speechless . . . but not surprised

justnotmarthaApril 29, 2009

Just when things seem so 'normal'. . . sorry, this one could get long.

SD14 confided in me a week ago that her mom and SF were going to divorce, though this is not the first time we've heard that. BM told SD she planned to move about an hour away and would only see SD EOW Friday thru Sunday rather then the EOW Thursday-Monday AM. SD was pleased with this as she had been asking to have visitation reduced to that for high school anyway. As I've wrote about she's really been seeing and understanding her mom's true colors for the last year or so.

Fast forward a week to last night, when she tells us she needs to move with her "mommy" because she needs to help her and wants to be there for her. DH and I had a long talk explaining that she can't be the one responsibile for mom's happiness and that she needs to worry about herself, not mom. Mom got herself into this mess, marrying and having a baby with a guy she met online and knew for 9 months. SD didn't need to carry the burden of her mom's choices.

As a little back story, BM is the need-a-man-to-be-happy type. When she didn't have one, she needed SD. It would be "just you and be against the world, baby" and then "you need to respect (insert man here) because he is my partner." SD had many insecurities based around this all or nothing type of parenting. SD is very empathetic and easy guilted, for lack of a better word. When mom turns on the 'poor me, I need you and your baby sister needs you" charm, and she does this after every break up, SD feels she needs to save mom (and now sis) and be there to care for them. Now, in the course of a week, she tells us BM has changed all her selfish ways and is a new, better person that she wants to live with.

WELL OF COURSE SHE HAS CHANGED!! She's starting kissing up to SD - letting her do what she wants, have her boyfriend over until 9:30 at night, not siding with her husband but rather trashing on him to SD . . . SD feels like her new BFF now. BM is the same self centered, calculating person who knows that if she gives SD all she wants right now and lays on the guilt she will have a built in babysitter and child support when/if SD moves to be with her. We know her. This is what she does every break up . . . and when SD is being rational, she knows it too. Last night when we asked for reasons/facts as to why the move would be better for her she had few - just an immature "I want to be with my mommy" and "My sissy needs me." It was truly like talking to a petulant 4 year old.

So I don't know what to do at all. DH is confident once SD starts thinking with a level head again this will all blow over. I'm not so sure. BM is already 'buying' and 'guilting' her way to what she wants, and SD has always been strongly influenced by this. I don't see BM lightening up the full court press, and I don't have it in me to go through this again - the phase where we are the bad guys for enforcing rules, grades, etc. while mom runs around like her BFF once again - 'The Girls' against the world in one big fest of fun. DH and I know the fun won't last and we remember what happens to SD each time the party ends and real life sets in, but SD isn't seeing that right now. She isn't seeing much of anything past her own nose right now . . . kinda like her mom.

I'm sad, scared, hurt . . . don't know what to do. Just want to sit and cry. I was really enjoying how'nornal' our lives had become. I guess the only constant around here is change.

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Is there a way some compromise can be worked out? An hour away may be farther than what everyone's used to, but it still isn't that bad. Are there other reasons why it has to be EITHER:

-reduced to [shorter] EOW
-full-time living in


Could SD maybe try an EVERY [longer] weekend schedule until she sees that she misses her own weekend life and doesn't want to be babysitting all the time? So she can see for herself when/if she is taken advantage of in that capacity and decide she doesn't want to take that burden...

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 2:47PM
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in a different situation I might say yes, but it's not likley here. SD's school will start at 7:45 next year, and it's over an hour drive to get there, not to mention mom has a varied work schedule and her work is 30 minutes the other way from the school.

The funny thing is, SD knows what's it's like to be taken advantage of by her mom as it's happened. It was literally just a week ago she was complaining of it. But suddenly she feels everything is different.

I think she is associating all the 'bad' things there with her stepfather, like once he is out of the picture it will all be ducky. Maybe mom is telling her that as well? He was a jerk, but mom allowed him to be. SD misses that connection in her thinking sometimes and just sees him as the problem. He was the one to insist on chores and rules and such, so I'm sure SD knows that without him there it will be easy street unti lmom gets upset and flies off the handle . . . been there, done that.

I just have to hope SD starts thinking clearly.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 3:33PM
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One strategy I use with my kids is to have them think of and write down (or I'll scribe if they're being that reluctant) at least three positive things and three negative things about every possible choice.

My spiel is that if they can't think of three positives and three negatives about ANY major decision, then it's clear they're not thinking things through thoroughly enough -- and that therefore, their wishes can't be given much weight. But if they can come up with three serious (not idiotic or childish) reasons supporting their choice, and are willing to acknowledge three real (not trivial) drawbacks or risks -- then they're showing good judgement that deserves to be respected and considered. Not necessarily deferred to, but acknowledged and considered.

If SD doesn't include BM's past hot & cold treatment, and her likely future as a babysitter on her list, then it's time for you to help her see more clearly...

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:16PM
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Well that didn't take long.

Today is BM's b-day. She told SD she wanted her with her, but it wasn't in the parenting plan (true). DH texted her and asked if she'd like to have SD with her for the evening, and got no response. When SD got home from school he told her he sent the text, with no response, so she texted BM to see if she got DH's text. She responded: yes. SD called her to be told that BM was going to dinner with her husband(?) and they could celebrate this weekend. It became obvious to SD that BM never really wanted her there, she just wanted to make DH appear the bad guy rather than say she wanted a dinner with the man she was divorcing two days prior. She actually said to DH "my old mom is back again', to which he responded "she never really left." Tonight she was talking about high school (here) next year.

So who knows?? I'm sure after this weekend with mom there will be uncertainty and flip flopping again. I'm sure this will go on for a while. But, I feel better knowing SD hasn't totally lost her mind. :-)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 1:55AM
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Unfortunately both of my daughters went through, and youngest is still going through this stuff with their mother. On a feed and clothe level she's a good mother more or less but on a emotional level, she is or at least was pretty messed up.

She did the bff thing a lot. The eldest wised up and does not live near her and doesn't see a lot of her, the youngest who's much more like mum is still there and I'm sure it's not the healthiest of relationships.

Eldest described to me a screaming match between the two of them that was so nasty and went on so long, the puppy/dog hid in a corner and peed himself. It broke my heart to think of it and gave me bad memories of the ex screaming at me.

For the most part, kids who are insightful will see things for themselves. This is a case where you really can't say a bad word, just respond diplomatically and gently turn the onus back to the child, to draw their own conclusions. Even if kid is badmouthing other parent, let them vent but remind them they owe them respect, or at the very least counsel them about it. Never agree, but let them know you understand and are there for them.

Kids who feel 'needed' by the dysfunctional parent will defend them vigorously, even if they're abusive. Sort of Stockholm syndrome I guess.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 4:15AM
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"Kids who feel 'needed' by the dysfunctional parent will defend them vigorously, even if they're abusive. Sort of Stockholm syndrome I guess"

So true.

I'm glad your SD is seeing her BM more clearly again---but sad for her at the same time. :( I don't think it is ever easy for a child to be let down by a parent. I'm glad to hear she has so much love and stability with you guys, though!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 8:11AM
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JNM, I was going to say... give her the summer to think about it. A lot can happen in a couple of months. But, I guess it really didn't take long for BM to show some things never change.

Your situation really inspires me to keep on. It's tough but I know it's well worth it.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 8:53AM
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Even in the best of situations, teens arent easy. I think once she starts HS near you and gets involved, she will have less time to think about her mom. I am certain you're doing this, but make certain you have all SDs summer commitmments on your family calendar and keep up the excitment over them. Make certain SD goes to every HS orientation, meets other kids, etc. Does she know other kids in her grade at the HS (I forget if she is changing districts). Help her bond -- suggest she start a book club where kids can discuss summer reading books.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 8:56AM
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I'm so sorry she was let down again JNM...
But Dad's response was perfect, and I'm sure there were hugs to go along with it.

And yes, the things perceptive kids will see are both wonderous and heart-breaking. As long as SD is clear on 'Mom's broken' instead of 'she doesn't love me' then she'll come through it OK - stronger and wiser.

And never underestimate the power of a good StepMother.
(This from a BioMom whose son is fortunate enough to have a great SM balancing out a 'broken' Dad.)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 9:08AM
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Sweeby - it's nice to hear you say good things about SM. It really is refreshing to hear a BM be positive about the person their X chose and even actually grateful that their presence makes things easier. I think it helps those of us that aspire to be great SMs hope that one day our love for someone else's kid(s) isn't a bad thing.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:22AM
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Sweeby, I really like your way of writing pros and cons to balance the decision/make sure all factors have been considered. I'm going to use that one!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:38AM
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I just used the "Sweeby Method" on SD when she texted me from her mom's to ask if she could be a vegetarian?!! I said to come up with her 3 and 3 and be prepared to discuss when she gets home. Very nice!

KK - good idea on the book club! She isn't changing districts, but half her middle school goes to one high and the other half to another. She's actually going to a community dance tomorrow that she suggested would be good so she could meet some of the other kids from other middle schools feeding into her high. I think getting her out of her clique and meeting new faces she will see there is a great idea. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:19PM
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"One strategy I use with my kids is to have them think of and write down (or I'll scribe if they're being that reluctant) at least three positive things and three negative things about every possible choice."

BRILLIANT! I just copied and printed that Sweeby, it's really really good advice.

JNM it's so sad how SD gets disappointed over and over again. The way your BM behaves always reminds me of ours. She also needs a partner to 'be' somebody, has had 3 or 4 come and go in the past 4 years, had a baby to No. 3/5 (whom she cheated on with No. 4) and now it looks like he's going to be the new ex soon. We don't know how much longer he will last, because with this guy BM is already doing the "The Girls' against the world" while he is still there. This guy gets no respect from anybody, everything is always his fault, and when it's girls night he gets sent to his moms for the night, every Tuesday. Oh and when she was having the affair the other guy came over on 'girls night'....

But anyway, I'm so happy that your SD does see BM for what she is, most of the time. It's understandable that sometimes she just wants to be in denial and make herself believe that BM will be different. I guess that will never chance, it's a loyalty that is natural.

And there is the guilt trip, another very powerful emotion. SD is in a carer position for her mom and her sister.

The big difference between your and my situation is that my skids are in denial most of the time and they will mostly think of BM's needs, hardly of their own. I know that you are worried that SD might go down that path as well, but from what I read I don't think that will happen. They are moments of 'weakness' for your SD and I don't think she'll switch back to denial, it's like she's past that point of no return.

My skids now come to our place less and they do run around to please BM. If BM rings up and says she misses the skids and she wishes they'd come home early, they feel anxious to get home early. The more we tried to put a stop to it and have them be kids when they are with us, the more they felt like we kept them away from their mum and forced them to come to our place. We only tried to stick to the court order and keep things simple, but noooo, that was not going to happen.
So now we let them go home early, we are supportive of their situation and they don't feel so torn anymore. Before they would feel like they'd disappoint us by going home early, it was always a loose-loose situation. It's easier for them, and that is all that matters.

And now all we can do is hope that one day they will get to the same place as your SD, I'm so happy for you that she's such a strong person. And SD is so lucky to have you, it makes all the difference :-)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 9:29PM
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