not sure if I belong here...

CantTakeMuchMoreOctober 9, 2011

Hi. I found you all several days ago and have been reading and reading, trying to gain some perspective and maybe some comfort. I am a single mom (hence the title of the post) dealing with BD and "step-mom" issues. I could really use some words of wisdom. Here is my daughter's story, as briefly as possible:

DD's father met her 2.5 years ago, she is now 6. He visited regularly for a couple of months, then not-so-regularly for awhile. Just over a year ago his GF and her daughter (now 4, I believe) moved in with him, and things went from bad to horrible, getting worse all the time. He does now pick her up for every visit (except for the 4 months they moved to another state), and DD is miserable.

Here are a few examples, if clarification is needed just ask. DD can do nothing right with GF--she has even been in trouble for "wrinkling her toilet paper." Seriously. DD is told repeatedly that "your dad pays child support!" (not true and not the issue, just an example.) The big ones: GF told DD one day "I just don't like you, ugh!" and DD cried to me tonight that "GF tries to get me to lie to you but I don't want to." She never would tell me what about.

I know that kiddos manipulate and exaggerate, and I'm not saying DD has done never done these, but the above are incidences I firmly believe did happen b/c of the WAY she told me. I have talked to BD, he will not be any help (DDs counselor says he is personality disordered but of course no formal diagnosis).

I have talked to more than one lawyer, no one believes me on the big stuff, and the small stuff (the many times he's moved while refusing to give me an address, nonpayment of support, etc) they don't care about.

So, all that to say--I really need advice on how to help DD cope. She is in counseling but basically refuses to talk about what goes on during visits, so little help there. Oh, there is an existing court order, and no I did not have it modified when he disappeared when she was little, so we have joint custody and he has EOW and EO holiday, with a 50/50 split coming in the near future (long story). Since there is no way to keep her from having to go, what are some things *I* can do to help her feel better about it?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it got long.

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I would encourage her to tell her dad if there is a problem in his house and let him deal with it. The simple truth is that you don't know exactly what is going on in their house & even if you did, there isn't a lot you can do except refuse to let her go... which may or may not result in legal problems. If GF is saying things like "I just don't like you", it shows her maturity level & I would not want to send my child into a place where she may be treated that way. I might even violate the order if it were really bad... maybe try to get the visitation changed to take place away from the GF. Since talking to the dad is not getting you anywhere, I feel your frustration.

In my experience (with my son & my SD), when the parent is in the battle for the battle, not for the child... and I get the impression that if the dad is not sympathetic to his child's feelings when you tell him there's a problem, then I assume he's in it for the battle. Also, since the more steady regular visitation began when they moved in together, they want to engage YOU in some sort of power struggle/battle. If the GF really means it when she says she does not like your DD, then that is also a flag that they are just in it to mess with YOU.

My advice: Kill them with kindness. No matter what they do or say, smile & be very pleasant. My son's father would take my son & shave his head. I would get angry & he kept doing it. He enjoyed fighting with me. Once he knew I got angry over it, he continued to do it until I thanked him... saying DS really needed a haircut so thank you for taking care of that for me... even though I was seething inside. Once I took the battle away & became agreeable or thankful/grateful for whatever he did that was irritating to me, he lost interest. When my son was 12, he actually stopped visits himself. He no longer had any "control" and it was no fun when I refused to play the game. It hurt my son to have his father cut off contact with him, but in the long run it was better for my son to not be in the middle of battle.

Kids take cues from their parents & my son knew that I did not like when he went to his father's house. He knew his father & SM did not like me. It made him feel torn. With my SD, her mom talks to her about us. SD lives with us but sides with her mom, refuses to have a relationship with me or my kids because her mom does not want her to. So, I guess I would also suggest looking at the cues (verbal & non verbal) that you give your DD about the situation & make sure it's not making things harder for her. I've been on both sides (BM & SM) and it is much harder to raise/take care of someone else's child, especially when the child is super loyal to the other parent. (a kid SHOULD be loyal to both parents but a parent should never put a child in the position to dislike someone JUST because they do, especially someone that is going to have a tremendous role in their life... whether you want them to or not. It is not much different than when you send them off to school & they get a teacher they don't like (or doesn't like them), what would you say to your child? What I would tell my child is: That is your SM (dad's home)/Teacher/caregiver and when you are there, I expect you to be kind & follow the rules. Be the best kid you can be & I'm proud of you!!!

The things you say are happening are not nice, they are not going to benefit GF or Dad, but they are not abusive. If you let your daughter know you love her but that's your dad's house & they do things differently so try to get along when you're there... it will also help her later in life to get along with others in unpleasant situations. AS for being told by GF that she doesn't like her... I might tell my DD that as long as she is kind & pleasant.. if GF doesn't like you then that is GF's problem... not hers. I think that's about all you can do.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 11:43PM
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I can make a suggestion of what not to do! Don't tell DD that "it's not that bad", make excuses or try to rationalize or justify anything that DD tells you. I'm in almost the exact opposite situation as you - I'm SM, my husband has custody, and problems arise with visitations to BM. We say an awful lot of "Oh" and "You sound upset" and "I can see why you might feel that way" and other ridiculous things like that. It is extremely frustrating (as you know!) to be in a position where what you want to say is "[Bleep] - she did what?! That's it, you're never going to have to go there again!" But of course, that is not possible at this time.

I also agree with Ima's advice in to not get into any disagreements with BD or GF; in fact, I'd try to have as little communication as possible. If BD does in fact have a personality disorder he will feed off of any contact with you at all - have as little as possible.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 9:25AM
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Thanks for the replies; I am feeling a bit better today as DD was back to her normal self. It just kills me inside that she cries before and after every single visit. I definitely learned my lesson when it comes to keeping her home. The day I found out about the "don't like you" comment and called her dad, GF was in the background screaming her head off and telling him what to say. She was so worked up, calling DD a liar and manipulator that I didn't feel it was safe to send her, so I didn't. After the next visit, DD came home terrified that I was going to jail. Apparently they had the police come to the house (we went to eat) and felt the need to tell DD all about it and how much trouble I was in. I felt so bad for my daughter, and I know I'm the one to blame for her feeling so upset. So, needless to say, she just goes when she's supposed to ever since.

I do make it a point to validate her feelings--mattie, I had to laugh; those are some of the exact phrases I use. I have suggested she talk to her dad, but she tells me she's tried and they yell that adults are always right and put her in a corner, so she just gave up. Ima--you're right, I don't know exactly what goes on there. I do know that she does have fun times and spends alot of nights with her grandmother or GF's mother, so I know it could be worse. It's just so far away from what I pictured for her..

You're both right I suppose; I should quit contacting him altogether. For the last year, I have tried to build a case by using email for everything--asking him to quit involving her in adult conversations, etc but it hasn't worked since he just refuses to reply. Question--if I don't contact him though, how will I know where he lives? He has lived in 5 different houses in the last 14 months, and ignores me when I ask unless I threaten contempt. Last week I finally got a phone number from him--haven't had that in a year.

I will definitely take a closer look at my own behaviors to make sure that I'm not putting any pressure on DD. I'm *almost* positive that I'm not--I encourage her to have fun and we talk about the "step-sister" alot--she likes having another kiddo around. Never hurts to take a deeper look though. Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 2:55PM
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