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I don't know what to do with 4 years old SS

GreenB's picture

Hello everybody! 

This is my first post so hopefully I can get some advice.

I have a 4 years old SS, living with us full time until June. BM is far away (we don't know where) and only calls once in a while. SS is a cute and affectionate kid, but the relationship between me and him is what "bothers" me: I don't know how to deal with it.

I would like to start off by saying that I am awkward with kids, I like them, sure, but...I think that I might not be very maternal.. I only have nephews which I love with all my heart and animals, so I didn't know how it was going to be like while I was dating my now husband, because we would live in separate places, and once we got engaged and started living together SS wasn't with us. So having a toddler in the house full time was definitely a change for me...a hard change. 

He is very attached to me, but can be clingy sometimes, to the point where he cries when his dad comes home, or if I close the door he bangs on the door because he wants to "see me". When he's alone with me he started picking up the habit of either hiding on the stairs and staring at me while I am sitting on the couch or something, or peeing and pooping in his pants so I can change him, even though he is potty trained. This drives me crazy. I don't know if it's every toddler, but today I had the whole day with him and he pooped on himself 3 times, always in the hours when his dad was gone. If I sit down next to my husband, he comes in between us and if my husband tells him to sit next to us, and not in between, he starts desperately crying because he wants to be next to me. If his dad hugs me, he cries and pushes my husband away so he can hug me. He also copies me on everything, but this honestly doesn't bother me that much. It's the fact that I can never be one second alone, the two days where I have to be at home with him. My husband sees it and finds it weird too: I suggested to send SS to some kind of play therapy or something, but DH always says yes and then never does it. I find it extremely hard to have a good time with SS alone or family time. I crave alone time, I am not used to all this clinging. I am really starting to be extremely anxious before "family time" and I already have general anxiety so it doesn't help.

On top of that DH does something that is very... weird to me. While I was in the bathroom tonight DH was putting SS to sleep and told him to say I love you Daddy and I love you (my name). I couldn’t hear SS from the bathroom but I guess he told me " I love you" because DH told me "you have to say I love you back! Say it!" Like he was forcing me to say it. I stayed quiet. He told me again to say I love you back to SS. I told him I don't like being forced to say I love you and of course, he took it as I don't care about his son. I really feel like I am forced to be who I am not. I had a long conversation with my husband one day, after he told me I should act like a second mother to SS, and I have explained to him clearly that SS is not my child. I am not his mother. I don't have the patience that a parent might have. He brought a 3 years old toddler in the house and expected me to love him like a mother. I told DH I don't like being a stepmother. I told him the truth. I also told him to stop forcing love, that if it comes then it should come naturally. He seems like he still doesn't get it...


tog redux's picture

Your SS has been abandoned by his mother, that's traumatic for a kid. Both he and DH are looking to you to replace her, but that's not your obligation. You truly didn't sign on for this. My guess is that BM isn't coming back in June, so I'd decide if you can do this long-term. 

GreenB's picture

I agree with your comment.

He has been abandoned by his mother. I care a lot about the kid, I wish he didn't have to go through this. It breaks my heart sometimes, because I know he needs his mother, he needs a motherly love and I can't give it to him if I am being forced to, the way my DH acts only pushes me away from him and SS and he doesn't get it... when I suggest therapy is not because SS is crazy, but because I believe he is experiencing some type of trauma too and he should be helped to cope with it...

tog redux's picture

You are correct, therapy is in order. And for you and DH too, to negotiate the changes in your marriage. You  have been suddenly handed the role of mother and that's not reasonable. Your DH needs to be the primary caregiver, with you helping as you see fit. That means daycare or school, not being with you all day. 

Wicked stepmo.'s picture

I agree with plat therapy. It sounds like SS has seperation anxiety. Likely due to BM just leaving.

It also would be helpful to get him into preschool so he can socialize with other adults and kids.

Aunt Agatha's picture

In fact, you are clearly telling your DH what needs done.  This kid needs therapy and some daycare/ other time outside the home.  

What you are getting in return is your DH trying to force you into an Insta-mommy role, which would make things so much easier for your DH.  So what (he thinks) if you are miserable and the kid too?!  If he can just force a few I love you'd from you, you will see the light.

Of course, this is not the solution and you should be very proud of yourself for seeing this kid needs some professional help because his mother has abandonned him. You should also feel good that you are doing your best for a little kid who has been put in a tough situation by his bio parents.

What to do next is up to you.  I'd suggest reading around on here as well as getting a copy of the book Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin. I found it very helpful navigating the step parent situation.  

In your case, I would also insist that your DH get this kid some therapy. What should be his primary prenatal relationship is gone and as a young kid, he must be petrified.  That's likely why he is clinging to you, which isn't fair for either of you.  His dad needs to step up and stop the nonsense that you are a mommy replacement.  He needs to be parenting the child as posters above has said.

Don't for a minute think you are anything other than heroic here. Your DH is this kids latest problem and only your DH can fix it.


futurobrillante99's picture


I think the OPs DH should fight to get the BM's rights taken away and the OP should let him know that until he is prepared to make this child LEGALLY hers, she is not his mother. Because if she was, she would get him into therapy. So, until he's ready to REALLY give her legal rights, HE is the only parent and needs to step up.

I would insist on daycare for the child. I need my personal space and this would drive me insane even if the child was my bio child.

GreenB's picture

I had to fight to put him in daycare, but we finally found a babysitter for him 3 times a week. I had a huge fight with DH because he wanted me to take care of SS full time, and I told him I was not going to do that. It came to a day where I told him that if he didn't want to put him in a daycare or find a babysitter, I would leave the relationship, because it was becoming too much to handle. 

So now he goes to the babysitter, which is great, but everytime he is alone with me he acts like this, reason why I suggested the play therapy.  DH has full custody of the child. I don't know what's wrong with BM, she disappears for weeks or months, and then comes back out of nowhere texting my DH saying that she wants updates of the child because "I'm the mother of YOUR child" (her favorite thing to say). Little does she know, SS doesn't even call her mom, she calls her by her first name if he has to. I just feel bad for SS, because no child deserves to be abandoned like this and I know behind all that clingy behavior there's probably a scream for help, that he needs the love he never had...I am just not ready to take the parenting role. I am not a mother. I didn't know it was going to be this hard.

GreenB's picture

Hm. I never thought about it.

She has a history of mental illness and violence, reason why she lost custody. She comes back out of nowhere texting my DH insulting him or insulting me, or claiming that she is the mother so as the mother she has the right to see SS whenever she wants to (nobody told her to not see him, she's the one who disappears). We both decided to ignore her, unless is something strictly related to SS.

tog redux's picture

He should get in writing that she's not allowed visitation unless he agrees to it, or something of the sort. It's not unheard of for BM's like this to come back and get custody rights pretty easily - at least make sure she has to challenge it in court.

He should definitely get therapy.  Good for you for standing up to your DH about whose job it is to care for him.

GreenB's picture

That's what I told DH too.

I think one day BM will try to get custody of SS, but honestly with all that she did before, her mental health and her being unstable and violent I doubt the court will give her custody of the child. And if they do it will be a problem, because SS is not well taken care of when he is with her. She stayed with him for a week a year ago and she never showered him or brush his teeth. I doubt the court will give her custody.