Am I doing the right things?(25 Posts)
Long time lurker and finally brave enough to post this, especially as real danger of outing self too! I guess I am looking for confirmation or advice! It's ended up rather long too so please be patient....
Background - live with DP and his DD (6). My DD (5) lives with us 50% term time plus school holidays. All get on well, no issues with relationships with between the three of them. This is all relatively new but generally everyone is happy.
DSD's mum is not on the scene and had not been for 2.5 years so she's very much a 'Daddy's girl'. She's pleased to have a 'mother figure' around but obviously is still adjusting. My DD has settled in well and enjoys spending time here and with her Dad too, I'd go as far as to say I have a much stronger bond with her now than before the divorce as she too is very much a 'Daddy's girl'.
As we (me, DP and DD's Dad) all work in FT jobs with long hours, it's really important to me that both girls sleep and eat properly to be able to function well and have the energy to enjoy life on weekends. General principles have always been children in bed by 7pm (so adults can relax in the evening/catch up on work) and everyone eats the same as me or the Dads shouldn't be expected to cater individually. DD and Dad don't always stick to the bedtime so rigidly but she copes with school and if she's tired, generally he accepts an early night would do her good. She'll happily eat anything too so again, I'm happy he's not having to deal with specific demands that puts extra pressure on him.
DSD is a poor sleeper and eater and by all accounts, always has been and as DD is quite the opposite this is all really new to me. Her night wakings have a huge impact on DP and his stress levels plus the continual battle over food. He realises that my approach to bedtime and meals is a good one but acknowledges over the last few years he's taken the path of least resistance as a lone parent. I've accommodated this by gradually changing routine - we eat together whenever possible and eat a combination of what she'll eat and things we all enjoy eating, so she's willing to try new things. I'm not forcing her to eat a meal of food she won't eat but I'm also in the interests of DD not cooking two different meals or compromising her by changing her varied diet for the limited food DSD will eat. DSD will also never finish a meal - even the tiniest portion that she appears to be enjoying will be half finished. The frustration then comes later when she's 'hungry' and DP gets understandably angry about this. I think the eating and sleeping are linked as she generally wakes less when she's had regular meals throughout the day. Another issue I have is laundry as she won't wear the same clothes twice, even if they've only been worn for an hour after school. I'm not just talking about a tee shirt and leggings, it will be 2-3 layers on the top and bottom half. Unless I get to them to re-fold before they hit the laundry basket, DP and I have mountains of washing to do each week and I'm beginning to resent time spent doing this.
Am I doing the right thing by making her the one that has to adapt, however slowly, into our new family model? I struggle to cope occasionally with her but try to remain calm and vent to DP (who finds her equally challenging at times) but who also (understandably)gets incredibly defensive. I don't see it as criticism of her or of him, just trying to what's best for her and us as a family.
Again, these are very minor issues compared to a lot of blended families but I really want this to work and for everyone to be happy! It may seem like I am 'comparing' the children when I am describing the issues but it's really to provide context as like I say, everyone gets on well. I'm really the one with the issues if I really think about it too hard...
I think you're doing pretty well all things considered!
I advocated 'house rules' when we blended. We had basic rules in our house re mealtimes, bed times, mean behaviour, tech time and how a "No" from DP meant "No" from me too & visa versa. DP and I explained them to my DS and DSS (both 5-ish) on the basis that everyone's house works differently and no one's saying anyone else is doing things wrong just that this is how we do things here.
Meals were a battleground, as was bedtime (telly, light and time issues).
Mealtimes we ate, like you, all together wherever possible and if you didn't eat your meal (or at least all of it that we know you like) there was no pudding and no snacks. Nothing to eat until the next mealtime. If I had a pound for the number of times I had to say "Well, you should have eaten your dinner/tea/breakfast then"
They will not starve themselves. DSS was stubborn, argumentative and picky to boot
until he discovered we actually wouldn't cave and feed him crisps post uneaten meals You'd be amazed how not eating dinner, breakfast or lunch on the basis that "He didn't want that" (and he CHOSE the breakfast) will spur even the most determined child to eat something other than pasta and tomato sauce by the next dinner time
As the battles stopped we involved them in cooking and 'sold' them new foods. Daddy and Mummy had a LOT of favourites when they were smaller
Bedtimes we tackled in very much the same way. Bedtime is bedtime, there's no telly and the landing light will be on for half an hour only so get to sleep. It worked. We were just matter of fact about what we expected at our house and because DP and I were on board together as regards discipline we weren't in a position to be manipulated by the "My Mum/Dad says..." or "At Mum/Dad's house.." and it made it easier by far.
The clothes routine is a tough one and I don't claim to have solved it. DD2 will change a thousand times a day if possible and all of it heads towards the washing basket if she isn't spotted. What has slowed her down (and she's 6 too) is having to help put things away when the ironing's done. So I iron and pop on hangers and then call the appropriate child to hang in their cupboards/ pop in their drawers. DD had 3 times more than everyone else the first few times and
whinged, long and loud moaned about it. I explained why she had the most and while it hasn't stopped entirely it has leveled out a bit recently.
Gosh that looks long Sorry about the essay
No, this is brilliant - thank you so much. It's very reassuring to hear that I am along the right lines! My DD loves cooking with me and knows what to do but I am trying hard to encourage DSD to join in too. It's not always possible as she's still learning I'm sometimes in too much of a rush to accommodate this! Same with the laundry as DD has always been asked to put her clothes in drawers. I'm not familiar with the word 'ironing' though The bedtime advice is great - I'll definitely discuss these ideas with DP.
Just one more questions really - did you involve the children in drawing up the basic rules so they bought in to them a little more? I'm all for them learning how compromise works but wonder if they are still too young. I also like to think of them as more 'principles' I suppose as otherwise I'm likely to beat myself up a bit too much if we don't stay within the rules and I don't want to give them issues about that (potential other thread!)
Is your dd making changes too? It might be easier if your dsd can see that you are all having to do things a bit differently than before.
Remember though they are at ages of big changes each year anyway. You can use the idea of 'right now you are 6 you are able to help me with making your bed (or whatever), and you can also chose one evening meal a week that's your favourite and help to make it'
We had what we wanted in place rules-wise and had discussed how discipline was going to work and then let the boys think it was all mostly their idea if you see what I mean. It doesn't have to be complicated or regimented, they just have to know what's expected from them in this house.
No hitting each other, treat others as you would like them to treat you, bedtime is bedtime, no pudding/snacks if you don't eat your tea and so on. Keep it simple.
The fact that they get the new rules chat together helps them feel united rather than DSD feeling put on or DD feeling smug iyswim
Okay, that's useful I think I will do that. Ultimately DP and I will decide the 'bigger picture' stuff like the no pudding rule but I'd like to get the girls to join in on any details such as what to have for tea so as to encourage them both to compromise and eat it!
Yes, my DD has made changes too so DSD can see that. They are not such fundamental things as eating tea and going to bed but she has been joining in on DP's parenting 'musts' even though I was previously more relaxed about them (e.g. having a bath every night). Don't judge me on the not bathing every night! It was just before if she wasn't particularly dirty/hadn't had PE/was tired then I didn't make her but he is insistent and I support that.
I don't think there is any one answer, however if your DSD can see that you respect some things that were there before, and are making an effort to keep some things the same, then that can really help.
For example, meals that she is used to. I actually learned to cook the meals that my DSCs liked, in exactly the way that they liked them, just to accomodate them. Even though me and DS had to not eat a lot of things we used to like.
I wouldn't worry if your DSD isn't eating all her dinner for example. And just let your DP do all the washing if he isn't going to talk her into wearing clothes more often. Or give her a special bag for her dirty clothes and say that she can wear what she likes, but that only the clothes that fill this bag will be washed every week - so that gives her some control over the situation. She can decide what needs to be washed every week and the rest will go unwashed so she can't re wear them.
If you are starting out as a step family, it's really good if you can have some nice things to make the transition easier, like meals out or days out, movie evenings in, chosen by each kid or mutually, as there are bound to be stresses and it isn't easy for anyone to adjust. Make sure you both get time for the kids on your own, even some mealtimes if these are causing an issue. Good luck!
Thanks for taking the time to post - I really appreciate it. Some things we do already but also some good ideas we can easily bring in too. I think it's reinforced that I am doing the right thing and just need to make sure it's a 'blending' rather than 'forcing'. I'm also going to try and get my DD spending some alone time with DP - they get on really well but obviously she still has her Dad about so they need to find their relationship status quo/his role in her life. Thanks again all - I really appreciate it!
peppa - first of all I agree with what you are doing but I would pick your fights. Everyone is adapting but your DSD now has no respite from the new rules. Your DD still gets downtime with Daddy and a change. DSD no longer has just her and Daddy and everyday is now on the new set of rules. She is living this 24/7, your daughter is not and these rules are not new to her.
Your battles are food, sleep and clothes - that is fairly tough on a 6 yr old.
Personally, I would stick to the food and sleep ones, I am fairly strict on those myself, but the odd day per month when your daughter is not a round, bend a little. Do not make it regular, random Friday/ Saturday - that she gets to stay up late, or she gets something she really likes to eat.
My son will eat when he wants to but forcing the issue made the whole situation worse. Ignoring and fruit being the only alternative if he was hungry afterwards slowly altered his eating patterns. kiwi fruit were not popular!!!
The laundry is small fry when compared to the other two, leave it for later.
I think as long as whatever you do, you take into consideration her anxieties, which might seem ridiculous to you but might be very real for her, then I think you are doing the right thing.
What you need to ensure is that these changes doesn't lead to stress for her and she then associates that stress with you because she sees it coming from you. So make sure dad is involved too and go easy about it.
My DD was a very poor eater for years, to the point when she had to be seen by a pediatrician (who concluded that as long as she didn't starve and she continued to function ok was fine) until she turned 10 and suddenly there was no stopping her any longer. She is now a teenager and has a normal teenager's appetite, ie. eats like a mountain one week and little the next. I had the chance to look back and realised that it all stemmed from issues she had when she was a baby and she suffered from nasty colic that went on until she was 18 months old (didn't digest fibre well and that caused horrible bloating and pain) and it took that long for her to learn to stop associating eating with pain. I didn't realise the impact this might have had so much at the time, so I'm glad I never made a big issue of it as I think it would have had the opposite effect and potentially have a created an eating disorder. Eating can be a very anxious task for some children.
I do see your point 'swingofthings* although her Dad acknowledges that she is how she is due to the previous living situation - i.e. it was easier for him not to battle over food as he was LP with a FT job. I can totally understand that she might not like everything she tries but I think the frustrations are around not trying new things occasionally yet expecting we'll cave into her demands for different food. The childminder says she's the same there and her Dad is on board so I'm hoping, like you say, she won't associate any anxiety with me. She does enjoy cooking with me but we don't always have time to do it regularly enough so I'm going to try and work on this (and my patience, as progress is much slower than having younger DD helping!). Also the benefit of spending more time with other children (my DD, new cm's children) means she's becoming more willing to try which we do praise her for.
I guess my concerns with the food is that rather than having issues with food itself she's using it to 'be in control' as if DD is here she tends to eat well so she can get pudding with DD. I'm careful with portion size too so it's achieveable. It's the saying she's full, leaving half a portion and asking for sweets 20 minutes later that drives DP and I nuts!
Lookluv I really want her to be happy as part of our new family and I think part of that is the sense of belonging, that she isn't going to be treated differently or singled out. Same as for my DD who also has to come to terms with another little girl being with Mummy more often. That's pretty tough for a 5 year old too and I don't want everything to change for her too on the basis that DSD wants/needs special treatment. I don't spoil my DD when she's here, as much as I want too sometimes, as that's not fair on DSD who like you say, has the new routine 24/7.
I agree about the laundry and she's not aware of this, I just try at the moment to rescue the clean clothes before they get to the machine!! That's one for down the line. Luckily for me, DP is very hands on from being on his own but I do want to make it easier for him too.
Just don't throw her leftovers away.
Re-heat and pudding ok when she's finished her main.
She won't eat reheated food because she's never been expected to before, not a problem for me
as DP is a good hoover but again I'm not going to give in and give her pudding. I suppose I'm just not used to wasting food, rarely any leftovers with DD and I!!
What about kept-warm food?
Foil over the top and in the still warm oven?
Yes - still gets rejected in favour of going hungry, even if she started to enjoy it. I try and serve smaller portions from the dish/pan now to make it manageable, as I know DD will then have seconds if she wants to. This saves food on the plate getting wasted as I can reheat what's left in an oven dish/saucepan for DP and I.
Only feed her cold food in the first place then.
I actually don't think it's worth it - just make her what she likes. DSS doesn't eat anything and I was getting more and more miserable trying to work out meals he would eat and my diet was suffering.
Now he gets pizza and we eat something different. DP won't address it and I don't see why I should eat rubbish just because that's all DSS will eat, nor why I should cook meals to have them criticised and thrown away, nor why I should have to suffer a war zone every mealtime.
She will sleep better less hungry and she will be less hungry if she eats, and she will eat if you give her food she likes.
The laundry seems the easiest to tackle and a priority, as you're beginning to resent it. (Don't blame you.)
Might be worth trying to find out why she won't wear items again unless washed.
Is it an imagined scent? Introduce her to the joys of spraying Febreze on clothes.
Is it because they're wrinkled? Introduce to the wonder that is putting them on a hangar and letting them steam straight in the bathroom when someone showers.
Is it that she thinks they're stained? Have her go on a Stain Hunt and make a game of it. If she can't find any, she wins.
Sprink no, I don't resent the laundry, I just don't get it. Only because again, I'm used to a different way and I think just trying to minimise the amount that we -DP- are washing is not a bad thing from a time and economical point of view. We've doubled in size so I guess previously it wasn't a big deal for him to wash more than probably necessary. I think I put in my OP that I think these are minor issues! I think it just provides context that she's a particular child and I love her for it too, she's very sweet about things because of being particular.
OutToGetYou I think the difference here is that my DP realises that mealtimes/food/diet needed to change and is supportive so really I was looking for thoughts on whether the approach that we are taking given the specific blended family circumstances was okay. Like I say, as soon as I cook her different meals every day then my DD will also be requesting her favourite junk every meal and I'm not doing 3 separate meals!
She has been sleeping better since eating a better diet than half a sandwich at school lunch and crackers and yoghurt for tea so I think we're heading in the right direction!
It's such a potential minefield during any transition process and the smoother it is for everyone the better really so I appreciate all the advice!
Oh dear, I should have read my own OP! I suppose I am beginning to resent it but don't yet have a big issue but it does need sorting before she's older and has more changes a day than an Oscars host! I've taken advice onboard though and helped her get undressed for bath time and sorted it myself so she doesn't think it's another issue!!
I think it's about breaking habits here. If you keep on intercepting and re-hanging clothes and then maybe introduce asking her to put underwear in the linen basket while you carry on re-hanging you may be able to break the habit?
(I don't suppose this is a good time to tell you that my DS when he was a teenager used to put freshly laundered clothes back in the linen basket rather than go to the effort of hanging them up? The dirty clothes remained where they fell from him, with the occasional single sock or T shirt making it to the laundry. )
Not sure about the food. It sounds as though you are doing the right thing really, and it's just that progress is slow rather than non-existent. And don't forget in non-blended families DCs can have equally wildly different likes and fads.
Oh dear.... not a good time to tell me that! On the bright side I suppose at least she's trying to be clean!
I think you're right though, I suppose that I hadn't really appreciated that this happens in other families but I guess it just happens too rather than being noticeably different. DP and I obviously only have our own DDs for reference who got to 4 and 5 being only children so it helps to get other points of view.
I guess rather than worry too much I have to focus on the good bits - they play nicely together, share well and enjoy each other just 'being' there as it would be much harder to change that if it wasn't right.
peppa - think you are right in your approach.
I think you misunderstood me, when the two Ds are present the same rules. Absolutely agree.
When your DD goes to Dad, on a few occasions, let DSD stay up 30 mins later and make sure she is aware it is a treat. You know your DD gets the same at her DFs, so really they are getting the same!
Same with the food - I do mean odd occasions and make sure she is aware it is a treat. Or even better let DP do the cooking and she has a little of her old life. She will get used to the new rule.
I was single FT working Mum to 2 smallies - my default food was a cheese pancake and a ham pancake. No excuse ever for crap! A chicken nugget has never crossed thresh old of my home!!!
As always, it is picking your battles. I do wonder whether it runs in genes though because both my half sisters had issues with food growing up, were very picky as did my daughter whereas I loved eating anything! I do remember one day forcing DD eat some fish when she was about 4 or 5 (she used to love fish fingers), and she literally went beserk with anxiety, which was totally out of character for her as she was a lovely girl, always wanting to please. On that day, I realised that it was just the way she was with food (whereas her brother was always happy to try something new), and didn't insist on it. She is now 15, not fussy any longer and very laid back, but if anything that has touch fish even come close to her plate, even if it has her favourite food on it, she won't eat it. She won't even walk next to the fish aisle in the shops!
I think you need to find the balance between not forcing something her own that could increase her anxiety, but at the same time, don't agree to her demand. Wanting a dessert even if she doesn't finish her meal is ok if it is a fruit salad for instance, not a piece of cake, and sweets after a certain no no. As long as you make that clear before, then it is totally reasonable that she should accept that.
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