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Disengage because I care too much

Downsouth's picture

I been with FH for over 4 yrs now. Living together for 2.5. We are set to marry this year. 

No BM, she passed years before I arrived on scene. Skids are SD19 and SS13(soon 14).

i have 2 kids DD16 and DS12. 

All kids live with us, mine 85% of the time. His 100%. 

Over time I slowly engaged as needed. Most SM seem to jump in full force and regret it. I tip toed super slow. The last year has been the most involved. 

I am at the point where I have to disengage more/1st time because I care TOO much and what I have done thus far or tried to do or offer hasn’t made a dent, impression or been valued by skids. 

SD19 graduated HS, is doing poorly in community college, had an abortion this spring and continues on like everything is no big deal. She claims all kids her age live like she does and the fact she has a 12-15hr a week food job is apparently appalling to her peers and a nuisance to her. I told her that not ALL kids behave  like her. Many are more advanced in college and some are fighting for our country, so it’s becsuse she only associates with those types that’s all she knows. I found out about her pregnancy first. I made her confess to her father and I accompanied her to the clinic 2 hrs away holding her hand the whole time. It’s only been 3 months and it wasn’t the wake up call I hoped it would be. Her life stayed the same and got crazier somewhat. She’s filthy and doesn’t clean her room car bathroom or laundry. Outwardly she appears clean/together. But open a car door or her bedroom door and it’s a whole other story. 

SS13 is typical boy who doesn’t shower. He barely eats because he’s gaming 24/7. He’s grown only 1” in a year and he’s 80lbs. He stands 4’9” tall and will be a freshman in HS this Aug. not an arm pit hair in sight. he back talks to me and when I ask “excuse me!? Would you say that to your father?” He straight up said “no but I’m saying it to you”. I did tell his dad right away, who was at work. I used it as an example because FH has been talking about getting a job where he’s gone for months. I told him that is the behavior I can’t do when he’s gone. That’s my concern. If I even try to educate SS13 on anything whether it’s a new word (he forever asks what words mean when I use them or my kids-who read a lot and have large vocabularies) or about how he needs to eat to grow and how food is fuel. He basically does his version of fingers in ears saying “lalalala”. It’s very ridiculous. It’s as if he knows he’s about to learn something and doesn’t want to. 

Ive tried to help SD19 with school, help her help herself, show her things, guide her. Help her with motherly advice about her body or life. Show her how to clean. How to dress for job interviews. Offered to teach her about budgeting. I’ve tried to help SS13 learn things, be supportive, be clean and grow. 

I want all 4 of these kids to grow up and be successful and self supporting. I want to help both skids in school.  And in life. I see SD19 going down a trashy path and it’s worse because FH sees/says that also. But it’s as if no matter what he or I do it doesn’t phase her. 

So I have to disengage from comments from small chats with her. From suggestions to FH(some he’s taken and tried but he leaves loop holes and doesn’t close them so it’s pointless). From offering SS13 things like to go out with me to shop or lunch. 

I care how they all turn out and I can’t get my hands in the pot enough to be respected and valued by skids so I gotta step back. 

Theres no fighting in the house. Skids don’t run around like terrors, do drugs, or violent, or skip school. It’s just the little things that add up. The old “you can’t help those who can’t help themselves”

hereiam's picture

Sometimes, we disengage because we DON'T care, sometimes we disengage because we DO care, but there is nothing we can do about what we see and what is going on. We do it for our own self-preservation and sanity. 

It's just a fact of life and I have had to do it with my own family. But it's hard.

Hugs to you.

elkclan's picture

One of the mistakes my SF made when he first got together with my mom was being a bit too authoritarian as soon as the ink was dry on the wedding certificate (they didn't live together first) - I was already out of the house at university and 19. I didn't need a new authority figure in my life. Yes, I was making some mistakes, but he was out of line- no doubt encouraged by my mother. It caused a lot of problems. Over time, he respected my life and my adulthood and became more like a friend. We'd have a beer together. He'd even take my side when my mother was being nutso. For example, I arrived for a visit when I was late 20s/early 30s, but either had flu building up or caught it on the plane. I had agreed to go fishing with him first thing in the morning the first morning I was there soetime before arriving, in fact, I think I'd ASKED to do it - he'd get up super early and I thought why not do it the first day when I'd be jetlagged and up early anyway? I was not usually a morning person. 

I woke up super early and super sick. I got up and spoke to him and it was clear that I wasn't well enough  to go fishing, but I apologised for the inconvenience. He said 'don't worry'. When my mother woke up she came in and screamed at me that I was disrespecting him and that I better get out of bed and go fishing now. I refused. He later came to me and said that he wanted to make clear that HE understood I was sick and that I didn't have any business being out on the river in the condition I was in and in fact he thought my mother should be calling a doctor because I was obviously ill. (I didn't agree with that, it was obv flu - nothing a doc could do). 

My point is that the 19 yo - there isn't much you can do. What you have done is great and being a supportive friend is all you CAN do and may be the very best thing you can do. My SF helped me with the perspective that it wasn't me sometimes, sometimes it was my crazy mother. She is going to make serious mistakes (sounds like) and you can provide advice and support and at some point you can even practice a bit of tough love, but you have to step back. If that's your version of 'disengagement' so be it. You don't have to nod along with all her 'poor me' stuff, but I'm afraid you have to let her mess up - however, you may not have to let her mess up at YOUR house. 

SS13 on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. It sounds like DAD is disengaged from his kid. And I hate to say it because I'm about to have 3 teen boys in my house - at least part time - and I can already see it - they listen to men more than women. Grrrr. Frustrating. Including my own BS. I see how he interacts with my partner and values his words more than mine. Which is annoying. DAD has to step up the plate on this one and do some rules about the gaming and the other stuff. You CAN be an authority figure in his life, but not without 100% backing from dad.

I would put coolers on the wedding until this is all sorted out. There is no way no how that your FH should be taking a job which takes him away months at a time when he has an obligation to parent those kids or that kid (SS13) in a way that you literally cannot. That's a dealbreaker. 

It's obvious you care and want what's best for these kids. But you cannot do it alone. If you care too much, you will find disengagement painful and horrible and poor SS13 is going to be orphaned again to a disengaged dad and disengaged SM. 

It's time for some parenting coaching or family counselling. 

Rags's picture

The little one you can "pummel" into submission by setting reasonable standards of behavior and performance and applying an age appropriate campaign of abject misery if he fails to comply.  Cut the power cords to his electronics (unplug them first) take a hammer to his iPhone, tolerate no crap, bring the pain if he gets lippy. Figuratively of course.

The elder one, its too late.  She is a write off.  She can sink or swin on her own.  Apply the same standards to her and she either complies or she's gone.  Pretty simple.  She is no longer a minor child.  She can stench and whore her way through life on her own time, her own dime and in her own space rather than polluting  yours with her presence.

Why continue to expose your own children to the nasty toothless low class crap of a write off adult?

Sorry if I am more zero tolerance than usual.  I just returned from my FIL's memorial service and had to spend the weekend with my amazing bride's extended redneck moron gene pool.  My bride is such a mutant.  She could not possibly share that gene pool.

ESMOD's picture

The advice "Lord Grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference" is very applicable here. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and your intentions are in the right place.  You want these kids to be successful and you know that some of those behaviors are going to be barriers to that end.  It's hard to sit back and watch people behave in self destructive ways.

Unfortunately, you came on the scene fairly late in the game for these two.  A lot of their tendancies and their parent's oversight has created what you see before you now.  It's also true that you cannot care more than the parent does.  If your husband is not overly concerned... then to a point you have to be able to let things go.

However, if you do marry their father and they have a full blown failure to launch.. YOU will be impacted by their continued reliance on your household for their financial and literal support.  They will be under your feet when they should be on their own.  Dad will be bailing them out with money that could be spent on retirement savings or vacations or other things you would prefer to do.

Before you get married, you need to have an honest discussion about the future and what that means with relation to both sets of kids.  What are each parent's plans after age 18? support? no support? can they come home to live? no? Will parent bail them out time after time?  will the other spouse be able to veto anything?  This doesn't have to be a pointing finger type of discussion but you can point out that you worry that the lack of responsibility displayed is going to mean an ongoing drain on the household and that you are not up for couch surfing adults and that you want to know what the full on detailed plan looks like.  You have been together a while... but if you have wildly differening views on what the future with the kids looks like... you should find out now... try to resolve it before getting married.

Downsouth's picture

-we both agree that once a kid moves out they can’t move back(of course if an adult child becomes critically ill or something there are exceptions. But not just because they are broke)

-we both want the kids to work and either go to college or get some tech training of some sort(mechanic, cosmotology type things

-I require my kids to be employed to have a car and pay their car insurance and gas.

-I require my kids to get only A/B grades.

-I require my kids to do chores weekly.

-I require AND inspect my kids cleaned rooms.

-his kids don’t have to work(SD19 didn’t start working until 6mo before she graduated HS)

-his kids, once working don’t have to pay any car insurance or bills. Just gas and fun $$. 

-SD19 has no chores at all, never has. SS13 has 1 weekly chore. 

-he requires that his kids only pass school/classes. No grades or achievement expectations. 

-he tells kids to clean room but never inspects it.recently he told SD19 to clean her room before she left on vacation. Day before he asked her if it was clean, she said she tidied it up. He did nothing. Her bathroom has mildew and her carpet is destroyed and you can’t see the floor of her closet and she hasn’t washed her sheets in 2 months. 


His kids have “nest eggs”/college funds. He pulls from it to get braces, cars for them when they drive type things. I seriously think/believe he would use that money for example to supplement SD19 rent. 

Say she didn’t make enough to get an apt and he has to co-sign and she doesn’t make enough $ he would contribute $200-300 monthly to supplement her rent until the funds are drained.


we have all of our monies separate. Because we have kids and I get CS for mine. we have no intention of co mingling. This way if he wants to buy his kid $100 sneakers and I wanted to buy $50 sneakers for my kid we wouldn’t have to argue. If he wants to dish out $ to his kids we don’t have to argue. And vice versa.

house is in his name and he makes plenty of money to support all 6 of us even if I didn’t work. So he’s not going broke by paying his kids way and making their life “easy”. He’s just not helping them by doing it by way of learning lessons and growing up. No responsibility or accountability. 

silkroad's picture

I can relate to disengaging because you care and for your own sanity, but it bothers me to disengage. Does it bother you? You are an adult, with experience to lend to these kids. Not to force on them but to set an example and show them that you care. You are in their lives and so, by default, a part of their lives. I am new to this forum, so obviously don’t know answers... but it seems to me that disengaging won’t help them. They need your compassion and kindness.

RisingtheWave80's picture

See I am where you are, I know I should 100% back off and disengage but I cannot. Because sometimes I am the only rational human being in the mix and I feel like that is a force of good. I grew up with parents who both married 3 times and I don't remember making it so hard on my stepparents, I actually welcomed them into my life and I was and am close to them. But that was back in the day where the stepparent did parent and not stood by while the world fell apart.

Katylouu's picture

And regardless of what age the kids are after parents/adults get married, shack up, whatever.  Kids ruling the roost is the tail wagging the dog and all over this site I see so much of that.   Kids in charge is like a "Children of the Corn" type situation.  They are clueless and have to be taught.

IMO, you and your husband need to set some ground, aka foundational, rules because right now you are on quicksand.  If he acts like a father, perhaps he can save his daughter.  

Next, together you have to present this to ALL 4 kids.  As an example, my husband and I told our kids that after school, its college or a job.  And if its a job they have 1 year to save up and move out.  And if its college we will pay a portion as long as their grades are above average.  We told them all the rooms are called "guest rooms" and that they needed to be kept a certain way, MY WAY!  They never got the right to make my house a stye.

Your husband also needs to address the way his son speaks to you.  During this talk he needs to lay it out on the line who is who and what is at stake.Otherwise, the tale will keep wagging the dog.