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Graduation party out of the blue-- tough love or no?

NicoleRB's picture

OK-- quick poll, should we take the bait and offer an invite to my 13SD (who refuses to live with us or make us a part of her life) to my 18SS's (her bio brother's) graduation party this weekend at our house? 

Background below if you need it:

After her softball game that her Dad attended yesterday (she throws him a bone & at least allows him to attend her games), she asked him if we were having a party for her brother.  We arranged an open house for his graduation from 1-4pm with mostly my husband's extended family and some of mine.  My poor DH is now conflicted on what to do-- he just answered yes we are and waited to see if she would ask to come and she didn't, so he didn't take the bait.  Her asking was definitely a probe and it is now tearing him up emotionally because we never know if we handle things correctly with her.  This would be an easy no-brainer of "of course we would"-- but this particular 13 year old has made our lives hell over the last year by refusing to be a part of our lives or treat her father like an active participant in her life.  It due to parental alienation on the part of BM and my SD's anger against her father for remarrying and taking on my 2 teen sons in addition to his own kids-- the BM likely encourages the perception that he has "chosen another family" when really he just divorced her because they had a horrible dysfunctional marriage and got remarried.

For those of you who have followed my past few blogs, my SD13 who moved out of our house a year ago last June to live with her BM full time 10 minutes down the road, refuses to see any of us or visit or indicates wanting to visit whatsoever (despite the fact we have legal 50% custody).  When her father (my DH) asks about the two of them meeting with a counselor to work on their relationship so that she'll want to see him more, she outright refuses and says she isn't ready.  He only sees her at all because her BM got a new job and BM asked that he pick her up from school on the days we would have had her and then he drops her off at her BM's house 8 mins down the road from the school (basically he's like her Uber driver). My DH doesn't want to pander for her attention by bringing her out for treats or rewards during that 10 minute drive (that is her style) and he couldn't refuse to do it as it was his only chance to see her -- he didn't want to make it look like he didn't want that chance, so alas he's her Uber.  

He is a great Dad, makes the effort to go to all of her softball games, but other than that, and the picking her up from school, she has expressed no desire to have a relationship with him anymore, spend the night at our house or and does not ask to spend any time at all with her Dad or visit myself or my sons since moving out.  It is heartbreaking for all of us as we all lived together for 4 years when she was age 9-12 and I thought we had good times-- it was simpler when she was a younger child I guess because she didn't seem to harbor any hate for us.  As she aged she gained the perception that he Mother is a victim of us-- perhaps info shared that she didn't have before or at her BMs there are no rules, so she ultimately couldn't even deal with our minor boundaries like kids sleep in their own beds or kids under 13 in bed by 10pm or so.  Her Mom's with her dog and no bed time won out over a relationship with her own father, it is heartbreaking.  It seems like she loves her labrador retriever more than her Father.

I literally haven't seen my 13SD in a year other than receiving one text from her about a month after she left asking me how I was and then another 2 or 3 word text from her when my uncle died expressing her being sorry for my loss.  I don't want a social media or text relationship with her, I want a real one.  My 18SS (her brother) is graduating from High School now-- unlike her he has chosen to live with us half time and he is kind to me and my sons and we are all pretty close-- he hasn't rejected all of us like she has.  My SS tells my parents that she says she misses them, but apparently not enough to make it worth seeing her Dad or I.

My DH and I are struggling because she only wants to be a part of our lives on occaisons like this when my DH's extended family (her cousins, etc.) will be around.  She asked about going to Xmas eve for example-- she hinted about wanting us to take her skiing with us but we weren't about to take that bait either. My DH took her to xmas eve with her brother at my DH's family and my sons and I stepped aside as we thought we might add friction to their possible making up if I was the real issue.  No such luck, she went that night, got her gifts and still didn't want anything to do with her Dad after the holiday was over.  

 I do not want a transactional relationship with her and I do not want to give in to her every want and desire like her BM does.  She is very manipulative.  I am talking she hasn't even called her father in a year and when he calls her she acts like she doesn't want to talk to him.  He'll get the occaisonal I love and miss you text from her, but it doesn't fit with how she treats him.  It has been a year since she's been gone-- we finally boxed up her clothes and he brought them over to her BMs so her brother could use her former closet.  

Basically, she has wreaked havoc on all of us and we feel she is very immature by now potentially angling for an invite to the party.  Both her Father and I know that if she comes, she will sit on the lap of her 20 year old girl cousin and sulk while her hair gets stroked.  She would likely completely ignore her father and I, like she does on regular old non-party-no holiday days which I think would be heartbreaking, but she wouldn't miss the big party opportunity of course.  She sees her brother when is with her 50% time at her moms, so we feel like she can celebrate with him there until she is ready to start treating us like people she wants in her life. 

Yet we are conflicted.  Are we being awful?  The guilt creeps in....should we be the bigger people and just invite her and suffer through it and send her the message that she can have her cake and eat it too? Are we making it worse by not inviting her?  Can she walk in and out of our lives when she feels like it?  She has so much power over us, and I feel all consumed by it, though I know we shouldn't be for our own mental health.


Shaking my head Stepmom


notsurehowtodeal's picture

Does her brother want her at the party? In this case, since the party is for him, I would see what he wants. If he would like her there, then an invite would be a good idea. If he doesn't want her there, then no need to invite her.

JRI's picture

Her brother's wishes decide the question.  1-4 open house, no big deal either way.



CLove's picture

Its to honor him and he can invite her or not according to his wishes. I would stay out of it otherwise not your circus to manage and ringlead...IMHO...

Cover1W's picture

Agree with the above. My OSD was alienated around the same age and she's 18 and still gone. DH continued to invite her to things and try to do things with her but she either refused or he was met with silence. I'd say it's the brother's decision, and issue the invite as applicable. Then it's on her to respond or not.

AgedOut's picture

He's the young man being celebrated, if he wants her there he can invite her. 

Survivingstephell's picture

You get what you give is the lesson we learned in therapy. I say don't invite her.  Now if her brother invites her than she is in her own for getting there and back.  No favors for her.  Missing out on a family event won't be the end of the world for her and a good lesson for everyone.  Tell the extended family why she isn't there.  At 13 she is old enough to suffer some logical consequences for being a brat.  BM will twist it any which way no matter what you do so do the logical thing.  If she shows up for her brother great, point that out but don't bend over backwards for her.     If she asks, refer it back to her behaviors.  IMO 

notarelative's picture

I'm assuming that, if the party is for SS, to avoid a scheduling problem, the party is on DH's custody day. Since it's a day that SD should be at Dad's, and the party is at Dad's, I would not say a word. Either she shows up on the custody schedule or not. No DH leaving the party to pick up or drop off.

Rags's picture

13yos do choose to move out of a parent's home. 13yos do what they are told when they are told to do it. If they choose to not comply with what they are told to do, they suffer escalating misery inducing consequences for that choice.

IMHO of course.

Lifer33's picture

What most others have said...

If her brother wants her there or invites her so be it 

But equally that's on him, don't prompt him either way or even ask, and if she sends anymore digging messages ignore them and let her ask her brother who she's bound to be in contact with ?

stepper47's picture

I have lived this and it's so hard.  DH also had 50/50 for SS now 23 and SD now 19, and BM lived 10 min away.  First few years were pretty ok, I did notice from the beginning that SD was a bit spoiled and catered to by both DH and BM, but she was overall a good kid and it was easier to overlook when she was younger.  Around 12 is when the entitlement and nasty behavior started coming out, which caused problems between DH the divorce guilt Dad and I, and I withdrew.  Any boundaries or things I needed regarding her behavior I went to DH with, which at first would end up as arguments, and eventually he took some things to her when they started to impact him.  The big one she focused on was the request to let us know before she would randomly drop by when she was with her mom, she took that to mean she wasn't welcome, and what parent's heart would not be broken hearing that from their child?  So the roller coaster of her coming on his time/not coming last minute/accusations/BM playing up on her side began, for a few years until at almost 16 she moved to her mom's full time after DH tries to enforce consequences for coming home from a party falling down drunk.  She has not stayed here since and been over minimally.  There are cycles of things being ok and the two of them communicating normally, to her ghosting him, to her demanding has been exhausting and I am pretty much disengaged at this point.  I honestly don't know if there is anything I could have done at the 13 year stage that would have changed anything, or even DH bt then.  I think the problems are rooted in divorce guilt and parental competition. 

Regarding the graduation party though, my advice would probably be to invite her...regardless of how my SD had acted, whether she is communicating or not, I have ways thought it was important to include her in things that involve the whole family, graduation parties being one of them.  90% of the time she does not show, but at least we know we are doing what we can on our side to keep the door open.  No matter what, SD will always be my husband's daughter.  I know how I feel about my son 23 ( although he has never, ever acted like she does, but still, I know I would love him regardless), so I want to do what I can to support a *healthy* relationship between my DH and SD.  Whether she knows it or not, she needs her dad, and I do hope that some day she grows up, changes her perspective, and treats him better (not there yet).  I do take myself out of the equation when it comes to plans between the two of them, that's for them to work out and my choice for my own mental health not to be involved in, but if we are having a family get together she will always be invited. 

Your SD asking about your SS's party makes me think of something that happened with mine a couple years ago. SD has never acknowledged mine or my son's birthday.  That year, his birthday fell when both boys were here for college winter break (both boys primarily lived here after high school), and it was still COVID, so all my son wanted to do was get pizza and the 4 of us hang out at home and play games. SS ended up inviting his girlfriend, which was fine, my son, SS, and girlfriend are all good friends. We did not invite SD because she never came over anyway, she has never liked playing games, and she doesn't appear to care for my son.  That night at 10:30, DH got a call from her, I could hear her screaming and cursing from across the room about not being invited and not part of the family.  Apparently SS must have mentioned to her what we were doing.  Her screaming at DH like that over random things was nothing new, but it made me furious that she used my son's birthday to do it...which led to me making a comment around Christmas which blew up into a whole hot mess's just not worth it.  Looking back, I wish I had just told DH to invite her, she wouldn't have come, even if she did, wouldn't have hurt anything, and it would have avoided a lot of drama and trauma afterward....    On the bright side, it did lead me to finally being able to release a lot of the space that was occupied by worrying over the situation with her and guilt feelings, because she was so ridiculously over the top.   Now it only occupies occasionally...usually around when there is some kind of family function bc that's the only time I may see her.  Haha

Anyway...just my 2 cents from my experience.  Whatever you choose to do, your situation is not easy, and my heart goes out to you!!

NicoleRB's picture

Thank you for all of these insights-- I had the same thing with her not wanting to come to our house, but when I unfollowed her on Instagram to take a break from her drama, DH immediately got a phone call and I immediately refollowed her.  

NicoleRB's picture

Thanks for all of you that chimed in...we ended up asking my SS and he left it up to us but did say he'd like her there if possible. He said he knew that it would be akward for us because she hasn't been very nice, but left the decision to us. We went with his wishes and invited her.

It went okay, not awful, and the only thing I am a little bummed about is that STILL NOBODY (including us) has held her accountable for anything to this day.  Her coming to the graduation party is yet another example of even us letting her have her cake and eat it too.  I agree that I want a healthy relationship above all between my DH and his daughter.  She was not good to him when she visited-- she did give us the fake hug when she came in (she showed up with an entourage of her girl cousins which I viewed as "support back up" for having to come into our house again and deal with the two of us horrible parents.  She stayed away from us the majority of the time, dissapeared on her phone for a while when we were all out on the deck, and when he father asked about whether she had finals at the end of 7th grade, she barked "I don't have finals" back at him like you shouldn't treat someone who you haven't visited in person in over a year's time that is also your parent.

When my sweet Aunt that is in her 70s asked her about a doll she used to have she acted like she rudely had no idea what she was talking about and made my aunt work for the "smooth over" of the social interaction.

The only exchange she had with me was when I pointed out that nobody liked The Cool Ranch Doritos and she came over and said, "I like them" and I nicely smiled and said, "well have at them"...

The last thing that also surprised me was that she asked my adult younger brother who has a beautiful boat whether he had plans to take it out a lot this summer.  This was clearly her attempt to get an invite-- what made me crack up inside was wondering whether she was thinking that she and her mom were going to go out on a boat with my bro? LOL. Very strange.  If she thinks she is coming on the boat or visiting us a the beach house when we are there on vacation just for the opportunities presented she's got another thing coming.  What we DO have control over are rewards and if she chooses to have nothing to do with us than she doesn't get invited on the fun stuff. 

All in all, the way she dealt with my DH when he tried to engage her with one question and her rudeness to my sweet Aunt who is like the nicest old lady on the planet along with the Cool Ranch interaction made me realize two things:

1) She is just a nasty child these days and it is actually a complete blessing to my mental health that she doesn't live with us anymore. 

2) Cool Ranch and the boat conversation just means she is incredibly immature, enough said. She is a stunted 13 year old-- she acts more like she's 11 emotionally. Probably because of her BM's effort to shelter her from every impact. She is also someone that is invested in people depending on what she can get from them (and like I said, I am NOT going to have a TRANSACTIONAL relationship with a 13 yr old or anyone for that matter.

Today (the party was last night), my DH got a call from her (he said it was a call but it was prob a one liner text) asking him to go to her awards ceremony tonight for Spring sports (she plays softball).  When he told me I was like "AWESOME!" but there is no way I'm going to that...I went to her softball games for 4 years and when she turned 12 suddenly she would give me daggers at the end of the game -- so I got the signals that she doesn't want me there.  Therefore I will be staying home tonight-- so at least I am someone who does hold her accountable. *shrug* My DH will probably be bummed to have to go alone...but as long as she has a somewhat normal relationship w/her than I am happy.

I will not be "representing" her as a step mother at the ceremony because she doesn't let me be matter how open my arms are to her hello and goodbye hug or how smiley my offer of Cool Ranch chips is...

Thanks for listening!

Survivingstephell's picture

I'm the only one that hold my skids to higher expectations too.  It's a lesson only stepmoms can teach.  Mine all got violent and there has been no accountability, apologies or olive branches from them.  They are adults now and still act butt hurt their dad chose happiness with me over their bad behaviors.  That's on them.