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I'm starting to hate my stepson and I don't want to

swimmie's picture

I'm a stepmom of 3 children, and the youngest is 13. I have no biological children of my own.

My husband and the childrens' mother separated 6 years ago and the divorce was finalised 2 years ago. My husband and I met 4 years ago when he was going through court proceedings with the divorce. We have been married for about 18 months now. 

The children are with us every Wednesday and every other weekend. My husband has a great relationship with the children - he is the fun parent and is always joking around and playing with them. The two older children are no problem at all aside from the normal teenager stuff like being grumpy in the morning or not wanting to revise, and we get along fantastically. I am very grateful to them both, as my parents are also divorced and I know that parents divorcing is difficult on any child. On a recent holiday we went on, the eldest told me that she likes me and she likes how I am with her dad, which I thought was very sweet. 

Their mother was not happy when my husband started seeing me, and any mention of me is banned at her house. The children are also not allowed to bring any gifts from me or anything that is mine into her house. I understand how she feels and have explained to the children that she is hurt and bitter, and to say that it's from their dad or grandma if they need to take anything home that is from me (like headsets, clothing or sweets). They are obviously encouraged to talk about anything at our house including their mother, and I have made a concious effort to never ever disrespect their mother in front of the children. The two older kids said that they're sorry for me that their mother hates me so much and to not take it personally, because if their dad was with someone else she would hate that person just as much. This meant a lot to me.

HOWEVER. All this doesn't mean I'm always calm and collected inside.

The children's mother likes to spoil the children, especially the youngest. She tells him that his dad abandoned him, and says that she would never leave him because she loves him, and she wants to do anything to make him happy. The one rule at her house is that nobody is allowed to upset the youngest - if he gets into an argument with his siblings, they have to apologize no matter what. He is 13, and still sleeps with his mother, only eats white bread, plain pasta, green apples and sweets, and can't pour himself a glass of milk. He can't get dressed on his own. He is glued to his iPad from the moment he gets out of bed in the morning until he gets into bed at night.  

This leads to a lot of conflict at our house, where we have a very different set of rules. The two older children are sick of eating the same foods at their mother's, so at our house we try to cook all sorts of different dishes, which leads to the youngest throwing temper tantrums because it's not what he likes. He says "That's not how Mom cooks." He sleeps on his own at our house but he has to have about 40 soft toys in his bed, otherwise he throws a fit and literally screams until he's hyperventilating. He refuses to do his homework and says "Mom does it for me if I scream enough," when we insist. I once asked him to help me unload the dishwasher and he said "Mom doesn't make me do anything like that." One morning over the weekend, he helped my husband and I in the garden, and then started crying sayng his mother would have given him $20 an hour for helping. He says his mother's house is nicer and her garden is bigger. I don't know why he says that, he just does, out of the blue. 

He is a sweet, kind boy and is very good with sharing things or baking muffins with me. He is compassionate and likes animals. It's when he doesn't get what he wants that he is very, very difficult. He screams and throws himself onto his bed and will go on like that for hours. Afterwards he always says that if he complains enough no one makes him do what he doesn't want to, and that bothers me a lot.

I feel like if this was my child I would have a bit more of a say in how to raise him. I struggle with the "Mom doesn't make me do that" and also worrying about how my interactions with him might affect my husband's relationship with him. My husband says that his son needs to learn societal rules and grow up, and has rules down at our house that he sticks to, but that has led to his son saying "This is why I hate coming to this house", which of course hurt him a lot. 

I would like to help him grow into a well-rounded, less spoiled person, but I don't know what to do. I don't agree with his behaviour but I am tired of the "Mom wouldn't make me do that" story. My husband and I have talked to him many times about how his dad didn't abandon him, and how he is always here for him, and we remind him how much his dad loves him, but it doesn't seem to matter. I am starting to dread the days he is at our house and I am starting to hate him. I know it's a strong word but I'm so tired of the screaming and crying and passive aggressive comments about literally everything I do.

If someone has any advice about how to deal with this, I would appreciate it so much. I know that marrying someone with kids means a lot more complexity than a normal hosuehold but this is so hard.




Harry Potter's picture

I think your partner really needs to stick to his guns with 'tough this is the rules at this house'. Maybe enforce some implications for his actions if he is disrespectful or rude. I'm sure it won't be easy, but at his age he could be a brat for 100 different reasons and you may just have to ride it out until he's a few years older. But in the meantime don't let him make your lives miserable, but it really needs your husband to stick to it

tog redux's picture

Your DH 100% needs to stick to the rules at your house; however, expect that at some point soon, SS will start refusing to come over because his father refuses to coddle him. Sounds like BM chose SS13 to enmesh with and to meet her emotional needs when DH left. There is very little you two can do about that, except refuse to cater to him or give in to his manipulations. DH may lose contact with him for a time if he starts refusing to come over, but he will be back, and he needs DH to keep being a father. 

As for you, you can just disengage and let DH handle him. 

swimmie's picture

Thank you for your advice. It's encouraging to hear that he'll be back even if he loses contact with his dad temporarily. My husband would hate for that to be permanent and obviously that's his biggest worry / SS's leverage. 
My husband says he will arrange for a chat with the mother and ask for her to step up on the parenting. Past discussions have not been great (it always ends up with her blaming him for everything that goes wrong). Do you think it will be any good for him to speak with her? I always say to have regular chats to make sure they're on the same page with parenting but sometimes I don't know if it's best to stop trying. 

Winterglow's picture

Firstly, that would be pointless and possibly counter-productive. 

Secondly, he has no say over what happens on her time nor how she runs her house. 

swimmie's picture

Their mother asks us to follow her house rules like bedtimes or sugar intake, which we do. She says she wants to have consistency and for the SS to not say "Dad lets me have sweets". 
If us speaking to her is overstepping, is she overstepping too? 

Aunt Agatha's picture

With high conflict people, it's best to move to parallel parenting vs. co-parenting.

Winterglow's picture

Of course she is. What happens in the other parent's home on his time is none of her business (unless, of course, it's outright dangerous).

tog redux's picture

He can try, but it isn't likely to help. BM won't be able to see that she's meeting her needs through SS and that it harms him. 

My SS didn't speak to us for 3.5 years, and he came back. But - he's the same enmeshed, dependent person at 21, nothing has changed. Be prepared that what BM is doing to SS13 will damage him for life. It's emotional incest, and it creates a life-long dependency on BM. 

swimmie's picture

Thank you for sharing your experience. It's really helpful for me to learn from people with older step kids who are ahead of my journey and know what things are like. 
It's almost freeing to know that SS13 won't change, if you know what I mean. To know there's nothing we can do as long as he's basically sharing an identity with BM. And also the phrase 'emotional incest' made me go "ahh." It makes so much sense. That's why their relationship makes me uncomfortable, because it's unhealthy. 
Thanks again for your insight Smile

I Think I Am's picture

You sound like you're doing a great job supporting your DH & he, in turn, sounds like he's doing quite a good job of enforcing rules & boundaries at your home. My SO & I often use the 'different house - different rules' line with my SS's. They live with BM most of the time but she still tries to be the fun parent so they're not used to any structure. They may not always like it but they accept it most of the time. This is one area where my SO does well. It does sound like the BM in your case is possibly alienating the youngest SS, which is so sad & as a Tog mentioned, he may begin to refuse to come over. Also, I just have to say it, co-sleeping at 13 is icky. 

Coffee_N_Crumpets's picture

Agree on the 13 year old co-sleeping. This child will be the stereotypical mama's boy 

swimmie's picture

Thank you so much for your kind words. When my relationship with my SO got serious my priority was to always make sure the step kids were happy and secure as they could be and I was a positive influence on them rather than an intruder. I try not to counter the hatred and bitterness that BM has towards me with the same attitude and I also don't preach like a saint. But with the youngest it seems to be he is literally his mother if that makes any sense. It's like living with her sometimes and it's really hard. We'll carry on with the boundaries and if he decides not to come over it will be his choice. DH will hate for that to happen but I don't want my life to be controlled by a child. 
Also I'm glad I'm not wrong in hating how he sleeps with his mother!

superlado's picture

Then you don't have to hear all the my mom doesn't make me crap.  At this age a young teen should be doing hw with no to one reminder.  His dad can deal with his kid.   I'd be very busy on the days he was there. 
This SS is old enough to miss out on doing fun stuff with you and his 2 sibs.  I'd leave him with his dad and take the other well behaved kids out. 
Dad should be providing consequences as necessary for unwanted behavior.  
Could this child possibly have a developmental delay ? I'd have him checked out.  Best case he's embarrassed when dad tells his pediatrician about what he's doing at home or he gets the help he needs.  

swimmie's picture

Thank you, I'll stop asking him to help with things or suggest that he do anything. At the end of the day it's not my place really. Which is why he says "you're not my mom". I will make myself busy - it's not like I have nothing to do!

BM says that my DH has made SS13 regress into a baby, and that he has anxiety and depression due to the divorce, and claims that is why she has to sleep with him / dress him etc. He has never been to a psychiatrist for this but I'm a physician myself and I don't think he has anxiety or depression (my specialty is general internal medicine though to be fair!). She also says he has dyslexia and dyspraxia but he's been tested for both at school and the results came back negative. Maybe he does have some kind of developmental issues because he does behave like a child way younger. I also feel he's massively massively spoiled. 
No one outside the family knows SS13 sleeps with his mother so I do think he knows that's embarrassing!

shamds's picture

Have such control over their kids. She has failed to teach him independence. Frankly is skids would trashtalk my cooking and clsim this isn't what they eat at bio mums house, i'd frankly say "your mum can't cook" because literally all she ever did was boil rice, fry a chicken or egg and that was lunch and dinner.

the whole bio mum does this and that and would never do this etc at your home needs to be shut down by your husband firmly!! My sd's did this especially sd23 who is now 25. Got to a point where my husband had to man up and told her off, "i am married and i care nothing for your biomum who remarried 9 yrs prior, we have moved on with our lives and i'm tired of having you involve bio mum and stepdad in every conversation of ours no matter how irrelevant it is"

Sd sulked but it needed to be said, it's disrespectful to you. Believe me even my ss at age 20 went to hubbys family home and criticised my sil cooking. Hubby comes from a family of great cooks. Seriously everyone stared in shock. I was tempted to say "your mum can't cook anything so don't criticise your aunts cooking because its rude", but instead my sil sarcastically replied to his dumb critique of her cooking.

"Eeew why does the fish have so many bones" is met with "because the fish has many bones", "why does this briyani have bones with the meat" is met with "because bones are where all the flavour is"

your elder skids are pissed off with their younger siblings entitled behaviour and rightfully so!!

swimmie's picture

Thank you for sharing your experience. The comments about the fish bones is so like what happens at our house! I had to laugh. The matter of fact responses are great. Can't argue with facts! I will steal that tactic. I've also asked DH to be firmer when he talks about his mother being a better cook. It's irrelevant and DH says he will reinforce appreciating what happens at our house, not comparing everything to BM. 
SS13 does this thing where he pretends he can't hear us when we serve something he doesn't like (aka something that's not plain spaghetti or plain bread) and stares into space without touching his food. We ask what's wrong and he sighs and says "nothing" but carries on staring into space. After a while he starts crying and says the rice is touching the vegetable / the food's not cooked the way his mom does it/ the chicken is a weird color / the spaghetti has sauce on it / etc etc. DH tells him to stop crying and try the food, if he doesn't like it he doesn't have to finish it but he needs to stop behaving like a baby. Then SS13 proceeds to say he feels sick. It's made me dread dinner time and I hate cooking for him. 
His siblings are absolutely done with his behavior and roll their eyes when this happens. SD16 says she's sick and tired of having spaghetti everyday at BM's because it's all he will eat and she never wants to see spaghetti ever again in her life. So I'll carry on cooking for them rather than SS13. I want to pull my hair out though!

Jade123's picture

Different houses different rules, that is the thing here.

Everytime he says, My mom does not.... shut him down and say, well this is not your mom's house, this is our house and our rules and you have to follow it. End of discussion.

No need for you to start hating him, there's 2 others you like and get along with. Start being the adult and not the door mat, your house your rules, if the other 2 can accept this surely the little snot can get on board, if not.. his problem not yours.

He can say he does not want to visit anymore, well that is his choice then, simply make it clear that it was his choice simply because he does not want to fit in with the rest of your house hold.

Believe me |BM will get tired of having him all the time and she will start forcing him to visit his dad.. you and hubby just stick to the rule.. Our house our rules,

Everytime he has a little temper tantrum I will take his ipad away as punishment...

swimmie's picture

Thank you for your advice. I will just start saying "Well this isn't your mom's house". I've also asked my DH to put his foot down when SS13 says something like that but SS13 always says it when his dad isn't around. Clever. 
I agree his actions need consequences and I've had a chat with DH about this. In the future when SS13 has a temper tantrum, we're not going to engage until he's ready to talk to us properly. He will be sent to his room to calm down with no devices. 
I think BM needs SS13 to be a baby to feel needed, but like you say it might be different when he's around full time if he decides he doesn't like our house. I feel sorry for my DH as he will not like his son "hating" us, but at the end of the day it's SS13 choice, not us doing anything wrong. 

Dogmom1321's picture

I hate the "well my mom does..." I follow it up with, you're right, I'm NOT your mom. Your job is to support your DH. He needs to be the one to set and enforce rules. 

If with in-tact marriages, Moms and Dads might even parent differently. IMO, it's ridiculous for BM to ask you to monitor his sugar, etc. Unless he is diabetic. I agree with the above about parallet parenitng. You DO NOT have to have the same rules at BM. Just as long as your are consistent with your rules, at your house. Example, BM might have an 8:00 bedtime. SS doesn't need to also go to bed at 8:00 at your house, but he DOES need some sort of consistent bedtime routine. Your DH needs to be the one that leads this too. 

swimmie's picture

That's a great point that even in intact marriages mothers and fathers can have a different approach to parenting. BM has always been so difficult if we don't follow her rules and I thought if he needs to have less sugar I should cooperate (he is not diabetic, just BM's thing with sugar). She sends DH lots of texts about how we're making her the bad cop by letting the children have sweets at our house when she bans them on weekdays, and she says we're being disrespectful and irresponsible. She also cries when DH goes to pick the children up from hers and says he's trying to get the children to hate her. (He's not.) But we have much stricter rules at our house that we're firm on so if anything we're the bad cops. I've had a chat with DH about how we don't really need to follow her rules if it's different rules for different houses anyway. I will also stop engaging in reinforcing any rules in the house and let DH handle it all. Thank you for your advice!

Sunshine1992's picture

Sounds a lot like the other side of "mine", as SS lives with his dad and mom is made into the villain (I think she's most likely a below average person but I think father is fueling a lot of unnecessary animosity.) I'm not married and I am making my exit soon cause I've reached my point of disgust, so I guess I rly don't have any advice just commiseration. 

"SS"15 does not to any housework, fails school (2nd year of secondary which is sort of like American 8th grade) bums around with his friends every day and weekend (which, his friends are quite pleasant and polite boys unlike him) does not touch any vegetable, fruit, or anything "weird" , ( carbs and meat for this kid) has an extremely sullen and ungrateful personality even after a year of attempting to be sweet and kind and pleasant. All of this while stbx, kids father, gives him whatever clothes and gadgets he wants no questioned asked. Imho kid deserves the basics until he demonstrates any responsibility (good grades, basic house chores)  but who am I, just a fully independent adult who has been looking after myself since 18 successfully . 

now BM is no peach but I think my SO has overdone it on the "mom is the enemy" enmeshment with his son. Dude was sleeping with his father until I came into the picture one year ago. This toxic dependent bond is so pervasive that the kid literally appeared jealous of a kitten his dad adopted and treated with admiration and attention. 

I just hope your situation gets better, your SS is a little younger so maybe it's just a phase and getting used to things. I for one am leaving this dumb situation cause The minuses far outweigh the pluses  . I genuinely wish you well!

swimmie's picture

I admire you for knowing when enough is enough for you and your needs are not being met by the relationship you're in. I visited your latest blog and saw you and your STBX have an age gap. My DH is 14 years older than me so just wanted to say that I relate to you a bit Smile

I think it's great that you're not biased. You're not saying your partner is correct and his ex is Satan. It's really easy to get caught up in that way of thinking so I think you're really cool!

I do hope my SS grows out of this and it's not going to have a lifelong effect on who he is, but I think he's at the age where his values and personality and identity are being formed, and I think like some of comments on this post said that his BM may be making him into a dependent future man-child. To be honest I dread living with him for all the years to come if that's the case, and a tiny bit of me envies you for being able to walk away. But also like other comments said, the other two step kids are great and I should probably focus on the positives. You know how the most difficult and loudest has the biggest presence in the room though!! 

I hope in your next relationship you're happier and free of negativity. At the end of the day I think one of the hardships of being a stepparent is that you walk into a situation where you're dealing with children who are being raised /who are already developed by other people and you don't really have a say. I wish you the very best in your future relationships and hope you feel in control of your happiness Smile