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18th Birthday

stepper47's picture

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.....

tog redux's picture

My SS21 was totally alienated from 15-18 (pretty much, we saw him twice in that time). When he was not speaking to DH he either ignored his efforts or he was hostile to him.  DH continued to text him and email him during that time, not a lot, not begging or cajoling - just hi, how are you, love dad, kind of stuff.  During that time he bought SS gifts, but he didn't mail them, he kept them here.

At 18.5 SS suddenly started responding nicely to DH's emails and agreed to meet (BM wanted college tuition and DH had gone to court and told them SS refused to speak to him, so it was in BM's best interests to encourage SS to have a relationship with DH).  He was hot and cold during that time, sometimes not responding for weeks, sometimes coming over and introducing DH to friends, etc.  Now at 21, he always responds, though we don't see much of him and it's still very superficial when we do. 

I would suggest that your DH should be consistent in keeping touch, but should not allow her to abuse and disrespect him. Also, he should not cater to her wants and try to buy her love. If he bought her a gift, great, she can get it when she agrees to come over. If she's rude to him, he can say "Love you, bye" and stop communicating.  The worst thing he can do is lie down and take her abuse or try to buy her - that will teach her that he's weak, and a pushover, and not to be respected.

And keep boundaries. Neither of you deserve to be abused by her for any reason, and shouldn't allow it.


Wicked stepmo.'s picture

You are doing the right thing. Let DH and SD work on their relationship. 

I am staying out of SOs relationship with YSD as well. I just don't have it in me and need time to heal before I can put any effort in. I have been in a 3 year rollercoaster with YSD of love/hate. If she were anyone else in my life I would have walked away and cut ties by this point. 

But she is a child so I take that into consideration. Even though I am in her life I need to have huge boundaries with her right now because even though I am the adult, I am still human and if cut I bleed like everyone else. 

I acknowledge I am still hurt and angry over everything she said and did to me. I am not ready to forgive and forget. It is my natural instincts taking over for self preservation. There is only so much abuse one can take before it changes them. 

YSD just wants to pretend it never happened and I can't do that. I know I will feel differently in time. But I need time and space. 

JRI's picture

Don't you just hate all the drama.  Sigh....thats A big feature of my SD, too.

stepper47's picture

Thanks for the input and validation.  I really and honestly want to do the right thing by all of our kids, and I will fully admit I have made mistakes.  But I have never mistreated her or been ugly toward her. She has taken ugly to a different level toward her father many times.  Never directed it toward me, but I am more than certain there is a lot said behind my back.  DH and I have not always been able to talk about this topic, which was a big part of our marital issues at one time.   I hate that we went through that and that it was visible to our kids.  I think it was just the painful part of trying to blend a family that no one seems to talk about, and I sure didn't think about,  and he and I made it through to a good place.   Our boys don't seem to be too impacted by that time, SD has absorbed and internalized.   And I feel has exploited.  I don't know how to fix or change that, and I don't think she wants to right now.  

So the conclusion to her birthday is that she did not answer DH's call today, he left a message singing happy birthday and that he wanted to see her and had something for her.  He ended up calling her mom, who said they had run to the mall and would let him know when they were home.   5 hours later he reached out again, and BM texted a long text that SD did not want to see him, she has a lot of anger toward him *and me*, and that BM has done everything she can do and he is going to have to find a way to fix it because SD needs her dad in her life.  He responded thank you for letting him know.  SD responded on her mom's phone with, that's all you have to say?  I don't need or want you in my life.  And I am sure more he hasn't told me yet.

He said he is taking the bracelet back, but did end up dropping the cards and the money he had planned to give her in their mailbox, including my card which again I feel like ripping up.....but...I keep telling myself about that bank I am trying to invest in, it may not mean anything now but maybe some day it will.   He is more angry than upset.   I am more upset than angry.   I am feeling the guilt and responsibility I thought I had let go, feeling like if I had not been here, he would still be going along to get along and they wouldn't have these problems.   I hate, hate anyone being upset with me, whether it's justified or not. 

The hard part about this, is that on the surface, the things she is upset about could be considered justified.  We did go through a bad period where it seemed like we weren't getting along, and a lot of it had to do with his parenting of her. We did leave her home alone one Thanksgiving, doesn't matter that it was to go spend an hour with my family for my grandpa's first holiday at a nursing home, which she was invited to but decided to stay home to take a nap....then called BM to come get her without telling DH because she was "so upset" about being abandoned. I did ask her to start letting us know before she stopped over on her mom's time, because I felt like my privacy was invaded by her walking in at random times every day to pick something up.  We definitely did not include her in my son's last  birthday, which I can't remember her ever acknowledging before.  And yes, she definitely had the smallest bedroom, and we didn't get her a dog because I already had 2 older ones.  We did get her a cat, which she had begged for, but apparently there was something wrong about that because she never seemed to care about him once he was here.  Did I mention I am not a cat fan?  But I wanted her to feel like she was being heard, and that we would compromise.   I did snap at her once, one of maybe 4 times I have spoken up over the years, because we came home to her sitting in the midst of papers my dogs had drug out of the garbage, and when DH asked why she didn't pick it up, she snottily said "not my dogs" - and I said are you kidding me? I clean YOUR cat's litter box all the time and you can't pick up a few things for me?  That was in the middle of the bad times, she did not say anything in response, but later DH kind of got on me because she was upset...because at BM's she did not have to do things like that.  So now I guess I know why she didn't like her cat, because evil stepmom made it into a bad thing.   All these things and so many more, swirling around again as bad memories.  It was definitely a rough time, on all of us.  In most families there is grace and you move on.   Not with her.   And possibly stepfamilies in general.   And that is just something I am going to have to figure out how to live with.  Ok rant over.  Better here than spoken, right? 

JRI's picture

I have a litany of human responses I've made, like you, and things thst I've done, not with evil intent, but which were misunderstood.  You are right that these things take on a much greater significance in a stepfamily than they do in a bio family.  Sigh.  I guess we just have to accept that truth.

I'm 76 and my SD59 still gets her nose out of joint if I dont say things absolutely tactfully.  I just cant be myself, like I can with my bios.  Nowadays, I'm so disengaged I seldom speak with her and it seems to suit us both.


caninelover's picture

Just like Bratty McBratFace.  Stay disengaged.

Bratty too uses cold shoulder with SO to try and manipulate him.  There seems to be a current spell happening (though SO isn't fessing up to it and I don't ask since I'm disengaged).  The only thing I can think of that triggered it is Bratty texting SO on SuperBowl Sunday wanting to talk because grandma used the incorrect pronoun for her.  SO had been drinking so he said no we can talk another day.  Apparently that was his big crime because she seems to be blowing off scheduled phone calls etc since then.

stepper47's picture

Thank you guys for your supportive words, and I have followed along with comments and blogs you have written and found a lot of support in that too.   It does help to know that there are similar stories.  This is definitely not how I envisioned things to turn out.  I am a stepchild myself, my dad's only child and lived with my mom primarily.  I think I spent one weekend a month and visits here and there because he was a shift worker.  He got married when I was 12, to a woman with no kids and actually didn't like them, but she always said she met him at a good age for me. Plus I tried very hard to be "perfect" over there because I had this fear of my dad not wanting me.  It is funny to me that the more common thing is that it's the dads fearing that their kids are not going to want them.  My dad was pretty accommodating to me, mostly before he got married it was fun time when I was around, I would be his little sidekick.  After he got married of course things changed to where I was not always the focus, although I can say now that they really did their best.  I remember one time I think I was bored, after being used to having stuff planned on weekends with him, and he made the comment that they were "just living".  As a kid, I did not get it, but now I think he was trying to say that things were not always about me, that they had a life and other things going on, which I was a big part of but not the focus.   Not an easy thing for a kid to accept or understand, and I did feel some resentment.  I was blessed with a mom who never spoke badly about my dad or stepmom, and tried to help me see the other side of things.  I think if she had been backing up my negative feelings, they would definitely have taken hold and I would have villianized ny dad and stepmom too.  I really feel like that is a lot of what is happening with my SD, her mom is in the background saying, oh, they shouldn't do this or be this way, that is wrong - so of course SD is going to grow her feelings in that direction.  Not trying to make excuses or point fingers because we definitely aren't perfect, but I feel like if her mom made more effort to work with instead of against things would not be at this level right now.

Funny you mention your DH not being immediately available to your SD as a "big crime", caninelover.  Exact same things have happened from time to time with us.  I remember one time in particular where SD was supposed to be staying here on regularly scheduled time.  DH had called on his way to pick her up and she didn't answer, she called BM who told him SD was napping on the couch and that she wasn't going to come that night.  So, DH wekt and met a buddy for pizza and a couple beers. Evidently SD changed her mind at some point and started blowing up his phone, which he didn't notice right away.  When he called her back she said she was staying with him, which he probably normally would have rolled over on, but with a beer or 2 he had the nerve to say you are not, I made other plans. That turned into he abandoned her for drinking, and he has a drinking problem.  Nevermind the fact that we/he never made plans like that when his kids were here, or that she was the one who changed the plan for that evening.   So many more examples. I was sitting here feeling down and guilty, I needed reminder of those