Today is my SD'a 18th birthday. Her relationship with her dad has been a years long series of ups and downs, periods of "ok" and total freeze outs. I am mainly on the fringes, I have never inserted myself in their relationship, and when she lived here, my requests for her went through him. In the first several years if our marriage (we are coming up on 9 total), DH was more of a Disney Dad, not much rules or structure, and SD was able to grow up feeling entitled and like she was on an adult level. BM also fed this, and whether she meant to or not, I believe there was a lot of parental alienation. SD hasn't lived here for 2 years - in my view it's because she did not like that DH eventually started attempting to parent (after we want to counseling due to our marriage being so strained over how he was allowing her to run things), but she spins it as she was not welcome here and DH was a bad father who does not care about her.
We, or really he, has been in her freeze out stage since Christmas. Prior to that, it seemed like things were ok, maybe she was maturing a little bit, and they had a cordial relationship for a while where she was communicating and they would hang out from time to time. My son22's birthday was in early December, and all he wanted to do was order pizza and have a game night, which is something we frequently so that SD has never been interested in, nor are she and my son close at all and she does not acknowledge our birthdays. My son lives here and commutes to college currently, and my SS21 happened to be home on school break. SS21 had invited his girlfriend, who frequently comes to game night and she and my son are friends, but it was not a "party". SD called DH at 10pm screaming and cursing because she hadn't been invited - apparently SS had mentioned it to her earlier. DH ended up hanging up on her, and while he did reach out a couple days later, he was in freeze mode.
A few weeks later he had a day off and planned to go out with the boys to do something we all enjoy, and he invited SD, whi surprisingly agreed. He said it was like nothing ever happened, as is the pattern. A few days after that, which was right before Christmas, I had asked SS to invite his girlfriend over for a dinner I knew she loved, and in the spirit of inclusion, I told DH to invite SD also. She actually agreed. That afternoon, SS was all dressed up so I asked where he was going. SD had arranged for themselves and my in-laws other grandkids to go take some pictures as a Christmas gift. I don't think this would normally have bothered me, but since she had just lost it on DH for not being included on my son's birthday, it made me mad that she turned around and left him out. Again, a pattern where she gets "wronged" but then there is never anything wrong with what she does. I talked myself down and I to not saying anything, no point anyway and I figured it didn't matter to my son anyway. But I was still annoyed.
She did come for dinner, and as luck would have it, we were alone for a few minutes and forced to make small talk. She talked about how she had been looking for a frame for this picture. Before I could even think, I said "oh... yeah...I guess (my son) didn't need to be in that", and got busy making a salad. She was quiet for a minute, then started telling some weird story to make it sound like it was for BM's parents. So I said, "that's cool, where did you and (in law's grandkids) end up getting them done today"? I could tell she knew I was making a point, but we didn't talk about it anymore and the rest of the evening went fine.
I had a feeling though, and later I told DH about it and apologized if that ended up bringing more wrath on him. She hadn't said anything as yet. However, I have her figured out pretty well, but she did surprise me by instead of yelling at him about me, she went back to the "you're an awful father" track. She stayed quiet for a day or 2, and on Christmas Eve, he told her we were stopping in at the in- laws at x time, and it would be nice if we could all be there together. She was already there when we arrived, and when we were getting stuff out of the car, she went slamming out the front door to her vehicle. He went over and talked through the window, she was saying she can't do this and nothing has changed, he's awful, etc, and drove off. The next morning she did not come over for gifts and Christmas breakfast and ignored his calls, although she did tell her brother she wasn't coming. That night, SS got crappy with DH over something really stupid, and told DH he wasn't going to stay with us the rest of his break. At this point DH was at his limit and I guess he cried a little, they fought a little, and SS ended up coming back over that night. They were downstairs trying to talk it through, and SD showed up to "support her brother", but actually just screamed at her dad. They both wanted DH to apologize, but no one can say for what. SD stormed out. I was upstairs out of it all, but did end up talking to SS later. I can hear BM in a lot of his "complaints" toward DH, and he mentioned how they talk about all this. It seems like a big pile of petty things against DH. I tried to get SS to see a different perspective (without saying anything about BM of course) it seemed like a good talk and he seemed to feel better. I told him we love his sister, but there has been a lot that has happened since he has been away and we aren't real sure what to do about it. I asked him to let her know I am always happy to sit down and talk just like we did. He and I have always got along well, but never talked deep, so I was hoping maybe this would open a door to that.
Naturally that never happened, and when I brought things up a week or 2 later, he kind of shut down. Things are still fine with him, but there are things under the surface. SD for the most part is not responding to DH even still except just a couple times I know of. He has not seen her. With this being her 18th, that's a big one. He wants to be happy and proud and celebrate, outside of the terrible way she treats him she is doing great in school, working, getting ready to graduate and go to college. But he is also hurt and angry.
It has been on my mind too, I know I have not been a perfect stepmom at all, mostly in that I withdrew. I am an introvert, don't like conflict, and I don't feel comfortable with her. Even when things are ok, she and I have a polite and distant relationship. I wish it could be different, that is not how I thought things would turn out. She has also struggled with depression (as have I), I am also a child of divorce who struggled with issues with my dad and stepmom, so I can understand some of what she is going through. Last weekend I decided to try to visit some little shops, trying to find a necklace or something that had a cute saying that came with it about being loved or something like that, I had seen what I wanted online but it was too late to order. My DH came with me, and when we couldn't find what I had in mind, we ended up at a jewelry store where we'd found a beautiful, simple bracelet marked way down, more than we had intended to spend, but a really good price for a nice piece of jewelry. And it had 8 little diamonds, her birthstone. We decided to sleep on it, and the next day he decided to get it. I had told him about a time when my dad had given me a nice piece of jewelry that I knew he had picked out, not my stepmom, and how much it meant to me. We talked about how we need to keep doing what we feel is right, no matter how she is acting, minus accepting abuse of course. He felt like it was right to give her the bracelet and a gift card, and he found a sweet Dad birthday card. I decided to get her a card on my own for the first time ever, and found a pretty sweet one talking about what we wish for for our daughters. I will write in Step of course, pretty sure she does not want to be considered my daughter. I was feeling pretty zen, and glad for the opportunity to try to show our love. Not that we should need to buy it, but at this point, thoughtful gestures are all I can think to do.
DH had said he reached out to her to see if she would go to lunch today (which I would not be attending, I am not participating with her until we all talk things out), and last night he said he wasn't sure what was going to happend. I said, so she hasn't responded at all? And he said oh yes....she said she was surprised he wasn't waiting to see her since he likes waiting 45 days to give gifts. That was in reference to the fact that she didn't get her Christmas gifts for a while, he ended up dropping them off a few weeks later because for one, she wasn't responding to him. It was a couple of cards from my family, and a couple small things from us with some money. Which she shouldn't have been expecting because he had given her money for a new phone at Thanksgiving, that's what she wanted for Christmas. He said she put a smiley face after that comment so maybe she was joking. Mmhmm.
My first thought was, take it all back...not giving the card ..arggghhhhh. Why is she such a jerk. But, I have been trying to encourage my husband that even though it doesn't look like it now, him staying consistent with his efforts is like putting into a bank. It will grow there and hopefully some day mean something, and isn't it always better to be kind? I guess I need to take my own advice. So I will sign the card and send it whenever he gives her things.
If you read this far, thanks. I know disengaging means not giving so much space in my head, but I can't seem to help it. I want things to be ok, I absolutely hate that their relationship is like this. DH has done nothing to deserve it, and most especially this last round - he literally did nothing. I feel she used first my son's birthday then me making a comment as an excuse to beat up on him again. I just can't figure out what she thinks she will gain from this. For myself, I am sad, but I don't generally have people who act like her in my life so I could live with the distance and just pray from afar, if I am honest. But my DH's heart is broken, and I know hers is too, even if she doesn't know it. Just not right, and for no reason. Ugh. I feel better after letting this out, let's see what happens today.....