Is it better when step kids are Older or Younger?

Amber3902October 17, 2011

I have been wondering about this and like to get everyone's opinion on this.

My boyfriend has a son that is 8 years old. I'm a more strict parent and he's a more lax parent.

Because of issues were we don't always see eye to eye on parenting, I have put off moving in together for the indefinite future. My girlfriend has said that maybe when my BF's son gets a little older he won't be so hyper, will be better behaved and we can reconsider moving in together.

This got me thinking, in a blended family is it better when the steps kids are older or younger? I imagine all ages have different sets of problems and it may not get better just because the kids get older. The 8 year old that didn't want to listen and beat up his step sisters may grow into a teen who doesn't want to get a job and move out. (not saying that's what happening in my case, just giving an example)

So what does everyone think: when you and your significant other have different parenting philosophies, have you found it easier for everyone to get along if you got married or started living together when the kids were very young, or was it easier when the kids were older, say mid to older teen years?

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I met my exBF when his kids were 1, 4 & 6. My kids were 1, 2 & 4. The kids got along well & liked me... we were a "family" unit until the youngest were 9. It was about the time the older ones were going into middle school that we had "step" problems with them having a problem with it.... my kids as well as his kids did not want to listen to the non-parent. And we didn't have ex's involved with coaching or poisoning the kids. (but his kids did have a grandma that made sure they knew that I was NOT their mother & they had a mother, even if she only saw them a few hours per year.)

My dad married my SM when I was in high school. My sisters would conspire to do mean things to her because they did not like my dad being with her. My sisters were 15 & 19. The 15 year old lived with them & made her life miserable. (of course my mom was very involved in trying to dig for info, making sure we all knew she didn't like SM & that if sM were not there, maybe dad would take her back)

I met my current DH when his DD was 5, my kids were in high school. My oldest moved out so he would not have to deal with a SF. My middle one worked at butting heads with DH, the youngest (girl) never had much problem with it... if she has a problem with anything my DH does, she deals with him directly & they work it out. She now calls him dad. His DD was happy when she met me... said she finally was getting a mom. Of course her mom was still in her life 50% of the time so DH wasn't looking for me to be her mom. SD just blurted that out to DH's embarrassment. (that was shortly after we met.. .like the 1st or 2nd meeting) In retrospect, SD may have been saying that to scare me away. I've since found that she absolutely does not want anyone in DH's life. Her mom supports that and reminds her that SHE is the mom, not me. In the past 7 years, SD has tried every trick in the book to break us up, turn people against me & have her daddy all to herself. It has turned into a nightmare for me.

So, in my opinion... I don't think it really matters what age a child is... it is not easier at any age. It is easier when the primary people (mom & dad) are accepting of the situation & allow the child to accept the situation. Even if that happens, some children just don't want to be in a stepfamily for whatever reason, so that will create resistance. Then, there are kids (I was one of them) that want the parents to be happy, whether they are together or not & accept the situation. Even then, I was not "thrilled" that my dad remarried. I had no illusions about my parents, they were definitely better off apart. I had no fantasy about having all my dad's attention, I lived with my mom. But, I did not like that things changed... now dad had to check with SM before I came to visit for a week, or if I needed to borrow some money, or whatever. I didn't like that but I was also nearly grown so I knew it was my dad's life & I think in some ways it made me more independent because I would not call to ask for help because I didn't want to feel it was her answering, though it may not have been.

Personally, I think it's better to find someone that has lived a similar life (has kids the same ages as yours) and that are grown & out of the home. If I were searching NOW, I would look for that and pay close attention to the parent/child relationship... as far as indications the kids might move back home or need lots of financial help, etc. I think it's important to know going into it, what you are getting into. I thought my DH and his ex got along GREAT. I had no idea that she was pushing him around & he was apeasing her. Had I known the dynamics at the time, things might be different... and I'm sure that he saw my kids being teens as having one foot out of the door when they were 18. I don't think he envisioned them staying until 22 or moving back or leaving a grand baby to raise.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 3:44PM
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I don't think the age matters here. Situations change, people change, feelings change. I've been with DH for 8 years now and my kids were young (2,6,7) when we got together. Things were good at first. It seems as when my oldest hit the high school years, problems started to arise.

If you have different parenting styles, I can see it causing problems between the two of you and the child is only 8. You got another 10 years of this and maybe longer if his father allows/wants him to stay longer.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 4:52PM
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I'm confused on whether the OP has a child herself...she doesn't say so but says "I'm a more strict parent and he's a more lax parent..."

Anyway...for what it's worth, I have also put off indefinitely any ideas of my GF of 3.5 years and I living together. I have two kids (girl 14 / boy 11) that I have 50% custody of, she has a son who is 12 that she basically has full custody of, except for some visits to his dad.

I gotta tell you....once my daughter hit about 12...everything became daily battles. She was always a shy, respectful kid who was high honors with minimal effort and never got in trouble, but the last half of 7th grade, and all of 8th grade were disasters. Her mom and I basically get along, little to no drama there, so not sure what the hell happened to her but it's taken all our strength as parents to deal with her and try to get her "back on track" so to speak. With all this going on, there is NO WAY I am about to add a "stepmom" into the picture. I want my GF to be her friend, that's all...and in no way to be a "parental figure" to her in her mind. I feel like a lot of her acting up is to spite us for what we've put her through (which, compared to the divorces a lot of kids live through, was pretty mellow and drama free, but of course she doesn't get that, nor should she I imagine), so I don't want to give her any more reason to stress.

In addition, my son and her's get along, but I see a side of my son (possessive, tattling...)when he is with him that I don't see when he's with his other friends. Plus, even though I care for him tremendously, there are things he does that would drive me freaking insane if he lived with me. For these reasons, I've told her that even though we talked about moving in together [prematurely] early in our relationship, after re-thinking's just something I'm not willing to do, to my kids.

Deep down I know she wishes I did not take this position, but as a parent, I think she does respect that fact that I am putting my kids above everything else....even if it makes it more difficult for us.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:15PM
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"I'm confused on whether the OP has a child herself...she doesn't say so but says "I'm a more strict parent and he's a more lax parent..."
Sorry - I have two girls - age 13 and 6.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:30PM
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ok thanks.....since that's the case, I'd be very slow to try to blend the families...nothing to be gained by rushing it along, but lot's to lose.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 6:01PM
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Unless you are in the process of deciding whether or not to move on and end your current relationship with BF, I don't see why the question. Is your own daughter the same at 13 that she was at 8? Better? Worse? How is she going to be at age 16 vs this current 13? Nobody can state with absolute certainty how a child will behave ...teenagers have their own little world going on and even the best of them that normally are pleasant behaved teens can have their days of 'teen from h*ll'.

Your real test is now while you currently live in your own home still and BF has his son 24/7 day after day for the first time ever. How this child does and will or won't continue to do will be some indicator of what life with BF as a fulltime father now and/or in the future will bring. You've stated before that the biggest issue between BF and you is his son. I'm not so sure that's true (you've given indication of communication problems and personal lifestyle and parenting styles), but in either case this is BF's trial test on what kind of father he can be 24/7 and what he will or won't expect from children living fulltime in his home. If he's a poor role model, a poor and/or inconsistant father, don't expect mircle behavioral changes in this child. Before it's been visitations with no bedtimes, junk foods blah blah. It might be real interesting to see how Dad and son are doing six months from now. Nine months from now. Will the kid be getting into a routine with expectations (dad can't be fun dad this is no longer a weekend visit)? Dad will have to set schedules and expectations, combat son not wanting to abide by rules that are not a couple days a week now but day after day. Blah blah.

I think you'll have some insight into how things will be now that BF is a fulltime father and raising son is now his 24/7 job. If kid is still allowed to jump all over furniture (unstructured periods), do as he pleases when it's just the 'guys' vs when Amber and girls are over ect, there will be nothing to suggest this child will learn self behavior discipline as he ages. He won't because he is not being taught differently and/or allowed to behave in two different modes (the Amber mode and the Man Cave mode). Just because a kid gets older does not mean he will mature and become a responsible well behaved don't grow up to be those things unless they are taught and it is expected of them, day in and day out. The kid has had eight years of being mostly under someone else's upbringing (his grandparents and his mother). Dad's only been the weekend guy with the man cave.

Nobody here has a crystal ball that can read into the future to see how this kid is going to turn out. For all it's worth, nobody can predict what your own children may be doing in three years from now. Just because they seem to be accepting BF now and all seems ok on that part, I'd not be surprised if there are things about your children that bug the heck outta BF or that the girls develop some issues with BF if he is moved in and suddenly there with them 24/7.

I think you need to worry about getting through this next year, still living individually and see where the relationship goes. See how BF does as a fulltime father to the one child he now has and see how these kids all learn to interact together as the time goes on.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 7:57PM
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I always like your responses mkroopy. You seem like a great dad that puts your kids first - unfortunately that is rare. I too often see or know of men that although their kids are their worlds in every aspect of the phrase, they are too ready to settle down and have a 'family' with a mom and dad under one roof so that life is as normal as possible.

Anyway-- i think it's always easier to blend families with younger kids bc younger kids tend to go with the flow. It's like a 'sleepover' when the kids are close in age. They have fun sharing their toys and seeing what each other has. If they don't live together, they have time to miss each other. The kids are more accepting to the new 'partner' for dad or mom bc they are young and they don't know any better if you know what I mean.

When they are older, they are already having issues with 'life' in general, add a 'new' parent and new siblings to 'screw up' their life. A new 'parent' coming in and changing the rules, making them eat different things they never would have eaten if mom or dad had stayed single, new routines, less one on one time with their parent, now time is shared between the kid and maybe other siblings, with a new partner and their kid/s. So the older stepkid is starving for attention, yet isn't mature enough to express what it is they want, only person they can blame is the 'new guy/gal' and 'those' other kids.

However, with that said, blending at a younger age leaves the inevitable growing stages, all kids grow up and 'change' their opinions, turning them in to the 'older' kid of a blended family I described earlier.

For example, my daughter met her stepmom when she was 4. (granted this isn't a normal situation so take it as you want to)
She LOVED Sm. She loved SM's daughter. She prefered them over me on most weekends, most days actually. But then as SM changed, and dad changed and they moved in together, then got married, blah blah blah even after all the difficulties and supervised visits with Dad, my Daughter is older, and some of those blended family things are coming up. It is a tad bit about jealousy and a lot about her dad not continuing to put her first. She was here first. She should come first. If we were still married, she would likely still be our only child and she would come first for us. Now I have another child but I manage to balance them equally, it's not so easy in a blended family, I don't care who you are, even the Brady Bunch had difficulties with it and we know how perfect they are.

My daughter feels left out, she feels like an outsider, she feels like her dad doesn't love her the same as the other kid becase she (stepsis) is the daughter of his wife and he hates me so he can't possibly love her (Dd) like he 'used' to. (10 yr old thinking). She misses her dad and wants one on one which she would get if we were still married bc we often did things one on one with her when we were married. Now it's every other weekend and it's a 'family' affair. And during the week, when she isn't there, HER dad is with his new family and she is with us NOT with her dad.

These are things some people might say, 'get over it' but like mkroopy said why make them get over it? Why put them in that situation?

As of right now, we don't have issues in our household because there are no stepkids. My Dh and my daughter get along and he isn't the disciplinarian. I am. So they remain 'buddies'. I also have a pretty good kid but she is only 10 and I'm betting in 2 yrs it will change. If my Dh had kids, I probably would not have moved in and gotten married. I don't think my kid could have handled blending both sides of her family at once. The one side has been quite an experience, we are blessed we only have 1/2 the battle unlike a lot of families.

I don't think age matters. I think in the beginning it's easier when they are little but they grow up and they have loyalties and they may or may not have crazy parents with drama filled agendas. When they are older, well they are set in their thinking until age 30... So it's really never a good time.
I was 20 when my dad married wife #3 and I didn't have much problems with her bc I didn't have to live with her or by 'her' rules. So maybe when the kids are 20?? Or maybe when they are parents themselves. Lol it's never a good time... I think it just depends on the parents and how well you deal with the situation and how on board you are with the other parent and how you work together to blend your families.

Lots and lots and lots of blending families classes... You should take lots of them ... First.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 8:54PM
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"I don't think it really matters what age a child is... it is not easier at any age. It is easier when the primary people (mom & dad) are accepting of the situation & allow the child to accept the situation."

Yeah, I think you are right. It's not easier at any age, it's only easier when the parents get along and agree on parenting. Matter of fact, the same can be said for an unblended family as well.

"nothing to be gained by rushing it along, but lot's to lose." I agree.

Very good points, JMT. Like you said it will very telling to see how things are going six or seven months from now.

"Just because a kid gets older does not mean he will mature and become a responsible well behaved don't grow up to be those things unless they are taught and it is expected of them, day in and day out."
You're so right. I wanted to get input from folks on here because I didn't just want to listen to my friend. She means well, but sometimes I have to take things she says with a grain of salt. She's been telling me that when BF's son gets a few years older he'll be better behaved, etc. But after reading on here, it seems like ima has said, it doesn't matter what age the kids are, it's not like some magic wand is waved and the kid suddenly realizes hey, I better start acting right.

Trust me, I'm in no rush to move in together. Which is why I'm still on here, getting wisdom from the more experienced.

I guess I have to admit I’m starting to wonder if I’m wasting my time in this relationship. My friend tells me that BF's son will get better, that boys are terrible when they’re young and get more subdued when they get older. And girls are more well behaved when they’re young and cause problems when they become teenagers. In general this might be true. Some of it may be that I'm used to girls that sit still and don't jump all over the place, and I'm not used to boys. But I can’t allow gender stereotypes to predict how things will be. Like you said, no one can predict the future or how a child will behave. And it really comes down to parenting anyway.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 9:07PM
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JmT has good points (as always) lol

'gender stereotypes'
I do it daily. I'm a mom of both and have both nieces and nephews so I can give you some insight on that.

My daughter is very calm. Sounds like your girls. Always has been. We went thru a hyper phase in her toddler years where she was a bit unruley, climbed on everything, was a bit more advanced than we expected so she was doing things at 15 months, we didn't read about until 36 months. She calmed down during my divorce at age 4 and has gotten even more mellow over the years.
My son... Oh I love him but O.M.G.!! He is a hyper mess... He tests us daily. He is in to everything. I think God was playing a joke on me by giving me the 'good kid' first... Lol the next 14 years shall be interesting that is for sure!
I have a niece that is 17. She was much like my daughter. Very well mannered. Calm. Sweet. In a blended family. She is actually my step niece but I don't see her that way. She has been around since she was 2.
She gradually went through the teenage phases that would put any parent on the brink of drinking and possible homicidal thoughts. (totally kidding) she has the potential to be a straight A student and has a great personality which has always landed her with lots of friends. She is charming and beautiful and I could go on and on but the last three years have just been a nightmare for her parents. Running away, skipping school, flunking classes, boys boys boys, she has decided to finish high school early and go to a trade school to be... A flight attendant. I think that is terrific. Nothing wrong with that but she HAS the potential to go to a 4 year college and maybe even further. She used to want to be a Vet or a Marine Biologist. Now all she thinks about is what will get her out of the house faster. So... Yes the stereotype is mostly true. Even with a great set of parents, a teenager can go wild.
I posted not long ago about my sister and nephew. He has many disabilities and mental problems. My sister is not a very good mother. He has had basically 15 years of NO parenting and he is starting to mellow out on his own... No help from his mom. It can go either way. You just never know.

I think you, Amber are making a good decision to hold off on moving in with BF and his son. There really is no reason you can't wait it out until the kids are grown unless you do see it as a waste of time. Will your BF ever change? Who knows. My ex changed. He isn't anything that he was when we were together OR when we divorced. His parenting has changed, according to my daughter, he yells, Which I personally have never in 12 years witnessed. People do change. But to sit around and wait for it to happen isn't fair to YOU. You could be waiting long time if HE has no interest in changing.
Would you and BF ever consider having children of your own? Would you be ok with him parenting your mutual child the way he parents his current child?

I think JMt's advice to see how things are in 6 months or a year once he has been dad 24/7 for a while. You'll have a clearer view of what the future looks like. It isn't about the kid, it's honestly about the parent.
The kid could wake up one day and decide he doesn't want to jump on the furniture anymore... So he stops on his own. Or he could be 25 and still think it's ok or fun ... If Dad never teaches him, it's really not his fault. That's all on dad. Ya know?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 10:56PM
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Yeah, you guys are right, people change, kids change, sometimes they don't change. I guess only I will be able to tell if this relationship is a waste of time or not. BF has plenty of good points, he's very helpful around the house, cooks dinner, helps out with the kids, when he has the money he spends it on me, his son and my girls. We are able to talk, even we get into arguments we still don't resort to name calling and yelling.

I just wanted to hear everyone's experience with younger vs. older step kids, is it any different, does it get better, worse, etc. Of course a lot of it has to do with the parents, and their parenting styles can change too. I have to say my BF has helped me "loosen up" a bit, and enjoy my girls more.
And I've helped him become more of a parent instead of his son's buddy. I will say BF has gotten better with his parenting, making sure his son does not jump on the couches, not talking back, etc. I just don't want to keep thinking "boys will get better when they older" if that really isn't the case. And like everyone has said, no one can predict the future. Some kids, like your nephew, come from very poor parenting and still turn out okay. And others come from wonderful homes and turn into horrible people.

As far as more kids go, I don't want anymore. Even if BF was father of the year, I still wouldn't. I have fibromyalgia, and my body can't handle the extra work a baby requires. I just got my youngest (age 6) somewhat independent, I don't want to go through two more years of diapers and bottles, LOL.

Maybe the best idea is to wait until the kids are grown or almost grown. And who knows, maybe in a couple of years BF will be more of a parent than a friend to his son and I'll reconsider our situation.
Or not. :) Only time will tell.
I hope I'm not a bother to you guys, I just like to get you guy's input on these things because you've been through them and have good advice.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:48AM
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I personally believe (and hope!) that it gets better when they get older, only because they are able to stick up for themselves and can decide for themselves who they feel they can count on and trust. Hopefully that can be you. Bottom line - whenever a child can no longer be "manipulated" is when it gets better.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 12:40PM
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It only gets better when they get older if they are taught from the beginning HOW to behave properly. If they are allowed to treat people like crap, they won't wake up one morning & realize they shouldn't act that way. However if the parents are drilling into them to treat people nice, they may wake up one day & realize the parents were right. Usually it happens when they become parents themselves. (and maybe they appreciate or realize how hard it is to be a stepparent when they become one or see a situation that opens their eyes to it)

As you can see in other threads, every kid & every situation is different. I read Pseudo's thread where her SD has an about face & now wants to be "friends" with Pseudo after years of animosity. My first inclination is that the SD is going to use her "friendliness" with SM as a weapon to hurt a mom she is angry at, rather than an epiphany that she now realizes how great SM is and loves her for it. I'm not saying she doesn't realize how great Pseudo is, because she does realize Pseudo doesn't treat her as bad as her own mom... but in my opinion, it's more likely a manipulation. My point is that kids do get older & figure things out, form their own opinions, and maybe even stick up for themselves.... but do you really want to go through what Pseudo is going through? Or JustNotMartha? Or me? or any of the other SM's that are in similar situations?

We all had the best intentions, have given endlessly & ended up, in one way or another, stressed out & frustrated. and the stress takes it's toll... on our relationships, physical health, mental health, and quality of work. I'm envious of those that can toss back a few drinks, even though I abstain from alcohol because my mom is an alcoholic & I have health problems I don't want to make worse... but I've been on medication, take stress management, go to counseling, and have gained weight because I'm a stress eater. For me, it just keeps getting worse. My SD is 12 now. She knows her mom is full of BS. She knows all I've done for her. But, there are people in their 30's, 40's, and older that can STILL be manipulated. There is no magical age where that ends... it ends when a person decides they are being manipulated and no longer wants to allow someone else to manipulate them. My SD's grandma is in her 70's and still allows BM to tell her what to do. That is what dysfunction is all about. Perhaps there is something in your past that draws you into the situation because that is where you're comfortable?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 1:09PM
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The post drew me to it because it is something I wonder myself, the child in my situation is almost 2 years old. I was reading really to see if BM drama gets better as they get older. If you see my postings she's the biggest issue now. At this point, my BF son is too young to manipulate or anything else. But, I also have quite a few friends in similar situations and they all say that as the step kids have gotten older they have also gotten better, so I was just trying to throw that out there.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Yes bonnie it gets better ... you get better at not caring you get better at finding stuff to keep you busy so you do not lose your mind ... it gets better when you realize today is the day they go to their mom's ...

Truthfully..... its get better when mom decides it will get better .... not a minute before!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 7:24PM
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Lol Psuedo I do agree... It's just crazy that I'm on the other side of things. What I would do to have SMs like some of you and I bet you'd feel blessed to have me as the BM...
In my situation, it WILL get better when SM says it will OR when BD decides he is ready to meet a new paramour of the decade....

Even on opposite sides of the fence, disengaging from the constant attempts for drama does help. It's so hard though. I have to 'think' like a narcissist on a daily basis when I am 'engaged' by SM. I have to try to decide which answer will keep her calm or which answer will 1. Keep her calm 2. Not play into her mind games 3. Which answer will make her 'feel' in control without making me 'feel' that I am being controlled.

The difference between Bonnie and amber is that Amber's problem is not BM. Her problem is her BF and his parenting/relationship with his son. Bonnie, looks like you have BM issues and this isn't really what Amber is dealing with, nor is she dealing with a child that is being manipulated by the BM... It's kind of a different situation.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:37PM
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Immamommy, your sentence was the most insightful thing I have read in years.
"Perhaps there is something in your past that draws you into the situation because that is where you're comfortable?"
Well said. A lot to think about.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:39PM
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Myfam I thought about you as soon as I hit submit ... glad you "knew" we don't mean you!!! :)

I would trade you for her even just for one day! ... just to not have conflict at every turn ... would be a breeze I might not know what to do with myself though :) .... well these days I avoid conflict like she has the plague it works for me ...

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Bonnie said "At this point, my BF son is too young to manipulate or anything else."

My DGS that I've been raising since he was 9 months old is able to manipulate. He is 2 1/2 years old and I can tell his fake cry from a real one. He tries different strategies to get what he wants. He knows who will give him what so he goes to the right person. He has been doing this for at least a year. I have raised half a dozen other kids so I can easily recognize when he's doing things I didn't catch on when it was my own kids & I was in my 20's. It's one of the benefits of years of life experience.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 2:36AM
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Imma- I think DS has been manipulating me from before birth!!! And he is super good at it now ... Problem is I let him get away with it.

My dad always says-- no one is manipulated. They allow themselves to be manipulated.

Very strong advice from a stepparent (my dad)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 2:02PM
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