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Need some help from those who are stepparents


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My fiancée and I have been together for 3 years.  We also live together, along with my 8 year old.  He is Autistic.  Bio dad is not in the picture. 
 

As of late, I’ve noticed some pretty disconnected behaviors from her with respect to my son.  It’s like she’s stopped trying.  
 

My son has some pretty challenging behaviors that stem from his ASD and ADHD.  He’s also going through precocious puberty.  And he’s super hormonal.  
 

I opted to homeschool him in lieu of remote learning.  It’s been difficult, but academically he’s so much further ahead than his schools have recognized.  He’s very bright, but very rigid.  
 

These behaviors are increasing with the whole early onset puberty.  No one wants to adjust his medicines (for adhd and irritability) right now.  I agree that it would not serve him well at this point.  
 

But I have a real issue with her attitude towards him.  She’s always followed my lead - reinforced my rules, deflected to me for consequences, etc.  She’s allowed to discipline with respect to taking away privileges for certain behaviors.  And we don’t use physical punishment in this house at all.  
 

Lately, she’s been snarky as hell with him.  He’s 8, and being Autistic he’s extremely literal.  While I was out in the yard cutting tree branches with my neighbor last night, she was doing his nighttime meds routine.  I hear him from outside complaining/defiance and what have you, the typical stuff he does.  But when I come in he’s like, really beside himself.  He says she told him she’s going to drop him off in a dangerous neighborhood.  I had him go play on the tablet and asked her what just happened.  She said she got frustrated and told him she’s going to drop him back off in the heights (an area where her parents live, where we JUST were earlier in the day and explaining to him why he can’t do certain things there that he would at our house because it’s not as safe).  She tells me she’s being sarcastic; I said I don’t care. You don’t use sarcasm with kids, particularly one that you know is literal.  She apologized to him.  
 

We talked and I asked her, are you really in this?  Because it’s not the first time I’ve had to say something about sarcasm.  It’s also now the 3rd time in the last couple months I have had to tell her she seems too disengaged.  She blames it on her job, says she has not had the time for outings and stuff.  I said you don’t need outings...your only interaction with him should not be giving him meds and the two of you acting like that.  
 

She does not work crazy hours.  38 hour workweek, daytime.  I maintain the house, I homeschool, I do all that stuff.  I am Unemployed due to the pandemic, but I do have a cushion.  
 

So when she comes home, her doing meds with him is like my break.  Now she wants me to do it because he’s been increasingly difficult.  I said I’m not surprised; when you do talk with him you act like he’s an annoyance.  I’m not sure what she would expect when she doesn’t actively try to connect with him anymore.  
 

This is not her first hand in “stepparenting”. She was previously married with two step kids.  She also helped raise her goddaughter who died just about 3 years ago.  She was in her early 20s.  
 

I’m not happy, and she knows how I am with  M(my son).  She seems panicked now, I think she thinks I will leave over it.  And yes, I will if this continues.  
 

She keeps telling me to try to understand it from her view as a stepparent.  I don’t know how since I’ve never been one.  While there’s room for her to make mistakes, there’s no room for this kind of disengagement/minimal interactions that suck.  Stepparents, help me out here please.  

 

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Tonight she texted me when she was out front and told me and M to hop in the car.  She took us for for dinner(curbside, naturally.  Lol) and ice cream.  Her and M had a very detailed and nerdy convers

Sarcasm is the primary language in New Jersey. English is the second language. Spanish is probably third, but there might be others.

I have know cheetarah a long time since before her son was born. I am not afraid she is putting her child in danger . I know all she done to protect and support her child. I have no fear should her pa

2 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Have you considered informative supportive  autism  groups to do together? Perhaps her understanding the spectrum better could help.

I do belong to some groups myself, but I never thought to ask her to join them.  I believe she might feel she knows more than she does, like an ego thing.  She would probably join though, I’m fairly certain.   

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She knows she's made a mistake talking to him that way. She's passed the meds duties to you and appears afraid to make any other mistakes. 

I understand you're angry and upset. Are you the one who's a little too fargone with this relationship or not seeing yourself with her? This could be the straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, if there are other issues you have with her.

Edited by Rose Mosse
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1 minute ago, Rose Mosse said:

She knows she's made a mistake talking to him that way. She's passed the meds duties to you and appears afraid to make any other mistakes. 

I understand you're angry and upset. Are you the one who's a little too fargone with this relationship or not seeing yourself with her? This could be the hair that breaks the camel's back, so to speak, if there are other issues you have with her.

My only chief complaint, aside from this, is the fact that she’s not very domestic(lol).  Like she’s super lazy around the house.  However, I am the weird one who enjoys cleaning and don’t have any real resentments about what she doesn’t do.  It can be annoying, but I’ve never looked at it as a dealbreaker because I know when I absolutely can’t do something, she will handle it with or without me asking.  
 

 

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She may be overworked and maybe she does need time off to do her own thing with friends. Would you consider her a not-so-great stepparent if she takes time to herself for self-care and enjoys time with friends? You mentioned works also. 

Having to work and then come home to you around all the time (wfh) may be putting a strain on your relationship and her relationship with your son. I'm sure both of you love and care for each other but it's not coming out in the right ways.

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2 minutes ago, Rose Mosse said:

She may be overworked and maybe she does need time off to do her own thing with friends. Would you consider her a not-so-great stepparent if she takes time to herself for self-care and enjoys time with friends? You mentioned works also. 

Having to work and then come home to you around all the time (wfh) may be putting a strain on your relationship and her relationship with your son. I'm sure both of you love and care for each other but it's not coming out in the right ways.

I know she is unhappy with her job. She is in a very male dominated field with a new boss that seems to think she should be fetching coffees.  She loves what she does, just not who she has to answer to.  
 

She can go if she wants.  But she’d rather be at home curled up watching shows.  That’s how she decompresses.  No, taking care of ones needs is super important!  That’s why I would look forward to “nighttime meds” so I can decompress with a bath, myself! 

She needs a lot more time to wind down than I do.  And more than normal, lately.  I know the pandemic and job changes have caused stresses, sometimes I do think she is in a funk.  

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I'm not sure if my advice is any good because I don't have kids myself and have never been a step parent. I'm an only child also so I don't have any nieces or nephews. My only expertise in writing this reply I guess is that I've been a disability and mental health support worker for eight years and I have worked with people with autism and all sorts of other challenging behaviours. 

The way I see it is that maybe your fiancee isn't really in this 100%. I think the reason being is that your son is not her biological child and maybe for that reason she doesn't fully love him the way that you love him as his actual biolpgical parent. I don't think she's probably doing this deliberately but she might be finding him an annoyance because she's just not automatically feeling that parental love for him. Did she never want kids of her own? Is she actually a "kid person" in general? Does she love kids?

The thing is that you come as a package with your son so for your relationship to work, your fiancee needs to be totally committed to sticking around for the next ten years minimum until your son grows up. Having autism and ADHD may mean that he'll need your support even as an adult. Is she prepared to stick around through it all? There isn't a lot that could be done regarding your son's conditions except to receive medical and psychological treatment. Also maybe for you and your fiancee to do counselling too. And for your fiancee to learn more about autism through courses or joining support groups. But if she can't handle it and will treat your son badly then unfortunately this may not work out.

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32 minutes ago, Cheetarah said:

My only chief complaint, aside from this, is the fact that she’s not very domestic(lol).  Like she’s super lazy around the house.  However, I am the weird one who enjoys cleaning and don’t have any real resentments about what she doesn’t do.  It can be annoying, but I’ve never looked at it as a dealbreaker because I know when I absolutely can’t do something, she will handle it with or without me asking.  
 

 

Well to be fair, she works full-time and you don't work. You are a stay at home parent. So based on the fact she's at work every day it does fall to you to do all the house chores. Just based on the fact that it's you staying home every day with your son and she is working and earning money.

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9 minutes ago, Tinydance said:

I'm not sure if my advice is any good because I don't have kids myself and have never been a step parent. I'm an only child also so I don't have any nieces or nephews. My only expertise in writing this reply I guess is that I've been a disability and mental health support worker for eight years and I have worked with people with autism and all sorts of other challenging behaviours. 

The way I see it is that maybe your fiancee isn't really in this 100%. I think the reason being is that your son is not her biological child and maybe for that reason she doesn't fully love him the way that you love him as his actual biolpgical parent. I don't think she's probably doing this deliberately but she might be finding him an annoyance because she's just not automatically feeling that parental love for him. Did she never want kids of her own? Is she actually a "kid person" in general? Does she love kids?

The thing is that you come as a package with your son so for your relationship to work, your fiancee needs to be totally committed to sticking around for the next ten years minimum until your son grows up. Having autism and ADHD may mean that he'll need your support even as an adult. Is she prepared to stick around through it all? There isn't a lot that could be done regarding your son's conditions except to receive medical and psychological treatment. Also maybe for you and your fiancee to do counselling too. And for your fiancee to learn more about autism through courses or joining support groups. But if she can't handle it and will treat your son badly then unfortunately this may not work out.

She does love kids and they love her.  She’s got a great, creative and patient demeanor (generally).  She is aware enough to know that M may require my/our supports beyond the typical age.  
 

She never wanted to carry children, but did want them whether by her partner carrying or through adoption of her partners child(ren).  

She states she struggles to find the thing that can be “theirs” to facilitate a bond.   My son is very techy and her being an engineer, they do bond over what she calls “nerd convos “.  But he hates sports, is a very picky eater(meal times are stressful if we’re out)...She wants to pull him out of his comfort zone.  Which I support but if he hates it, I mean he hates it.  And I don’t  push the food thing much because this poor kid will vomit if he tries a food that really screws with his sensory issues.  

 

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Have never been a step parent but as you know had step parents and the mother of an Autistic adult. 
 

I think her gaining more understanding of Autistic people and what is common to Autism but then what is the different to the experience of every Autistic person might help. Are there groups in your area run by Autistic people or a way she could get in touch with Autistic adults so that she might learn from them? 

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I would stop asking her to give him his meds.  That's really something a parent should do, not a fiancee IMO.

If you need down time (perfectly understandable), can you do it after he's in bed settled down?  Or while he's occupied with an enjoyable activity?

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1 hour ago, Seraphim said:

Have never been a step parent but as you know had step parents and the mother of an Autistic adult. 
 

I think her gaining more understanding of Autistic people and what is common to Autism but then what is the different to the experience of every Autistic person might help. Are there groups in your area run by Autistic people or a way she could get in touch with Autistic adults so that she might learn from them? 

There are, and we have Autistic adult friends(well, I do).  They’ve been a fantastic source of support and knowledge for me.  However, they are very slow to opening up and are less inclined to talk to her.  Not that she’s off putting, they just have established a comfort level with me from knowing me for a long time.  
 

This though, I haven’t asked them about because it feels like it would be insulting given the nature of the situation.  You know what I mean?  

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8 minutes ago, Cheetarah said:

There are, and we have Autistic adult friends(well, I do).  They’ve been a fantastic source of support and knowledge for me.  However, they are very slow to opening up and are less inclined to talk to her.  Not that she’s off putting, they just have established a comfort level with me from knowing me for a long time.  
 

This though, I haven’t asked them about because it feels like it would be insulting given the nature of the situation.  You know what I mean?  

Even if it is a chance to help another Autistic individual? 

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3 hours ago, Cheetarah said:

She tells me she’s being sarcastic; I said I don’t care. You don’t use sarcasm with kids, particularly one that you know is literal.  She apologized to him.  

The word sarcasm comes from Latin, it literally means to, "tear the flesh."  So it tears at the flesh/spirit of the person it is directed toward.

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14 minutes ago, Seraphim said:

Even if it is a chance to help another Autistic individual? 

I just don’t want them(my friends) to feel offended.  We have talked a lot about their struggles as adults in romantic relationships and how they often feel a burden.  I just don’t want to inadvertently bring up those feelings for them.  What do you think? 

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You know it really is more than sarcasm when she's threatening his safety. You're allowing her to threaten his overall sense of being safe in his own home.

And then her being allowed to threaten abandonment, that is **a lot** for a child to deal with. He's growing up in an abusive household.

 

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Hm. I understand. R very much knows he will be a “ burden “ to someone. Or at least that’s how society makes them feel. But he knows he will always need care and the support of someone.

However,  I truly feel and learning to understand autistic people one needs to learn from autistic people. 

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9 minutes ago, Seraphim said:

Hm. I understand. R very much knows he will be a “ burden “ to someone. Or at least that’s how society makes them feel. But he knows he will always need care and the support of someone.

However,  I truly feel and learning to understand autistic people one needs to learn from autistic people. 

I do agree with that.  Perhaps I will speak to one of them in particular tomorrow and ask.  My fiancée is receptive to learning, and I do know even if my friends felt that burden feeling they would very much push through it if it means helping someone. 

Edited by Cheetarah
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2 minutes ago, Cheetarah said:

I do agree with that.  Perhaps I will speak to one of them in particular tomorrow and ask.  My fiancée is receptive to learning, and I do know even if my friends felt that burden feeling they would very much push through it if it means helping someone. 

I hope it works out. ❤️

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20 minutes ago, maritalbliss86 said:

You know it really is more than sarcasm when she's threatening his safety. You're allowing her to threaten his overall sense of being safe in his own home.

And then her being allowed to threaten abandonment, that is **a lot** for a child to deal with. He's growing up in an abusive household.

 

I was waiting for someone to say this.  
 

ive been on the forum a long time (well, with a long gap though).  I wish you had known what I went through prior to this, with my ex husband.  It’s too much to go into and he’s not worth revisiting, only enough to say that the marriage and my son were both catalysts for massive change.  I raised my newborn alone and as far away from that man as possible.  This is my first serious relationship since, and the only person I dated that my child has met.  
 

I would not be here asking questions  if I wasn’t concerned.  

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4 minutes ago, Cheetarah said:

I was waiting for someone to say this.  
 

ive been on the forum a long time (well, with a long gap though).  I wish you had known what I went through prior to this, with my ex husband.  It’s too much to go into and he’s not worth revisiting, only enough to say that the marriage and my son were both catalysts for massive change.  I raised my newborn alone and as far away from that man as possible.  This is my first serious relationship since, and the only person I dated that my child has met.  
 

I would not be here asking questions  if I wasn’t concerned.  

I'm sorry for what you went through. I still don't see how your last situation being worse, somehow means this new relationship isn't still you allowing your partner to threaten your son.

Why stay with someone you have to convince not to threaten your son? It doesn't make sense to me.

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You know, this whole cycle this year of being home due to stay at home orders, unemployment, etc - sometimes households have been a bit tense because of it all.  The kids being home with unemployed or working at home adults, etc, with no end in sight doesn't help.

Instead of this being about her and how sometimes her patience is short - she works full time, then comes home and is immediately required to parent, etc, and now has to worry about everything she says or does, what about approaching it another way.

Is there any way you could find a part time job or volunteer op even if its very part time so that you are not spending every waking moment teaching, caring for or catering to your child  - even if its virtual?  in otherwords, you can come home to her with some grownup things to talk about your day or Is there ANY way in the world there is to put your son in school part-part time for an extracurricular or elective class that homeschooled children are entitled to partake in - where there is a paraprofessional -  in otherwords to get a "Grownup break" from either teaching him, caring for him 24-7?  I get it - COVID - but some areas are back to school or at least have one on one appointments for tutoring, occupational therapy, etc.  Could it be since your only focus now is him, you are getting too sensitive about what she says or does and are pushing her away from bonding with him or being involved?

 

 

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, maritalbliss86 said:

Usually physical abuse starts with the verbal stuff like what she's doing. Making threats against his safety is extremely serious, and usually it continues down a line of escalation.

Honestly, i doubt that. it sounds like misunderstood sarcasm - not a threat.

Edited by abitbroken
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