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The emptiest camp on the battlefield...

Jenny Goat Gruff's picture

Honestly-you can hear the wind...I sit in the camp of "Reluctant SM"- I do not have, nor have ever wanted children, but felt that my wonderful relationship with DH was worth the struggle to become a pseudo-parental figure, and maybe do some justice to the wonderful parenting I'd received.

When I met my SD (or "husband's daughter" which I prefer) for the first time, she was 6 years old and only spoke 3 phrases: "leave me alone", "go away", and "shut up". It didn't take long for me to figure out that this child was being raised as a weapon- parroting her BM (and BGM's) opinions and slander in order to win their affection and avoid punishment. She was a human ping-pong ball of abuse, insulting her BM when she stayed with us, and then us when she returned home. Watching my DH and her BM wind her up and load her up with their mutual venom was heartbreaking, and it took a long time to break my DH of the habit. The manners were certainly lacking- my husband and I estimated that we could coax her into the most basic level of politeness after about 3 days, and that it took less than an hour for her mother's family to completely reverse everything we'd accomplished. At 10 years of age, she acted like a 4 year old, screaming tantrums and all (a lot of really wonderful moments in my life, including moving into our first house and even my wedding day, were soured by deliberate aggressive attention-seeking, followed by renewed attacks on us by the BM and BGM). At 15, she was more like a 10 year old in terms of behaviour and emotional development. Now she is 19, about as mature as a 14 year old. And pregnant.

My upbringing was so very different from hers, and I know that hampers my ability to sympathize or even understand where her head is at most of the time. That whole branch of the family are weirdly bipolar (eg: routinely yelling insults at other people not 60 seconds after saying "I love you!" and vice versa). The SD asked to come live with us after a big fight with her BM a couple years ago. I decided to give it a try, to see what kind of influence we might have on her and if she'd have better opportunities to learn and develop and mature, away from her drug and alcohol-addled BM.
She lasted 4 months before she ran away.
Apparently, I was asking too much of her...which was interesting, since all I'd really asked was that she do her homework and not lie about ditching school. Well sorry- my bad. Her family had a field day accusing us of everything under the sun. Having such a negative person out of my home though....well, she'll never move back in, that's for sure. Blum 3

What have I accomplished in all this time? Well...thanks to my intervention she now knows how to clean dishes, use the washing machine, and get prescriptions from the doctor (apprently her family have some sort of fear of science). We share some of the same music tastes, and I make her laugh. I am, quite possibly, the only parental figure she seems to really respect and trust- I hear about everything first, and treat her with respect as well, so she knows I will keep secrets (within reason of course), and get her resources, information, and support when her family refuses to. She doesn't hate me. She doesn't try to lie to me much anymore. She really admires me apparently (or at least that's what my DH says), and over the years, she's learned that while she can play the old blame and guilt-tripping game with her parents, it doesn't EVER fly with me. So that's something I suppose...

The SD has turned out pretty much as I'd called it all those years ago- she's a compulsive liar, immature for her age, irresponsible, a habitual drinker, and unmotivated to accomplish anything on her own. I was very, VERY happy when she did move out on her own (and in with a gang of weird, weird friends), foolishly hoping that she would learn some responsibility from the school of hard knocks. Aaaaand now she's pregnant- from a drunken one-night-stand.

I have offered everything I am able to- medical information resources (doctors, tests, prescriptions etc), friendly resources (an ear to listen and a thumb to text, support centres, the phone numbers of friends who have also offered support), educational resources (I helped her look for good, affordable programs to help her with future employment), even material resources such as household items, transit passes, and so on- whatever little things she couldn't ordinarily get from her family or friends that would make things easier for her while she was on her own and working. Her attention span is so short though, that all the "what an awesome idea- THANKS" comments that I get only stick with her for a minute or so. She's since moved back in with the GM and BM (who've thrown her out at least twice before), who are insisting that she NOT put the baby up for adoption after all, but keep it. Because clearly she'll make a great unemployed teenaged mother with no home of her own, no support from the unemployed twit who knocked her up, and a family of buck-passing, fanatical nasties with a history of dysfunction.

My DH is holding in there, still loves her, but just can't support this decision in good conscience (nor is he financially able to do so either- though the other family would disagree of course). I am...officially...exhausted with holding open door, after door, after door for someone who insists on walking into the wall. I can't spend my life spoon-feeding someone their own life because they're incompetent at doing so themselves.

What was the point of this rant? This is the first time I have typed any of this out. I have spent all these years having to hold it all in because I didn't want to hurt my DH, and my friends all seemed to firmly believe that all children are angels, and I just need to be more tolerant and understanding. Last week, I finally faced one friend and asked "OK- what age does she need to be before it's legal to call her a dumbass?". I try to stay supportive and optimistic, and I honestly do wish her the best- all of them. No good comes from wishing ill of people. But I have no reason to support the deadweight. Someone who burns every bridge you try to build. I AM her SM. I do not love her. Hell, I don't even like her. I spent 15 years trying to change that. And now, I am taking myself out of her life, and I do not feel guilty for doing so. I imagine that will piss a lot of people off. There's nothing I can do about that, so I wish them well too.

Jenny Goat Gruff's picture

Oh- thank you so much for that! I must confess, I teared up immediately after your first sentence.
Yeah, I don't know what will come of the grandchildren situation. I'm so very, very done with those seems such a long way off at least, and we've already been talking about moving out of town (this whole development has certainly inspired a newfound sense of wanderlust in my husband, which I freely admit I am exploiting for all it's worth). Sigh.

Jenny Goat Gruff's picture

Man...why didn't I seek out a group like this earlier?? It sounds like the camp's not as empty as I thought, and while that's still a sad state of affairs, it's also very comforting. Thank you for your story- it sounds like you have dealt with things well.

Not as worried about the baby-attatchment issue- at least for me. Somehow I didn't get the gene sequence that makes me dote on babies- if anything, I feel weird and awkward around them. Blum 3 (my poor mother's given up on me I think).
Now my hubby on the other hand....well...I'll do my best to keep him guilt-free at least. That's the main weapon- the fear that he's failing as a father (even though he's never really been given the chance to be one).

sandye21's picture

Ya, isn't it something how our 'friends' can be so dismissive unless, of course, it happens to them? When people give you lame answers for real-life delimmas and treat you like you are over-reacting to someone who is making your life hell, they really aren't listening to you. I know this has been the case with my DH and my family when they wanted to avoid the work that was necessary to make me feel better about the situation. It's so much easier to either discredit you or ignore what you are saying entirely - unless like I said, it's them. For years and years I was expected to be 'tolerant and understanding' while SD was dishing out all sorts of hate and spitefulness. And for a LONG time after she became an adult I was still expected to accommodate her behavior and rudeness, "No 'child' likes to see their parents get a divorce" - I had to remind DH that she was 37 years old, and no longer a child. I admit, there is a grey area as far as where adulthood really begins but if she is no longer in school, old enough to know how to get pregnant and drink liquor she is classified as an adult, and no longer a 'child / angel'.

Jenny Goat Gruff's picture

LOL- well I'm not pissed, but then I haven't had any other stepparents to compare notes with until now. The timng was never that good before- either she was living with us, or we were seeing her regularly, etc, but then she moved out on her own and when she stopped coming over (except when she needed DH's money of course) it was pretty clear that she wasn't too keen on being around it felt better to disengage.'s been a really long time. I guess it's like chronic pain- you get so used to a constant undercurrent of stress that you stop noticing it until it's suddenly gone (and then, when it resurfaces, you suddenyl see how uncomfortable you really were all along). Blum 3

Poodle's picture

Jenny Goat Gruff you are my heroine. I had a BM like yours in my situation and OSD like yours but way less dreadful. I can't believe how understated you are after all you have been through. All the best with your intention to not allow her back into your home. Your instincts are so right.