The man I've been seeing for just over 5 years now, and whom I love very much, has a 14 year old daughter. Since we lived about 3 and a half hours apart, we kept our relationship rather long-distance for the first 4 years. I have been "living with" him for just over a year now. He shares custody of his girlie with her mother, two weeks at dad's house, then two weeks at mom's house. Don't ask me to explain how I feel about that...*sigh*... this kidlet doesn't know where to refer to when someone mentions "home".
But that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.
Cindy (not daughter's real name) is almost 15 now. I met her when she was 9. Before I even met her, I was warned by her dad's parents, sister, and a couple of his friends about some of her "behavioral issues". By the time this little girlie was 9 years old, she already had a well-established reputation as a picky eater and a person of moods. It seemed everyone was always catering to her any time she would act upset when she didn't get her way. It was as though everyone was afraid of her. I was also told that I should not be worried if she and I didn't hit if off for a while, that she was quiet and shy around people she didn't know. As it turned out, she and I hit it off right off the bat, to everyone's amazement. She was (and still is) just a normal kid with way too many people catering to her every whim, out of fear of upsetting her.
I've been around kidlets all my life, in one form or another. I've worked with kidlets for quite a few years in classroom settings, I have one of my own (he's grown now with two girlies of his own), and I durn near raised four of his friends. This was not my first trip to the "kidlet" rodeo.
I could see, even then, the probable problems that would be coming about in the future, particularly as she entered her teens. However, my naiveté jumped in here, and I walked right on in to this relationship anyway. I guess I thought maybe I could help? Dad has never been around kidlets much before, and he's rather a “loner” in some ways, so he's not got a lot of experience to draw from on raising a kidlet.
Here's where my naiveté comes in...
I guess I thought I could be of some help to him with her. He seemed to really want my imput on one hand, but only as long as it coincided with what he decided he was going to do any time an issue arose. He realllllly loves his girlie!! It's one of the things that I most admired about him from the very beginning. He is such a wonderful person too. But he is scared silly of this kidlet, and has been from the beginning.
He loves her so much and he's so afraid that if he goes against anything regarding her or what she wants, that she'll decide to go live with her mother. What a weapon he's handed her!! And at such a young age! And trust me when I tell you, she's quite aware of the power she has. How could she NOT be... since she's been developing it for many years now. Her parents divorced when she was five years old and, as mentioned before, when I met her at 9 years old, she had an already thoroughly established reputation for getting what she wanted or getting upset and making everyone else’s lives difficult.
For example, and this is no exaggeration, when we went to the Outback for dinner on a gift $50 gift certificate from Dad's parents for his birthday, "Cindy" ordered a $26 filet mignon. Then, she only ate half of it. Dad was upset about it and we talked a little about it when "Cindy" went to the restroom, but all he said when she came back was, "I guess she can take it home and we can use the leftovers to make a quesadilla."
I was floored. This girlie was only 10 at the time, and everyone already knew well that she would only eat certain things and nothing else. And they all allowed this behavior! Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident either. I heard about and saw for myself, several incidents of this same kind of behavior. What "Cindy" wanted, "Cindy" got". No one wanted her to be upset and get mad at them. She does an excellent "look" and she's great at the silent treatment. She tried those on me a couple of times at the beginning, but doesn’t try it much anymore since I started laughing and told her that her face was going to stick like that if she kept that up! One time I even ran and got a mirror as I was laughing. I held it up and told her she just HAD to get a look at what I was seeing! It would crack her up!! She finds it difficult to maintain her mad with me, because I am not going to give in to it, and she knows it. She knows exactly how far she can go with me before I step on her little head.
You have to understand, there's more to our relationship than you know. She and I get along wonderfully most of the time! We always have. She leans her head on my shoulder or loops her arm through mine, even with her parents there. We go places together at times, just the two of us, like Walmart or, over holidays, to the mall or out to lunch. She's always got her arm through mine. We have good talks too. I am the one she came to when she thought she was starting her period. I'm also the one who taught her how to use tampons lol. We talk about boys, and all kinds of stuff. We're good friends.
She really is a neat kid underneath that “princess” robe.
I guess my point is, we get along just fine! Pretty great even! Until the parents come into the picture anyway... then she reverts back to her "princess" role. Dad allows it, and I want to smack 'em both upside the head! And now that she's almost 15, she's about perfected that "princess" role too.
Make no mistake here, I am so NOT the perfect mother…not by a long shot. I’ve made mistakes too, and I’m sure I will make many more before I get out of this world. But I just feel that we all need a little help sometimes when we’re dealing with a situation we’ve not dealt with before and raising a kidlet is a hair-raising responsibility at best, even under the best of circumstances. But I’ve been around kidlets for so long and, although that doesn’t make me an expert by any means, it does mean that, sometimes, I might have something to say that might be worth hearing. And above all, I know I have only the kidlet’s best interests at heart. I love her and I want her to realize her full potential and be the best person I know her to be! I’ve SEEN her at her best. It’s an awesome thing…. But she’s not my daughter, it’s not my responsibility, and when I interfere…. Well, I’m just interfering.
My problem is that I am finding it more and more difficult as time goes on, to keep my yap shut. I try to stay out of it between her dad and her but, with my kidlet background being what it is.... sometimes I open my yap anyway. Like when dad has told her to do the dishes, and she tells him she will....later... and he lets her get by with that! Then, two hours later, she's gone to bed, dishes aren't done and dad's in the kitchen getting started on them. I'm sorry, but every once in a while, I just can't NOT say something, even though I know it's just going to irritate dad. Because, once he takes up her slack, I’m the one who’s made out to be the “bad guy” because I was the one who was making her do her chores or follow the ground rules dad had set down. I’ll say something like, “why are you doing the kidlet’s chores?” and he’ll heave the deep sigh and, of course, nothing is accomplished except that I’ve interfered and I’m the bad guy once again. When really all I’m trying to do is support him in the decisions he’s made concerning her responsibilities at home.
I can even understand why he feels the way he does, to a point anyway…. He doesn't want to say anything to her, he's very non-confrontational, and that coupled with the fear of her being upset with him or losing her, keeps him giving in to her moods so much of the time. He'll keep it in for a long time, but he knows he should be saying something to her, and he knows I'm seeing all this. So, when it stacks up some, then he gets ticked at her and lets her have it. I don't agree with that either.... kids need consistency.
I also do not hold this girlie responsible for her behavioral issues either. These are habits she's developed because of lack of parental intervention. It's not up to her to raise herself and teach herself responsibility, respect, consideration for others, and the value of a dollar. That's the responsibility of the adults in her life. Any 14 year old is going to take advantage of any opportunities that are set right in front of them, and you can't blame them for that.
Sooo........ as the situation escalates, and my employment here has come to an end, I find myself making the decision to remove myself from the situation. I am going back home to my house which is about three and a half hours away. I know that if I stay here with the situation as it is, I will only create problems for myself and dad. I know me and my mouth, I won't be able to keep quiet all the time as I probably should, and for three and a half more years yet! There's no way I can see that happening...
Some people can do that...but being a mom, and a surrogate mom of sorts to my sons friends, and having worked with kidlets for so many years in a classroom setting...I'm used to jumping right on in and dealing with issues as they arise. This approach, however, does not work with dad and me and the girlie. And I do not want to be the person who causes a rift between dad and his kidlet. Hence the decision to remove myself now, before it really gets going around here.
I guess I'm looking for some kind of validation for my decision. There's really no one else, around here that I can talk to about all this. I have a couple of friends (older women and moms themselves who live near me three and a half hours from here) who totally think I'm doing the right thing by removing myself from this situation. Both have been through their own versions of similar situations, and neither sees a happy ending any time soon for any of us. However, I also know that this is hurting dad, and it's breaking my heart.
My friends remind me that I knew this was going to happen before I ever stepped into this relationship and that I was going to have to deal with it sooner or later. Unfortunately, "sooner or later" got here sooner than I'd expected. Or maybe I was just hoping it'd never get here at all....*sigh*.... See? There's that naiveté coming through loud and clear again.
I am so worried about dad though. I love him so very much. I guess you could say though that, in this case, I love him enough to leave. It's not that I want the relationship to end either! I don't want to lose him. I just know that I cannot go through the next three and a half years in that kind of atmosphere. We would end up apart anyway, only on much harsher terms.
So I've made the decision, even though I know it will be so hard on us to go back to the long-distance relationship thing. I feel that if we have any chance at all to make it later on; it'll only happen if I bow out now.
He knows it's true, and he knows there's really no other way to deal with this situation. But it's breaking our hearts anyway.
I know this is long, but there aren't any others here in this situation, to talk to.... any advice?