Custodial parent titles

imamommyMarch 5, 2011

I am starting a new thread because someone revived an old thread and lately, I have been thinking a lot about this issue because my stepdaughter has been living full time with us for nearly four years and her mom has less & less to do with her.

Yesterday, we had a little breakthrough... well, I did. We had a meeting with her school (Friday after school) to discuss retention for next year because this is the second trimester she has gotten 2 D's & 2 F's in all her academic classes & we feel we've tried everything to get through to her. We've had this appointment for over a week so DH called BM to tell her about it at the beginning of the week. Right away, she tells him the baby is sick so she probably can't go. I know I need to learn how to ignore it & let it go, but for some reason it just pissed me off! If she doesn't want to go... don't use your new baby as an excuse. She uses the new baby as a reason she shouldn't have to pay support... it just angers me after watching her neglect and emotionally damage her daughter for the last four years, now she makes another baby & he is her new excuse for all the crap she did BEFORE she had him. So, when DH told me what she said, I opened my mouth & gave DH my opinion. I asked him to imagine the tables turned... SD lives with BM & DH tries to get out of an important meeting with the school.. what would BM say to him? He said she would ream him... because she used to ream him if he didn't do what she wanted, which is what started the custody battle to begin with. I told him that he is SD's voice & he really needs to fight for her. He may not be able to make BM do anything but he should not make it so easy for her to flake on SD & hurt her. So on Wednesday, he called BM and told her she really needs to be there.. he let her know how much her uninvolvement hurts SD & that SD needs her mom to be a mom & show she loves her by coming to her stuff. Of course, BM retorts that SD knows she loves her & she does put SD first... she would be there but the baby has an ear infection & possibly pneumonia. Now, if any other woman said that, I would feel horrible that the baby is sick... it would be a reasonable excuse to not attend. BUT BM is such a liar & she predicts on Monday that the baby will still be sick on Friday? DGS2 just had a REALLY bad ear infection & after 2 days on antibiotics, he was feeling better & back to his happy self. DH suggested BM have grandma babysit so BM can be there & she said there's no way she can leave her sick baby with ANYONE. I'll feel horrible & guilty if the baby really is sick but at the moment, I seriously doubt it & the look on SD's face when her teacher said BM can't be here because baby is sick.. SD knows it's a lie too. Anyway, BM had called the school & wanted to be on speaker phone during the meeting. The teacher was concerned about using the phone in the classroom because it couldn't be moved & was on the other side of the room... she didn't think BM would be able to hear. She said she wished she had her cell phone, so I had mine & offered to let her use it. We placed the phone on the table & dialed BM. When she answered, the teacher did all the talking, but I know my number came up on her caller ID and I could tell from her tone, she was irritated. We started the conference & BM said nothing until about ten minutes into the meeting, she said she can't hear anything with "THAT cell phone" so she asked to use a landline. So, they set up the call on the class phone... from across the room, so teachers had to talk loud ` almost yelling. The meeting resumed and BM was still talking about how this phone is much better... and then the teacher asked BM for her opinion on how to help SD. SILENCE. Teacher repeats it. SILENCE. So, teacher say "BM? Are you there?" BM says yeah. Teacher changes question to "What do you think of SD repeating the 6th grade?" and BM says "That's fine. Whatever you guys want to do." and the look on SD's face went from embarrassed (she looked so embarrassed when her teachers are trying to talk to her mom.. yelling & BM not answering their questions.) It was obvious BM couldn't really hear the conversation on the class phone. And the only input BM gave was basically saying she didn't care one way or the other... even one of the teachers rolled eyes & another's mouth fell open. SD began crying, admitted she isn't trying her best & I wanted to scream... I wanted to scream at BM & tell her teachers that THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!! But then one of the teachers said they heard a click. BM had hung up. I feel bad for SD because the root of the problems SD is having is having a BM, for the last four years (maybe even longer) telling SD that I am not her mom... she is. Which is fine because it's true... but then if you are going to demand a title, live up to it. BE A FREAKIN MOM!!! I think BM hung up because while DH said a little, I did a lot more talking to the teachers about how to find solutions, and about the problems I see with how SD does school... procrastinating, not taking it seriously, etc. The end result was that they are placing SD in a smaller class where struggling kids get more help. (they described it as low achievers) and I'm sure that was a blow to SD because I know when I was in school, many kids made fun of kids in "different" classes, like special ed. I know kids can be mean... but the last thing we really WANT for SD is to hold her back. We want her to work on her study & work habits so she can keep up next year. But, she was crying & upset, but in my opinion, it was more from the realization that her mom didn't bother to come, made up a lame excuse (because grandma was waiting at the school when the meeting was over, so SD was going to BM's & will see for herself is baby brother is really sick) and even though she was there by phone, she had no input or concern for the problems SD is having... she made a bigger deal over what phone they called her on. It was a new pathetic low for BM. She would have been better off just being a no show.

I guess my point is that SD is having so many problems and a lot of it has to do with her insistence that she is the mom & doing/saying whatever to SD, to make sure SD & I don't have a relationship. I'm actually thinking of getting ME into counseling because it's been so hard for me to watch, I get so full of anger toward BM & everything SD does frustrates me... because she regularly throws me under the bus with her mom & that makes it that much harder to live together... and BM obviously isn't going to rescue her.

Then I have custody of my grandson. He's been with me since he was 9 months old & he'll be 2 this weekend. His mom sees him for a few hours (supervised) every week or two weeks. She moved a couple of hours away & relies on her grandparents to drive her... they are getting tired of the drive. Since DGS is with me 99% of the time, he occasionally says "MOMMY" to me. We always refer to me as GRANDMA, but he likes to say MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY. He knows DIL is his mommy, he calls her mommy & cries when she leaves. There's no question he knows who his mom is... but he said mommy & looked at me during a visit & DIL corrected him. She got upset & made a big deal of it. There was a noticeable difference in DGS's behavior following that. I didn't say anything to DIL because she was leaving & I didn't want to have a scene... she would think nothing of yelling at me (I think because of her mental issues) & DGS does not need to see that.

But, it's clearly going to be an issue & as a mom, I understand how it feels.. my son called his stepmom "mama SM" at her request. My opinion is that kids know who their parents are, they know who takes care of them, they know who they can count on, etc. and it may be a whole group of people so they should be allowed to choose how they want to refer to the people in their lives. It might bother me if my child called someone else mom but called me by my first name... but then I would have to wonder WHY they want to do that? I do not agree with any adult telling a child how to address them... except maybe a parent that is teaching a child. ie. If they call a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle by their first name. I think children need to be taught that saying Uncle Bob instead of just Bob is a sign of respect for elders in the family hierarchy. But, that's just my opinion.

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Bless that young girl's heart!

Sometimes the healthiest thing, indeed the *only* healthy thing, is to sever the ties as much as possible:
It sounds to me (always remembering that I am an outsider) like she would have been much better off had her 'real mother' not been involved at all, let alone dragged into it.

She obviously knows exactly what her 'relationship' is with her birth mother, but it seems to me that she might think that, since you & her dad keep dragging her mother into her life, that maybe you don't want her either, that you want to dilute the relationship.

not by any means presenting a case, it's just a troubling thought.

I don't like to hear children call their parents by the parents' given name, either;
life is confusing enough without having to wonder if your mother is really your mother or if she's a big ole ditzy girlfriend with a lot of freedom & no sense.

My great-grandmother said we were to call her "Mammie"-
weird-sounding today, I know, but not so much back then.

She said she wanted us to know who she was & to know that she wasn't just another grandmother ("granny jones" or "granny edna").

If you're fulfilling the mother role, I think you need your own motherly moniker, maybe not mommy, but mummy or mama or something-
I bet your grandson can learn to call you Auntie Mame or Earth Mother Griselda if you constantly repeat & reinforce.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 3:37PM
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oh my, don't even know what to say...

BM is so disgusting. I wonder if her older DD does well in school and if she is involved in her life, probably not. What a loser. Poor SD. Poor DGS, has a loser for a mother too.

I don't have any particular opinion on how children should call family members though.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 8:44PM
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I agree on the name thing. I have this issue. sM was insisting that DD call her mom and me by my first name while with them. That issue has died down. I wasn't against it because my momma claws were coming out. I was against it because DD knows SM by her first name and deciding 4 yrs in to it 'you WILL call me MOM and your MOMMY is no longer your MOM when in my house'. And it really ticked me off that BD and SM force DD to say 'Dad' instead of 'daddy' when DD has always called him daddy but Now at 9 1/2 she needs to be more mature and say 'DAD'. Dd gets so confused and scared to mess up the new rules. She is so eager to please and scared to get into trouble.

As far as the grades and school go, you are absolutely right that SD is having issues BECAUSE of BMs lack of being involved. When my daughter was in 2nd grade, we had the falling out with BD and SM and BD was no longer allowed access for about 6 months until they started supervised visitation started. The system was just slow and it took that long to get it started. DD was literally failing 2nd grade. She would put her head down all day and refuse to participate or do any work. The teacher was at a loss bc in 2nd grade you don't see this type of withdraw except in severe cases. Things got better as the visists started and the last two yrs have been good school wise. She is mostly a B student with the occassional A even though she is in the gifted program. For the last two six weeks she has been having unsupervised visits and started every other weekend and although we have our issues and Dd expresses concerns and problems while with SM, she for the first time has been a straight A student. As much as I hate to admit it, I believe her focus at school and her higher grades comes from her BD finally being involved and in her life full time again. (even though he isn't always present during the visists). He is taking her to school once a week and twice a week when it's his weekend. So I see a huge difference in her because he is now more than just a twice a month visitor to the family services center. I have no advice. You can't force BM to be a mom. You can just be their for SD and hope this new situation helps her.

Counseling for you is a great idea. It's helped me so much. I am building the confidence in myself that I have lost over the years and I'm growing so much by having a neutral person on MY SIDE.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:23AM
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I am usually a lurker on the stepfamily board, but many of the things you are saying in this post and the venting post hit close to home because I am in a similar situation with 12 y.o. SD.

She goes to BM's house every other weekend unless BM can come up with a reason why it would be better for us to have her. And, usually I agree that it is better that she stay with us because we are the only place where she has rules and expectations. At the same time, I get angry because who wouldn't want to take advantage of whatever time they can get with their child. Add to the mix that I also get resentful that I am here day in and day out without a break from the disrespect, bad attitude, and work of it all, and I get no say in her staying or going for the weekend, but BM gets to decide gets me feeling mad and guilty and confused about all the things going through my head.

I feel for your SD because it must be crushing to have to relearn all over again that her mom does not care to be involved in her life. It seems that SDs will always give the BM the benefit of the doubt and will forgive and think they might actually come through this time, so it is like a fresh cut each time.

SD wants BM to be if not involved at least more interested, and in our case, SD does not know where her rage comes from, but I know it is from not getting the attention from the one person she wants it from the most. I have told DH, I am here - I am the one doing the raising, disciplining, loving (as hard as that can be sometimes), but it does not matter because she needs her mom. Let me clarify, she needs who she wants her mom to be. Her mom talks a good game to SD but getting her to follow through is difficult.

In this situation, I think it is traumatic for all of us. Even though there are some good days, the bad days are more numerous and leave everyone feeling scathed. SD has experienced a lot of tumult throughout her life, and while I understand her apathy and anger and hurt, it does not make it any easier to live with. We are in the same boat as far as counseling as well because SD is very good at telling people the things they want to hear and takes the wrong kind of advantage of the counseling sessions. It becomes more of a thing of interest for her to tell her friends than a tool for her to open up to someone. I am very much leaning toward trying it again because BM is bipolar and many of the ways in which SD acts out are the same, but I sometimes am afraid that SD acts in such a way in order to feel closer to her mom because they have that in common. It is just all very difficult.

The push and pull of everything can be quite draining, and I think individual counseling is a good idea - I am thinking of going also just so I can keep my head above water because my nerves are so frayed due to the nonstop arguing and everything else. I just wonder if this is what 12 is like then what are we in for when the real teen years start?? I hope you have a very supportive husband at least most of the time. My DH can be very supportive; he tries to back me up, but there are times that he just does not see what is going on or does not engage as much as I think he needs to. I think our marriage is strong, but we are exhausted going round in circles.

Anyway, I apologize that have no real advice to give - I just wanted to share that there is someone else going through something very similar. I do hope your SD and your whole family is able to find peace.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 2:48AM
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"I feel for your SD because it must be crushing to have to relearn all over again that her mom does not care to be involved in her life. It seems that SDs will always give the BM the benefit of the doubt and will forgive and think they might actually come through this time, so it is like a fresh cut each time.

SD wants BM to be if not involved at least more interested, and in our case, SD does not know where her rage comes from, but I know it is from not getting the attention from the one person she wants it from the most. I have told DH, I am here - I am the one doing the raising, disciplining, loving (as hard as that can be sometimes), but it does not matter because she needs her mom. Let me clarify, she needs who she wants her mom to be. Her mom talks a good game to SD but getting her to follow through is difficult."

EXACTLY!!! Thank you mama22 for sharing.

Sylvia~ DH & BM shared 50/50 custody without a court order until SD was in 2nd grade. During that year, BM threatened DH for the umpteenth time that she was going to take SD away & not let him see her because he didn't do what she wanted. I take the blame in sharing my experience in family law... I told him he has RIGHTS but without a court order, she very well could take SD & he had nothing to say he has a right to see her. So, after the third time she threatened him with that, he filed to get his rights on paper. She immediately filed for full custody & child support. (He didn't file anything for child support because if they both have 50/50, they are each supporting her the same... but the issue of support was brought by BM initially) She spent the duration of the battle (about 6 months) telling SD how "daddy is trying to take you away from me" and reassuring her that she won't let that happen. She tried to manipulate the therapist, got SD to tell the therapist that she really wanted to just live with BM... but then SD had no explanation of why. Then three weeks after their trial & DH getting his court order for 50/50, BM moved during DH's week & kinda dropped SD in his lap saying she couldn't take SD with her so she's gonna let him have her "temporarily" and that devastated SD. Within a few months, SD was telling classmates she was moving with BM & saying her goodbyes. BM was telling her how we took her away but that she was going to get her & she was going to go live there with BM. It was all lies. During the first year, BM canceled weekends which only made SD more emotionally upset. We would make plans to do fun stuff to keep her mind off it, but SD would spend the whole time talking about "if my mom was here ______" and though she was in counseling, she refused to open up. Instead, she said what she thought everyone wanted to hear. She got bad about lying to her second counselor, pretending everything in the world was fine... she doesn't NEED counseling. But, all along, BM has been the one keeping it alive. When she would come get SD, she would always (yes, every time) show up hours early & sign her out of school early. SD wasn't doing real well to begin with because of her emotional stuff dealing with BM moving away so suddenly. Finally DH told her she had to let SD finish the day in school because she is falling behind & needs to be there as much as possible. It wasn't convenient for BM to wait around so that's when BM started sending grandma to get her. That was three years ago. DH took BM to court a year later asking that only BM may pick up SD. Grandma was picking her up & taking her to BM (sometimes keeping her instead too) but BM was not giving her much attention, which caused the emotional problems to get worse... so DH figured if he got an order forcing BM to come get her, she would either drive up to get her (showing she cared) or cancel more time, which was kinda what we were hoping. We did not want to ask the court to cut off BM's time because all along, BM has been feeding SD lies that we are just trying to remove her from the picture & that would have seemed true if he tried to cut off BM's time. We've tried involving her in activities so she would rather be here than with BM... none of it has worked. BM has insisted all along, SD will eventually live there. I think SD stopped trying in school because she figured it doesn't matter because she's going to be leaving to go live with mom anyway. As long as BM continues to feed SD lies & false hope with promises, and as long as SD believes (or wants to believe) BM will follow through, it feels as if we are stuck. It seems like SD knows her mom is full of it, but she's not ready to admit it or face it. I think it has been a very slow process but seeing mom have another baby that not only gets to live with her, but since the baby is the string to holding on to the BF, BM appears to dote on him to SD (plus babies need all the attention too). Personally, I think BM schleps him off on others most of the time but doesn't want us to know that so she dotes on him around SD, which only makes things harder for her because she has struggled for years to get mom to pay attention to her & her mom, in trying to show us what a happy family she has with BF & baby, it's probably a knife through SD's heart each time. SD is realizing that BM is probably never going to seek custody of her and have her live there, especially now that they had to move from a fairly huge 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom mobile home. and Friday, SD saw that mom could care less what happens to her as far as school goes. I think SD knows that she won't be living with BM next year & BM says "I don't care if she has to repeat 6th grade again!" I mean, I don't always get along well with her & I do come across as harsh sometimes, but I care what happens to her. I think it's important for her to have an education & the biggest reason I am in favor of holding her back is because DH told her that if things don't improve, and if she keeps getting F's in multiple classes, he would have to hold her back because it indicates she is not ready to do more advanced work. But we don't WANT to see her held back, we want to see her work habits get better because each year, the assignments get harder. The bottom line is DH said it will happen if she continues to lie about finishing or turning in her work. She just admitted that she goes to a morning tutor class where she's supposed to bring questions about math & get an understanding so she can improve, she admitted she goes to the class & just sits there. Well, we all have been getting up an hour early twice a week for her to go so she can get help understanding math but her grade actually went down since she started it. We understand she has problems but she also needs to be at least trying, but she's been giving lip service and holding her back is a last resort. BM didn't want to discuss options to help her... so seeing her mom has an "I don't care" attitude, I'm getting hopeful she is going to come around. I saw something in her face I had never seen before and it just broke my heart. Another reason I think she and I have not been able to get along is that I think she knows that I don't believe or buy into her BS... she knows that I know what her mom is all about. I'm sure she knows much better because she is behind the scenes with her mom & hears her mom lying about stuff she knows about. She's now getting to the age where she's figuring out that mom lies to her the way she lies to everyone else. But, by no means have we been dragging BM into SD's life. Personally I think SD would be better off if BM would either step up or step off.. but this constant roller coaster she keeps her on is so hard on her. I don't know if that dynamic can be changed as long as SD fantasizes about living with her mom & BM keeps the dream alive with empty promises. We cannot financially afford to instigate a court proceeding to limit BM's contact, although it has been suggested that he seek supervised visits because of how BM discusses everything with SD.

Me personally, I have been so frustrated I have welcomed the thought of SD going to live with her mom. AT least then she would see that it's not the fantasy that she has drummed up in her head. BM is focused on the new baby & trying to salvage her relationship with BF. I think deep down, SD knows it but still fantasizes that it would be different if she just lived there. The worse part in SD's situation is that it's such a long heartbreaking process to go through... and she may never actually give up on the fantasy. We can only hope.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 4:02AM
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IMA you have taken on so much with SD and DGS! Without you in their lives I can only imagine what would happen to them. They are so lucky to have you looking out for them.

BM is pathetic. I wouldn't doubt her baby was perfectly healthy and she just did not want to attend the meeting because she knows that when it comes to her daughter she is clueless on anything. And I feel bad for your SD as she sees this and has to deal with the realizations that come with it.

As far as names go I would definately correct DGS when he calls you mommy. I had a friend who went off into the army and while overseas his wife took off with another man and left their son behind. The grandmother took over guardianship and raised the son for years. She allowed the child to call her mommy. Well my friend came home and said how awkward it was for him to have his child call his mom mommy. They would be out in public together and this child would be calling them mommy and daddy! LOL Imagine the looks they got with a young guy and way older woman!

I think that would be very confusing for a child to deal with as they got older. I think you are better off coming up with some cute nickname for DGS to call you instead of mommy.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Ima, that's heartbreaking.

If the risk weren't so huge, I'd be tempted to tell birth mom & stepdaughter, "fine, go live together & have a nice life", figuring that stepdaughter would get a crash course in reality & be back home faster this way than any other.

but the risk is stepdaughter's emotional devastation at the very least.

holding you & her in my thoughts & in my heart.

'your MOMMY is no longer your MOM when in my house'

People who re-order reality so that they have more power never get enough power;
you can't give them enough,
there *isn't* enough.

Be very careful.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 11:57AM
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"People who re-order reality so that they have more power never get enough power;
you can't give them enough,
there *isn't* enough."

I got an email recently from BM's BF's ExW. She was telling me about how her daughter came home upset that SD had made her pinky promise not to tell anyone but that her mom is trying everything to steal her dad away from SD's mom. I can't imagine what would possess a parent to share their insecurities that the ex wife is trying to steal her BF from her... and then how upsetting it was for BF's DD to be told such a thing & be expected to keep it a secret.. and it wasn't even true. SICK!

Well, considering BM is still talking about marrying BF, has set two dates & bought dresses among other things for a wedding but no wedding has taken place and legally can't because she's still married.... who would do that to a child when everyone knows children usually believe everything they are told. And for years, BM tells everyone in their small town how she is raising all the children... the BF's three that live with his exW and SD that lives with us & her other DD that was living with grandma. The woman lives in her own reality!

And I know that if DH let SD go live there, she would either be devastated when BM refuses to take her or if she does take her, SD would become another built in babysitter just like older DD & grandma...

I would like to think she would get a dose of reality & want to come back... with a different attitude & outlook, but the risk is also that she would stay there, BM would let her do whatever because she is too busy/preoccupied with her own life to care what her kids do, and SD would get into trouble so BM would send her back to us because she doesn't clean up her own messes, she isn't gonna do it for her kids.

BTW, her older daughter seems to be doing well in school & does not have the same kind of emotional problems as SD. I think she isn't always very nice to SD... teases her & does what some older sisters do, etc. But, older DD was basically raised by grandma & has a dad that values a good education... his other two kids are in college & older DD is already talking about going off to college in a couple of years... she's apparently anxious to leave for college now that BM has to move to the smaller house.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 12:57PM
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