Not So Much 'hate' But ... We're Closing In On It!

i have 3 step-daughters.  they're 6, 11 and 13.

the 6 year old is a mixture of her older sisters.  she's a BABY!  she has no concept of speaking.  she only knows how to whine and cry ... about EVERYthing!  beyond that she's an adorable girl with a, seemingly, good heart.

the middle child is beautiful inside and out.  she's just like her father on an emotional level and this is probably the reason i absolutely adore her.

the eldest ... oh my!  i will likely be bald within the year.

i will give you some background.  prior to knowing anything about her or her mother from personal experience i was warned by the family.  i was told the daughter was 'tough nut to crack.' 'a typical teenager,' 'close to her mother,' and things of the like.  i was told by the family that the mother was lazy, the 'victim,' antagonizing,  never impressed, satisfied or happy with anything, etc.

i'd never had a problem with children.  they've always just taken to me.  i'm not a first time step-mom either and due to my previous step-mom status and the child's emotional problems, i did a fair amount of research on child psychology.  i went to great lengths to educate myself so i would be a successful step-mom.  i was.

upon meeting his children the first time, i thought them to be GREAT girls.  just as i expected the younger two took to me immediately and the eldest kept her distance.  unfortunately she was not happy about her sisters' fondness of me.  she recorded, in her mind, everything that would take place over the next few visitations.  she would share her version with her mother.

the mother was aware of me and had already begun implementing new hoops for her exhusband to jump through.  she threatened him with not seeing his children if he didn't bend to her will.  having already been through a similar situation (divorced parents, new boyfriends/girlfriends and children with custody agreements) i advised him that she had no right whatsoever to do so unless i was in some way a danger to any of them. 

thankfully, we had video taped our activities during each visitation.  it wasn't a plan of any sort.  it was simply to record our fun together.  as of yet, it has only served as verbal proof but we are glad to have it as it will stand in court should we have to go.

at one point, because i supposedly made the children uncomfortable, she withheld visitation.  ...now keep in mind they live out of state.  he doesn't have the opportunity to go to school plays, sports activities, etc....  this nearly killed him.  finally he found out what i'd done that made the children uncomfortable ... i'd 'called them names' ... what she was referring to is what her eldest daughter had conveyed to her.  i called the youngest child a "lovebug" because she was so full of hugs etc. 

when we did get to see the children again we spoke to all of them together.  the eldest said that she was uncomfortable with me calling any of them anything other than their names.  the youngest had been told how to respond, being monitored by the older sister, you could tell.  later the youngest would profess that it did NOT bother her.

as the months have gone by the eldest continues to manipulate the situation.  i can't really blame her.  she learned it from her mother.  she continues to closely monitor all interaction between the girls and i.  she continues to make claims to her mother that i was inappropriate in some way or another.  (not sexually or anything crazy ... just silly stuff that made no sense ... the kind of stuff the younger two deny in the eldest sister's absence but in her presence they make sure not to break eye contact with her and nervously recite what has been told to them.  it's somewhat like listening to a pre-recorded message that doesn't fit the situation.  they are too young and too pure at this point to bend their words to the situation.)

the eldest has become more and more disrespectful and more manipulative.  although she's become less distant, i wouldn't trust her to save my rump!  she is her mother's bestfriend.  her mother shares everything with her as if she's an adult. 

in recent months the mother rescinded and stated that she could now see how much the children cared for me and that they'd been playing both sides of the fence so as not to upset her.  the woman still refuses any contact with me whatsoever ... i am not allowed to be at exchange because it 'upsets the children.'  in fact the children didn't have a problem with it at all until the mother showed her angst.  i'm sure to a degree they were playing both sides, however, they didn't know what they were upset about until she told them what she was upset about.  they are very happy children by nature and don't get upset unless their mother or father are upset.

about the 3rd or 4th time i met the girls, the younger two told me they loved me.  i'd never told them i loved them as not to place any pressure on them to return it.  i replied, "i love you back."  for this i got in trouble again.  the mother informed us that the children are too young to know how they feel and that i was pressuring them and filling their minds with nonsense.

most recently the eldest refuses to say 'thank your' or 'you're welcome.'  i'm sure this has much to do with being a teenager.  but then again ... i'm the only one she does this with.  she antagonizes her sisters unmercifully as well as manipulating them regarding me and how they may or may not feel for me.  just yesterday i overheard her quizzing the youngest.  she told the youngest to list, in order, the people she loved the most.  "mommy, daddy, you, sister, constant (me), gramma, aunt and uncle." she replied.  the eldest says, "what about gramma (mom's mom) and uncle (mom's brother)?"  youngest: "oh yeah!  mommy, daddy, you, sister, constant (me), gramma, aunt, uncle, gramma, uncle."  the eldest whispers something i can't make out and the youngest pauses for a moment and then says, "oh okay,"  she then continues after another pause and recites the same model minus my name.  i hear the oldest one say, "very good!"

this is most certainly not the first time she's done anything like this.  i've seen and heard her perform similar manipulations in the past on both her younger sisters in regard to me.

i continually hear the oldest one whisper my name to her sisters and immediately thereafter i notice uncomfortable glances from the younger two.

i spoke to their father the other night sharing with him all the hurtful specifics of this week.  he said he'd have to talk to them as this is not acceptable.  he always says he's going to talk to someone and then he never does because i calm down about it or maybe because i don't ride him about it.  i don't know...  *sighs*

in the past the younger two have always told me that they love me and miss me.  the other night out of habit i told them as they were going to bed, "i love you ladies, sleep well."  they had been shuffling about when i said this.  an uncomfortable silence struck like lightening.  there was no reply.  they've yet to say it in 5 days.  it seems they refuse to and are very conscious of those words.  we have 3 more to go.  i'm very anxious and am wondering if there's going to be repercussions...

i'm just not sure how to proceed anymore.

any ideas, advice, anything?

<edited> June 4, 2007

i'd like to make a few things clear before another 'grown' stepdaughter wastes her time telling me the obvious.

*this has been going on for a year.  there was a time when the younger two and i spoke freely - me never saying "i love you" prior to them but after they said it.  there were no expectations that they'd say these words.  but after many months of them telling me this and me reciting, "i love you back" it became somewhat of a habit we fell into.

*i've taken countless child psychology courses - it has to do with my major as well as having an emotionally challenged stepson in a previous marriage.  i was a successful stepmom to him and he and i loved one another dearly.  we never had problems of this nature. 

*i was an in-home nanny for 3 years. 

*i babysat for 10 years. 

*i continually tell the girls how much i respect their mother because if she wasn't a great person and mother, they wouldn't be such lovely girls.

*the father and i have sat down with them and explained that i'm not taking the place of their mother, that i only wish to be their friend, and his main priority has always been and remains to be them.

*their favorite thing to do is 'spa day' ... i know this because i did and do ask them what they want to do. i don't impose my will upon them. if i did, i'm sure it would be much worse than it is.

*i take them shopping for christmas and mother's day (for their mother) as well as supplying them with craft supplies and ideas for their mother and i only help when i'm asked.

*i don't have children of my own, therefore there is no favoritism or jealousy - mine vs. yours.

i'm certainly not claiming to be an expert on children, however, i've had a LOT of experience with them.  i know what makes them tick for the most part.  they're fairly easy to figure out in most instances. 

i treat these girls with respect, generosity, warmth, sincerity, fairness, etc.  - the way i would want to be treated.

if there's anything beyond this i can do, please share with me.

AbbyNormal AbbyNormal
31-35, F
7 Responses May 30, 2007

I feel for you. You have the right idea and feelings about the children. I have 3 step children as well. I've had to be tough and it's an uphill battle. his ex wife tried to poison the children against us but they finally have learned I demand respect and they are in my home and my rules stand. I've learned to just be firm and it has been working. I have to remind them about manners, respect and that dad is dad and I'm his wife. I get along with them after that. I'm not mean either. They go from no rules and getting their way at their home to my home with rules and the saying of "lifes not perfect and you don't always get what you want" <br />
I hope all works out for you. Good luck.

Just going to add my support. I wish I had some sage advice, but I can only tell you I've been through it with my stepkids...and then some. I sure know how you feel!!<br />
<br />
Write if you need to vent.

dynamo - while i appreciate your recommendations, i have already and continue to do these things. i continually tell them how much i respect their mother because if she wasn't a great person, they wouldn't be such lovely girls. the father and i've sat down with them and explained that i'm not taking the place of their mother, that i only wish to be their friend, and his main priority has always been and remains to be them. their favorite thing to do is 'spa day' ... i know this because i did and do ask them what they want to do. i don't impose my will upon them. if i did, i'm sure it would be much worse than it is. i take them shopping for christmas and mother's day (for their mother) as well as supplying them with craft supplies and ideas for their mother and i only help when i'm asked. what else can anyone do?

why dont you and the girls' father sit the eldest one down (or all 3) and tell her/them that although you're with their father, you're not trying to take him away from them or take the place of their mom. tell them that they always have and still are his main priority. Plus I think although the 'spa day' thing is great, but with the eldest daughter telling her mom evrything, the mom could be jealous. Tell them that you want to be their friend etc. not a replacement for their mom when she's not around. They need reassuring alot. This is what happened to my sister when my dad first got with my mom. She had a "wicked step-mother" before and it took her a long time to get over it. But as he real mom had died she needed to know where she stood. All my mom did was reassure her that she wasn't trying to be a replacement, or steal our dad away. Ask the kids if you can be friends, ask them what they would like to do on a day out. Also take note of what things they like, and get them something along those lines, what you also could do is ask them to make something special for their mom as a gift, and help them a little bit. that way the eldest wont feel that their mom is being forgotten, and is still part of the "family". Little things like that helped us.

penguin - in case you missed it ... i did mention in the story that i was embarrassed having said 'i love you' first but that it had become a habit over the near year, that i NEVER said it to them in the beginning and when they'd say that phrase i'd reply with, 'i love you back' and, although i may not have said this ... i don't ever nor have i ever intended to pressure them with that phrase. i do NOT ever try to be their mother. i realize, being a child of divorce as well, that they already have one. i've made it very clear on several occassions that i had always wanted little sisters but wound up with a brother and how happy i am to have girls around so we can have 'spa days' where we play with each other's hair, do makeup, paint nails and toenails, etc. i make sure it's their father who does the discipline part, that's certainly not my place. i do enforce my own boundaries, however. i'm not trying to be their bestfriend, nor their mother ... just a friend, a role model, a positive figure in their lives that provides support and someone they can trust should they need to talk or whatever. if this is wrong ... then i'm failing miserably. but i know it's what i wish i would have had in my childhood rather than what i had. (i spose we all wish for something different and should be thankful for what we have - it IS what made us who we are, after all.)

I'm a daughter of divorced and remarried parents (mom remarried once, dad remarried, divorced a second time, currently seeing another person). I never REALLy had a problem with step-parents, but one thing my step-parents really did well was simply NOT try to be my parent. My mom is my mom, my dad is my dad. They were always open and inviting, so we got along decently, and now that I'm grown i can say i have a pretty good relationship with all of my parents and stepparents, and realize that they all care about me in their own way - which i appreciate. I guess my point is that while you may want to tell your husband's kids that you love them - they're still trying to figure a LOT of confusing things out. The best thing you can do for them is what my step-parents did for me: be supportive -> but wait a while before you start saying that you love them or try to be a parent. Or at least don't expect them to say it back right away. If you give them their space to figure things out, they'll really appreciate you for it. Don't rush it. I know it's hard for you - an ex wife and step-kids isn't an easy issue, but it sucks for the kids too and they're not mature enough yet to understand that you're not trying to invade their space or replace someone - that you're just trying to embrace and love them in your own way. So give them their space and let them figure out who you are to them in their own time.

thank you bfly! it seems mine responds to nothing as well but i am hoping, with all hope, she is still young enough to be 'broken.' i wish you the best!