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very different adult step children(14 Posts)
My partner and I don't live together so they are not officially step children, but we both have adult DC and we would like to live together.
My DS (24) and very outgoing, confident and independent. Came back home after graduating for just over a year and now rents privately and is building a successful career. When he lived at home he paid rent and supported himself. I raised him as a LP from birth.
DP's DS (21) is much quieter, a bit of a dreamer and a bit sheltered I think. He has just finished 2nd year of Uni and announced he has 'taken a year out' with no job and no clear plan. He lives with his mum about 5 miles from DP. They raised him 50/50 care since a toddler until about 5 years ago when DSS had to move to mums full time.
My dilemma is that I really don't agree with DP's parenting style and I feel as if it is getting in the way of our relationship progressing. We talk about living together but I don't want to watch him enabling his DS to be continually dependent on him. He is now talking about paying for driving lessons so that DSS can work for him in his business. I ask what does DSS want to do and I don't even think DP asks him. I don't want to reject DSS, I like him and would like to help him, but I dont want my DP to feel I am undermining his parenting. I have no relationship with DSS's mum and she stopped talking to DP once he stopped paying school fees at 18.
DP and I have know each other a long time and when the kids were little I turned him down for a relationship because I just wasn't prepared to compromise on parenting. I have never confessed this to him. I thought that when we got together about a year and a half ago the children would be out of the picture and it wouldn't come up, but I feel I underestimated how much he still wants to parent by problems solving for DSS (telling him what to do, trying to get him jobs with friends or employing DSS himself rather than let him make his own mistakes and learn from them, ie; he has taken a year out, (or failed his exams?), so now he must deal with the consequences.
I try to make allowances, I know that DSS is younger, has a different temperament and experiences, and there is a big difference in maturity over those 3 years, but I guess I just feel that I don't want to go further into this relationship if it is going to be a relationship with a dependent DSS, and my question is; how do I communicate this to DP without him feeling I am rejecting DSS?
I have a similar situation, been together 3.5yrs, live separately. Everyone gets on well including his exW and me. All our kids get on. I have a lovely relationship with his dd but she is 18 and has spent the last 4 years doing very little except watching movies/surfing the internet and sleeping. Dropped out of school. No GCSE’s. She’s in full control of her parents - when he suggested she Google online GCSEs she stopped talking to him for two weeks - worked a treat, he backed off and got distracted with work. She desperately needs structure and gentle chats and coaching along but there is only radio silence (nobody seems to ask her how she is or what tiny thing she wants to change or achieve) and enablement. Latest iPhone, oodles of clothes, but no help. I find it hard really that nobody will stick their neck out for her.
I told my DP that until he steps up we can’t live together. Which probably means we never will.
I have found DP hasn’t taken it personally (although I reckon he thinks I’ll cave - or his head is just in the sand).
So maybe your DP will be more understanding than you think?
Maybe couch it in terms of your incompatibility, rather than making it about DSS.
Although in your shoes I would argue if he can do 2 yrs of uni there is potential for all to come good in the end? There are many routes to being a productive adult. He doesn’t sound as ‘stuck’ as my DP’s dd. But that’s totally your call what you want to live with.
I think you should be honest, though, for the sake of your relationship. Does moving in get discussed much?
It’s sensible to see those ‘when we live together’ wistful moments as just that. The reality is that moving in will be tough especially after parenting solo for years - it gives you loads of control and that’s a lot to give up!
What’s your worry with DSS is it his style of parenting or that DSS may not fly the nest?
Tbh I'm struggling to find anything massively wrong with how you've described DSS and usually I'm the first to say people are spoiling/mollycoddling their adult kids.
As you say, 21 is very different from 24, many people go to uni and then find the pressure is too much for them and have a gap, but you make it sound as though he is willing to work when he is not studying. Is there anything so wrong with his dad organising a job for him? Would he not show up and do the work on these jobs? Is he being frequently laid off? If not, I don't see the problem with him taking some time off to do a few tempy jobs before he knows what career he wants to pursue, especially if he is paying his way. The only problem is if he allows months to pass without trying to get a job, but that is easily remedied by a short conversation and an Indeed account. If your partner hasn't asked, why don't you suggest he does?
Of course there may be issues with DP funding him too much but you haven't really mentioned anything like that. Paying for driving lessons is pretty common, he's just doing it at 21 rather than 17, and it will massively increase DSS ability to get a job. I don't drive and it has a profound effect on what jobs I can apply for, it really does make an enormous difference especially if you don't live in a city centre.
Basically, unless there are things you haven't mentioned (and I do understand that it might not be any one thing in particular but just DP or DSS's general attitude) to explain why you see it as "enabling" they sound like they have a very conventional relationship that is progressing towards DSS flying the nest well before he is your son's age, and if I'm totally honest you do come across as quite judgmental and superior for thinking your parenting style is leagues better because your son happens to be outgoing and has chosen to start his own business (many people are employed not self employed). Doesn't sound like there's anything wrong here.
That said, your feelings are your feelings and if you don't feel you could live with them without being nasty about it, it's probably best you don't move in together. But I do think you need to relax your standards on what is good parenting, because it sounds like you're both doing a pretty good job to me.
It comes across as if you and your DP have fundamentally different views on parenting, which as you surmise, could lead to issues in the future. Neither of you are wrong, it's just that his DSS might need more support from his family. Which is fine.
Do you feel a bit resentful of your DP for offering to pay for driving lessons and provide employment? It does appear that might be the case from your post. I think that's just him being a good Dad really. My DH employed both of his DC at various points to help them (and his business of course). He's also helped them out financially if needed. Driving lessons will open up lots of opportunities to his DS and it seems perfectly reasonable for him to pay for lessons to me.
Personally, I would switch your focus back onto your relationship with DP and allow DP and DSS to sort out their own relationship dynamics.
I think you are becoming way too involved in something that doesn’t affect your relationship with DP. I can understand that perhaps you have put both these parenting relationships side by side, compared them, found differences and have drawn the conclusion that as they are so different, then one of them must be wrong and it must be DP’s parenting relationship that is wrong. If DSS is not very self driven, I think it’s clear that DP can see this and is trying to help him, whereas you think he should be left to his own devices. Is either style wrong? No, not necessarily. But I think for the sake of your relationship with DP, I would allow him to do what he thinks is best to steer his son and if it doesn’t work out, then that may be an opportunity to speak to him. I think that allowing others to make their own mistakes is often key to learning life’s lessons.
I could be wrong, but is there the presence of you expecting DSS to be out of DP’s life by now to a certain extent and thus allowing both of you to be mostly child free? Perhaps the idea of DSS being around more than you expected or has hoped has thrown some uncomfortable feelings your way?
This isn’t a problem. It will only be one if you make it one. Your children are adults!
Thanks for all the response. There’s lots to think about, I will be back later to reply in detail.
I don't see the issue with him paying for driving lessons. It's a useful skill and expensive to fund if you don't have a job.
Do you have any reason to suspect he failed his second year?
I think a lot of ppl believe parenting ends at 18 years of age.... it really doesn't. They don't disappear and parenting support is still ongoing in their 20s... this often includes financial support.
As a parent he may assist with a house deposit...a wedding...buying a car. If you wouldn't agree with this, then maybe you aren't compatible as a couple.
There's no right or wrong.
The two 'kids' sound like my DD and DSS although they are a little younger. If I were you I would wait until the two of them were independent and not living with either of you any more before you move in together, then it doesn't become an issue. I have to bite my tongue a lot of the time because I don't agree with what DSS is allowed to get away with - he is lazy and has shown no signs of wanting to get a part time job before Uni, and DH is having to push him to organise himself for Uni as he isn't showing any of his own initiative. By contrast, my DD has got herself a part time job at the age of 16.
I just think that potentially it's only a couple more years before they will be off your hands and then you can live together without the complication of adult stepkids.
How your boyfriend helping his adult son gets in the way of your relationship progressing? It's not the same thing as taking care of a much younger child.
My DP's son are both pretty independant for their ages (16 and 19), but he still helps them and it doesn't affect our relationship really. Unless you mean that there's less money left?
I think when parents are close to their children, they are never really out of the picture. My mom helped me in my early thirthies when I became a single mother with a small child...
You don't need to agree with his parenting style. You won't be parenting the DS. I'm not sure paying for driving lessons and offering the option of working in the family business even is "parenting". He hasn't even lived with with your DP in the last 5 years. He's done two years of uni and has either decided it not for him, which is fair enough, or as you suspect, he's failed his exams and doesn't feel he can tell his parents.
Keep your finances separate.
I certainly don't expect my DS to be "out of the picture" by 21.
I find that talking to my DH about our own experiences of growing up and how much support our parents have us is a good way to discuss values and parenting styles that isn't too confrontational. It helps us each understand where the other is coming from and I think for DH reflecting back on how independent he was himself in his early 20s helps remind him of what he should be expecting from his DC, rather than still seeing them in his mind's eye as small children.