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Stepdaughter is changing her mind.....

EmilyBee's picture

Recently, my stepdaughter (14) decided that she wants to try to re-build her relationship with her Bio Mom. For a brief backstory, this woman has never been in her daughter's life. She has been constantly in and out of jail, rehab and prison, she had (and I believe still has) a drug addiction, stole from family and friends, just a very bad influence. She lost custody and visitation rights to my husband about 8 years ago. I have been in stepdaughter's life for the last 10 years. 

My problem is:I do not believe she has come to this wanting on her own. She has an aunt (bio mom's sister) who constantly guilt-trips and gas-lights her into thinking she would be better off with Bio Mom. She even went as far as to tell her she was taking us back to court (over a year now and this still hasn't happened) and she already had a room made up for her. This caused stepdaughter to have a nearly mental breakdown, crying hysterically while my husband and I convinced her that was not going to happen. But all of a sudden, she said that she doesn't want to blame her mother for "a few mistakes" and "that's still my mom" and "what's in the past is in the past.' I don't think a typical 14 year old girl would speak that way and it is the heavy influence coming from the Aunt. I told her that I respected her decision, but I really did not feel it was in her best interest to come back into her mother's life and to possibly wait a few years until she is older and more mature. She said that she wants to hear "her side of the story," though she has been told by every person in her life - my husband and bio mom's side of the family included  (only the aunt still speaks to her regularly) - that side of the story and how bad things were. She was only 2 the last time she saw her mother, so she does not truly remember how bad things got. Her older brother has tried telling her, but it seems like she wants to believe that her mother is truly a better person now. She even asked if she could go over there at Christmas,

To me, I feel this is a door that needs to stay closed a little bit longer. I have witnessed Bio Mom's manipulation firsthand and know that she likes to lie and spin things around and play the victim. I don't feel giving her mother that olive branch will work out in anyone's favor. She has openly admitted to me the reason she has trauma is because of her mother, but cannot give me a reason why she would want to re-connect with the person who gives her trauma (her only excuses are "she's still my mother," which burns me up inside, because blood does not make family and she is not obligated to her for anything!)

Any advice, fellow step-moms?

caninelover's picture

Is SD seeing a therapist now?  If so she should but I don't see how you can stop her from seeing BM, even if she's being manipulated into doing so.  Hopefully a therapist can help her navigate this.

I do think your correct that it's better for now if she didn't see BM...but again I don't see that you can stop it either.

What does DH think?

EmilyBee's picture

I am in the process of finding her a therapist. DH wants nothing to do with BM at all, and often doesn't even want to speak her name. He is not necessarily 100% into the idea of therapy, but I believe that I can convince him at this point it's for the best

CajunMom's picture

It's a very hard thing to wrap one's head kids love these abusive moms. I know first hand. My mom was not the best. I endured some horrible physical abuse from her.....and yet I still loved her. I was angry at her....but loved her. Gave the eulogy at her funeral. And I still cry for her sometimes. I'm 60.

Trying to keep your SD away from her mom is not a good idea. I'd immediately find a counselor for her where she can hash this out with a neutral party. Then, if she decides to continue on with a relationship with her BM, the counselor can serve as her mediator in the process.

I'm sorry...such a hard position to be in for you. Hugs.

EmilyBee's picture

I am so sorry that you endured that. And yes, I understand. We learned in one of my Psychology classes it's almost like dogs - no matter how much their owners beat them or starve them, they will stay loyal and love their owners no matter what. I am in the process of finding her a counselor to see if maybe a third party can get through to her, because at this point she will not listen to me, my husband or her older brother (who was older and remembers how bad things really were).

lieutenant_dad's picture

Going to third the idea for a therapist.

I also don't think this has to be all-or-nothing like SD seems to be proposing. SD can see BM...but it's going to start as short visits that BM pays for. BM has to pick a public place to meet. BM had to pay for thr activity or meal. BM has to make her contact information available to your DH.

Also, SD had to go to therapy to talk through this with someone. No skipping sessions, no crossing her arms and huffing about it. If BM is on the mend, great. SD is going to need that support as she navigates whatever feelings this brings to the surface.

Tell SD that BM has to show that she'll be compliant with short, public visits for at least 3 months. She has to be SOBER at these visits, and for the duration. IF BM can do this, then you all can talk about an overnight visit or weekend. I think this needs to be explained to SD that you all don't want to prevent her from seeing her mom, but her mom also has to put in effort and be willing to show that she is in this for the long haul. Logic it out with SD - if BM truly is better, then short, public visits arranged by BM should be easy for her, because I am assuming even SD can put in that much effort as a teenager to see her friends. These measures are to keep SD safe and let both SD and BM navigate a new relationship without jumping in head first.

EmilyBee's picture

Thank you for the advice. I have been looking for a therapist! I also encouraged her that if she goes, she will actually need to TALK and be open.Not to waste the person's time.  

We are also hesitant because we know that BM is not sober. We know many things that she is doing that do not show she is "better," like SD is being told by BM's sister. Do you know anything about having to pass a drug test to have supervised visitation or is that something that is not an option? I truly believe if drug tests were on the table, she would continually fail them and maybe SD would see that she is not as good as she is being made out to be (by certain people)?

lieutenant_dad's picture

With SD being a teenager, I don't think having court-ordered supervised visitation is the way to go. Putting up more barriers may just push SD to be sneaky in order to see BM, or BM or her sister will just manipulate the situation more to drag SD in. Everyone knows - probably even SD - that BM isn't doing this out of love for SD, but out of either spite for your DH or some selfish need to be "Mom" to validate her own existence.

So, I think to combat this, you have to teach SD how to stand up for herself and against BM, and now is a much better time to do that than when she is an adult. It sounds like court has given your DH all the cards. If he has sole physical and legal custody and BM has nothing, then he can completely dictate the terms of visitation. In fact, it's not just his right, it's the responsibility the court gave him.

With teens who have objectively bad parents whom they want a relationship with, you have to focus on teaching them how to set healthy boundaries with their parents. If SD wants to see BM, your DH needs to figure out how to make that happen. I don't think having SD see a drug report will change her mind...but seeing her mom tweaked out on something, or having her mom offer her booze and drugs might kick it into SD's head that BM isn't any better.

And the sad reality is, in just a few short years, SD will be on her own having to navigate BM coming to her with sob stories about no money, no place to go, etc. Having DH, you, SS, and a therapist teach and model how to set those boundaries now will pay off in the future.

Ultimately, if BM takes this back to court, hire an attorney who can ask for supervised visitation pending drug test results. Given her history, that's likely exactly the route court would go. Or, court may toss out her claim completely because SD is old enough and stable enough to facilitate a relationship outside a new court order. But, there is always the risk of court going sideways, so I also think that offering some flexibility may keep her from going through court to change the CO.

No one can protect SD from her mother. She lives too close and SD wants this. So, figure out how to do it with the least amount of harm.

Winterglow's picture

"BM isn't doing this out of love for SD"

I think that at lest part of her mmotivation is that she sees a prospect for CS if she can only get a foot in the door and have the courts approve visitation no matter how limited.

lieutenant_dad's picture

That's also a bad bet for BM to make. Limited visitation = her potentially paying CS. As little faith as I have in the court system, I can't imagine a judge giving BM enough custody where she'd be owed enough CS for it to be worth the trouble.

If anything, I think BM paying CS needs to be part of the visitation agreement. If BM wants to play Mom, then she plays Mom. That means she pays CS since she doesn't have custody. I bet if that gets brought up that she'll slink back into obscurity because OP's DH could file for that based off state calculations and there's little BM could do to stop it.

Winterglow's picture

I completely agree. But she probably thinks that the father always pays CS to the mother (there are so many who believe it's that simple!).

EmilyBee's picture

If I had a dollar for every time BM used that as an excuse, I would be a very rich woman. That is what she ALWAYS says to DH "I'm still their mother!" "But I'm their mother!" Like giving birth means she is OWED something. Biology  is the least of what makes someone a parent.

EmilyBee's picture

I actually know a girl that lost custody of her daughter to her mother and is forced to pay HER child support. Mothers paying child support is rare, but it does happen,I agree!

EmilyBee's picture

Do you happen to know if it's possible to get child support, but also back child support? Our attorney told us years ago that it was possible, and if she didn't pay it all, she would face jail-time. That would literally be 14 years of child support (SS is over 18 so I don't believe he would factor in). The last time DH mentioned the CS issue to BM, she seemed shocked that he would "even think that" and then turned it around "Oh, okay, just keep punishing me. Like I haven't been punished enough!"

EmilyBee's picture

I agree. I really believe that she thinks if she can get supervised visitation that it will lead to possibly getting her rights and custody back, or she has someone gas-lighting her and telling her that could be the end result. I only bring up the child support issue because it would make her life to have DH pay her monthly and get some sort of "revenge" on him for "taking her children away."

EmilyBee's picture

Yes, I really believe BM is doing this out of spite and just wants to have a best friend, not a daughter. She used to beg DH to take SD out to eat, take her shopping, take her to get her nails done. So it was pretty obvious she just wanted to win her back by spending money on her and doing all the "fun" things, leaving DH and I to handle all the hard stuff ourselves. She never once offered to pay for anything SD needed - she just wants to pay for the things she WANTS and to be the "cool parent." Having SD back in her life is for BM's own benefit, to make herself feel good and worthy, and I stand behind that 110%. Her sister has been pushing her to do this for years because BM will call her and cry about how DH is "keeping her children from her." I worry that SD is only 14 and at such an impressionable age, BM offering to buy her all the things we forbid her to have in our house - vape pens, drugs, alcohol, etc. - will make her want to be with her even more instead of pushing her away. Like she could go brag to her friends and be like "My real mom lets me smoke weed at her house. My real mom buys me vape pens" and things like that. SS is almost 21 and has been dealing with BM's "sob stories," and every single time he tells her he doesn't want to hear it, she needs to just drop this whole act and let me and DH raise SD, she has never been a mother so "why start now?" He was manipulated by her in the past when he was around 15/16 with the drugs and alcohol and vaping, but once he realized what she was doing, he told her to "f*** off."

I am not sure if BM would even be able to pass a drug test, because she has admitted to SS that she smokes pot daily and doesn't think she could ever truly quit. But her defense was "At least it isn't pills anymore!" He told her that was stupid to her face.





Winterglow's picture

If she starts bragging like that, make sure you have proof. Then use it for a protective order. Though the chances that BM will have time to get so involved before going back to jail are slim. 

Survivingstephell's picture

Did a judge decide this? Blame it on the judge and tell her when she is 18 and out from under the CO she can meet her mom then.  

EmilyBee's picture

Yes, we have legal documentation stating this. It was ordered by the judge after she failed to show up for not one, but TWO court dates. I explained this to her several times. At this point, if she is with BM and DH is not aware or okay with it, it would almost be considered kidnapping.

tog redux's picture

Well - it is her mother. Kids with abusive parents often hope they will change, pand want a better relationship with them, that's natural. I agree with the therapist idea, but seems to me that keeping her from her mother will make the anger and longing even stronger. Let her see who her mother really is and find out for herself.

SeeYouNever's picture

I agree I think that she does need a relationship with her mom but I also think it is you and bio dad's responsibility to keep that relationship strictly limited. Supervised visits if possible and no overnights. If she wants a relationship with her mom the best thing is for them to begin the relationship just talking on the phone. 

EmilyBee's picture

I suggested starting things out slowly - maybe a phone call or text messages to start, but she insists she wants to meet face-to-face.It just greatly worries me that her head will be filled with lies and a truth and BM greatly enjoys always "playing the victim." I fear she may try to manipulate SD into turning against DH and me,even though we are the ones that have always been there (him for her entire life, me for the last 10 years).

EmilyBee's picture

Yes, I completely understand this. I fear she feels some strong obligation because that is her "mother," even though all she ever did was give birth to her. She told me that "people change" and "the past is in the past" and she's not going to be mad at her for "a few mistakes" (there were more than a few).I just know how manipulative BM can be - my husband tried years ago to make things right with her and she lied right to his face. She's broken her trust more times that he can count and I don't want the same to happen to SD. Sad

LittleCloud9's picture

Not to be a mom-basher but i do feel some children are much better off without their dysfunctional parent, even if it is unatural. But that's because of my own experience. Our ss came to live with us because his mom got arrested and had a drug problem. Court cut her out of the picture for a few years with an order of protection, no contact at all. Ss tried reunification therapy earlier this year with BM that lead to more trauma and BM abandoning him. 7 weeks after she walked out we had to hospitalize him because of suicidal ideation. Years of therapy flew out the window after just a few short hours with BM. He's got ptsd from his mom's abuse but still wants to go back to her. We're saying he has to wait until 18 because we can't deal with the trauma she causes to everyone. I'm pretty sure he'll run to her the day he turns 18 and she'll destroy him.... at that time we won't be able to help anymore 

I get your fears and they are very justified. 14 year olds are not mature enough to handle this decision, i hope she can at least be convinced to wait a bit longer. I'm sorry you are going through this

EmilyBee's picture

My main argument with SD is that she does not need to feel "obligated" to spend time with her BM or re-connect with her just because she gave birth to her. She has done NOTHING that a true mother is supposed to do, so birthing a child shouldn't give her any form of entitlement. I truly believe at this stage in SD's life, reunification would just make her even more angry and confused and cause her slight behavioral tendencies to kick up a few notches. I also know that her BM wants to have SD to be her little "best friend" and would probably allow her to do things that we would say no to (we have had incidents with SS when he was younger, spending time with her and engaging in illegal activities.) She wants to be seen as the "cool, fun" parent. I am really, really encouraging her to give it some more time and wait until she has 18 and matured a lot more.

I am very sorry for everything you went through! My heart is truly with you.

Rags's picture

It is time to shut down your DH's XSIL.  Toxic is purged not tolerated.  Time for seasoning SD-14 with the facts and point out the Aunts manipulative guilt tripping and gaslighting of your daughter.

It is total confrontation time for the Aunt.  She needs to be told that rather than attempting to serve up her niece as a victim  hors d'oeuvre for her own idiot sister, the Aunt needs to smack her idiot sister/the BM about the head and shoulders with some clarity that BM is a shit parent.  Until then, the Aunt should have zero place in the life of this kid and zero contact should be allowed.

Parents who are little more than a brood mare or sire should not be allowed to have a place in the lives of minor children. 

IMHO of course.

EmilyBee's picture

I very much agree. I have sat down SD several times and told her that was the Aunt is doing isn't right, that she doesn't need to guilt-trip and gas-light her like she does. SD has admitted to me that she's not that fond of her, but she feels bad because she loves her little cousin very much and wants a relationship with her, but has to be in the Aunt's good graces for it to happen. The Aunt also has a very wealthy husband and a limitless credit card budget, so she will buy SD and SS whatever they want in an attempt to get in THEIR good graces. It's all very manipulative. For years, she absolutely despised her sister and talked terrible about her, but ever since the birth of her child, the Aunt and BM have suddenly become best friends.The only good part is that the Aunt moved and lives far away. She rarely comes into town anymore and her only communication is via phone. So this is not a daily thing, but she still brings it up every time she calls SS and SD. I ask SD what she does whenever her Aunt says something about BM and she says that she just changes the subject or starts talking about something else. I keep telling her she needs to stand up for herself and say "I don't want to talk about her/Talking about her makes me uncomfortable/I don't like when you bring these things up." I just don't know if she is strong enough to do it. I hate to break off contact because of the cousin that SD is crazy about - she's just an innocent little child with no idea what is going on.

Rags's picture

You cannot sacrifice yourself or kid/skid just to maintain a relationship with a  young cousin who has just about zero change of escaping the machinations of it's; own mother unscathed.

If by chance the cousin does make it out with a brain and being a quality person, great. Have the relationship then. 

Do not sacrifice yourself and do not let your SD sacrifice herself.

IMHO of course.