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Relatively new step-parent in need of advice!

Pippypoppy's picture

Hi All! This is my first post and I'm hoping some of you can help with a bit of guidance ref. SD11. So I'm a relatively new step-parent, less than a year, and before now everything has been absolutle fine with the exception of really little things like the bio-hazard that is her bedroom of late where I've had to learn as I go but I'm now officially out of my depth and don't know of any other step-parents to talk to. It's quite long winded so please do stick with me. 

So I'll start by saying that SD11 is usually a really lovely girl, she's good company and, asside from the odd white lie, I've not had any issues. However the last few weeks have just been one issue after another and I've no idea how I'm supposed to react. She's started telling me weird things about her dad (why now I've no idea, I've been in the picture nearly a year now) like 'he sleeps with his eyes open you know', he doesn't (I sleep next to him, I would know) but she was adamant. She's also very, very clingy towards me and rarely calls or texts her dad but can call me as many times as five per day (I'll answer two at most) but largely that has little do to with what follows. 

So it all started with SD saying that she wanted to start ballet and join the dance school which my two neices are in. We explained to her before she started that it's an expensive and very committed dance school so if she wanted to do it she could start with the ballet and we'd assess it from there. After christmas she started ballet and enjoyed it so much the dance teacher asked her if she'd like to take part in their yearly show which has children from the dance school between aged 5-18. She auditioned and was placed in no less than 8 dances! Which is really wonderful for someone with little dancing experience but it meant that she had to be there every Sunday for a couple of hours until the end of July. She was very excited, it was expensive for her to take part and we clarifyied that if she were to do it she'd need to go as it was a big commitment for everyone. It worked really well for about a month. 

Then she started moaning before and after every class, so naturally we asked her if she wanted to do it as it wasn't a problem at that stage for her to back out. She said she did, she continued. She continued to moan before and after rehearsals and then started coming up with excuses not to go such as 'I got my period I can't dance' where we explained to her she could dance with her period, as women we all just carry on and it's good experience, if the cramp is bad just take a break etc. We checked again before the last bill and she confirmed she wanted to do it but she was still skipping rehearsals etc and as a result she got cut from one of the dances. I asked my neice (14) to check with her that she still wanted to do it also, she also helped her with some of the steps she was confused by, and she still did so we paid the next round of fees, costumes, dancewear etc. but reiterated that if she didn't go she would get cut from more and more dances. She didn't go she got cut from two more dances. 

At this stage the dance teacher had to phone us to check if she really wanted to do it as the absences were causing issues with her choreography, understandably. We sat her down and had a good long chat with her about how it really didn't matter to us if she wanted to back out, we would understand and that it was a really big commitment but she swore blind that she wanted to do it so we paid more money and that was that. At this point we're about £300 in. 

Then! She broke up with her boyfriend of six months (i know, I know at 11 that's not ideal but it means next to nothing at that age so we've just let her get on with it) but as a consequence he and his friends apparently started calling her some pretty horrific names at school which you never want to hear came from an 11 year old. She was really upset and down (looking near depressed about it to be honest, but in a dramatic 11 year old kind of way) and so her dad phoned the school to find out what was going on, they pulled in all the children involved to discuss it and they were reprimanded HOWEVER they did say that it's not as one sided as she'd lead us to believe and that could we check her phone as several of the other students (and their parents) had some real issues with some of the messages she'd apparently sent their kids. Now this was completely out of the blue and we were quite shocked when they asked us to do this as she's always been afforded quite a grown up freedom with her phone as long as it's not abused and her dad and bio-mum have never felt the need to check it or intervene before. So her dad said he'd check it at the weekend when she was next due to visit but first give her the option to tell him in her own words what had happened. 

Saturday morning arrives and she sends me a picture of her ankle with peas on it saying she can't dance. I, queen of falling on my ever crap ankles, said to send me a picture without the peas and asked if she could walk on it. She said she could and when the picture came through it was just a normal ankle, no swelling no redness, nothing. I said if she could walk on it she should try a little bit or it would stiffen up etc. She said she couldn't do dancing. At that point I mentioned to her dad and he, already quite mad about the school thing, said 'look if it's really bad of course you can't dance but you should at least go and watch or you might get cut again' she said she'd think about it and then text us and said she wasn't coming down that weekend at all now. Fine. She got completely cut from the show as a consequence and she didn't care AT ALL. 

So I'm a bit mad that she wasted my money, I'd bought her the practice wear she said she needed just that week and then she wouldn't go. It's cost so much money and she doesn't seem to care at all. On top of that the lying with school just blindsided me and honestly I think she skipped the weekend because she knew the chat was coming and that her dad was away all this week so she could avoid being in trouble. It just puts me in an awkward position if I go and get her on his usual nights this week, which I usually would, because if I say nothing she gets away with it and if I say something I'm going to get it in the neck from bio-mum for reprimanding 'her child' so what the hell do I do? 

Apparently the lying isn't completely out of character I've just not seen this in her before and that she can be quite manipulative I'm just blind to it. I have a four year old biological son but I've never in my life had to address this kind of issue with an older child and I don't know how to approach it and what I should say. I'm mad that I've wasted my money, but mostly just feeling like I don't know her like I thought I did. 

So what do I say? I've spoken to her on the phone since and she's pretended that everything is fine though I'm sure she can tell from my tone that I think otherwise. 

Any advice would be appreciated and if you made it to the end of this post thank you for sticking with me. 

Kes's picture

Hi and welcome! there's not a lot of us Brits here so nice to have another!   First of all, I hope it's not YOUR money wasted on this dancing class that she's pulled out of.  I hope it's her father's.  

There is often a "honeymoon period" with new step parenting arrangements, when it's all lovey dovey and everyone gets on, before it starts to all get much more difficult.  It sounds as if you're just hitting this second stage.  Lots of feelings flying around about the break up of the previous family, and step kids will often start to act out at this point.  

What would really help is if you and your partner are singing from the same hymn sheet, and if you put quite strong boundaries in place regarding this little Madam's behaviour.   She already sounds as if she has a very elastic relationship with the truth and will lie to get what she wants.  Kids actually WANT strong boundaries, they don't really want to feel as if they can manipulate adults, it's worrying for them.  

I would just ignore the weird things she says about her Dad - just say "mm hmm" and don't react at all, she'll soon stop.  


Pippypoppy's picture

Ah thank you so much for sticking with the long winded post! It's our money overall but we treat both children like ours as a whole, we both treat each other's bios as if they were our own, rightly or wrongly. So we've taken it in turn to buy bits and pieces however with my OH paying for most of the house and working away a lot I do tend to just sort the kids out and sort it later. We're quite fluid with money and everything is fair so don't worry on that part. 

We did have the chat with bio mum and stepdad about the dancing when she started, i.e. she's commited to it she needs to go when she's not with us bla bla bla and everyone agreed. The issue here is that if she wont, when we're not here, they won't force her it's all very sympathetic about false injuries and emotions which we don't do our end. Sympathy wasn't big in my family growing up so I don't necessarily do it well I'll admit that much. Her dad is quite firm with her but I don't know how firm I'm supposed to be? Do I just jump in and do it and if so how much trouble will that cause me with bio mum??


justmakingthebest's picture

What is the relationship with BM llike? Before you guys commited to this was there a discussion with her about making sure that she would see to it that SD got to the practices on her time? I feel like (with the information provided above) this was as much of a failure with all the parents as SD. She was allowed to dictate what she was and wasn't doing (skipping practice). BE THE PARENTS. TELL her what she will and won't do. 

Also, why was SD allowed to decide where she was going/staying last weekend? At 11 yrs old and already having issues with boys and social platforms- I would be very concerned about the path she is headed down. I would also install a watchdog app on her phone so that you know about every text, snap, etc coming in on her phone. It sounds like you are in for a bumpy road of teenage years sooner than later. 

Pippypoppy's picture

Thank you for replying! I really do appreicate it as that was a very long first post!

So with the deciding she wasn't coming last weekend I think they've always allowed her to do that so I didn't comment. It's the first time its happened with me in the picture so it can't be that common and I didn't push it because to be honest I was quite pissed off with the whole thing anyway. My OH said when she gets like this he just backs off completely and sits her down when to talk about it when everyone has calmed down but reading above that might not be the best thing??

With the skipping practices we didn't allow her to do it our end, we'd just take her but she'd always moan about it and the one time she was she was genuinely ill (i believe, when she's ill she generally wants her mother probably because neither her dad nor I are sympathetic people) we did let her skip it but that was quite early on in the process. But when we don't have her the other side have taken her once and it was a massive fight to get them to do it as they live about 40 minutes away from the dance school. However from an outside perspective you're probably right there, she has been allowed to say she's not going so that is a failing on our part I agree. 

In terms of the watchdog app I did look into it but didn't know if it was going too far? I had an issue with my ex-husband stalking me during our marriage where he would have people send pictures of where my car was parked, check my messages and locate me on my phone. I had no idea until the very end of our marriage and god knows what he'd hoped to find but it was still a massive invasion of privacy. I know she's only 11 but I would still have reservations about that being on any device because of my own experience. Phones these days are the equivalent of our teenage diaries, I'd have died if my mum would have read that??

Oh and bio mum is diagnosed bi-polar with two other under fives so I think SD11 has largely been left to her own devices a lot but has, over the years, had to be the parent to her mother i.e. reminding her to take her pills. It was one of my first big discussions with SD11, her breaking down on me because mum's house had been hard that week with shouting etc. because said prescription had not been refilled. 

justmakingthebest's picture

I had an absuive marriage and totally understand your reservations. However, as a parent it is your job to snoop, to be nosey, to know all. You need to keep her safe and there are too many evils in cyber world to not have a watchdog app on her phone. Things weren't like this when I (probably you too) was a kid. Bullying took place in the hallways of school. It wasn't a non stop assault. There wasn't rampant teen suicide. Teen pregnancy wasn't glorified and special considerations made. Growing up took time, you weren't expected to look 18 when you were 12. It is a gross society that we live in and if there is a way to keep our kids safe, I feel like it is our duty as parents to do it. 

Pippypoppy's picture

You might be right there. I think I'll have to discuss it with her dad and maybe lock some of it down, or restrict access. The way things are clearly aren't working. However apparently when bio-mum 'checked' the phone there was nothing there which sounds like rubbish to me. 

Pippypoppy's picture

For clarification I have also pulled out of the messages to the dance teacher where she wasn't going to be there. Which has been helpful because it does refresh the memory! The times she didn't go it were:

1. my bio-son had chicken pox, she didn't want to come that weekend as she'd not had them, I later established that she had already had them but bio-mum didn't want her bringing it back to her house because of her little ones and so she didn't come that weekend. 

2. The genuine illness week

3. A sleepover she'd been invited to...

4. She had a school trip, this one I'd informed the dance school about before she committed to the show so it doesn't really count. 

4. This final ankle thing.  

The other messages were all, she's coming 'but' so those are the occassions where she didn't want to go but we made her. 

However I'd say every other rehearsal since March has had either moaning before going or after that she's SO TIRED from a two  hour rehearsal...

In hindsight I'm glad the dancing is over, it's been a pain in the arse since it started!! It's just a pain about the cost involved. 

Rags's picture

Not sure if it is the same in the UK as in the US... but... kids don't get to choose to miss visitation.  They can't decide to not visit unless the NCP tolerates that crap.

My suggestion is that if SD-11 doesn't show on schedule for visitaiton that your DH file a contempt motion against BM for failing to surrender the kid as ordered by the visitation schedule. 

Neither kids nor Xs get to do whatever they want when there is a Custody/Visitation/Support order in place. They do what they are told when they are told or they suffer appropriate and esclating consequences.  It is amazing how behavior aligns with reasonable standards when there are consequences applied.

This would hold true for SD-11's crappy school behaviors as well.  Time to take a hammer to the smart phone (either figuratively or literally... I vote for literally), give SD-11 the Gulag fashion selections and do away with all things pleasant until she complies with standards of reasonable behavior.

IMHO of course.