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Struggling with bonding

(16 Posts)
unsurestepmum Sat 04-Mar-17 13:40:45

Hi all,

So I'm 9 months into attempting to step parent (and I'm not even sure I'd use that term, I don't feel like a parent) a nearly six year old boy and I'm struggling to bond with him. I have two dd's of my own, both younger (3 and 2) and as much as I want to I just can't bond with Dss. He's not naughty, and my girls get along well with him.

Practically I cook and clean after him, I worry about his welfare but when he's here, I just find him irritating. I'm not sure if it's because he's nearly six and it's an age thing, or if it's because he's a boy and I have no experience of parenting them... or simply if because I have my own it's harder to bond with a child who is not mine.

I also find my DP's lack of rules for him a bit annoying and assume the two issues might be linked. DSS's mum does a great job with him and her and my DP are able to get along well so no issues there. My DP is amazing with my girls and I always feel awful that I don't feel the same way.

Not sure what I'm hoping for by posting tbh, maybe just some reassurance that it gets better. I really want to like him, I don't know why I'm not.

unsurestepmum Sat 04-Mar-17 13:41:45

Sorry, that was a bit of a nonsensical rant, and it doesn't flow very well.

Newmother8668 Sun 05-Mar-17 07:57:50

Can I just say, you probably won't ever like him? I felt the same about my DH's son and now it's four years later and I can admit that my feelings are a lot worse. If you aren't really bonding, I would suggest leaving. I should have done the same, but I'd gotten married and we have an LO that I have to protect. If your feelings don't change, I highly doubt they will. Try all the usual bonding strategies, but I'm just being blunt.

llangennith Sun 05-Mar-17 08:18:04

If you only have very young daughters then a 6yo boy is going to come as a bit of a shock. They're very different from girls as you've discovered.
Don't worry about your lack of feelings for him. You're doing all the right things by looking after him so let a relationship develop at its own pace. Do you have toys like Lego, Playmobil's, cars, toy soldiers at your house for him to play with?

unsurestepmum Sun 05-Mar-17 12:22:13

Two differing views there!

I do have lots of toys for him and we try to make sure that he's got time with his dad on his own (I also want time with my girls on their own so it works both ways!).

I think part of the problem is that he has no routine or rules that I can tell. He's here pretty much every time his dad has him, but routines are not followed by him. He's an incredibly fussy eater, whereas my girls are not they'll eat all sort of fruit and veg, so I find cooking for him frustrating, because he will only eat pizza, sausages and mash or toast. When my eldest sees him misbehaving, she does too.

He's terrible in the mornings too, he shares a room with my eldest, but from 4/5am he's up and repeatedly coming into our room to ask to go on his iPad, it wakes my two children up and they struggle getting back to sleep so their behaviour throughout the day is terrible.

He's an only child at home, so is used to having people play with him constantly, he can't just colour in on his own, and is only really happy when he's on his iPad or Xbox.

I know that sounds negative, and it is, but its the fact that his behaviour affects the girls that annoys me most. I've tried mentioning it to my partner, but he always gets a little defensive. He's really strict with my children, parenting term in the same way I do, but is, I feel, guilt parenting his child. I know it can't be nice being away from him, and I know he doesn't want to spend his time disciplining him, but parenting isn't just about fun. My DP is also critical of my Ex Disney parenting my girls (and he does a bit) by can't see that to some extent, he does the same.

I do really want to like the boy, and we have moments where we have fun but I just can't seem to get a real bond. I would rather walk away than ruin his childhood by having him come to a house he felt tension in. But when my children have formed such a bond with my DP, and I love him, it's not so easy.

llangennith Sun 05-Mar-17 14:12:34

When he comes to stay put your girls in a room together so his early wake-ups don't affect them. Put his iPad and headphones beside his bed and he can use his iPad on the strict condition that he doesn't wake up anyone else.
Obviously if you were the full time parent you wouldn't allow this but then you'd be in a position to make and enforce house rules.
Do you and DP live together? How often does his son come over?
Your DC and their welfare are your priority so if your DP can't step up and parent properly maybe you need to rethink this relationship.

Newmother8668 Sun 05-Mar-17 15:02:05

Sorry I just write bluntly and ran. My DH was the same way. EOWE. His son pretty much is on an iPad or watching TV. Always a fussy eater. Was my ILs only grandchild, so was the centre of the universe. My DH's ex is quite a lax parent too and was always competing with my DH on who was the favourite parent. As a result, his son has medical stomach issues from eating badly, isn't growing well, does terrible at school and is quite selfish and does what he wants and both parents make excuses for him. He's now 9 and I can say that everyone that knows him, avoids him. He's spoiled, self centred and gives up everything before trying because he's always been allowed to. This isn't his fault though and my DH isn't allowed around him enough to make an impact. He only started disciplining in the last year, but it's too late. We got to the point of not having his son in our home, never leaving him alone with our LO and limiting their time together as his son is such a bad influence. I'm sorry, but I am not the only one. None of his son's teachers like him, none of his classmates like him and even my DH's old friends (their kids go to school with his son) have said how much they all hate his son. This again comes from the parents, but especially from my DH's ex because she acts the same way. My DH once said that he always thought his ex had more saliva than food in her stomach when she went out because she was so mean and derogatory to people. So this is his son's only example. I did try with him, but he got to the point where when I would cook for him, he refused to say please and thank you as "I'm supposed to serve him anyway." And then the lying about how he is treated in our home was the final straw. He would make up how he was neglected at our home etc and I don't want to be part of that. So my DH now has his son at his parents' home instead. I even said I'd be willing to budget hotel rooms instead of him being here. I'm sorry if I sound mean, but it's been years of this and I've had enough. Now with my own son, I don't want my child to be anything like my DH's other son. I just have the power to protect my child and that's it. I'm not saying that this would happen to you, but I want to give you all sides of the story. I've told my best mates this, but I just know for a fact that my DH's son will be one of those kids that do drugs for all the wrong reasons. I see it a mile away.

unsurestepmum Sun 05-Mar-17 16:10:15

This is my fear, I'm not sure I could stay and let it get that far. I also don't think DP would ever not have his son around. He's not the worst example of a stepchild, I'm sure I wasn't a walk in the park for my step dad, but I'm worried if he's like this now, he'll get worse.

Anyone have any positive stories?

Pinkbottletop Fri 10-Mar-17 16:31:03

Sorry - another negative story here.

I've been with my DP for 3 years and I'm pregnant. I was his first relationship after he split from his ex when his son was 1. His son is now 4 and it's the worst it's ever been.

There's a lot of factors at play here. The ex HATES me. She always thought DP would go back to her and his family, but then he met me and fell in love so she basically thinks of me as a home wrecker. She and DP have a very unstable and inconsistent relationship. She has a boyfriend who she has been on and off with for 2 years. When they're off, she's really nice to DP and wants to play happy families - which is all he's ever wanted. But when she's with him, she's dismissive of DP's feelings, doesn't allow much contact and puts her boyfriend's needs first so won't answer DP's calls or texts and has her boyfriend living with her and the son but refused to allow DP to do the same with me.

I've also lost my nephew who I was very close to. At the same time I kept being given access to SS and then having it withdrawn when DP and ex would be on good terms and she'd bat her eyelashes. So now it's made me feel really resentful towards DP and SS, though I know it's not SS's fault.

SS is an ok kid. Very very hyperactive and a bit violent (he and DP play fight a lot though so he thinks it's normal). He's very taken by his father and DP is a typical Disney Dad - feels very guilty for not being there full time and as DP isn't working right now he has SS whenever the ex demands it and it leaves he and I no time for us. SS is also quite dismissive of anyone who is not his mum or dad and therefore has no real bond with any of DP's family but DP blames everyone else and takes no responsibility. Now that I'm pregnant, DP has been bringing SS to mine to try and get us used to each other but SS literally couldn't care less about me and only wants his dad. If there's something on his plate he doesn't like, for example, I'm suddenly to blame even if it was DP who did the dinner.

It's hard unsurestepmum - I spent two and a half years with this huge divide between me and SS and now because I'm pregnant we've both been thrown together and expected to form a bond. DP doesn't understand it takes time and when he sees me with his sisters children, who adore me, he feels bitter that I don't act the same way with his son. Let me know if it gets easier for you because right now being in the same house as DP and SS is the loneliest feeling in the world for me.

unsurestepmum Fri 10-Mar-17 19:12:17

Wow, I was really hoping to get a more positive view on this and it's really making me consider things with my DP because I thought I was just being negative/having a difficult phase. I really struggled with him last weekend. I'm just not sure that a 6 year old should be behaving worse than a 3 and a two year girl and I've no power to stop it. Thanks for the input all. I'm going to have to do some thinking.

TiredMumToTwo Sun 12-Mar-17 19:05:02

Sorry - negative here as well, first met my dsd just before her second birthday, she is 8 next week. Complete Disney Dad parenting from my DH, totally different rules for dsd compared to much stricter with our dd that we have together. Dsd is spoilt & cocky - is only child when not with us & was first grandchild all round for DH's family & ex's family. My dd copies her bad behaviour & it really grates! Really wish I'd never got involved, sorry.

user1486915549 Mon 13-Mar-17 05:49:28

Sorry but in spite of my efforts it doesn't get any better.
My DSD hated me from the minute we met when she was 7.
Her terrible lies about things I had said or done caused problems between myself and DH.She is now an adult and after recent therapy she admitted to my DH that she had made up all the things about me.
When DH told me I was errrr yeah I know !
The only thing that saved our marriage is that she lives in another country.

sunshineglitterprincess Mon 13-Mar-17 06:11:02

Another negative I'm afraid. Be with do since dsd was 1, she's now 8. Her mother does not like me and is quite erratic so one week I'm fine looking after dsd, the next she's screaming to dh that I should have nothing to do with her. Dsd picks up on all of this and it has hugely affected our relationship. She's not naughty, the complete opposite, but at one point I would walk into a room and she would walk out of it. She won't ever instigate a conversation with me or ask me for anything without being promted, so if I'm tired or hormonal we can go the whole weekend she's here without saying a word to each other. I do make sure she is well fed, well dressed, bathed etc when she is here and I care deeply about her welfare, but we just don't bond and quite frankly we never will. It's been 7 years and it just gets harder.
If you can't bond you can't bond. You don't like and get on with all adults you come across so why expect the same with children? It's just whether you are happy to live like this. I can hand on heart say if I could go back in time I would never become I step parent.

Chickennegg Mon 13-Mar-17 07:08:45

Let's be honest, we don't like all adults or all aspects of everyone's personalities... so why do people expect Step parents to automatically adore their partner's children? You can be completely in love with someone but not with their children and as long as you treat those children with respect and act kindly I don't see why you should be made to feel guilty.
Sometimes I find my own children a challenge but it is different because I am their mother.
My SDs at time really grate on me and I struggle with the eldest's personality - to be honest I think she'll probably end up being the kind of adult I wouldn't want choose to be around. However I can put those honest thoughts aside and take care of her as best I can when she's with me.
Over the last year in particular I have come to terms with the fact that my dream of loving and liking all the children the same just isn't going to be a reality. However I think it's ok to just learn to be their friend over time. I know my partner doesn't love my children the way he loves his own, which is natural and biological.
We have all developed a quiet calm and friendship though.
Their mother and father give them unconditional love, I am Dad's gf who is just an extra adult in their lives.
Don't beat yourself up about it. You learn to focus of the nicer aspects of their personalities and if gets easier.
I do feel your pain regarding the affect on your own children, I have this also with disrespectful attitudes and the fact that 8 and 12 year old SDs are allowed to dress and wear make up like adults. However I've talked to my daughter about it in private and said basically it's up to their parents to decide what they can and cannot do, I am not their parent but I am hers and sometimes there will be differences in rules.

Mix98 Mon 13-Mar-17 17:51:31

You've got a lot of negative responses here. I think the real defining point which will determine whether your relationship can succeed or will fail is the relationship you have with your partner. If you can talk to him openly and honestly, take on board each other's opinions even when it's a sensitive topic, then you definitely stand a chance. You say it's only been nine months - these things take a lot of adjusting, and I will say for certain that nine months into my new role, things were still very complicated. I'm nearly two years in, and we still have issues here and there. I don't have my own children either, so it took a huge amount of talking, discussing, negotiating, and trial and error to get to where we are. It sounds to me like the routine / rules your partner has for his son is the thing that is causing the problems, or at least the majority of them, for your current relationship with him. When I met my OH, he didn't have a proper routine for his daughter, and some of her behaviour wasn't acceptable. It was OH's first long-term relationship after he broke up with his ex months after his daughter was born, and he'd never experienced parenting with anyone else. If this is your partner's only child and he hasn't had a relationship for a while, he might actually appreciate a bit of feedback. Most parents worry if they're doing a good job, and my OH was very grateful for the small bits of advice I offered which, in the long term, strengthened our relationship, allowed me to have a better relationship with SD, and has created an infinitely nicer atmosphere in our house. SD has benefited, and so has OH. Step families are very difficult, but if you are both up for the challenge, that's most of the battle won. If your partner gets defensive, won't communicate, and won't take your concerns seriously at the expense of your relationship, that's when things don't look quite so positive. Good luck!

PenguinDi Tue 14-Mar-17 18:45:13

I don't know I think mine is a positive relationship. I met my DSD now 10 2 years ago and apart from the odd weekend where we have had a few temper tantrums, she's been fine. I think it has helped that I involve her in daily activities and the cooking, I never forced her to spend time with me or make us bond. Like if I've taken myself off to the conservatory to colour she'll come in and join me.

Talk to your DP about how you are feeling, I do and it helps solidify our relationship with her.

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