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How to handle this diplomatically?

(22 Posts)
Marilynsbigsister Sat 11-Feb-17 22:20:26

Backstory . We have a large blended family. Been together a decade - married for 8 yrs.
DH has had ten years of family court for access. All kinds of nonsense including an attempt by his ex to move them to another country 3k miles away. DH has fought every attempt to thwart contact . culminating in Ex being sent to prison for a week for contempt following another attempt at refusing contact. Dcs utterly fed up of being used as Exocet missiles against their dad, voted with their feet and two eldest came to live with us permanently at 12/14.

So the set up is this. I have three. 22,19 (away at Uni) and a 15 yr old at home. DH has 19 (at Uni) and 17 here doing Alevels. Before the move in with us, all 4 came every other weekend and slept on sofa bed / whatever spare bed we had/ spare mattresses. Once they moved in permanently we converted the dining room (large room ) into a double room for DH's 2 boys. The youngest 2 still sleep on the sofa bed.

This is an extremely long-winded explanation of our domestic set up, because I know what nonsense goes on on these threads about bedrooms. I wanted to make it really clear that the dcs like being here. They LOVE being here. Youngest 2 have NEVER had their own room here - we don't have one to give them and cannot magic one up. They have a very large home with their own bedrooms at their mother's house. Their mothers house is their HOME , they VISIT us - and love to do so but I am not going to pretend it is their home . They are only here 4 days a month and their belongings aren't here. Their siblings do LIVE here (despite one being away at Uni).. so there it is.

The problem.. My Dd (15) is often away at a sleep over on either the Friday or Sat that the DSd are here.
If this is the case, I offer my DD's (15) room to my DSd. (With DD permission) . I do this because it's better than them sleeping in the sitting room. Every time I have done this my youngest DSd has been incredibly thoughtless in my DDs room. She has left it very untidy. Has used her make-up. This time, some expensive 'mac' makeup eye shadows have been mixed together. Fake Eyelashes have been lateen out of their box and just left on the carpet. Sweets in a special cookie jar (from her birthday) have been eaten. There is more but I won't go on.
So. What do I do . ? Have a word with her myself. (I would feel a bit u comfortable with this as I don't tend to get involved with any discipline of dsc) But we get on well and I've been her step mum since she was 3. Say nothing but no longer offer DDs room when she's out. ? (Seems very mean)
Ask DH to have 'a word' (not keen as DH is quite 'Disney' with the non resident dscs- typically scared that they won't want to come and visit if he tells them off !) I expect he will say DD shouldn't be so precious about her stuff... Ironically two youngest DSds are VERY proprietary about their belongings and will be quite physically unpleasant to each other if caught with the others 'stuff'.
Or say nothing. ?

BlueClearSkies Sat 11-Feb-17 22:32:08

I don't get involved in discipline with my DSS either. Though in these circumstances I would say something.

Explain that using your DD's room is on the understanding that she respects DD's stuff and does not play/touch without permission. It is not fair on your DD that her belongings get messed up when she is out and has kindly let her step sister stay in her room.

If she can not respect then she will not be able to stay in the room.

I doubt if it is done maliciously, probably just interested and wants to play with the makeup.

Marilynsbigsister Sat 11-Feb-17 22:41:09

I absolutely agree it's not done maliciously. She likes Dd. Dsc is 13 Dd is 15 so has 'stuff' dsc would like...

cappy123 Sun 12-Feb-17 07:27:20

If they get on, and it seems they do, could you not have a light hearted word about how fun make up is but then within that explain that these are your daughters items, that your dsd is welcome to use (if dd agrees). But that for reasons of respect (and frankly, hygiene, when it comes to make up) dsd must leave things as she finds them when using dd's room. Be specific, but graceful about what you expect. And be patient with her, she'll probably slip up until she gets it. Each child is different: they aren't all naturally considerate of other people's needs, space, possessions, feelings so try not to take it personally on your dd's behalf. It won't be an exact science as she learns to use the room, but trial some things like remove special items on the nights she's there (leave some of the sweets out but remove the whole jar for example).

I know it's hard to discipline as a SM esp when there's disneying going on - we usually just don't go there. But we can massively influence and in this case, what a 'nice' problem to have - you've got an 'in' to influence her behaviour. It's an opportunity for you to share make up tips as girls together (you, dd and dsd). I've done a lot of bonding with dsd through make up, whether doing each other's nails, watching YouTuber's tutorials or just talking about make up and fashion faux pas. All while having to retrieve my make up / products and teach about boundaries / cleanliness. We're having a similar issue now about the way dsd leaves a bathroom post make up every day.

I wouldn't involve DP; if necessary tell him after you've had success. He might then appreciate your style of discipline influence and trust you with it more. If things get worse though, let him step in. You sound v together as a family!

swingofthings Sun 12-Feb-17 09:48:39

If you have a good relationship, then of course it is perfectly appropriate for you to have a word with her about this. It's all about the delivery, tone of voice, doing it in such a way that it doesn't come as such an accusation that her only response is one of defensiveness.

I have to say though that this is very odd behaviour for a 13yo. I can understand trying to be sneaky about it, but leaving evidence openly on the floor? I have to say it would make me question the possibility that there is more to it than just messiness.

I totally agree that this thread is not about the bedroom issue but.... my kids (14 and 17) have never had their own bedroom at their dad and indeed, they've never complained about it and accept the situation. I expect their dad and SM would say it isn't an issue.

However, I've picked up that although not an issue per se. they have started to come home earlier, and when they do, they go straight to their rooms and stay there for some time. A few weeks back, DS decided to come back earlier on his own. He was feeling poorly and desperately wanted the peace and quiet of his room.

Children all around the world share rooms/bedrooms and that's no issue, but when you have the luxury of your own sanctuary in one home, you get used to it and miss it when you don't. All this to say that maybe you SD staying in your DD's room has made her question things and that was her way to express it.

Or of course, she is messy and needs to learn about respecting other's property!

Marilynsbigsister Sun 12-Feb-17 10:26:47

I appreciate everyone's replies and will have a go at the 'bonding through make up' . It's a good idea and dsd will like it. It's me who will find it a struggle. I'm not a make-up kind of person. I might put some lipstick on for a wedding or Christmas but it's not really my thing...but for the 'greater good' it's worth a try.
As for the bedroom situation - it's not going to change. I am always perplexed by these issues on step
Parent threads, as I am sure - given the opportunity, every step family would wish for a bedroom for every child wether they are resident or non resident. I can't believe ANY parent or step parent actually wishes their dscs stuff to be scattered around the living room every other weekend.

However, in our case this would require turning our 3 bedroom house into a 5 bedroom. It's not going to happen. The cost is completely prohibitive and I would rather we spent that sort of money enjoying the time we spend with our children. Rather than 40k plus on a room that would be used 4 days a month.

The two non resident dsc do not suffer. DH obviously pays maintenance for these two but he also pays the mortgage on his former family home which he has done since he left. Obviously it's done out of guilt as he didn't want his children to have to move - but it's a 5 bedroom house and now only occupied by non resident dsds , their mother and the boyfriend who we aren't meant to realise lives there. So yes I agree they would probably prefer to be there - on the other hand, the two older ones also had there own room at their mother's house yet still chose to come and live with us. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on the room thing. If you are happy somewhere, made to feel welcome, loved and looked after, that will often put a lack of a room pretty far down the list.

swingofthings Sun 12-Feb-17 10:36:43

The issue about the bedroom is not about what can be done. Indeed, when step-children don't have their bedroom, it is almost always because it just isn't an alternative to do so.

However, assuming that it isn't an issue at all for step-children is another matter. They too make do because they have no choice, and of course they don't suffer as a result, but that doesn't mean that they don't feel some level of resentment and/or some level of discomfort with the situation.

It sounds like because you feel that she should be happy with the situation, she doesn't have a right not to be. As said, it might not be an issue at all anyway, however, it might be worth considering that it could be, in which case, it all comes down to listening to her feelings and if indeed, she expresses some level of upset, coming up with ways to make it better, even though that won't mean changing the arrangement.

Actually, thinking about it, it might have nothing to do with the bedroom, but with the things your DD has that she envies. The only way to know is to talk to her. It doesn't have to be over a make up session if that's not something, maybe asking her to join you to go and get a take away or something similar might be enough to have the discussion in the car. If you need more time, you could always park the car and talk then. It's all about showing you are listening and that what you want to tell her is done in privacy, away from the others.

Marilynsbigsister Mon 13-Feb-17 00:40:57

Thanks everyone. We really do have lots of time to talk. Our home is very rural so opportunity for car journey chats arise frequently. I am pretty sure swing is right and it's plain simple envy of a 13 yr old for a 15 yr olds 'stuff'. Because her own 15yr old sister would bash her (something that I will not tolerate ever in our home but part of 'normal behaviour ' with her siblings) I think she basically tries it on with DDs stuff because she would never react violently- just get upset to me...

Just to reiterate - the bedroom issue is never going to change. There isn't another bedroom. My DD has a room she shares with my older DD (when she's back from Uni.) My Ds has a box room. Two resident dss have the converted dining room (one also away at Uni) Uni holidays are long and frequent. May-end September/October .so not just a couple of weeks.
So quite frankly the two dsd who are non resident, visit 4 days a month and have their own huge bedrooms EACH at their mothers.. are actually well catered for. I do not subscribe to this pretence that 'it's their home too' just because their dad lives here. It's not. Their home is where they live. Where they have their stuff and spend the vast majority of their time. They are regular visitors here and know they can treat it like their home and are welcome and loved.
It's been over a decade this way and quite honestly- if they don't like it they are now at an age where they don't have to come If they were unhappy .But they do.

swingofthings Mon 13-Feb-17 08:35:56

So now is a case that if they're not happy they can just not come at all and if she maltreated you DD things it is just down to envy.

I hope you are right and the whole thing is a non issue once you've spoken to her but the fact you posted it makes me wonder if there could be more to it.

ChipmunkSundays Mon 13-Feb-17 15:10:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cappy123 Mon 13-Feb-17 15:39:19

There's all sorts of things we can wonder, unfortunately (or thankfully) families aren't perfect. I'm sure like most stepmothers you're already hyper-perceptive and to be honest you sound as stable a family as they come in the circs. It appears that there's just some natural adjusting going on, nothing unusual whatever the root causes. Sounds like there's a lot of care and love around to cope with that anyway. I had a sneeky feeling you weren't a make up person hence my cheekily suggesting it grin. Have fun with it and get a mummy makeover! And don't worry about the bedroom situation, you're doing what works for your family.

Marilynsbigsister Mon 13-Feb-17 20:13:36

Thanks Cappy i really appreciate that post. We actually are very happy. Yes I will take on board the idea of a small storage area for her things to be permanently here. We really are packed to the rafters BUT that said, I have been out and purchased a loft ladder.. being fitted tomorrow. They can't sleep up there and we can't convert it as the pitch is too low - but it can be their space.. like a camp. I've got a couple of camping chairs, some carpet a rug, there's an electric socket so a can put a lamp up there and a couple of blanket boxes for their things.. oldest non-resident dsd not particularly interested as she has a life outside both homes with friends and sleepovers .. but youngest is excited...

And of course, as soon as the oldest push off - then bedrooms become available. (I'm not holding my breath as have a strange feeling these two will be with us permanently by next year- but at least then he can stop paying the mortgage- sell the house and we can afford to extend.. BOOM !! Now THATS when the fireworks will begin ..

workingmumsarebad Mon 13-Feb-17 20:51:23

marilyn - we get you do not have and there are logistical issues no one is having a go about it.

But please stop the they have a room in their mothers house which their father pays for - this is not their home, they only visit us crap.You come across as bitter about your DH paying for their home.

If the DCs are happy then fine, but your constant justifying in capitals, demonstrates that you do feel guilty about it.Either way some of your DSCs do not have their own space in their fathers house - which is their home some of the time -so stop saying it isn't . They are not visitors to their father - they are his family.

Your last post - says it all.

swingofthings Tue 14-Feb-17 06:09:20

Brilliant idea re. the loft. I bet that will help a lot.

Underthemoonlight Tue 14-Feb-17 15:14:52

This isn't a blended family blended family involves treating DC all the same its apparent that this isn't the case and as long as your DC needs are met that's ok. How appaulling that there's no personal space to go in to her own DF home and that she is merely visiting maybe she's lashing out and the fact of being treated second best rather than a member of the family.

I find your attitude appaulling about the living arrangements.

swingofthings Tue 14-Feb-17 17:57:37

Visiting doesn't have to be bad. My kids 'only visit' their dad and step family. They are fine, don't complain and it is not having any detrimental impact on them BUT they indeed don't feel at home there and have reduced their visiting time quite a lot since they've been teenagers accordingly. They will never stay there more than two days and even then, it is now rare. However, that suits everyone.

What I think is unreasonable is to treat the kids like they are visitors, but then complain when they don't integrate into the family dynamics. You can't have it all. Either they are visitors and act as such, or they are part of the family and are treated as such.

I am not clear in this case whether it is a case that the SC are happy to be visitors, or whether indeed, they are expressing some repressed level of resentment and that is expressed in the way the youngest treated the bedroom and stuff of DD's daughter.

Marilynsbigsister Wed 15-Feb-17 08:07:55

My frustration in posts about bedrooms is this strange assertion that ALL children have a bedroom in BOTH houses when there are too many children and not enough bedrooms. If they're isn't a bedroom then their isn't a bedroom. We can't magic one up. I can't imagine any of the dsc have the slightest concern about bedrooms. The two oldest moved in knowing their was no bedroom for either of them. They came from a house where one not only had a bedroom of his own but an en-suite . He still chose to leave that for a mattress behind the sofa - for three months while a shower room was fitted into the dining room that was converted from them to share.

The 'it's their home' argument just doesn't rub for us. We live at our house with his 2 and my 3. It is our house. Our things are here, we are invested in it. We clean it, decorate it, look after it. It is referred to as home. My two dsd visit. None of the above apply. It doesn't mean that they are not really welcome , and loved. Neither does it mean that they do not want to come. That is an option they now have the power to exert if they so choose. - but they don't. In fact quite the opposite. However it is not their home. They are here 4 days a month. They live at THEIR home for 27. Pretending otherwise is a nonsense and doesn't make it so.

Equally after a decade of proscribed Friday 6pm (not a minute before) pick ups and 6pm Sunday (not a minute later) drop offs. We are now starting to enjoy a more 'child lead contact' in that they pop over when they feel like it as they now use public transport and are more autonomous from their dm.
So we may often find them here on a Tuesday evening for supper or random (off) Sunday afternoon. Which is lovely as as to me this demonstrates WANTING to visit rather than HAVING to visit because it's what the Father/Court want.

As for being jealous of him paying mortgage on the family home - you couldn't be further from the truth. I am delighted he pays. It's provided a home near to us for my Dscs for more than a decade. Our lives would have been massively disrupted had this not been the case. Had the 'free' (by that I mean no mortgage or rent to pay for ex wife) house not been available, there is every chance she would have tried to move the dcs to the other end of the country and then we would have spent ten years driving hundreds of miles every fortnight for contact. As it is, this arrangement has kept them 7 miles away and able to play a huge regular part in their lives growing up. No. Certainly not cross about it at all. - and from a purely financial point of view, it is not like it's wasted money. It's an investment and must be sold when last goes to Uni and equity divided.

When all is said and done I think it's very difficult to judge individual blended families. Some thoroughly blend. Some parents /step parents are or become friends and are able to focus purely on the dcs. Some have dcs/dsc that like and get on with each other. And then there is every degree in between.

Our situation is at one extreme of that. It come from the book of 'how not to get divorced' and 'how to alienate and fuck your kids up for life by using them as missiles against your ex ' My DH has not been an angel him self in that he has a tendency for some spectacular Disney parenting but ex wife gets the trophy for the most stereotypical batshit -ness ever. These include attempts to move all children overseas to what is a non European country with no educational special needs provision when one of the children was in a 'special' school here (so not just in need of UK standard main stream sn provision ) and another was unable to read aged 10..!

This was preceded by 8 yrs of contact hearings, allegations of drunkenness, abuse, cocaine use ( DH has never smoked let alone taken drugs) stealing.. (don't ask, to crazy to believe) .. which required liver function tests, pnc checks, hair strand tests, and cafcass reports to disprove every allegation . The attempts at parental alienation have been spiteful & darn right evil at times - hence the older ones moving in with us. So after this I wouldn't be surprised by the dsc having 'issues' but it's not for having to sleep on a sofa bed 4 days a month in a house they love and choose to be in - it's much more likely to be related to the ten years their mother has spent screaming at their father calling him every name under the sun - on the doorstep in front of them. !

swingofthings Wed 15-Feb-17 18:01:03

I separated from my ex when our children were 4 and 18 months old. They are now 17 and 14. They have never had their own bedroom (even sharing when they were younger) at their dad and SM. That's because they could never afford a bigger property. They have never been able to store much of their property beyond a couple of clothing items. As such, they have indeed always been visitors to their dad and SM.

In their case, there's been none of the issues your SC faced. No court battle, no alienation, so accusations and no psychological trauma to cope with. Yet that didn't prevent them from gradually cutting down visits as they became teenagers and the main reason (along with some others) was exactly that, because they only treated going there to be a visit. Once the established stay became more flexible and they started to have more control over going when they wanted to, it reduced a lot.

Their dad is understanding to an extent, but has also said that it upset him and can't seem to be able to appreciate that teenagers don't care much about spending time with their parents, but care more about their own environment and their privacy. If they don't get this, they long to get it again.

My parents were divorced and I was very fortunate to have my own place at my dads. Frankly, if it wasn't for that, I would not have wanted to visit any longer. I wasn't a very sociable kid, didn't like to be with others 24/24 and always craved my own space. I still do now as an adult, so I'm sure that however much I would have wanted to visit my dad, I wouldn't have wanted to be there longer than a day.

I really don't think you can undermine the effect of that nit having your own space might have on teenagers and blame any change in behaviour on the resident parent. However, I do think that you have found an excellent compromise with the loft and that might resolve any issue, especially if they can make it their own corner.

workingmumsarebad Wed 15-Feb-17 22:08:18

So what happens to the rooms for the three that are at Uni?

Underthemoonlight Wed 15-Feb-17 22:32:13

They can surely all share but they should be able to retreat to a space when they visit no be sleeping on a sofa, why not give your room up when they come to stay? Swing has hit the nail on the head. Again it's all about your DC aslong as they are seen to but for your DSDs surely they can stay in the rooms when your DC are away. This is your dh DC your talking about and you come across rather cold and uncaring towards them. You don't see them as extension of your dh or part of the family but simply vistors who come 4times a month. Personally I couldn't be with someone who was so cold towards my DC.

Marilynsbigsister Thu 16-Feb-17 16:18:01

Hmmm interesting POV and yet my eldest dsc voted with their feet and moved in with their cold uncaring step mother the moment the court allowed them a choice.

This was with the full knowledge that there was no room for them and a simple 'if you want to come you're welcome - don't know where you are going to sleep but we'll work something out' .. . They came.

3rd dsc really couldn't be less fussed.
Youngest (13) is the one I've made the den for.

My dcs should give up their rooms ? Really ? My dcs (eldest is at uni and shares with youngest when home .
Ds is at Uni but lives at home in a 8x6 box room. No. They don't need to share. Everyone currently has their own space or shared space. You think my dcs should share their room with children who already have their own room ? I don't. My dcs don't have a dad in the UK this is their only home.

Youngest Dsc have their own private space each - just not in our house - but in a house they live in 27 days a month... they are well catered for.
When DS moves out - like musical chairs dsc will get his room (will try and fit a bunk) but I can't impress upon you all how this is not about rooms.. far from dwindling down with visits they are increasing. They are now coming over on their own outside of 'official contact' - I guess that because of my evil blackheartedness and because they feel uncomfortable !

swingofthings Thu 16-Feb-17 17:49:10

I think this exchange is at cross purposes. You keep insisting that because your sc have a room of their own at their resident house, then the fact they don't have privacy when they come and stay to see their dad means that they can't feel uncomfortable when they stay.

The two matters are totally different. The issue is not that you are doing anything wrong at all, let alone that you are an evil SM, you clearly are not and have clearly devoted a lot of your time and love to the four of them. The issue is that it is not impossible that your youngest sc might find it difficult to feel totally at home at your house and as a result, could decide to come less often in the future.

If that happens -and it may very well not, especially now that you did come up with some solution-, no one will be to blame, not you, not your OH, not your children, but not the ex either. It would just be a consequence of the situation.

Most likely, we are making an issue of a non issue because you will have spoken to your sd, explained that what she did in the room was not appropriate and if she is going to stay in your dd's room, she has to respect her belongings, but will not have taken this as a telling off since you informed her that you arranged the loft for her to have a bit of space of her own. All resolved and all happy!

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