SS9's attitude after visiting with BM

momof5angelsNovember 10, 2008

As many of you know, my DH and I have full custody of my 3 skids and they visit with BM EOW. BM was out of their lives for 2 1/2 years (in hiding more or less) and has been getting them EOW for about 2 years now. I (as the stepmom) do all of the necessary traveling to assist BM in seeing her kids since she claims to not have enough money to take on the full travel burden. She lives almost 4 hours away and EOW I drive a total of 8 (to sometimes 12) hours back and forth to meet her half way for visits.

But it never fails...when I drive 2 hours to pick the skids up on Sundays SS9 always has attitude with me and my DS's. Like yesterday...SS9 comes to the van from BM's van and I say "Guess what!? DS12 got saved this weekend!" He looks at DS12 and snottily says "Why?" I excitedly say, "Because he decided that he wants to devote his life to God and to Jesus!" SS9, again with attitude, says "Why would he do that?" DS12 says "Because I want to spend eternity in Heaven!" SS9 says "Well, I guess." Then he slams the van door and walks back over to BM. He doesn't say a single word on the 2 hour drive back. We get home and walk in the house and DH says "How was your visit?" SS9 says "I think I'm going to throw up...Get out of my way" and walks to his room.

I guess what is upsetting to me is that this is permitted and has been going on for 2 years now. It hurts my feelings but also my DS's feelings...who have only seen their bio Dad 2 times in 4 years. On occasion when SS9 has made comments about only getting to see BM for a few days a month, DS12 has said "You are lucky. I haven't seen my Dad for 3 years." This probably isn't very good reasoning with a 9 year old though...but I can't help but think that the snottiness shouldn't be tolerated.

I understand that it can be difficult for a child to only see their Mother EOW...but is it out of the question to call him on the snottiness?

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Hi Momof5,
Do you think he might be having trouble transitioning? It seems to me that greeting him with what could be intrepreted as 'guess what? he's going to heaven and you aren't' might be the reason he is responding "snottily".

That said, no, it's not out of the question to call him on it. I'd just be careful, because this sounds like he's hurt and not feeling included rather than he's intentionally being a snot.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:02PM
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I understand what you are just happens that this weekend DS12 got saved, which is something we talk about with all of the kids. I seriously don't think that SS9 saw it as us saying "DS12 is going to Heaven and you are not..." That seems a little far fetched to me.

At the last visit BM cut SS9's hair and I said "Hey, I love your haircut!" And he responded with "Yeah, whatever." He had to take his homework to BM's that weekend and on the drive back I asked "Did you get all of your homework done?" He didn't respond so I asked again...nicely of course. He didn't respond again. SD13 said "She is asking you a question..." He finally said "What do YOU think?"

This is how it is with every visit...not just on weekends where one of my kids are the logic that we are saying "Guess what WE did that you didn't get to do" is not exactly accurate.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:21PM
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Ok. I'm open to my logic being flawed! :)

So, ordinarily he openly communicates and is friendly, but when he comes back from BM he's surly?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:30PM
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Exactly. Probably by today but at the latest by tomorrow, he will be hugging me and telling me he loves me. The other day he told me that I was the only person he could look up to in the world. He said this out of no where. I was shocked but thanked him and told him I was so honored to hear that...I didn't know what else to say. I was notably shocked by it.

But on the day we pick him up from BM's visits he is snotty and rude. Sometimes just on that Sunday but it does occasionally spill over into Monday. But always by Tuesday he is back to his old self again...until he goes to BM's for another visit.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:37PM
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My daughter has similar issues. She goes to stay with her dad and grandparents for the summer and when she comes back it takes me weeks to get her back to normal. She gets pretty spoiled when she's out there. I think that has a lot to do with it.

Maybe he's feeling guilty that he would rather be at home than with her, and feels uncomfortable making the shift. It was always hard for me to shift between parents.

Have you tried just sitting down with him alone and telling him how you feel when he talks to you like that? It sounds like he really does like and love you, he just doesn't know the best way to communicate sometimes.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 3:44PM
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I love my DH to death, but he has been hearing about this for 2 years now...and each time I come to him with it he says "Apparently BM is trash talking us...when will she learn?" and it's dropped.

I guess I need help in how to communicate to DH the importance of this possibly being something we should discuss.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 5:25PM
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I think silversword meant sitting SS down and addressing your feelings w/him...not your DH.

At any rate, I think what you're experiencing is very common w/kids who must split their time between two households. When my SS came to live w/us at 14, we experienced the very same behavior after visits w/Mom. Normally a funny, talkative and gregarious kid, he would return sullen and surly, barely a word out of his mouth. And it would take a day or two to "get him back".

SD came to live with us full time in August. After her visit to Mom's in September, she too returned all out of sorts....very tearful, emotional. Now, some of that is likely adolescent girl stuff, but I really think it's deeper than that.

It's a difficult transition for them on several levels, I think. I believe that guilt plays a big part of it. Both of my stepkids have shared that with me. They feel guilty for wanting wanting more time w/dad, and leaving their mom there with no kids, blah, blah, blah. They feel guilty, even though they are being true to themselves, and honoring their own feelings. Of course, they don't come to these feelings of "guilt" or "letting their mom down" on their own. But they do own it.

We just expect it now. We know that there will be a couple days of tears and stress. We just try and roll with it. It's ok. Things get back to normal without much drama, but it's pretty predictable. We try and arrange return flights to be early in the day, so that by school Monday morning, a little more time has elapsed, and normalcy is a little closer.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 8:56PM
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Because his attitude and personality change so much (for the worse) perhaps it would help if you or his dad spent some one on one time with him when he gets back. See if he is able to communicate what he is feeling. The goal being to help him grow into the adult he will one day become, as healthy as possible emotionally.

It seems that there are feelings he is experiencing and they need to come out. Can you give him the opportunity to just talk, and be a great listener for him? Is he disappointed in his BM in some way? Or does he worry about her while he is with his dad? You can ask him if she is saying things about you and his dad that bothers him (and don't freak out or react, but in a calm way, perhaps you can tell him that sometimes in divorce, a parent may say things because they are fearful the child will like the new parent, or other parent better, and they are jealous. It seems as if you can help him just talk, you can help him work through all of the conflicting emotions without taking it personally, or flipping out. The calmer you can be as you help him work through whatever feelings he is experiencing, the healthier he will be emotionally as he grows into an adult. Validate his feelings. If he is worried about her, could he call on a certain day once a week? Is he doing something there that he feels bad about? (For example: seeing movies or TV he is not allowed to see at home)? Does she have a boyfriend there and doesn't pay enough attention to her son? Or is she making out in front of her son, and it upsets him? It seems something is bothering him, and it would help if you and his dad could help him with whatever is bothering him.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 10:55PM
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This used to happen with my SS's mom would drop them off say something stupid and set them off .... it was easier with me because I would stop them at the door and say I do not know why you are pissed off but stop go back out the door and leave the attitude in the bucket (we have a bucket near the door) ....they came back in ... hi boys hi pseudo how was your day ... just did this yesterday with SS13 ... came in the door all pissed off at his mother because they apparently played XBOX all weekend and she took it away from them so they told her they didn't want to go there anymore she then said I know its the only reason you come to see me. (She's probably right we don't have x-box here)

Can you tell him its ok to be angry but since your not angry with me can you leave the attitude in the back of the car ... so we can drive away from it?

You and BM share different religious and political views I am guessing ... maybe he hears it from mom ... not much you can do about it ... religion and politics two taboo subjects... makes people crazy. :)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 12:39AM
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Just a question. Does your SS9 want to go to his BM's every other weekend?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 7:03AM
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I don't think it's out of the question to curb a child's behavior when the behavior is out of line... but I also think that in this case, it's worth thinking about where that line ought to be. And also whether you can adjust your own behavior to help set him up for success a little better.

It can be hard for a kid to make the transition between one parent's home and another, even if they've been doing it for years. It can stir up a lot of negative emotions even when the adults are doing all the right things. If one of the adults isn't doing the right thing (like trash-talking the other parent or being erratic about visitation), the kid's negative emotions can get even stronger. It is not an easy thing to deal with, particularly when you're a child and don't have much say in the situation.

From what you're describing, he's coming back to you with all these negative emotions, and then you're being chipper at him. I know that for myself, if I am feeling a strong mix of anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, etc., the main thing I want is to be left alone so that I can get out of the bad mood. And if someone comes up to me and is, "Chipper! Chipper! React to what I'm saying!" I will do my best to suppress my reaction because I'm an adult... but what I really want is for them to knock it off and leave me alone.

My advice would be to give him his space during the time that you know is going to be difficult. If he's picking fights or is deliberately rude, it should be stopped... but let it go if he's just being curt and not reacting as happily as you want.

And for your part, to help him be more successful, don't go out of your way to poke him during that transition time. It may be good news, you may be cheerful and happy, but express it to someone else until he's had time to get back to normal.

One more thought: if you do decide to go ahead and have a talk with him, it might be better to not focus on how he's hurting your feelings. If he's basically a good kid, doing that will add an extra layer of guilt and unhappiness into the mix. And if he's being a gremlin, it will give him more ammunition against you. I think it would be better to let him talk about his emotions, know that he's understood, and you/your husband set the standards for behavior without bringing your own feelings into the mix.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 10:04AM
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Momof5, it sounds like SS is at his snottiest immediately leaving BM, either in the car or just arriving home. Do you think it is possible to give him some quiet time without big questions or announcements at this time? As a stepchild, it is quite an emotional tug of war when being shipped back and forth and what is usually needed is just some down time.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:50AM
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