Could this be normal?

caphillsmFebruary 4, 2010

I need a reality check. My DH asked my nearly 18 year old SS to write thank yous to his teachers that provided college recommendation letters. Below is what we were presented as his "draft". Can you all please tell me if what you see below is normal for a senior about to graduate?

Dear Mr._______

I wanted to thank you for writing me a letter of recommendation letters. I sincerely appreciate that you would take the time out of your day to write me those letters of recommendation. I am confident that with your letter of recommendation that I will be able to get into the college I have chosen. So thank you for writing that recommendation for me.


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I think it is a good idea to thank a teacher who provided a recommendation, whether it be a short letter or even a nice card. I think this draft is a little doesn't sound like it's sincere and it is redundant. I guess it does seem a bit below-average grammar wise for a senior in high school, but many people struggle with grammar all their lives. Maybe he needs some help revising it a bit so that it still sounds like himself but a little more "correct."

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 10:56AM
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That is just plain sad. Normal? No way.

I'm not sure if speaks to poor teaching, a teenager that took his 'assignment' as a joke, or a school letting kids slip under to keep up percentages.

The first attempt is kinda like a kid who tries to fill up an essay with 'the', 'but', 'and'. Concerning their education, has DH ever meet with both sons teacher(s) and/or reviewed the teens work prior to submitting assignmments?

Does the school offer tutoring sessions after school? To me it does not seem reasonable that the first clue you have comes the end of the senior year. I can slaughter the English language, kill grammer, and toss all the rules out the window while posting on generic forums, but am capable of making formal presentations when required. The letter you have shown would not be accepted as an assignment due in class, least not without sirens blaring for all concerned.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 11:22AM
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Yeah....that's bad. No, it's not 'normal'. If it was my kid, I would tell him it's not acceptable and he needs to look up drafts of letters of recommendation online.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 11:41AM
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lovehadley, it does not sound acceptable to me.

Does he struggle academically?

"The letter you have shown would not be accepted as an assignment due in class, least not without sirens blaring for all concerned"


    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 1:11PM
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"writing me a letter of recommendation letters."

If I were the teacher that got this, I might ask for my letter of recommendation letters back... lol (especially if I were an English teacher!)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 1:12PM
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I agree with all of you. I gasped when I saw it. I am now convinced that he probably isnt college material. I only wish I had met DH years earlier, I would have tried to intervene.

I love DH, but he should have been ALL over this years ago. The every other weekend thing just hasnt worked.

I sent him my comments and asked for a re-write. Should be interesting.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 1:27PM
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"If I were the teacher that got this, I might ask for my letter of recommendation letters back... lol (especially if I were an English teacher!)"

yeah, me too. I do think this is pretty normal AND completely unacceptable. I know people who have graduated high school and can't differentiate between to, too, two, etc.

Good job asking for a re-write. Unfortunately he's ultimately the one who will have to embark upon his adult life with this education. Either he'll "get it" or he won't.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 1:46PM
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Not an impressive letter...
(But at least he wrote them.)

For what it's worth, if that note is an accurate reflection of his capabilities or performance, those letters of recommendation might not be all that stellar...

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 3:52PM
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He either has special needs or is not a native speaker OR simply does not care and wrote it to get you and his dad off his back LOL I guess the last reason is the case because even if he has special needs or is not a native speaker, he should be able to look up some samples on the Internet. So I think the case is that he doesn't care. he doesn't want to go to college, he is pressured to apply and he doesn't care about these letters, he wrote whatever hoping you all leave him alone.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 8:17PM
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As a retired high school English teacher, I would say this was written by someone who did not care about his finished product. On the other hand, he might be a special needs student who was actually trying to write a good, polite letter. If he isn't special needs, and this is truly his best effort, he will need remediation in college before he can be placed in freshman English.

I wonder if, based on what you have written about this young man, he is barely disguising his anger at being forced through this college entrance business. He clearly has little interest in higher education!

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 10:56PM
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Thank you all so much for your feedback. I have pretty much decided that this is a combo of not being a good student, and not really wanting to go to college. I think he is going through the motions to try to please DH. When graduation rolls around (June 20), reality will set in and it will be interesting to see what happens. CS ends that same month for him (it gets renegotiated to cover his 16 year old brother)My guess is that BM will be happy for him to stay home and work. DH and I will be there for him if and when he is ready to look at other life options...we will be supportive and help him find his way, but we surely wont enable him to do nothing.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:27AM
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Yeah, it's pretty normal. I sent an email last week to a new employee (just grad college last year) and said at the end have a great weekend, she replied "U 2" lol and she went to a fancier college than I did. Big whoop.

I don't think it's a big deal and isn't a secret sign of whether he really wants to go to college or not. Writing just might not be his forte. He probably had no idea what to do. Why not show him that he can find templates for formal letters online?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 1:16PM
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'U 2' is classic Generation Text --
The letter above is I didn't proof-readlazy at best.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 4:00PM
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"The letter above is I didn't proof-readlazy at best."

I agree (and think "classic generation text" used in a formal setting is much of the same reasoning, but thats another conversation lol) but think there is even less to it than that.

OP stated she and father asked Stepson to write this letter and then OP (stepmom, instead of Dad...hmm why not Dad?) sent back her comments and asked for a rewrite. She also updated that she wishes her DH was all over this years ago, that means to me that the bar for academics was set very low in stepsons schooling years. It is not surprising to me that 1) his writing is likely very poor 2) he has no idea where to start. He hasn't had the back up to be sucessful, his first attempts are going to be painful.

There is probably nothing secretive here as suggested above, this kid has a history of being a poor student without the coaching of parents. You can go one or two ways and assume he has a secretive agenda and be all over every misstep or provide support and give him the tools he needs to succeed. The very fact this was posted on a message board (when it is obvious the letter is poor and asking if it is normal) says its more about getting validation for stepmom than helping stepson. What's so hard about showing him a website?

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 4:57PM
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Imamomy, your advice is great. I have spoken with DH about a "gap year" to work, intern, whatever helps inspire him. DH liked the idea. We will be prepared with options when it comes to that. But we need him to participate....want him to actually show some interest in doing SOMETHING. It may not happen until after graduation, but we will be ready to assist.

Thanks again! (we helped him re-write the letter and showed examples)

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 10:12AM
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"then maybe you will be able to understand the frustration that comes with it. Most of the people that come to this forum, come here to get help, answers, advice or support in dealing with... not only the kids, but the feelings that come with that package."

Well said, Ima.

I also have to say that sometimes people say "well, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it" and there is an element of truth in that we do all have to live with the choices we make.

BUT...that said...just as in parenting, or marriage, or jobs, there are certain things you just cannot fully understand until you've lived them. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for the challenges I would face in not only step-parenting but in being part of a stepfamily in general. There are all sorts of issues and situations that pop up that you would never have thought to consider.

I thought I knew what I was getting into, and I believe I have dealt with that as best I could. I knew joining with my DH meant that both our children needed equal resources, attention, love, etc. I knew that sacrifices---financial, emotional, etc--would have to be made for not only my own bio-DD but, of course, for my SS, as well. We are a family unit. I knew that BM would always be on the peripheries of our life together and that DH would always, to a certain extent, have to maintain somewhat of a *relationship* with her. I KNEW ALL THAT AND MORE.

But I can truly say that I did NOT know how my feelings would toss and turn and ebb and flow regarding all those things, and more. In my wildest dreams, I never could have prepared myself for all the drama and whatnot that has ensued.

It's a lot like life. You do your best to prepare and plan but sometimes life throws you major curveballs and even the best laid plans don't always yield the results we want.

So I think it's important to remember that yes, stepparenting can be difficult, but that it's also a difficulty you really cannot fully understand until you've lived with it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 4:09PM
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I am truly grateful that I can come to this site to vent. Even if it does seem like complaining at times, it is healthier to be able to get reactions of other step parents, rather than to say something I'll regret later at home. I am a better wife and SM because of being able to reach out for validation, ideas, and even constructive criticism. Glad I found this site!

It took me a long time to learn to "count to ten" in personal and professional relationships. I know how valuable it is to be able to sleep on a reaction. Coming to this site helps me do so and be more productive with DH and his children.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 11:41AM
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I think parents should do the parenting. If a step has an issue, he or she should not be compaling, but should seek for the parent to resolve. If my Xs SO were complainin about my child's college application, etc., I would say she is overstepping her role.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 11:59AM
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"If my Xs SO were complainin about my child's college application, etc., I would say she is overstepping her role."

This is not, IMO, a comparable situation, KKNY. Your DD lived with you. According to you, she never spent time at her father's home or with his SO. He is not even married to his SO--so she is not technically a SM. And she certainly has not played a role in raising your DD.

I don't disagree that parents should do the parenting. But the lines can definitely be somewhat muddied/blurred when a step-parent IS involved in child-rearing. And whether you like that or not, it does often happen.

You can't compare apples to oranges and that's what I think you're doing.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 12:28PM
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It may not be exactly the same situation but its similar enough. OP says she's been married a year, known the kids 2 years and the kids visit eow. It's not just the BM's feelings but the kids. I doubt teenage boys (the ones who, you know, actually count) see her in as having had a hand in raising them. I imagine many of her approaches to them in regards to parenting issues is very difficult for them to engage her in. They haven't known her for very long, it is not the custodial parents home etc. OP has brought up what she thinks Mom think etc, why is that even a consideration? Why not establish a relationship with her stepsons than complaining about all the things she finds uniteresting about them and then try to push them into a cookie cutter? IMO, this is the downfall of stepparents and it's their own doing (yes, I know stepparenting is hard, blah blah blah) This right here is misery of her own making and she can continue or not, its really not going to affect anyone but her. Ima gave her a lot of great advice...

Of course there are many different sides to this, OP feels one way, the kids feel differently, Mom does and Dad probably too. OP (new to the situation) likely takes a different view and may not have a complete background. When she says Mom wants the boy to stay home it could mean several different things, as in Mom thinks her child isn't cut out for college and would like him to have a home year to mature some more. Advice OP has gotten from other members here.

Point being and tying into KKNY's point, this is not a stepparents place. Many parents would find this offensive, many stepchildren would find this offensive. There is a difference in stepfamilies and other posters you can see the background as to why they are involved in typical parenting duties, OP's doesn't cut it for me. (the chance you take posting on the internet, people really aren't going to agree with you and might mention it lol) Both parents are still involved.....although Dad isn't involved as OP would like, thats between Dad and his sons. Still not a stepparents place.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 12:51PM
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Complaining or having an opinion is a right. We all have a right to our opinion or to complain if we think something is not right... whether it is a law, a product, or a child (step or neighborhood kid or stranger). OP has a right to her opinion about her SS's letter writing skills and/or his ability to succeed in college and in life. (actually, his ability to succeed in college and in life would affect her directly if they are expected to pay for college or help his son financially as an adult. That gives her a little more right to have an opinion and express it)

What would be overstepping is decision making that overrules the parent/s. If dad wants kid to go to college & SM says her opinion is he isn't college material and dad insists on sending him, dad should be prepared to do so without financial assistance from SM. If SM thinks sending SS to college is necessary but parents don't think it's so important, then SM should be prepared to pony up the money for it. But, obviously if dad and SM are married the money is going to affect either of them since most people pool funds... if they don't pool funds but keep it separate, then it makes it much easier to put your money where your mouth is.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 12:55PM
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No one said you can't complain....if that's what she wants to do go ahead, I doubt it's going to have a big effect on the state of her relationship with her stepsons. Yep, everyone has the right to complain and everyone else can complain that you're complaining...the oh so lovely internet.

Overstepping, imo, is subjective to the individuals and situations. As a new stepparent without establishing a bond or relationship, I'd think most parents would consider this overstepping. Of course money coming from households should be discussed and decided between spouses but that doesn't seem to be the point of contention in this particular situation. And that is a spousal issue imo. If someone posted about husband spending money on kids without agreement, isn't the usual consensus you've got a husband problem?

OP (new stepparent) has been posting about the kids and their futures....parenting issue.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 1:08PM
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I never had to worry about DD's college applications. But i did help her with some useful ideas for her college admission essays and so did her dad.

saying that IF DD would not do well in school, would be lazy and unmotivated, her parents would not be very involved and possibly would not expect her to go to college, maybe they themselves didn't go to college etc then it would be normal that some other family members like grandparents, uncles, SM etc would guide her and motivate her to go to college.

It looks like SM is the only one who is concerned if SS gets to college, no one else is. someone has to care, SM does. Might be too late but at least she is trying!

DD knew from preschool times that everyone goes to college and everyone gets college degrees. Heck her greatgrandparents had college degrees in 1920s when no one else did!

In OP situation SS's family didn't necessarily raised him knowing that so now she stuck trying to help someone who does not want help, does not care and was not raised to care. it certainly is not her fault! She is not to blame here. She is to be praised for trying!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 1:15PM
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FD, I agree with you about college and I think it's the best route to go. But those are our value judgments. We have disagreements all over this board about college and many people have different views, not to mention opinions on who should pay etc. You can replace this college issue with any issue that people consider important. If the stepparent tries to force any value judgment that the children were not brought up with and doesn't have a receptive audience with their's probably not going to work. And who's it going to bother the most, the stepparent.

So back to ground level, establish a relationship with the stepchildren.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 1:24PM
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"OP says she's been married a year, known the kids 2 years and the kids visit eow. It's not just the BM's feelings but the kids. I doubt teenage boys (the ones who, you know, actually count) see her in as having had a hand in raising them."

My bad. I didn't realize that was the situation here.

I do think coming into a teen stepchild's life has its own set of isses, and probably jumping right into the authoratative role (if even ever) is not a good idea.

I think Ima has said it really well and the main point is that OP could save herself a lot of anxiety and grief just by bowing out of this. Let her DH worry about whether HIS kids go to college or not. It's really not OP's problem.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Wow, you guys really have interesting discussions on this board!

To clarify: BM has told DH that she "has no clue" on how to get her son into college, and that he wants to go. She has asked for help. I am the only one who understands the process. DH has asked if I would assist them to learn a process that neither understands.

I suggested that BM reach out to HS guidance office for assistance. She never did. SS says HELP,he wants to go but doesnt know how. So, I am trying to put the pieces together.

It appears that neither parent thought about what happens at 18. SS has planned nothing. I am trying to help him figure it out.

I have no idea why neither parents spent more time on this.

YES, it affects me if he goes or not. I fund 50% of everything in our partnership. We intend to contribute to school, if he gets in. Part of that is my $. BM cannot contribute anything. If he wants to go, I want him to go and succeed. I will help as much as I can, but as someone here said "there needs to be some effort tied to our contribution".

Both SSs depend on me for college advice and ideas. I took them to visit schools and meet Chairs of different depts. the younger one (16) is intent on going and excited. Older SS doesnt care (you saw the letter).

In June, SS is 18. If he doesnt get into school, he will need to come up with a plan. DH has told him he cannot stay here without a full time job and/or education combo. Again, this effects me, its my house too. A plan is very important and be being part of it, he has a better shot...I have lots of contacts and can help him.

BM is out of the picture on this one. Once she emailed DH "A letter from a college arrived at the house, should I open it, could it be important?"

I wish she wanted SS to live at home because she knows he isnt ready. It isnt. She needs him to work and pay rent once the CS is gone. Otherwise, she likely has to move. (She doesnt want to actually work....ever)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 5:22PM
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I had to send the above note before I was finished....needed to take a call and was worried I would lose it otherwise.

I am not trying to parent anyone. Believe me. I chose not to have children, and am very happy about that. What I CAN offer is mentoring and inspiration, if its wanted. I am happy to be a friend and inspire, believe me, I dont want to get involved in parenting. They have two parents and certainly dont need more.

If I was around earlier in their lives, I would have encouraged them to plan for their futures earlier. No one coached them, and it shows. I fear that serious problems (the letter, etc) are now signs that there are serious issues that have been overlooked. We cant go back, only forward.

It would have been nice if either parent had engaged a good guidance counselor earlier...or a family friend who could have assisted them to navigage the process.

So, there is a delay. I am trying to help. There isnt much to work with so far. I have recommended intense intervention for the younger SS. I just found out the other day that FIVE years ago, BM found out that he needed occupational therapy for a visual motor skills issue. He cannot "de-code" words at a normal pace and cannot copy letters of a blackboard (he is 16). I read about the occupational therapy need in a report and mentioned it to DH. He asked BM about it, who said "yeah, I never got around to getting it for him". I am now finding an intensive therapy program for him while he is with us this summer, that his school approves of.

If I wasnt doing this, no one would.

I know its too little, too late, but at least I am trying now. DH has really gotten more involved at my urging. I know its too late, but it wouldnt be happening if I hadnt come along. So, they boys are getting something with me in the picture.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 5:41PM
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OMG! Caphillsm - It's 'vision therapy' you're talking about (similar to occupational therapy, but different professionals), and both of my sons struggled with visual-motor issues as well. Older son's issues were relatively mild and were corrected completely and permanently with a single 6-week course of weekly therapy. He was 13 at the time and complained bitterly about giving up his Saturday mornings, but even so, admitted that it made a big difference for him. Younger son's issues were more stubborn, but also improved to some degree.

There are several threads about vision therapy on GW, most including the usual stuff about 'not proven', 'snake oil' etc. But for most who have tried it, the results have been very good. I'd suggest doing a search here to find more info. And please feel free to email me privately (my email is linked to my member page) if you'd like more information. (If I don't answer, comment here because GW email goes to SPAM first...)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 5:54PM
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oh I didn't realize that SM only knew them for 2 years, married for one, and kids don't even live there but only come to visit.

It makes a huge difference, aftre only one year fo marriage pushing SKs is nto a good idea.

i was under impression that she was raising them along with dad, knows them well and they live there, I think I confuse OP with some one else.

under these circumstances I can see how SS is resistant to her college ideas. he might not even be capable and his parents probably know, SM doesn't know so he is being passive-aggressive. I also assumed that mom is nonexistant, but turns out kids live with her. makes a difference.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 6:47PM
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Can someone tell me what OP means?

So, because I am a "newbie", I should just do nothing? I dont that the longevity to make me legit, so I should just ditch it and let him flounder?

Do you think that prior to me coming along, everyone decided he wasnt college material already?

So, since I am here, all want to give it a shot, and that's bad? the alternative right now is NOTHING. He cannot even enlist in the military (asthma)

You believe that DH's request for help is some kind of tactic? And SS decided to be passive aggressive to somehow "go along with it".

Wow, I guess I might as well just stop helping both boys. You are all right! Thanks! I will stop assisting in any way, dont want to encougage such behaviour! Dont want to butt in. I have 30 professional staff that need my attention round the clock, God knows I have enough to do. Just thought I could bring something new to the lives of these boys that clearly missed while a nasty divorce was underway for so long....I remember when someone outside the family gave me a "kick in the butt" and boy did it work....I can hardly believe what I have achieved.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 9:29PM
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OP means Original Post or Original Poster... the person that started the thread.

I don't want to discourage you because some kids need a 'kick in the butt' to get motivated or see the alternatives available to them.. that weren't there before, or that weren't pointed out to them before.

I think what you are being warned about is to beware that no good deed goes unpunished... as I tried to explain in my post about my SD's birthdays & wanting her to have a party. She WANTS to have a party... but she wants her mom or her dad to give it to her. She resents MY butting in because the ones she WANTS to care, don't really think it's a big deal. Your SS's may grow up and appreciate what you want them to have and your help in getting there... but they may also piss it away and blame you for their failures. My nephew blew his first year of college, my sister refinanced her house (and is about to lose it) so her son could have a leg up.. he was a good student in HS. He is angry at her and resentful (for many reasons) and now he blames her for why his life is what it is. So having the best of intentions is sometimes not enough if the kid resists your efforts.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 1:59AM
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"I think what you are being warned about is to beware that no good deed goes unpunished..."

A valid observation. My older son is one year younger than my niece -- both very bright kids. I was talking to them about college once when they were 13-14 and it was clear Niece didn't have a clue how to get there. I offered to help and SIL gratefully accepted. (SIL dropped out of HS and later got GED -- probably undiagnosed LDs) Anyway, I took both kids on a college visit that summer to some top-notch schools so they could 'see themselves there' and get motivated enough to do what they needed to do to stay on track. Both kids loved it and were motivated, did well through middle and high school.

I urge Niece to take APs in high school, but SIL urges Niece to have fun, not to work TOO hard and to stay in classes where she will be sure to get A's. I tell SIL most colleges prefer to see a challenging curriculum, even if it means B's, but SIL won't hear of it -- stresses balance in life. I offer books and web sites to SIL several times, sensing I may be stepping on toes, but SIL repeatedly expresses gratitude and asks me to continue (while ignoring all of my advice).

At SIL's continued urging, I followed up regularly with Niece, helped her prepare for and take her SAT's, go through college books and sites to find the best colleges for her, scholarship opportunities, etc. We picked out 4-5 schools that looked like good fits for her to visit. SIL and Niece seemed eager to go (but didn't), and Niece ended up visiting one college (only one) with some of her friends. She liked that college and said she wanted to go there, so we looked it up in our books to see why it hadn't made our list. (Huge party school with very low entrance requirements and dismal graduation rate.) "No Problem!" says Niece -- "I'm serious about my studies." I urge caution, urge her to visit other schools so she can compare -- offer to take her. This is when SIL jumps back in, urging support for Niece's decision. OK -- I back off.

Two and a half months into the first semester, Niece decides she just can't take it (Nobody cares about their studies -- all they want to do is party!) and comes back home.
She's 19 now, taking correspondence courses, and plans to get married next month.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 10:40AM
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"I tell SIL most colleges prefer to see a challenging curriculum, even if it means B's"


    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:31AM
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Am I the only one of the opinion that when you "marry me, you marry my kids"? No matter how much you *love* your spouse, if you don't go into a marriage with the full intention of doing right by their children, you shouldn't be marrying a parent. Not to be a doormat, but to be a caring, responsible in the life of a child. Stepparents should not be casual observers in the family.

Like Sweeby did with a child in her life (niece), you try to be a pillar of strength, you try to shine some light in a good direction, and then you BACK OFF when the parents take the reins. Whether you agree with them or not. BUT... with backing off of opinions comes backing off of support, financial, emotional, etc. THEY CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!!!

Difference is, as a step-parent you'd better make damn sure your parenting goals line up with those of your spouse PRIOR to getting married. Steps have the luxury and impairment of looking at children through clear glass rather than rose. I notice this with my DH and DD. He calls her on her $hit, I get defensive, take a step back and realize, yes, he's not just being a hard A$$, and I'm not doing her any good cocooning her.

Question is, (Birth Parents) do you trust your spouse? Did you marry a fair, kind, loving, generous person? Or did you marry a controlling jerk who doesn't have the best intentions at heart for your child? And vice versa, (Step Parents) are you doing what is right for this child for whom you agreed to influence, or do you have control issues and jealousy issues and take them out on this person who did not have any say in the forming of the relationship?

OP, you have a right, as 50% financier, to have an opinion. SK is old enough to lay it straight out. I think Sweeby was the one with the fabulous written correlation between grades, behavior and length of time/financing of college/dorm/food, etc. on the fridge.

It can't be had both ways. Either you help pay, and get an opinion and are respected, or you don't help pay and let the chips fall as they may. And Dad and Kids are old enough to have that explained to them.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 11:46AM
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OP said - "I sent him my comments and asked for a re-write. Should be interesting."

Nivea said - "I doubt teenage boys (the ones who, you know, actually count) see her in as having had a hand in raising them."

Nivea - no offense, but this is where I see your SK bias coming through. When I read OP's statement, I didn't see it as her trying to "parent" him at all. I saw it as she was giving him pointers. As any friend-type person would do.

You, being a SK with a different experience than those of us who never were SK, see it as him standing at the bench with Caphillsm, in a black robe ala Judge Judy, slamming down the gavel on him.

My SD is 14 and I am in no way a "parent" figure to her. But I do have influence on her life. She asks my opinion on all kinds of things. I am an adult that cares about her, but is detached enough to not give "parental" advice. Kind of like I used to do (and even still do) with my older cousin.

Maybe I'm wrong and OP was trying to be a "parent", but I saw it more like my relationsip with SD.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 6:09PM
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What I see here is: uninvolved BM + PT father = unmotivated young adults.

If DS were to go to X's house before mid-terms (no matter what age), I would mention a couple times that he should bring his books and maybe call X and let him know DS has a big test coming up. That way X could mention the books and/or find alternative ways to work with him when he gets there.

IMO, it seems as though BM is a lot like my own mom in the way that she is more concerned about herself. My mom never talked to me about college or my future. In fact, she urged me to take summer courses so I could graduate early (such a burden taking kids to school). She was always "sick" with something or "tired" or writing her books. She only did what was "necessary", i.e. there was food in the house, but she didn't cook. At 30 years of age, with no college degree, a dead-end job, an 11-year old son, and working on marriage #2, I think I would've appreciated an "overstepping" SM.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 6:30PM
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My nephew felt pressured to go full time to University away from home, he did poorly his first year even though he is bright, just could not handled it. Now he lives at home, full time 15 credits in community college, and works nights and does great. My point is sometimes it is unnecessary to push people where and when they are not ready. SS is clearly unprepared for adulthood and for college.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 9:40PM
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Cap, like i said before it is commendable that you are trying to help these kids, i just see both them and their parents very resistant and somewhat passive-aggressive to your attempts. maybe you should let them fail...and learn from their mistakes.

I think I asked you in a different thread did you know that your DH is uninvolved parent and that your SKs are who they are? I don't believe you just found it out.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 9:50PM
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so everyone whose children did not go to college is a bad parent? (some are, but not all of them). there are some participants on this forum whose children did not/do not go to college. does it make them bad parents only concerned about themselves? it is not that simple..

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 10:15PM
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I agree, FD. You can't hog tie them and drop them off at the nearest university, community college, trade school, etc...

I have a 19-year-old SD--not attending school right now just because she's not sure what she wants to do. That doesn't mean that she's not a good kid or that any one of us failed as parents. She's living in her own house; she works full-time hours +, bought her own car and fixed it up, planning her wedding in October and NOT living with her fiancee. She's living her own life on her own terms. Nobody else is footing her bills. I couldn't be prouder of her and look forward to her stopping by (which she does often, :) ).

One day she'll figure out what her passion is, but until then there's no sense in aimlessly wandering through school wasting resources.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 6:04AM
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Ashley, no offense taken, everyone is biased. As in you refer to Mom (custodial parent) as uninvolved but Dad as part time lol. Although it's kinda funny being called biased over this situation when normally I'm rooting for all kids to go to college lol. I agree with FD, just because Mom did not push or prep for college it does not = uninvolved. It sounds like her values are somewhere else and I wouldn't call every single parent who did not push/prep their child for college as uninvolved or whatever else. To me it sounds like Mom never went to college and that makes sense, usually children go to college when their parents have etc. What is interesting and OP still has not answered, is if Dad went to college. And I find that a lot more interesting that he wouldn't prepare his children to receive the same benefits that he did. Or he didn't go to college and then it all makes sense why SM is leader of the pack on this.

Either way, I answered this thread based on *this* situation. Your situation is not comparable imo. SM has not said a kind word about these kids, has not established a relationship with either of them, looks down on their interests etc. She has only been a part of their lives "part time" for 2 years and only 1 year being married. After the descriptions she has given of their relationship or lack there of and the duration of it, I'm still going to say they do not consider her a parent figure. It sounds to me that she does not have an accurate view or background of their interests or abilities. Or if they are even capable of going to college. She does not have the strength of a relationship with them to be able to pursue if this letter was genuine or a passive-aggressive stance from SS. Both his Mom and Dad do. The best route for SS is for Dad to pursue this with him.

I don't really see the big deal about SM not doing it, other than it being a power play. This exact situation would call for Mom or Dad, SM has access to Dad to give her opinions....why not work smarter rather than harder? Why would she have to be the point man? I mean, it really doesn't make sense if you think about it from a business point of view. If you have a client that really likes employee 1, what good would it do to force the client to work with employee 2 just because. Why risk losing a big account to ego?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 1:22PM
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like I said plenty of people on this forum have children who do not/did not attend college. I'd like to hear from them...what do they think?

It would be hard to imagine life without college degree but i recognize that there are limitations and not everyone can do that. Seriously two year degree maybe, but not everyone can do 4-year-degree. Plus if parents themselves are not educated it is unreasonable to expect them help kids with college. A

nd who knows maybe that "thank you" letter trully is representation of his writing skills. SM doesn't know him enough to assess his abilities, he might be embarassed to admit that he cannot do it.

Or maybe he is just passive-agressive. i would just back off and let them all figure it out.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 2:15PM
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I did not get a college degree. I attended and studied subjects that interested me, but do not use much of what I learned when I am working. I own two businesses and love what I do. Neither of my parents went to college. Both are self employed and enjoy what they do. My children... My oldest son joined the Army. (Admits he hates it, hates being away from his child, and the only reason he joined is because he has a child to support & he will learn a trade) My middle child (son) is in college. My daughter is not college material but is a very hard (skilled) worker, holding 3 jobs & enjoys working.

In our family, it is more important to enjoy what you do rather than focus on how hard the work is or how much money is being paid. I worked 10 years for government where I had job security, steady reliable income, benefits & office environment. I HATED IT!

Love what you do with your life or why bother?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Nothing wrong with not going to college -- It's not the right path for everyone.

But where I do find fault is in 'talking the talk' but not 'walking the walk'. In other words, in saying that of course you want your kids to go to college -- but in doing nothing to prepare them or help them prepare to go. That's why I got sour on SIL when she asked for my help but didn't hold up her end of the bargain.

In OP's case -- if BM wants the boys to go to college and the boys want to go to college, she should help make it happen. True, the boys will need to take ownership of their own lives, but college-prep needs to begin long before the teens are able to make those kinds of decisions or take that kind of initiative.

And if college is not the path she feels is right for them (which I won't quibble with, not knowing the boys) -- Then what is she doing to help them prepare for some other path? Trade school? Art school? Apprenticeship of some kind? How to cook, clean, do their own laundry, and pay their own bills?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 3:39PM
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I agree with you, Sweeby. But I would add on it needs to be both Mom AND Dad. We don't really know Mom's side here so it's hard to say shoulda, woulda, coulda for her, although I do definitely agree that she *should* be doing something. Again, what that something is....we don't know. OP gave background on Dad and I think he dropped the ball and is looking to SM to go fetch it for him. Not a good idea. HE needs to do it, whatever *it* is lol. Whether it's college, trade school, remedial schooling this summer...he needs to get a move-on and start being proactive.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 5:21PM
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normally kids start looking for colleges in 10th -11th grade, if they wait that long it means they are not serious about it or are not ready. this kid is clearly is not ready for college, some community college classes and working would the ideal pathway. anyone can do community college, it is easy plus they provide help for special needs students, at least our community colleges do. and there are excellent vocational programs out there.

and by the way i never went to school full time, I got my undergraduate degree taking classes at night and working during the day and then taking care of a child, so no one put me through college, and graduate degree I got much later in life after many years of professional work again taking classes at night, i avoided going to grad school for so many years because I did not want to take loans. so there is no excuse for not getting education or some other training, never too late.

I also think kids learn by example, if they see their parents avoiding education (or training) or finding excuses then it is very unlikely they would pursue that. SKs saw BM (and maybe their dad too) and that's all they know.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 5:43PM
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Certainly didn't mean to absolve Dad from responsibility.

So many Dads do that quite well without my help ;-)

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 6:40PM
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You are all so wise and helpful...thanks for the very meaningful comments.

A few reactions:

-- I don't want to be thought of as a step parent....maybe a mentor or friend. I agree, havent known them long enough. Coming onto the scene at this age doesnt make sense beyond being a helpful adult and supporting DH. I get it. I have heard both refer to me as a SM to their friends. I was surprised to hear that! I expected them to refer to me as "Dad's Wife", but they actually say SM. Any thoughts about that?

-- I also agree that unmotivated BM+PT Dad=unmotivated kids
doesnt mean it will be that way forever. But I suspect they will need to be on their own before it changes.

-- I did punt the letter to DH and he coached him through it. Second draft wasnt great either, but better. I didnt get involved. My guess is that he never sent it. I'm not asking. Agree that DH needs to take it from here.

-- I do wonder if me coming along has added pressure to both SSs as no one was pushing them before. If you ask DH why, he beleives that the intensity of a bad divorce "cheated" the SSs and both parents lost focus on what was important. He is trying to make up for lost time now, but there is no question that the boys have paid the price to some degree. Doesnt mean they cannot still be happy successful adults;

-- BM doesnt do anything. I am not just saying that either. She lives off CS and alimony (which both go away in 2 years) no need to work, she figures. What example is that for her sons? DH and I both have intense careers and schedules. I get the sense that SSs find BMs lifestyle "more relaxing and fun". They may just need to learn the hard way;

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:08AM
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I think reference to someone as SM is meaningless. You are by definition a SM. Kids frequently do not want to discuss more than objective relationship with friends. My DD's friends refer to some SMs as such when they barely see the.

I am sorry that the kids parents are not involved.

If dad is paying significant CS and alimony, my guess is he makes a good living. I assume you knew that when you met him. I am not saying that you dont make a good living (as do I, btw) but I suspect you were cognizant of it. With all due respect, I resent when SMs critize a first wife for "living off CS and alimony" Your DH may have encouraged his first wife not to have a career, to stay home, etc.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 11:54AM
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'She lives off CS and alimony (which both go away in 2 years) no need to work, she figures. What example is that for her sons?"

I don't think this is particularly a fair comment. Obviously, I don't know this BM's finances, but do you? It may be entirely possible that she has enough money from alimony to not work. I agree that people should not attempt to live off of child support, as that is meant for the childrens' support. But alimony is spousal support and if it's enough for her to live off of, then that's okay....maybe she has enough to put money aside and invest, etc.

My parents were married for 23 years and my mom stopped working when I was 2. (She has two master's degrees, btw.) When they divorced, my mom got a very large cash settlement plus 5K/monthly alimony for 7 years. It
WAS enough that she was able to live off the alimony and invest her cash settlement and she now lives comfortably. She does not HAVE to work, although she now has a real estate license and does that part-time. However, she does that because she ENJOYS it.

I just wouldn't automatically jump to the conclusion that BM is setting a bad example for her sons. NOW, if she's going to be up sh*t creek financially when the alimony runs out, and she's going to have to on public assistance to make ends meet.....well, that would be setting a bad example.

JMO. Sorry I know this is kind of off topic!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 12:04PM
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SM is just a term. DD never calls SM by that title, she just calls her by her first name and refers to as dad's wife, they get along great. when ex had a live in GF for 10 years DD also referred to her by her first name and dad's wife, never SM, they got along great.

but it could be cultural difference, in some cultures term SM has negative connotation. i also have to say when i moved to the US, i was surprised what huge role stepparents play, it could be cultural, the way i saw it growing up that parents do the parenting not stepparents, and stepparents do parenting job only in absence of another parent or even adoption of a stepchild that is also very common in absence of another parent.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 1:22PM
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KKNY, I see your point, BUT, Dh encouraged BM to go to school, get trained in a skill, for years. Even as part of the divorce, he offered to pay for any kind of job training/education she wants. She did work the entire time they were married and then stopped before the divorce. Judge calls is "voluntary underemployment".

And yes, I do very well independently. Even better than my husband.

Lovehadly, the answer is yes, she is up sh&*creek financially and will need public assistance in two years unless something dramatically changes. She attempted a CS modification last year (he already pays double what the guidelines are) but she wanted part of that tax returns are required by the court. Our attorney learned that she hasnt filed taxes in FIVE years, including not paying tax on the alimony! (we have to report her ss# on our return each year) The judge was shocked at her financial state. She cannot even get credit to get a car. I fear that once SS1 is 18 this year, she wont be able to stay in the same home, which means moving her 10 dogs and 15 birds along with everything else.

No matter, the Sks will be fine because we will be here for them. We have been teaching them "finance 101" and have done quite a bit of reading about this. We helped them open savings accounts and require they save a certain % of their funds they receive from gifts, etc.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:26AM
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why didn't SKs live with dad?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 2:20PM
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Because he has been traveling oversees for a period of time each month with the military. It began as a custody battle and then he decided they needed the stability of one school, consistent friends, etc.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 6:03PM
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