This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Needing some insight from step parents(23 Posts)
I'm not a step parent myself but looking for some advice on how to maybe approach my sons dad and step mum with a little issue.
We have a successful blended family, ex and I share a 13 year old son and for the most part all get along well. Ex and step mum have a 7 year old son too. Lovely little boy but he is a particularly young 7 year old. 7 is young but quite babyish still, demands a lot of attention with tantrums and crying, still hasn't learnt to share or be a sport (melt downs if he loses a board game for example).
I know this because I care for him also, sleepovers and days out with my family and see him regularly. I often include him in things we do and he's been on holiday with us.
Over the past year + my 13 year old has really grown up and the age difference between him and 7 year old brother is much more apparent in terms of what he wants to do with his free time so the problem lies with how they spend their family time.
This of course in theory is none of my business but my son is spending less and less time at his dads (used to be every weekend) in favour of staying home and seeing friends. His reason is because they always do things together that are suited to his younger brother which he has no interest in.
I think my son needs to spend some time with just his dad on occasion, having a laugh and doing more grown up things. The problem is, step mum always insists on 7 year old being included in whatever they do whether she is there or not, ex tends to take the kids out alone a lot with SM staying home or busy elsewhere.
Cinema is always kids movies, football matches have been ruled out by SM as too much swearing and shouting for 7 year old. He isn't interested in football at all whereas ex and son support the same team. Son isn't allowed to play fortnite at their house on handheld device as 7 year old finds it too scary.
No computer games and wants son to sit and play Lego or play dough with his little brother for entertainment.
Even just going to the pub with his dad for a coke and burger in the evening is not an option as 7 year old has a strict early bath and bedtime routine which for some reason everyone has to be home for.
Son says his dad and step mum argue about this issue, ex seems to want to do things with eldest son only sometimes, step mum always insists younger son must not be left out and they end up at a soft play centre.
So son would rather stay at home with us on the weekend and he's of an age where I can't insist he goes. Or he goes for one night then gets the train home as he's bored.
Something has got to give here but what can I do/say? I don't want to get involved in something they clearly already argue about but I feel my son is losing out.
I have a 3 year old and one on the way so I know and deal with the age gap needs of my children even if it means we're not all together all of the time.
I have mentioned to ex a few times which has possibly led to him trying but no changes. Should I speak to step mum? Or is it just completely not my place and I should keep my nose out of their family life?
I think all you can do is support where your son wants to go. If he doesn't want to go to his dads, support that he can stay with you.
This is a relationship issue between eH and his DP. All you can do is encourage your exH to grow a pair, can he not do even one thing per weekend with just his son? Why does the SM stay home while he takes the kids out? Do not discuss this with SM. I can’t see it going well.
I think that supporting your son in communicating his needs with his Dad is all you can do. It sound difficult and your DS step mum is doing the situation no favours but I can’t see how you can change that. If your Exes house is boring, DS will spend less time there. I really hope the Ex and stepmum see this and change things!
I agree with you; my DSD is 9 years older than our DD and we do a mixture of activities which also includes me and DH doing things with just DSD. I’m not sure you can do anything though as his dad already knows it’s an issue and is trying to do something about it and I’m not sure talking to his wife would go down well
That's exactly my thinking, It not going down well and definitely feel like ex needs to grow a pair. No idea why SM doesn't go with them other than her maybe appreciating some child free time which is fair enough and not my business. It is most of the time she doesn't go.
Son can always stay where he likes, and I can already see the weekly Friday calls from his dad asking him what he's doing for the weekend and son saying he's going to stay at home.
I think my son knows it's an issue that causes arguments so is reluctant to say anything and chooses just to stay away which is really sad.
I will have a chat with him again about speaking to his dad one on one about it.
If your son is honest with his dad like is is being and repeatedly does go then that might send the message much stronger to the SM that the world doesn't solely rotate around her son.
I definitely think ex has already noticed the change because instead of expecting son every weekend he's phoning to ask if he's going to theirs.
There's a change in son too obviously, wants to spend more time with friends than parents and little siblings but I just see him drifting away from his dad where the relationship has always been so close.
That's where things need to change and ex and DS would love it, obviously.
I love the more grown up time I spend with DS alone away for the toddler.
I think the SM sounds very controlling and maybe her objective is for your son to spend less time with them. I do not think you can influence change in her behaviour.
Your son is becoming a teenager and will want to spend more time with his friends. Mine did the same and hardly went to his father's between the ages of 14 and 16, for no real reason, and now is over 18 and sees a lot of his father.
I would make sure your ex knows exactly why your son is choosing not to go. I would also stop taking the 7 year old anywhere yourself, it's lovely that you've had this dynamic, but someone has to put your 13 year old first. He's going to really end up resentful of his brother at this rate.
Being a SM with teenage DSS’s and a DS myself and DH share I think she is being out of order. I always encourage my DH to do things with his boys without me. I even encourage him to do things separately with his DS’s and offer to look after the other one. It’s so important to have that time. Your DS doesn’t live with his father so the time he spends with him should be concentrated and focused on him in my opinion. However as commented above this is really down to your DS’s Dad to sort. I wouldn’t contact the SM as I think she has a few issues around it and you interfering would def not help.
Encourage your DS to speak up and speak to him but if things don’t change and your DS doesn’t want to go there then his Dad can hardly be surprised!
Yes I agree. I'm glad no one has suggested I do get involved and speak to step mum as I really don't want to unless it's as a last resort!
I don't take his 7 year old brother out that much, I just want to know him and him know us. He isn't the problem so I wouldn't start to exclude him at all when I've previously included him. I just say he's still babyish to demonstrate how different he is with interests as some 7 year old boys could possibly keep up with my 13 year old son.
My next door neighbours sons are 7 and 8 and play football in the garden for hours with DS for example.
Very sweet to have taken the little boy out but it sounds like his two parents arrange absolutely everything to suit him, so maybe now is time for a gentle change so you can do more for/with just your son, especially if you have tiny tots.
Agree you don’t need to talk to SM - maybe just explain to your ex that your teen is spending more weekend time with his friends and reassure him they will still get some time together.
FWIW I think your ex and the SM sound incredibly short sighted in how they have prescribed weekend activities to suit the 7yo at your son’s expense. It’s never easy to mix ages but they don’t sound as if they have compromised on anything and you sound incredibly patient with that, so they have zero grounds to be cross about anything.
I actively encourage my DH to spend one on one time with 8 year old DSD to avoid this very situation in future! It’s so important that she still feels like her Daddy is there for her too, even now baby DS is on the scene.
I’d speak to your ex again and spell out very slowly and clearly where this is heading. He’s going to lose his eldest son because he won’t tell his wife what’s what. Shame on the both of them.
As a stepmom with older sc and younger joint joint DC. Stepmum is being very ignorant. All ages need to be thought of/considered. And that includes one on one time for sc with their dad. It is completely unreasonable for any family to run around one child. No wonder your poor son has lost interest in going. He is entitled to do things with his Df that are suited more towards him than his brother.
Although I will go against the grain and say depending on the kind of relationship you have with sM (which sounds lovely from what you've said) it may be worth talking to her. Maybe not in a sense of attacking her choices, but just by explaining what you have here.
That said, it is completely dependent on how you think she would take it.
But if you feel she is a positive and kind woman, communication between all adults in the household may be positive.
As you said, her son is quite young for his age. She may be completely blind to the fact she is making choices for activities based around him and him alone and think that what they are choosing are age appropriate for both?
OP it isn't your place to talk to your DS step-mother. All you can do is teach your eldest how to stand up from himself by telling his father why he doesn't want to go over there. (Your eldest is also learning life lessons about relationships due to the dynamics that are happening in his father's house. )
I actually feel sorry for both children as they are both being infantilized but your eldest has a get out.
I think that at this age, teens are mostly interested in their friends/electronics in general. And not so much in activities with parents. Even if they did some activity that he likes, you can't fill up the whole weekend with them, so he will get bored anyway. And if he was allowed to play videogames in his father's house, it's not quality time with him anyway.
I don't defend the SM, because I think she exagerrates, but I can understand her. I absolutely hate that my toddler is exposed to videogames that my 12 y old plays, but since he's with me 100% of the time, it's the only place he can do it. But now SD (13) has new friends who play videogames and she wants to play too, I'm not excited about it, as it means that my toddler will be exposed to videogames even more (he stands there and stares at the screen). When my DP announces to me that he goes to the cinema with one of his children, it means that I'm the one who's stuck at home with the toddler in addition to the rest of the week, so I can't say that I'm excited about it either. And yes, I would also feel bad for my youngest if I feel that he's excluded. So it's a hard situation and I'm not sure how well a conversation with SM could go.
My DP's older sons (19 and 17) both stopped coming (even before the toddler was born) to visit (and it was EOW) at about 15. He was doing activities with them and after the activities, they were just on their phones. I remember one of them using the excuse that the youngest kids annoyed him. That's at the beginning, once the routine of not coming is established, the excuses are not needed anymore. My DP didn't lose them at all, he understood that friends are more important than parents at that age and he visits them weekly, they are constantly communicating and they are very close.
Is your ex able to come and take him out sometimes?
I forgot to say that even when the siblings are closer in age, they might have different interests, so someone will be bored at some point, so I think it's pretty inevitable that the teens will stop coming at some point if they have interesting friends. I remember one of my SS complaining how he didn't like this or that when the oldest one was ok with it. But even after an interesting acitivity, there's a lot of free time.
Absolutely agree @Anuta77
I have a toddler too so I know about the exposure to video games not being ideal. My 13 year old is only allowed Mario and football games, more recently fortnite but nothing extreme.
I completely respect their house and rules which is why this is so difficult for me. It's not that I think everything should be geared around my son it's that nothing is.
Yes he's growing up and doing more with friends, he plays football and gets out a lot with sports and definitely is glued to his phone more than I'd like (typical teenager).
This for me means that when he does see his dad, which will inevitably will less and less that they do something some of the time that's age appropriate for him.
His dad should be able to take him to a football match without younger brother who has no interest tagging along for example without fear of the little one being left out.
I'd just like some balance.
I agree with you that his dad should be able to have some personal time with your son, but I think it's really up to him. The only thing I see is to encourage your son to be more assertive and openly ask his dad to do XYZ. If it's what he actually wants and not just playing with his friends (sometimes we, as mothers, can feel bad about something, but the kids might not be affected as much ).
How is your relationship with the SM? She was happy to send her son to do activities with you? Is her always sending her son with yours about her wanting to have personal time or not wanting him to be excluded?
Most of the info has come from my son expressing his feelings about the situation so it's not me instigating an issue here. I'd rather stay out of it and always try to unless it gets to a point where I feel I need to say something.
There have been other things over the years, I'll speak to ex usually.
I don't know SM reasons for letting her son spend time with us other than she agrees it's nice? Never asked her.
I had a chat with my son yesterday about speaking up more with his dad and it being ok to ask him to do things just together and it must have worked as he's just announced his dad is picking him up after football for cinema and pizza, just them two!