This is a pretty generic rant and I mostly just need to vent, so skip this if you want to read something posted by someone who doesn't feel like a whiny little bitch!
In general, things are in a mildly stressful limbo state, but nothing majorly stressful, but I have been getting really irritated with my SS6. His attitude and behavior just grate on me and although most of the time I am really good at focusing on the positive and not letting him get to me, sometimes I get sooooooo annoyed and it just builds and builds. A big part of the problem, and something I see as a very common problem on here, is that he has H completely and totally wrapped around his finger and has him completely duped. H strongly favors SS6 to SS12 and it's starting to get really irritating! I actually like SS12 a lot more than SS6 and most of it has to do with their innate personalities. SS12 can be rude, blunt, obnoxious, bratty and annoying, but he is pretty honest and tries his best to be a good kid. He cares a lot about approval and is really nice and sweet with small kids/babies and animals and they like him back, which I take as a good sign. I never trust anyone my cats and dog don't like and their judgment has never been wrong! SS6 has a really hard time socially and has a hard time making and keeping friends. Because of bad incidents in the past, I never allow him to be alone with my four year old nephew. He is extremely jealous and nothing makes me angrier than seeing my sweet little guy get hurt feelings and be confused at why SS6 is being mean to him. The other day, I picked up nephew from pre-school and he asked me where SS6 was and started chattering about him and was saying all this random stuff about their halloween costume plans and then there was a pause and then "Auntie? ----is mean sometimes isn't he? He's mean to me Auntie." It totally broke my heart! He sounded so sad and confused. He is really outgoing, but sweet and sensitive too and everybody who meets him adores him. Ugh, it's just another strike against SS6 that he targets my darling nephew for an outlet for his mental problems.
It may be hard for people who aren't around small children a lot to believe, but I have experienced, in both my personal and professional life, that kids have the same basic personalities and general behavior traits that adults do and that they don't change much. Every kid that I have known since infancy and seen grown up has had a vivid and unique personality and although I have seen kids grow up and get smarter and mature, they have always retained the same basic personality they had as small children. I know that essentially, as a person, I haven't changed much since I was five years old! I liked who I liked and knew who I didn't like and am the same now. I loved my family, friends and was obsessed with animals and wanted to be a veterinarian desperately. I spent as much time as possible outside and in trees and, as an adult, I still indulge my love for acting like a little kid and climbing trees and acting stupid whenever I get the chance. My husband said that the moment he realized he loved me was when we were working one night and went outside to look at an eclipse and I started pretending to be a monkey to make him laugh and took off my socks and shoes and climbed a tree and hung upside down and made faces at him. Luckily for me, being a complete and total idiot with no dignity or pride didn't prevent H from being attracted to me! Anyway, other than being mature enough to graduate college and hold down jobs, I am essentially exactly the same person I have always been. I have learned a lot and still have so much to learn, but I know that, barring an act of God, I will always be the person I always have been, always with room for improvement!
I have seen this in my friends and acquaintances and have been thinking about it a lot in regards to my SS6. He was cute enough when H and I first got together when SS was just 3 and didn't come across as creepy like he does now, although he has never been likable and other than having the "cuteness" that all three year olds have, was never an appealing kid at all. He is extremely sulky, clingy, jealous, whiny, helpless and manipulative. The maddening thing is that h does not see it at all! He is so affectionate with him that it makes me sick. I know it sounds horrible to say that about a father and his kid, but it's not the affection that I have a problem with, (I am all for parental affection for kids!) it's that H is completely and totally blind to SS6's awful qualities and behavior. I watch him being effortlessly manipulated by a creepy six year old and it makes my skin crawl!!
I know others have experienced this too, but it would be so much easier to deal with SS6's behavior and problems if H saw it too and wasn't completely and totally suckered. SS6 is really slow and stupid and has a really hard time in school. He was the only kindergarten kid in his school who they considered holding back because he wasn't learning properly and still didn't know the alphabet when he was starting first grade! The school has already had meetings with H and BM about him and he is in tutoring and has a special ed teacher that works with him during the school day. Like I had to do with SS12 when he was failing reading and writing and H was flailing and clueless about what to do to help him (and I won't even go into how destructive and problematic BM was!) and jumped in and completely took over helping SS12 with the problem. To the relief of H and the horror of BM, I took over his special ed parent/teacher meeting and came up with a plan to help SS12 at home. I provided him with fun, interesting books that were appropriately challenging and easy enough for him and then sat down with him for half an hour after school everyday to help him, taught him how to use a dictionary, had him write mini-essays on his reading and worked with him on his handwriting and spelling. After a year of making him do it every single day (H tends to give in to begging and whining if I let him!), SS12 went from failing to testing into the 90th percentile in English (reading, writing and spelling) and now he cheerfully does his daily reading and actually likes reading! (goal!). BM is very threatened by me and that didn't help, but while she did absolutely nothing to help him and actually hindered him, she now tries to act like his improvement has something to do with him being her son! His genetic package from her will be the intellectual and academic challenge of his life, not a benefit! During our most recent school meeting, he was included and his teachers asked him what he thought was the main reason he had improved so much in the past two years and he immediately said "Stepmadre!" and went on and on about how much I help him and how much he likes the books i've been getting for him lately. It was so great! BM looked like she swallowed a lemon and to make it even better, SS12 jumped out of his chair and gave me a huge hug! He is impulsive and unselfconscious about showing affection for me and H in front of BM and doesn't seem to be aware that it might upset her, so it is hilarious to see stuff like that and BMs reaction! This is indulging my bitchy, petty side, but it was very satisfying to see her reaction and see her bulgy eyes get red and watery and her mustache quiver from holding her mouth in a little pinched frown. She didn't even bother faking cheerfulness for the teachers like she usually does and it was a refreshing change to be spared her nauseating and revolting chipmunk voice and blatant and tacky kissing up to the teachers. She desperately wants people to think that she's a great mom and that her kids adore her, but she just comes across as transparently desperate and incompetent as a mother. She's not willing to make the effort to improve her parenting, put her kids first and provide for them, but she still wants people to think that she rocks as a mom. Her denial and delusions are so strong that I doubt she has faced the fact that it's not a wacky coincidence that both of her children are in special ed, have been put in counseling by their schools, and have both been put on temporary suspension for getting in fights with other kids. If they were my biological children, I would be so embarrassed and ashamed and I would feel overpowering guilt for producing such messed up kids. I am proud of how far they have both come, but I shudder when people think they are mine and I am always quick to correct them. Thankfully, no one has told me they look like me!!!
Anyway, back to SS6's current behavior. He has always gotten tons of attention and avoided getting in trouble by playing up babyish behavior. BM coddles him and encourages his baby talk and infantile behavior and obviously wants to keep him at a toddler stage forever. H isn't that bad, but he definitely doesn't see things for how they are and his one blind spot is definitely SS6. For quite a long time, SS6 has purposefully chosen to speak incorrectly and like a baby and plays stupid with adults that are easily duped. I don't put up with the baby talk AT ALL and when SS6 says something horribly wrong and babyish (and it's obvious that it's an affectation, not genuine ignorance) I tell him that he needs to think about the correct way to say what he means and then say it and until then, I will not respond to him. Surprise, surprise, with me he speaks like a normal six year old. I nip the baby talk and incorrect speech in the bud right away and he knows he can't pull the wool over my eyes at all. Along with the creepy six year old version of the dumb blonde act is the extremely irritating helpless behavior that goes along with it. SS really isn't smart and is verging on being literally diagnosed as developmentally disabled, but there are a lot of stupid kids out there that manage to learn enough to pass through grade school and more and keep up with the other kids. I'm not some evil taskmaster that won't settle for anything less than child prodigies, but it's really grating to constantly deal with a stupid six year old who TRIES to be more stupid than he is! Because he isn't smart and has a very hard time learning, everything is harder for him than it should be and I am convinced that the reason he has a hard time learning is because he gives up immediately (and he NEVER tries anything unless people make him) and he has always gotten away with it. He asks H to do EVERYTHING for him and basically walks around like a helpless and stupid china doll and H doesn't realize that he is creating a worse problem down the line by doing everything for SS instead of having him do it himself. SS6 sulkily tries halfheartedly to do something and, of course, immediately fails. He then starts pouting and whines to H that he needs "help." H's sweet and compassionate nature, that I love and admire so much, takes over and being a total softy, he goes over and does whatever mundane and easy thing SS doesn't want to do himself. A lot of it has to do with SS's clingy and possessive attitude about H. The more attention he gets from H the better, from his perspective. He follows H around, interrupts anyone who talks to him, clings and hangs off him while he talks to other people or is on the phone and constantly "needs" H to do every little thing for him! He is the most dependent child I have ever known and it's incredibly annoying and pisses me off! He wets the bed, has nightly "nightmares" and has long, whiny clinging sessions at bedtime to suck as much of H's time and attention as he can. Due to his behavior, SS12 loses out on a lot of attention that he needs and deserves and H winds up frustrated because he can't get anything done and is constantly being interrupted. I don't put up with any of this. SS knows this and has a very healthy dose of respect for me. He really likes me and when he is being pleasant is nice to be around and he constantly seeks my affection and approval too. I am very affectionate with him, but I am not a doormat like H. Especially lately, I don't tolerate the helpless crap AT ALL. (one of the reasons SS12 really appreciates me is because I am an advocate for him and make sure he gets the attention that SS6 is constantly trying to steal)
I had the skids all day the other day and SS6 was trying to get me to do all the crap that H does for him and I didn't do any of it! He had a frustrating morning and was so mad at me he was bright red and on the verge of tears, but I would rather that he get frustrated now and get over it than perpetuate the pattern of dependence and manipulation. The sulky pouting and tears don't work on me and I find it sickening to see a small child try to be so manipulative. For example, SS12 made himself breakfast and went into his room to listen to music and read and I made scrambled eggs and toast for SS6 and he sat at the table like a little prince expecting to be waited on and I was having none of it. I cooked him breakfast, but I made him get the bathroom stair steps (so he and other vertically challenged people can reach the sink) and get out his own plate, fork, and cup of milk. That set him off on a sulking fit and his first reaction when made to do something he wants someone else to do for him is to be incompetent and mess it up. I saw him start sulking and I ignored it and so his reaction was to spill the milk. With H, the result (that SS6 planned all along) would be that he would swoop in and clean up the mess and get SS's milk for him. This is what SS expects and with me I just told him to clean it up and try again. He pretended that he didn't know how to clean it up and I told him to figure it out and that when he did, he would be able to eat breakfast and drink his milk, but that I wasn't going to clean up his mess or take over the milk pouring and food serving. I never give him tasks that are too hard for him and there are only a few things I ask him to do that my four year old nephew couldn't do. Unlike SS6, my nephew is excited to be growing into being a "big man" and tries really hard to do everything on his own...he can be stubborn in the opposite direction and it's really cute! With the spilled milk, when I didn't take over and clean up for him and went off to the couch with my own plate of breakfast, SS tried the pitiful teary act and started crying and said he didn't know how to clean up the milk (there were paper towels on the dispenser right in front of him and the trash is right under the sink). I ignored the tears and told him to think about it and that he could take as long as he needed until he figured it out. Of course, he knew exactly how to clean it up and the crocodile tears turned into an angry, red little face as he angrily grabbed paper towels and cleaned up and re-poured his milk (as well as any waitress could do). He tried again while eating and asked me to "cut" his scrambled eggs for him and wanted his toast cut into strips with the crust cut off! I told him he didn't need to cut his eggs and he told me that his fork was "too heavy" and that it "hurt his wrist" to hold it himself and wanted me to hand feed him! He did the quivering lip thing and I told him to do it himself and he sat there trying to cry and said he "couldn't do it" himself and I told him that fine, if he didn't want to lift the fork to his own mouth or eat his toast in one slice WITH the crust still on that he could starve and it would be him being hungry not me and no skin off my back. I was cheerful and brisk about it and ignored all the tears and whining. He was super pissed but realized that there was no way I was going to baby him like BM does or be manipulated by his crocodile tears, he hunkered down and ate his breakfast in sulky silence. When he didn't clear his plate, after a reminder, I sent him to time out and so he made his own morning really crappy and unpleasant and irritated the Hell out of me in the meantime!
In response to his reading and writing issues, I have set up a daily reading/writing routine similar to the one I set up for SS12 (once a reading tutor always a reading tutor!), but geared towards his age and abilities. I have him read out loud to me or H for fifteen minutes and when he can't get a word, I don't tell him what it is, but have him spell it out and have been trying to teach him how to think critically. H has the bad habit of "helping" him too much when he's reading and SS takes full advantage of that and basically pretends he doesn't know any words other than "the" or "and" and says "I fogrot" whenever asked to work through a word. When I am reading with him, I add on an extra sentence every time he says "I fogrot" when I ask him to try to sound out a word or identify a letter. The really irritating thing is that although he isn't smart, he is capable of passing first grade and is just lazy and prefers to be helpless and dependent. I remind him before we start that reading isn't about "remembering" words, but instead about taking each individual letter every time we see it and sounding it out and putting all the sounds together to make a word...and then sentence etc...and remind him that if he says "I forgot" or "I fogrot" when I ask him to sound out something that I will add on a sentence so that he has it clear in his mind and has a fresh reminder. He always winds up with one or two extra sentences tacked on because the kid really doesn't seem to learn at all. Due to his helpless attitude, he is far behind where he should be academically and his defeatist attitude becomes reality when he fails constantly and is always the worst in his class in every subject. It becomes a self-defeating cycle that he perpetuates. He won't try new things at all and when he is required to for school he gives up almost immediately and always tries to do the easiest thing possible. He cries at the drop of a hat and it is almost always a manipulation and completely fake. Luckily, his current teacher sees right through him and doesn't put up with it any more than I do and as a result, SS hates her. I am tough on him, but I am always nice and he knows I am fair even if I expect more out of him than other people, so I think that's why he still likes me so much even though I don't let him off the hook.
We are currently trying to teach him how to tie his own shoes and it has been one of the most frustrating experiences in my step family experience. Shoelace tying might as well be quantum physics because SS is just not getting it. For the sake of time, H usually winds up tying them for him and SS works this just like everything else. As usual, I don't put up with his behavior and because SS DOES know how to tie his shoes, he just isn't good at it and doesn't like to, I always make him do it himself no matter what. I give him tons of notice before we go anywhere so he has plenty of time to work on it and can't use the excuse of no time to get out of it. The same day he was being a helpless brat about his breakfast, he tried the shoelaces routine with me and was unpleasantly shocked because I had seen him sitting on the couch staring at the tv (SS12 was playing video games while the rest of us got ready to go) while he was supposed to be tying his laces. With H, what would happen is that H would just tie his laces for him because we would be out of time, but with me, I wiped the smug little look off his face when I told him that he would just have to walk around with his laces untied until he got them laced. He didn't even try the tears routine and went straight to pissed and wound up in time out for being rude to boot. He was in tears because we were going to the playground and there is no way he could run around without his laces getting tied. As we were leaving the house, I told him that he should tie his laces in the car and that once we got to the park, he could stay in the car as long as he needed to tie them, but that I would not tie them for him. He was super bright red and angry (a common look with him these days) and when we got to the park, stomped off with his laces flying everywhere. He went around the side of one of the buildings where the basketball courts were and although I let him out of my sight briefly, I always get nervous if I can't see them for more than a few seconds and when he didn't reappear right away I went over to check on him and he came over to me with a sneaky, guilty look on his face and with his shoelaces neatly double knotted. I knew there was no way he could have done it himself and especially in that short a time, so I asked him if he had disobeyed me and had another kid tie his laces. He lied to me and said no, but it was super obvious he was lying. I gave him one chance and said that if he was lying he was going to lose his video games for the day and have to go sit in the car until we were ready to go and he kept lying, but unfortunately for him, the kid that he got to tie his shoes was right there and blurted out that he had tied them. SS just hung his head and started crying (his pity tactic that works with H, but not with me!) and I untied his laces, told him that he was not to have any one tie them but himself and sent him to the car. He wound up tying his laces in the car during the ten minutes or so that we were still at the park after that and I ignored his dramatic sighs and whines from the back seat on the drive home and just chatted with SS12 (who was thoroughly enjoying that I wasn't catering to SS and using up all my time and attention on him). When we got home, I acted like nothing had happened and other than losing his video game time, SS wasn't affected by it much after that. The two times later in the day that we left the house for errands, I let SS know half an hour ahead of time that we would be leaving and that he needed to tie his shoes, he quietly tied them with no complaints and we had no problems with it at all! But guess what happened the next day when H and I were both home with the skids? I gave SS the head start on time, as usual, and he re-played the same old helpless act from the day before!! I was distracted with other stuff, but unsurprisingly, SS managed to get H to tie his shoes for him and was acting helpless and incompetent as usual! The day that I had the skids by myself, SS6 had a rough start in the morning, but once he gave in and realized that in a power struggle with me, he will never win, he finally gave up and we had a really good day after that. The baby talk melted away and he was helpful and did things for himself for the most part. By the time H got home from work, SS seemed years older and more mature than he had in the morning, but once he saw his dad, he reverted back into the attention-getting, babyish behavior and it was like there had been no improvement. That night he was extra clingy and possessive of H and while we had family movie night, he went into his room and had a temper tantrum and crying fit because I had my legs across H's lap during the movie and was snuggled up with H and wouldn't let him sit on my lap (it hurt too much) or move my legs so he could sit on H's lap. He expected me to move so he could take over H's lap, and was shocked and pissed when I told him that he could sit right next to us, but that H and I were snuggling and that he needed to sit on his own. SS12 just looked at me and rolled his eyes which I thought was funny, but SS6 was super pissed and when H tried to get up to go comfort and hug him in his room, I stopped him and reminded him that SS was trying to get that result and that his negative behavior didn't need to be fed and rewarded and that the best result came from letting him have his little tantrum in his room and that he could rejoin the family when he had gotten over it and pulled himself together. That kind of thing is hard for H because he is so softhearted, but if I am there I always remind him of the family rules we have all agreed to.
We have spent hours and hour discussing discipline and rules and see eye to eye on pretty much everything. In theory, H has the exact same views as I on parenting, but when it comes to SS6, H tends to give in to him and be manipulated at the drop of a hat. I realize that SS6 has major problems and that he is having an unusually hard time transitioning from being a little kid into being an older kid, and I am fully aware of BMs affect and influence on him and the problems he has due to her. He doesn't relate well to other kids at all and will always try to dominate and hog the attention of whatever adults are present. His first choice is his dad and then me and he gets extremely jealous and interruptive when we give attention to each other, SS12 or anyone else there. Interrupting is a pet peeve of both H and I and H gets even more irritated than I do with it. Our family rule about interrupting is that if you interrupt someone you get one warning and if you do it again, you go to time out. We think that is reasonable and it has improved SS12's behavior a lot, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in with SS6. I find it extremely irritating to greet H with a hug and a kiss when he gets home and have SS6 at our legs, trying to interrupt or get a hug himself or get "picked up." He gets tons and tons of attention and both H and I spend a lot of time playing with him as well as enforcing the un-fun stuff like homework and chores.
He is very jealous of H being affectionate with me and it gives me the creeps how he tries to come between us. I REFUSE to compete for attention with a six year old!!! As well as for my own sanity and relationship with H, I want SS6 to normalize and become a healthy, normal kid...not a clinging, creepy manipulator. As far as being jealous of me, it doesn't have anything to do with me being "new" in SS6's life because he was only three when we got married and doesn't remember H not being with me! He gets equally jealous of SS12 getting any attention and it doesn't have anything to do with adjusting to a new situation or anything like that. If we had been recently married, or if SS6 had recently experienced his dad's break-up and marriage to me I would understand the behavior and assume it was just SS6's way of processing the stress and dealing with the change, but it doesn't have anything to do with that and seems to be purely from SS6's emotional issues and problems, which I have seen for a long time, but which haven't been as obvious to others until recently.
He spends almost no time playing by himself and doesn't do any of the creative stuff that most kids do naturally and isn't capable of entertaining himself. If he isn't being actively played with or playing a video game or being walked through homework or reading, he endlessly whines about being bored and not having anything to do. When I was a kid, I spent hours playing by myself and with my sisters and friends and never ran out of ideas for games to play. I was happy playing outside and roughhousing and I was happy to be inside making paper wallets and library cards out of construction paper and inventing elaborate games with my little sisters. My parents gave me lots of attention and affection, but also expected me and my sisters to be self sufficient and to entertain ourselves. We always had access to plenty of books and art supplies and had high quality toys and plenty of random materials to make forts and act out scenarios. My mom frequently brought home prom dresses from second hand stores and we had a chest full of dress up clothes and scarves and put on fashion shows and played dress up for hours. She also brought home scraps of fabric and I was in heaven making little dresses for my dolls that I made out of worn out socks. I just don't understand kids that don't have any imagination and don't know how to play???
When you have a very small child (toddler to four years old) strange or dysfunctional behavior can be masked by the young age and the "cuteness" of the child, but as they get older, the behavior can't be masked by being a toddler and it gets weird and creepy. That is what I think is going on and I am dreading dealing with this as he gets older. His face has lost that chubby small kid cuteness and although he has BMs round, fat looking face (and her penchant for turning bright red when angry) the babyish features are gone and he is turning into a really unattractive kid. He frowns and looks angry so much that it's affecting his face and he looks angry and sulky as his regular facial expression. He is nasty and rude with other kids and, being kids, they shun him and he is the loser of his class and doesn't have any friends. He is developing the miniature version of BMs sour, twisted frown and it's extremely disturbing to see the same ugly facial expressions on his face as are frequently on BMs. SS12 also looks a lot like BM, but his nature is a lot kinder and way, way more optimistic and cheerful and he doesn't tend to have the same facial expressions and doesn't look angry and sulky like SS6 does.
Well, that is the end of my rant for today! I have been feeling really down about SS6 and am dismayed to find that his problems that I hoped he would grow out of are becoming worse and that he seems to be getting more difficult as he gets older, not easier. Anyway, as I'm sure all of you SMs out there with manipulative, helpless skids understand first hand just how frustrating and maddening they are to deal with and sometimes you just need to vent and bitch about it in order to deal with the stress. I seriously hope he grows the f*&^ up eventually because I am not in love with the idea of running a one-woman boot camp for sulky, lazy little mini-BMs!