, nearly seven, when his mother died, and you have been living with his father for two years. That does sound a very short time for him to 'come to terms' with his mother's death and the fact that his father has met someone else so quickly.
Forgive me if I have read this wrong.
I have a step father, my mother was widowed but she and I were 'on our own' for at least three years before she remarried - my DSF is brilliant and I am lucky to have him in my life but the timings do seem quite sudden for a child who has lost his mum.
I think your dp does need to instill some manners into your DSS - some of his behaviour is just plain rude!! He needs to be told that and taught how to acknowledge people and they help they give, it's not going to happen magically on it's own if no-one tell him that not doing this is unacceptable.
Gosh, I don't think either of my boys at the age of 9 would have thanked me (unless reminded) or shown appreciation (unless it was demanded) or helped with domestic drudgery (unless forced). They wouldn't ever show me much affection either, but I know I was and am deeply and securely loved by them. It does sound pretty normal 9 year old behaviour to me.
I realise yours is not the same as a normal 9 year old/ parent relationship though, so perhaps he needs a bit of help. Have you tried building your relationship with him one to one, just you and him doing something special together that the little ones are too young to do? Could you get your dp to try modelling some of the behaviour you want to encourage? (e.g. Come on ds, let's give monkey a big cuddle to say thank you for the lovely cake ). How much do you actually show him affection? It's difficult if it's rebuffed, but can you make a point of giving him an unsolicited affectionate squeeze every now and then? Could you make something yours and his special signal, nickname or handshake or whatever? (We have a secret earlobe tug!) .
Apart from that the best MN advice is fake it till you make it. (And have a lovely wedding! )
Ragwort - you have it pretty much correct. He is now 9 (nearly 10). I met DP a year after his DW died so DSS was 7 (nearly 8).
I agree that this appears sudden - especially when I was alone for 3 years after my DH passed away. However, we have had a softly, softly approach to all of the children and have discussed this with them (separately and together). The problem lies in the non-communication. We've checked if he/they are happy and he says he is - but this is very much in a mono-syllabic way. Do we accept this as his communication method and he is fine, or is he not fine, but not talking?
The other two children have taken to our blended family likes the proverbial ducks to water, but DSS is so lacking in communication about how he feels/what he thinks that we don't know if we are pushing him too quickly or not.
Marmite - this is my fear. If he has an issue with me, I'd like to know so we can try to work on it. But I am told by DP that DSS is "just like that" ie he isn't a big talker and doesn't talk about his feelings/what he thinks. I don't want to know his deepest darkest thoughts and desires, I'd just like to know if he likes me or if he doesn't so that I know how to react. At the moment, I feel like I'm wandering in the dark trying to find him, but he won't help me by switching on a light.
Perhaps some form of counselling would be beneficial to us all? How would one go about referring ourselves? Or contact a GP for a referral?
Random - we're working on the manners (reminding him about being polite and not being rude) - he just looks blankly at us and nods his head. Nothing changes. <sigh>
Haff - I do think a lot of it is normal 9yo behaviour - which is why I didn't want to assume its personal. We do try to treat all the boys the same, but as you say, it's difficult to demonstrate affection when you get nothing back. I get it back from the other two, in spades, but then DSS "isn't the affectionate sort" I'm told. As he's 9, I don't want to force a relationship on him - he's welcome to make up his own mind about me. I've tried to do special stuff together, but he sits in silence or if I ask him anything, I get mumbled, mono-syllabic responses. I also get sneered at if I say anything remotely silly or wrong.
I've spoken to DP about this, but he seems to think its fine, but I am starting to take it to heart. I don't want to write off my relationship with DSS - he's a great kid and I think we could be friends, but I don't know how if he doesn't acknowledge me as a person. I don't even know if it's deliberate, or it just hasn't occurred it him that I might get hurt feelings at the way he acts towards me.
I'm no expert but I do wonder if all his anger at his Mum dying is being projected onto you. You're a safe adult but not his Dad?? I do think you need some sort of therapy, he clearly isn't happy and it's not fair or acceptable that your dp is letting you be the one being sneered at. If something isn't resolved you've probably got more than a decade of that behaviour to tolerate... It also sets up a family pattern that Dad gets the good treatment and you get the shit something the other boys will copy to an extent.
Still waters run deep - as your dss isn't open in expressing things he probably needs more help than most.
sorry but if I read your op correctly you and dp have lived together for a couple of years, he is 9 and his mum died just before he was 7. so I am assuming that his parents had split prior to his mum's death. is that correct?
if so then this child's world has been turned upside down and inside out several times in a very shirt space of time.
I think your dp needs to speak to the school and the doctors and get his son counselling and I am sorry but I would consider postponing your wedding before it does irreparable emotional damage to this boy. sorry I am certain that isn't the advice you want.
Your stepson has endured so much in his short life. It's only two years since his mum died and you've been in his life for two years. Your partner may have been ready to move on but his son wasn't. He probably thinks you are trying to replace his mum. Some counselling for your stepson might be an idea.
My first thought was to wonder if he's scared to get close to you in case you leave or die too.
This is really hard OP. My sympathies. I can't help feeling that your DSS needs you. It must be very lonely to be so uncommunicative, and so shut off. I think you should tackle it for his sake as much as yours.
Counselling does sound like a good idea. But I also think you are entitled to tell your DSS, gently, that you need a bit more from him (not in those words though). As you say, you dont need to know his innermost soul but you need to feel some warmth from a family member, from someone who lives in your home. If you allow him to be so cold to you then how can you stop the coldness towards him developing inside you? And that can't be nice for him.
I dont know how you do it, or what it looks like, but IMO you do need to communicate to your DSS that he needs to make more effort, however hard it is for him. He doesnt have to admire you, but he has to appreciate you. Even if he is filled with anger towards you for not being his 'real' mum.
HTH OP. Good luck.
I agree that he could be sub consciously scared that he could lose you too , I think there is a big difference between 6 and 4 , it sounds to me as if he hasn't been able to process his grief , he may not even understand in fact he probably doesn't understand why he acts the way he does .
I also think that there is not much point asking him if he's happy . He knows that if he says he isn't and that he doesn't want his dad to remarry that will just cause more trouble , after all everyone else seems happy about it . He probably feels like he's the odd one out because on the face of it he is the only one struggling
Aww your poor DSS, I'm actually in tears thinking about a little boy losing his Mummy
Has he had some counselling? Having said that, I think no amount of counselling will change the fact that he is always going to wish that it was his Mum cooking his tea rather than you.
I'm sure it's probably nothing personal, nothing more than the simple fact that you're not her.
Maybe it will just take time? And maybe lots of reassurance that you're not trying to replace his Mum but you're just trying to do your best for him.
I'm so sorry for all the loss you've experienced as a family but I'm glad you've managed to find some happiness in the end.
sorry have just read your post to ragwort.
I am actually pretty dismayed that as a widow yourself you moved in lock stock and barrel in a matter of months after this poor chikd lost his mum. he is clearly resentful of you trying to take her place and push out the memory of his mum. I am not saying that is your intention but it is very obvious that this is how he sees it.
your own op says you have been living together a couple of years and yet this poor boy only lost his mum 2 years ago. no wonder he is acting the way he is. I am sorry if that sounds harsh but it sounds very much like you and your dp barely waited at all never mind your claim of softly softly.
I think you need to slow the hell down and stop the wedding before this child is harmed any further
I've just seen your question about how you get counselling. I'm not quite sure about child counselling or family counselling but I'd speak to your GP and also to school. Although he is doing fine at school, they have links with other organisations like family workers etc.
I'd have a look online too, I would imagine there would be charities who help children like your DSS.
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