SD19 still needs assertiveness training....I'm disengaging

nicksmomApril 29, 2012

It's been a long time since I've visited this forum....over 3 years (around time that SD moved here). Fast forward 3+ years, and not much has changed. She still lacks any assertiveness when it comes to dealing with things with her mom/stepdad, and we still get whatever is acceptable to them.

Most recently, a situation or two have arisen, that I'm finding more unacceptable....maybe because she's 19 and still doesn't have a voice when it comes to perceived disappointment/disapproval from her mom.

SD19 is now a freshman in college. She is on a full-ride athletic/academic combo scholarship at a college in our state (a couple hours away). She's doing well academically and athletically, but still seems to be too much of a people pleaser. But all in all, it's going well.

About 6 weeks ago, she asked us when little sister (LS=BD9) would be finished with school and out for summer, because "I want to spend all the time I can with her this summer." I found this a little odd, but chalked it up to her realizing how fast time flies as you get older and wanting to be a positive influence in LS's life. So, we told her June 1. She was excited, and said "well, I'll go visit Mom right after finals, spend a month there, then come back here when LS gets out of school. She told us she wants to teach her how to play volleyball and rollerbleade....go bike riding, go to the library, shopping,etc. We talked about it for quite some time, and we told her that if she was serious, we'd cancel daycare for June and pay her instead. A win/win for everyone, we thought. She was excited that she'd be able to make money and do what she wanted to do with LS. So, plan finalized. She'd fly back on June 3, to be available to start her "summer job" June 4th.

Fast forward to last weekend. She came home for the weekend cuz she was "homesick". While here she started telling me that LS "eats too much candy, watches too much TV....doesn't need to stay up past 9, you need to _________." I thanked her for sharing her newfound child psychology, but "we're all set on the parenting side of life...been doing it for almost 25 years."

In the meantime, we hadn't gotten any flight info from her mom (she sends it to me, DH and SD), so asked her if she knew if her mom had booked flights yet....she didn't. I suggested that time was getting short, and maybe she should touch base with her if her plan was still to go to Mom's right after finals. The next day she told us that her mom was going to book her flights that day, and that she was going to return on June 10 (instead of June 3rd, which she had originally told us). I said, "that's not the return date you told me you wanted." She said, "well, I looked at my calendar, and I have like 10 weeks off, so it's more fair if I do 5 and 5." I reminded her that she committed to "work" and get paid for her work, and based on the dates she told us, we cancelled summer daycare. She said, "It's only a week; it's not that big of a deal." I told her, "It is a big deal. We took you at your word, and made plans based on what you said were your plans." She immediately turned to tears and accused me of putting her in the middle of her mother and me. I told her that this has NOTHING to do with me, except for the fact that YOU told ME you were taking care of LS for June (and getting paid big $$) to do so. I told her the "fair thing" is to be honest with everyone about what YOU want/plan, and to stop telling people what you think they want to hear. It's also not "fair" to no-show for work, when you are scheduled.

Earlier in the day she had complained that we didn't give her enough "respect" and "freedom", and that we don't treat her like the "adult I AM at 19." I took this moment to remind her that while she is 19, she is far from an adult. She can vote, buy cigarettes, get an abortion and if she gets arrested,the police wont call us--none of which really make you an adult. In our eyes, you are an adult when you are self-sufficient, pay your own bills, buy your own tampons,can book your own flights, schedule your college courses, etc....on your own. Until then, you are a 19 year-old who still behaves as a 16 year old. She was, of course, mad...and rightfully so. I wasn't trying to make her mad, but of course, as we all have experienced, sometimes the truth hurts. It was the perfect segue into bahving more like an adult to be treated more like an adult.

Of course, in an effort to take the focus off of her, she went into a long list of everything we do humans, parents, husband & wife, etc. I interjected that this discussion is not about us, nor is it about her mothers behaviors, but really about SD's behaviors that will continue to negatively impact her life should they continue. She apologized for hurting my feelings, and said she certainly didn't intend to. I thanked her for apologizing, but my feelings are hurt.

I'm tired of being the go-to person for everything she wants/needs, and getting lies/half-truths in return. After thinking more about this situation, I've decided to "disengage" a little. I told her that "I don't want you to think that I'm making you choose your mother over me, because I'm not. In an effort to be sure that doesn't happen, I'm stepping back a little. I probably do too much for you, when you have 2 perfectly capable parents. So, for now, I'm just the lady married to your dad. You need to check with your mom and dad about things....everything actually." The next day she emailed ME a paper for one of her classes, and asked me to proof it for her and make ant comments/corrections/etc. I forwarded it to her dad, and let her know.

Honestly, this approach doesn't come naturally for me. I love her dearly, but clearly, her inability to be truthful with her mom is negatively impacting all of us.

In the meantime, I've rethought the whole idea of her caring for her sister this summer. Luckily, the daycare hadn't filled our spot yet. I've realized that her goal is just to "try out" her newfound child psychology. The last thing LS needs from her big sister (who she idolizes!), is a summers-worth of criticism. And actually, I don't need to hear what an awful mother I am for letting my kid eat Skittles. I've suggested that, since her main concern is assuring her mother's emotional well-being and happiness, maybe she should consider just staying put at her mom's for May AND June. Harsh, I know....but the alternative is a stress-filled summer at my house....not gonna do it, wouldn't be prudent.

I guess my vent is over. In reality, my whole reason for posting was to see if any other steps had any successes with disengaging a little and did it help your situation. I'd like to think that our relationship is solid enough to stand this test. Any thoughts?

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I think it is possible the SD does indeed keep caught in the middle of Mom and SM. I also don't think she 'lied' or told a half truth.

At the time the discussion first took place, SD had not yet made plans for the summer break with Mom...after reading some of your previous threads, I can't help but notice there has been long standing feud over exact days/visits.

The SD was wrong in that she committed and did not follow through on what she agreed to. The mother is wrong for pressuring her daughter to take 'a summer job committment' seriously and making a big ta-do over a day or day (something that this mother though has been known to repeatedly do). And you are wrong with withholding your relationship with the SD in a temper tossing hurt feeling mode.

The girl really is stuck between the two 'moms'. One screaming 'be an adult' one minute while treating her as the 'child' the next. The other one still playing the same old games of rearranging schedules no matter who it affects in an all out path of having her daughter 'at home' as many days as possible (while still treating daughter as a yung child/early teen).

In an attempt to keep somewhat harmony between the SD's 'moms' daughter ends up being indecisive, nonresponsibile and still kept very much the child while being told to act the adult. If I were the girl, I'd be tempted to remain where I attend school. Maybe visit for a a short spell with each side and work my summer at a job that would enable me to have something more than 'babysitting' for references.

Because you are disappointed and your feelings are hurt you intend to punish the SD. You'll just after 15 yrs of being mommy #2 you'll just suddenly begin being 'her fathers wife'. And you'll label a 'test' to see if the relationship can withstand the 'test'.

The first time SD expresed her newly found 'adult views' aka opinions (example, daughter's eating habits) you took a personal offense to it and again you're feelings are hurt and deny the SD who you say you want to start acting/thinking like an adult for her effort in doing so.

The SD can't win here.

Send LS to the daycare as now planned. Quite frankly you can read all the books you please on 'disengaging' and 'teaching assertiveness', but but until you start practicing actually raising the SD with the open mind that she is becoming an adult (even when her new found adult views annoy you), and continue to treat her as the child (both 'moms') it's just setting up more hurt feelings and keeping the girl a girl stuck in the middle.

She's young, socializing with a whole new group of people, seeing different lifestyles and discovering who she is and what she believes. My niece as decided her new found 'thing' in life is to be a veggie,...she'd have a stroke to think you're LS eats skittles and poisons her body blah blah blah. LOL. Once 'kids' start expanding their social network, experiencing new groups and ideas, well they can be quite crazy in their new 'worldly views'.

My 2 cents. Good luck to you. Sd has reached the age between childhood and adulthood and she's likely to say many more things that appear to be 'anti-you' (or mom or dad or the neighbor) while she opens those wings and begins to shape her own ideas.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 7:27PM
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Thanks for your response. While I don't necessarily agree with everything you say, it does give me pause. I don't want to end our relationship, however, I do want to make an impact and cause her to reflect on her own actions and how they affect others. At no time did I ever think any of this was "anti-me", just that her inability to be honest with all of us about what she wants.

My biggest concern is that this same behavior has continues since she (and her brother) were little. I had thought they'd get past past it by now (they are 22 & 19). Instead, SS avoids any conflict and drinks to excess to "deal with it". SD continues to be the victim, who will tell anyone whatever she assumes they want to hear in an effort to avoid any conflict.

And while she's certainly spreading her wings and learning new things and forming opinions, she couldn't just say that those new child psych ideas were her impetus for wanting to spend time with her LS. She didn't say, "I want to reprogram her, cuz you guys are awful parents"....which would have pissed me off, but I would have been happier to hear an ugly truth, than to discover a pretty sounding lie. I realize that this crazy phase will pass, but in the meantime, it's my job to protect the little one from being constantly criticized.

I'm not"punishing" SD, I'm protecting me....and LS. That's my responsibility. My other responsibility, in taking on the role of stepmother, is to help to shape these young people....and I think natural consequences are one effective way of doing that. My hope is that she comes away from this with the realization that you cannot lie (intentionally or just to "keep the peace") without repurcussion, and that if you don't show up for work, you'll get fired/not make any money.

Thanks again for your reply. I will carefully consider many of your points.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 8:07PM
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I also could not help noticing in one of the older posted threads that you mention the same thing about the stepkids father (when it came to dealing with the BM). Roughly put (not exact) you said he too means to stand strong but then caves to avoid confrontation. You realize, right, that they have been taught by example whether the lesson was intentional or not...the children witnessed all the times the father wavered and eventually caved, all in the name of avoiding confrontation, prolonged disagreements ect ect. This or that was changed to avoid upsetting someone/something else. I know nothing about the birthmother in your situation, but it is possible she is indeed a very manipulative overbearing game player who knows exactly how to get what she wants and is relentless until everyone caves just to have peace and shut her up. Kinda sad that they've all come out of it over the years being passive to the aggression. It's a lesson that will go forth with them into their adult life and in all areas of it. Ever think about perhaps some counseling for the young adults? It might help them see some truths about their situation and give them some strengths to deal with adulthood. Sometimes issues brought up and disclosed by an outsider gets through to people better (or more readily accepted and acknowledged) than having it come from someone close to them.

Anyway, I can't fault you from shielding LS from a summer of spending 8-9 hours a day of listening to older sister's new views and philosophy take on life. I'll assume SD will be spending some time with LS though even if not a great amount. I don't think it's out of line for you/Dad to speak to SD about reminding her that LD is your daughter to raise and you will not tolerate disrespect or interfernce in your parenting of the child. Someday SD perhaps will have her own chance o be 'mother' but in the meantime you are mother to this child and she will respect your wishes.

When my own little one (12) spends an afternoon with my niece (26) I do hear 'Aunt says ______'. Well thank-you very much Miss Aunt, not. I then get to spend the next hour after Aunt has left explaining to my daughter what Aunt was rattling on about in terms daughter can actually understand.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 7:01AM
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Thanks again for the reply.

And you're right....DH has "caved" (too often in my opinion) when it came to issues with their mom. I think, in DH's confrontations with her, it was more a case of not wanting to listen to her biotching/blaming/excuses, but yes, he would just "drop it" as opposed to dragging things out. I think too, that because of how the legal system works, he often felt that most things were pointless to argue over, because in his experiences, their mom always "won" (in the court proceedings, etc.).

I think SD's approach, or lack thereof, is because of the longstanding history of guilt trips which has led her (and her brother) to feel that they are responsible for her happiness (and probably all the adults in their life) and her emotional well-being.

They have both talked with counselors in the past. It was very helpful for SS, but SD "felt like she was blaming her mom for everything" when she was going. In reality, I think she was really just seeing the truth, and it was too uncomfortable for her to admit that her mom was completely screwing her up, emotionally. I'm hopeful that, at some point, she will return to counseling and maybe be able to deal with these issues. I fear that her "need to please" will lead her to do things that she really doesn't want to do, in an effort to keep the peace. Interestingly, she discusses "uncomfortable" things with me/us, even if she knows our feelings will be hurt or we will be angry. She's generally tearful, but gets out what she needs to. I'd like to think it's because she feels safe in doing so, and we've never made her feel like she's responsible for making us happy. We truly try to get her to verbalize what HER desires are (ie., If you knew that nobody would be mad or have hurt feelings, what would YOU want?)

We have NO issues with her wanting to spend time with her mom....if that's what SHE (SD) wants (and I think she does.) Even the entire summer....if that's what she wants to do. The problem we have is that when it came time to tell her mom that she wanted to spend June with her LS, but realized that Mom might be upset if she spent less than 1/2 of her time off here, she wouldn't say, 'y'know mom, I'd really like to _________." Since she's pulled the "I'm an adult and really, I can do what I want" crap with us, we thought maybe she'd try the same thing with mom....but alas, 'twas not to be....maybe someday.

In the meantime, we'll reign her in if she's doing too much "parenting" of LS. In general, she's a good role model....a strong young woman athlete who isn't afraid to wear high heels (at 6'2"!), an avid reader, creative and usually helpful. These are things we'd like LS to learn from....just not at the cost of enduring lots of criticism.

Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 7:53PM
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