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 Post subject: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:15 pm 
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Any stepparents here? Anyone have a partner with kids from a previous relationship? Anyone willing to share their experiences?


I'm afraid my first one is a rant.

Why, oh why, do those who have nothing to do with the care of a child immediately assume that I'm enamored with Baby Godzilla? I'm not and never have been.

I am the Sarah to his Toby (think Labyrinth). Please don't misinterpret that though - I'd never ask Bowie to kidnap him. I'd never let harm come to him, I'd never see him in trouble or hurt and I'd break the arms of anyone who laid a finger on him, but I've never bonded with him. There are many reasons for this, not least the saga with his mother over the last three years.

BG's wellbeing is a priority to all of his family (myself included), however his father's wellbeing is a bigger priority to me. Mr8 has Asperger's and epilepsy so I need to be there as his carer as well as his partner. He doesn't get support in this area from his family or friends and often he finds it incredibly difficult to cope with being a father. My worst fear is that something will spark a nocturnal fit and Mr8 could end up in hospital again or worse. BG needs his Daddy, so I need to look after Mr8.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:37 pm 
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I'm no longer a stepparent, but I was for a few years, and I feel for you. I can see, now, why stepparents in fairy tales are always evil; I felt pretty damn evil at times too!

How old is Baby Godzilla?

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:18 pm 
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I dated someone with a kid, and I really have a ton of respect for step-parents, because you do end up having to step into a parent role, at least partially, often without the authority to do so.

I know people who love their stepkids, and that is amazing, but even if you don't, all you have to do is respect them and be kind. And it sounds like you do both to BG, who has had a really rough go of it.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:46 am 
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Morgyn wrote:
I'm no longer a stepparent, but I was for a few years, and I feel for you. I can see, now, why stepparents in fairy tales are always evil; I felt pretty damn evil at times too!

How old is Baby Godzilla?


He's 5 and is full-flow testing his boundaries. It's tough to know how to deal with that as I'm not his parent so don't know where my authority is regarding the naughty step or discipline in general. He has had a rough time. I worry about how it'll shape his future and if any boundary-setting I make could further impact it.

We've often joked that if we ever attend a fancy dress party together I'll go as the wicked queen from Snow White!


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:29 pm 
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Oh goodness, I don't even want to start with my experience! lol... I don't even know if I want to give the very dramatic soap opera background to my story. Currently, we have SO's middle daughter 50/50. The problem is really not with the child but rather with the mother. For us, that is the biggest issue and, frankly, I'd rather deal with a kid than an adult who is bat shittake crazy.

My SD (the kid) is the same age as my oldest daughter (7). In terms of setting boundaries, there are house rules and all the kids know what they are because they apply to everyone. If I'm with SD alone then I enforce the rules in so far as not just letting her run amuck. I have, on occasion, disciplined in the form of time out or restricted privileges (e.g. no TV, video games, playing outside). It's easy to do because they're not MY rules, but rather house rules so I'm not the "bad guy." More often than not, if I'm alone with SD, I give one warning and reminder of consequences. If the behavior doesn't improve, the second warning is that I will be telling SO (who is a lot more strict), and if that doesn't work I call or text on the spot. He gets on the phone with SD and then he handles discipline when he comes back. In our situation, this really works because I don't feel comfortable disciplining her as I would my own kids. I just don't. (ETA: I'm not talking about spaking because I don't spank. I just mean lecturing, grounding for more than a 5 min. time out, etc.)

It's very hard because SD's mom really doesn't have any rules and SD runs the show, so it's understandable that SD would have a hard time always remembering/following the rules. And kids do just like to test limits. In our house, she's fairly calm but when we're out in public (without SO) she can get a little wild and that is when I really have to let her know that I mean business. Usually, just a warning in a firm tone is enough because she doesn't want to be excluded from future outtings and know that if she acts up her dad won't let her go with us next time.

For me, I see the role as a step-parent as more of the way an aunt or other adult family member authority would act in regards to discipline. I treat SD the same as I would my nephew or cousins, which means that she knows there are rules but I'm not the full on enforcer of punishment for breaking the rules. Now, if it's some type of crazy situation where the child has done something dangerous I will do an immediate punishment, however I find waiting and dragging out the process helps. Also, SO is very clear with letting SD know the rules so it doesn't seem like it's just coming from me. If he's leaving me alone with her, he reminds her that she is to behave and listen and so on. If she's going out in public with me without him, he reminds her of the rules before we leave and I also remind her of the rules in the car (again, because she's not used to having rules all the time - only with us).

In terms of my role in SD's life, I know she loves me (she tells me she loves me and has asked to call me mom). I don't show any favoritism with my kids and everyone is treated the same. Even though she's not with us full-time, if she's there she gets the same as my kids, and my extended family also treats her like one of my kids. I really think it's an individual thing and you just have to fit in where you feel comfortable. I also think it's important that the Bio-Parent does their job and doesn't "Disneyparent" making the step-parent the one who has to be the "bad cop."

My very long-winded two cents, for what they're worth.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:58 pm 
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I have been a stepparent for the last 4 years to two boys, ages now 14 and 10. Their mother is bat shiitake cray cray and took off two years ago, leaving me in the position of full time stepmom, since I am married to their dad. Not what I signed up for I thought, but so be it. I don't have kids of my own, nor do I want them. I never have, so this has been quite the learning experience for me. I kind of handle things the same way the poster above does. It was really hard, and still is at times, to figure out my role in this scenario, and what I am and not comfortable with doing. His kids never grew up with many rules nor manners, and I did, so I feel like I am constantly trying to teach them these things. It drives me nuts at times, since I am kind of a control freak, and I need to figure out when to let go and I often tell their dad what to tell them etc, so I don't always come off as nagging stepmom who is always bisqueing. I get burned out on the parenting a ton, and I have a lot of resentment towards their awful mother. I am worried that the kids will end up with problems with women when they get to be adults, for what their mother did to them, but all we can do is provide a stable and secure, loving home for them. They see my relationship with their dad which is very loving and fun and calm, so I am hoping that that will help a lot.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:34 pm 
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I feel a little weird posting in here, as I am not a step parent, but this thread reminded me of an email I got from my step mom around Christmas. I'm 22 now, and she's been a part of our family since I was a sophomore in high school (and sort of too old for a new mom figure to step in and take over). I think it's a good example of what not to do.

"I don't believe our relation is so week that it is not possible to recover if I dont try. Let's talk like adults because we are.

My intention is to tell you and [my sister] that how a happy dad with dyed hair and his favorite appearance was hurt by a couple things. I hope you, as his daughter, can understand his expectation and not make him disappointed.

If you like to further read and don't take my words as attaction, I would like to tell you more. I remember your dad has not been hurt by once or twice. I experienced how he was tortured by you. He can only complained before me. I encouraged him to let you know but he never did. Do you think that is kind of Dad's Love? Then where is yours? For me, I think your love is like a brittle glass, can't experience a bit strike. As a member of the family, I think I should let you know the relation between you and your dad is very brittle. [My half sister who doesn't speak to my dad] is the example.

If you are matured enough, I think you won't simply take my words as attaction because you know I love your dad. I hope you don't torture him.

Merry Christmas"

*English is not my step mom's first language.
Prior to getting emails like this, letting me know how rocky my and my dad's relationship is (which is not how I see it, we are actually pretty close), I got along relatively well with my step mom.

You all sound like awesome step parents. It sounds like you're doing a good job when trying to figure out boundaries. I like the idea of a step parent sort of acting like an aunt. I think my family would all get along more if that was the route my step mom took, instead of trying to think of herself as our mother.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:31 pm 
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I have two stepparents although I've never been one. I'm curious about one thing - what did you think would happen when you partnered up with someone with children? What sort of relationship or interaction with the children did you expect?

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:05 pm 
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Me personally, I thought I was going to be more of a friend to the kids since they initially only were with us every other weekend. But that didn't last that long. Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I am not sure I would make the same choices. I was naive about what could possibly happen getting involved with someone with kids. But I love their dad so much and since the kids are not in diapers, i know that not before too long they will be on their own. The teen is much easier to parent since he is already really independent and always doing stuff. The 10 year old has been more damaged by his mom leaving. He needs a lot more guidance and attention. I know I may come across a bit mean in my posts here about this but unless you are a step parent, it's maybe a bit harder to understand. It is just not a glamorous job.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:11 pm 
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I don't think you come across as mean. I think its a really tough job to be a step-parent, especially if you're picking up the pieces after their mom went BSC.

I thought it was going to be easy and that my partner and I would magically be on the same page all the time. I ended up loving the little guy, but my partner used his kid as a way to create distance and justify not doing stuff in our relationship that he didn't want to do. So I felt like in our relationship he had 2 votes (bc he spoke for his son) and I had 1 and it created an unsustainable power dynamic. Man that was the worst relationship I have ever been in.

And sisterlegume, that is horrific. I am sorry that your Dad doesn't step in to rein in your stepmom, and establish fair boundaries. As you know I have something similar with my stepmom.... It sucks when someone uses your parent against you, to push you out of your own family.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 10:01 pm 
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Ugh, that experience sounds awful Tofulish. My husband's ex always tried to use the kids against him, she still does even though she no longer lives here. She will say mean things about him or me to them, and we make a point never to say anything nasty about her because when all is said and done, she is still their mother and they will have enough crepe to deal with later in life when they start fully realizing that she abandoned them. Another thing I want to add: it is such a weird position to be in because you are not their mom. They already have a mom and dad, so it's tough to figure out where you belong in this whole dynamic. There is no manual to being a step parent! I am doing the best I can and am willing to do. I feel like I am more the practical parent in our family. I do a lot of the household type stuff, make sure they have clean clothes, cook dinner etc. I rely more on my husband to take care of their emotional needs. Both important jobs, and we are doing the best we can with the tools we have. They have a loving, secure home and we are trying to raise them into compassionate responsible humans.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:31 pm 
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la vie sale wrote:
Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I am not sure I would make the same choices. I was naive about what could possibly happen getting involved with someone with kids.


This is how I feel about my situation. It's really hard to deal with kids on top of dealing with (or the effects of) having a parent who is crazy/difficult. Although, for us, I've found the child to be the smallest stressor there are still the very real issues that she has that result from her mom and difficulties between her mom and SO.

She does passive aggressive things (e.g. wiping her butt after she's gone number two and throwing tissue with poop in the waste basket, or putting boogers on the walls) and sometimes she's just really unruly, rude and can be mean. My kids were raised differently and are really sweet kids (not perfect by any means, but sweet) so it can be trying to deal with a child who has issues who is not mine. SD is currently in counseling so hopefully that will help some. If your Sk's are not in therapy, you might try it. You may also consider counseling with your husband so that you're both clear on how you feel and what your role is to be in their lives.

And I truly feel like making your boundaries with your husband clear will be helpful. That way you'll both be on the same pages in regards to expectations relating to his kids.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:54 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
I have two stepparents although I've never been one. I'm curious about one thing - what did you think would happen when you partnered up with someone with children? What sort of relationship or interaction with the children did you expect?



I had no preconceived ideas about what would happen or what kind of relationship I'd have with my partner's child. I've never had a relationship, prior to this one, where children were a part of it so had no ideas about what to expect. I never wanted to replace BG's mother, or to be a mother figure to him, but wanted more to be his friend in a big sister sort of way, to help him out and guide him when he wants or needs it.

la vie sale - BG's Mum used to use him against Mr8, trying to alternately force contact between Mr8 and BG and then withhold it. She also made it plain that she used Mr8 for money during the first three years of BG's life. This dynamic has only changed since she's seen the problems caused by her ex-partner's actions.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2012 5:00 pm 
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8ball wrote:
Any stepparents here? Anyone have a partner with kids from a previous relationship? Anyone willing to share their experiences?

...

Why, oh why, do those who have nothing to do with the care of a child immediately assume that I'm enamored with Baby Godzilla? I'm not and never have been.


I came looking for a thread like this with similar feelings. As a person who never really wanted kids, I'm was convinced I couldn't be with someone who had them. However, I am. I love my partner and the life we have together. But I'm still stuck with a lot of negative feelings about the kid situation.

Luckily he has a really good relationship with his ex-wife, so there's no drama there. Actually, she's a little too inclusive for my taste - there's this whole close-family dynamic that has always been unappealing to me. For example, I guess in the spirit of closeness, the kiddo has been encouraged to call me mommy or step-mommy, which sucks because it makes me WILDLY uncomfortable, and I was not consulted.

I've tried to be as chill as possible (and that's not much since I'm pretty uptight), and to not let little things become a big issue.

Part of what's causing me strife is that I think the kiddo is starting to get a wee bit spoiled. Her behavior is really upsetting for me, especially because she is so unbelievably disrespectful to her dad. He is so kind and sweet, and she treats him like a servant/punching bag.

Further, I'm not on board with some of the values and mores she's being taught by either parent. My partner is very receptive to my thoughts on the subject, but I feel uncomfortable because there's so much I want to change! At the same time, I don't feel it's right to demand an overhaul because she's not my kid.

I'm not expecting solutions here, but I don't know anyone in this situation personally and it's hard to talk about. People kind of think I'm a monster for not really liking to spend time with the kid, but I have very little in common with children, and on top of it, her behavior just peas me off, then I feel in conflict with her dad over it.

Vantine wrote:
I'm curious about one thing - what did you think would happen when you partnered up with someone with children? What sort of relationship or interaction with the children did you expect?


I expected to be loving and supportive, and even expected to like some time with the kid. At first it was cool, but I just don't have the patience for the tantrums and bullshiitake anymore - especially because they seem to be getting worse. I know kids aren't easy, and I don't expect them to be perfect. She actually listens to me, and doesn't give me the raft of shiitake she does to her dad, but even seeing it leaves me annoyed.

Has anyone gone into a situation and saw that some serious changes had to be made for your own sanity? Did you successfully make them? Are things better or worse?

Also, any vegan conflicts? My partner is vegan now, but the kid eats nothing but pre-packaged crepe. We are making changes, which is good though, even though we still disagree on some things. I haven't said she has to be vegan, but I live in a vegan home, so if she comes here, she won't have omni options. Further, I won't make or purchase omni items for her. That was almost a point of contention.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 5:12 am 
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Now BG is 6. His parents have a much more co-operative and respectful relationship and everything seems fine. But - I simply don't like him. I've tried for almost five years but I just can't do it. It clear that I care about him and his well being, as I get very angry with people who hurt him or mess with his way of life, but I can't do the playing, talking, doing things together, cuddling or any of that business. Every time I start to, I feel myself beginning to exhibit my Dad's parenting 'skills' from when I was small, which is not a good thing, so I stop and remove myself from the situation.

Sometimes I really feel that this is too much for me. I love Mr8 very much but sometimes how I feel about/with BG squashes that a bit too much.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 10:07 am 
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You know, my step-dad came into my and my brother's lives when we were teenagers. He and I got along fine, but he loathed my brother (truly, loathed) the last year or so that he was with my mom (mostly because it triggered his own childhood shiitake). It was a horrible thing to see and I know it really hurt my brother--especially to see the times when my mum didn't stand up for him. And my brother was old enough to drive! I can't imagine what that kind of dynamic would do to a little kid who is still really figuring out the basics of who they are and how the world works and how to create trusting relationships with adults.

I really think that once kids are involved the highest responsibility goes to their well-being. If you're not wanting or able to do that that's okay but maybe you shouldn't be in their lives.

Kids are really perceptive, they know when something is off or someone doesn't like them. And these are really formative years--they can lay the foundation for what they find acceptable for the rest of their lives.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:16 pm 
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j-dub wrote:

I really think that once kids are involved the highest responsibility goes to their well-being. If you're not wanting or able to do that that's okay but maybe you shouldn't be in their lives.

Kids are really perceptive, they know when something is off or someone doesn't like them. And these are really formative years--they can lay the foundation for what they find acceptable for the rest of their lives.


Well said. This thread is really heartbreaking. It's wonderful to see such honesty, but I feel for those children so much. Every child should be loved and adored and made the top priority at home. The world will knock them around, home should be a safe place. I'm so glad I have two step-parents who truly cared for and loved me, but my parents wouldn't have had it any other way. I wish everyone luck here and hope it works out for the children.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:54 pm 
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What j-dub and Alin said.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 6:40 pm 
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8ball, I really do feel for you! It sounds like you're very concerned about his wellbeing - even in your concern that you're not doing *enough.* And the fact that you remove yourself when you feel like you are being like your Dad, who wasn't the best parent, is also a sign of how much you care about him and how mindful you are, which is really great.

Quote:
It clear that I care about him and his well being, as I get very angry with people who hurt him or mess with his way of life, but I can't do the playing, talking, doing things together, cuddling or any of that business. Every time I start to, I feel myself beginning to exhibit my Dad's parenting 'skills' from when I was small, which is not a good thing, so I stop and remove myself from the situation.


j-dub, I am sorry your brother went through that. I agree that children are perceptive and that highest responsibility should go to their well-being.

8ball, I would look at what you think that BG needs that you can't provide (what does it mean to say "you don't like him"? for example) and what stops you from doing the things you think BG needs. Perhaps there are CBT techniques you can use to stop yourself when you feel yourself being like your Dad and redirecting those impulses to something more supportive?

I think its really hard to be a step-parent, because one has to balance doing what a parent does, without the same authority as a parent. And you also have to keep a healthy boundary around the fact that the child isn't your child, and you have to let Mr. 8ball and BGMum primarily negotiate those parameters, if that makes sense. I think you've been a very stable and caring presence in BG's life, through some of BGMum's trials and tribulations, and that is a pretty great achievement.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:54 pm 
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Someone I know and respect once told me that they did not date people with children on purpose because they had zero interest in being a parent. This was the case even if they thought that person was the bee's knees. (NV?) I think what they meant was that when you partner with someone who has children, you are signing on to parent. I hope the stepparents in this thread find a way to reconcile themselves with the lifelong commitment they've taken on.

Alin was correct to call it heartbreaking.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:34 am 
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Vantine wrote:
Someone I know and respect once told me that they did not date people with children on purpose because they had zero interest in being a parent. This was the case even if they thought that person was the bee's knees. (NV?) I think what they meant was that when you partner with someone who has children, you are signing on to parent. I hope the stepparents in this thread find a way to reconcile themselves with the lifelong commitment they've taken on.

Alin was correct to call it heartbreaking.
Yes.

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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:59 am 
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It is heartbreaking. I feel heartbroken on a regular basis. I don't know how to cope with how I feel and I'm really struggling here. I feel overwhelmingly sad and anxious about this.

A lot of it is grounded in fears - about my own upbringing, the child I lost, the parenting meltdowns I've seen Mr8 struggling with throughout our relationship, the things that have happened to me throughout that time and the awful time BG and everyone involved had with Mum's ex-boyfriend. I'm scared of acting like my father or the ex-boyfriend. I'm scared of hurting or frightening him. For a long time his mother's pattern of behavior alternated between a calm period and a forking horrible bat shiitake period. I am so afraid of relaxing into this extended calm period, in case the rug is ripped out from under us again in a way that is much worse than before. I'm scared of forming a more significant relationship with BG that'll be broken, through no fault of his or mine, and that it'll be long term emotionally damaging to both of us.

I spoke with Mr8 about this yesterday and he's reinforced to me the care I feel for BG, for example he told me that when they were on their way to Mum's house they passed a comic convention with storm troopers outside, that BG waved to one and they waved back and how happy he was about this. I was so pleased for him that he had that exchange.

Tofulish - thank you for framing your question as you did, what does it mean to say "you don't like him"? I've thought about this carefully and it's partially what I've already mentioned, but also it's the bullshiitake we deal with for his benefit and to protect him. It's not him that I don't like, it's the crepe with his Mum, the ex-boyfriend, his grandparents that seems to be one event after another after another - that's what I don't like. Walls get built between us by other people and after we get one down, another gets put up. I don't understand why people can be so awful sometimes and the damage it can cause, and the after effects that we then go on to deal with. It's so wearing to battle it, for so long, that I feel like I don't have any fight in me sometimes. I feel like that now.


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:59 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:10 pm
Posts: 18755
Location: Cliffbar NJ
I've read your posts for years now, and I've always had the sense that you're a kind, caring and stable presence for BG, who otherwise has a lot more turmoil in his life than a little kid should. And its great that Mr 8 reminds you just how much you do care about BG, when you're feeling vulnerable, to what sounds like some pretty normal doubts, at a time of pretty intense pressure, including from your own health challenges.

Can you get some therapy to support you now? I think its understandable to feel like your life would be much easier without the complications around an uncooperative or unkind co-parent of a stepchild, and to feel exhausted by all the drama that BG's mother brought to your lives. And its also pretty normal to feel worried that you won't be your best self with a child - I feel that way with Leela. It sounds like you're being mindful around when your old patterns, but could maybe use a hand with new behavior to replace the withdrawing, that could let you notice the pattern but still engage in a supportive way? I am also really sorry for your loss, and I think perhaps some support processing the loss of your child and the upbringing you had may bring you a bit more peace.

When I dated someone with a child, it was really hard. His kid was wonderful, but all the attendant drama was not (will she send him or won't she, will she ask for more money, will he have clothes that fit or do we have to go buy some) and it was hard watching him deal with all his anxiety around it. I have a friend whose husband is on great terms with his ex, and my friend adores her stepdaughter like her own, and I think part of it is because there is no resentment about drama etc.

I am sending you tons of good thoughts. <3 <3 <3

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But on a cold winter night, when the wind whispers through the trees and a bright, white moon hangs heavy in the air, you might hear a sad cry like someone thinking he knows what's best for you, and that'll be the white man a-passin' you by. just mumbles


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 Post subject: Re: The stepparent thread
PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 8:17 am 
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Writes Vegan Haiku

Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:33 pm
Posts: 33
I have similar experiences to many of you. I have step-parents myself, and fairly good relations with them, so I feel like I am coming at this from a place of some perspective that has been useful to my SO. For example, he once said something to me about how at least he knows that when Little Dude turns 18, he can take him out and tell him everything. I had to explain that HE can't do that!

We have also had (and continue to have) ongoing issues with the ex, and they are frustrating because to me, they are pointless ones. Like, it will say in the divorce agreement that she has to share tax info, she still has not done it, and now he's spending time (and legal fees!) trying to get her to comply. And if he does not do something she wants (like give her extra money for something) she goes straight to 'if you loved Kid, you would do this' which he takes really hard.

I took awhile to bond with Kid, because he lives far away and we don't see him as often as we'd like to, and because his mother pulls so many shenanigans that I feared I would get attached and then she'd take him away somehow. But finally, I realized that he is the innocent victim and if someone has to suck it up, it has to be the adult, me. So I am affectionate and warm with him, and he responds to me. I've known him since he was a baby and he will never remember life with his dad without me. I hope that will count for something later.


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