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Posted by: BARBARA | 2004/01/28

Something to worry about or not?

About my 9 year old daughter. My x-husband and my current husband is complaining about her. We all live in the same small town. They think that because of the below she will be a huge problem when she becomes a teenager one day (falling pregnant, being kicked out of school, sleeping around, stealing, not passing exams, not working after grade 12 but loafing at home, etc). My x-husband said that she needs to get in a routine (she is in a routine at our house.)

The 2 men hate it that you have to tell her to clean her bedroom/bathroom, clean up after herself, do her school homework after school, our and my x-husband’s video machines she out-tunes regurly - she had permission to play her videos, my x-husband had to get someone to reload all his programmes on his computer after she was on it - but he gave her permission, she has lied a few times to me and my husband when we asked her about something she has done wrong.

We are teaching her to have respect for grown-ups and also to have respect for other peoples belongings as well as to look well after her own belongings. For example she has toys shoes and clothes lying around outside and in the house SOMETIMES, CD’s that is lying around and does not put it back in their covers. She is sometimes cheeky with grownups (when they play with her a lot she treats them as friends her age) or wants to tell you what to do or she wants something now and will ask repeatedly until she gets it, etc. She gets a lot of attention and love from all of us. My husband and I also discipline her when she does not do the rules of the house - discipline by grounding (no friends for a while), no tv, no sweets, etc.

My x-husband asked if our daughter could stay with him and his wife for a year or maybe 3 months, he has set up a routine for her with rewards (sweets, pocketmoney, taking her to movies, taking her to the swimming pool, etc). He is not involved at all with her school and never takes her to swimming or the movies, but he would like to get more involved in her life. I asked my daughter how she feels about staying there for a year, she does not want to – she asked please that everything just stay normal and she wants to stay with us – she also said she is scared that her father will not bring her back to us and that she is too shy to ask him to bring her back - she will just wait until I come to fetch her again. She speaks freely with me – if she wants to go see her father – I take her. If her father asks her if she wants to go to them for the weekend, she would just say what she thinks he would like to hear. She goes to him every 2nd weekend and holidays, but sometimes she would like to see him more and other times less or when he has something special on the weekend he would phone and ask if she could come for that weekend.

I spoke to my x-husband’s wife of 1year. She said that she is scared that our daughter will be scarred for life if we do something like that (take her away for a few months from her mom) and that maybe my daughter would think she is in my way, because her little brother would be staying behind (I have a 15 month old baby boy with my 2nd husband). Stepmom said that she know that I and my daughter has a special bond between us and she can hear that I sound sad over the phone. Stepmom named all the negatives. That made me and my husband decide it will not be a good idea + we are scared it will perhaps damage my x-husband and his wife’s marriage, we also do not trust my x-husband as I am scared he will try to take my daughter away from me by contacting a lawyer after he has had my daughter for a few months.

This morning I told my x-husbands wife we decided no and I told her what my daughter has said –that she does not want to go. I asked her not to repeat this to my x-husband and she said she will not.

This morning when my x-husband phoned, he flew into a rage and said he feels like disowning our daughter and that he feels like he wants to write her off and never see her again and if she has problems or if we have problems with her one day then we or she must not go to him and he only wanted to help as he is seeing she is heading for trouble and she is going to turn out into our worst nightmare one day. He was very upset about what our daughter said and he said he does not even want to see her again. He said we better start beating her (when she does not brush her teeth - as he believes she should do this out of her own and nobody should tell her) otherwise she will never come right etc. He has said in the past if she goes to bed and did not brush her teeth, he will not tell her to go brush her teeth he would just beat her. She does everything at our house, except sometimes she does not clean her room and sometimes I will find her shoe outside or in the lounge. He talks alot about beating and wants us to beat our child, but when I spoke to his wife beating was not on his list - what was there was taking away privileges and giving rewards. I know he does not beat her alot, but he did when I was married to him when she was very small.

I phoned my x-husband wife and asked her why did she tell him what our daughter said. She said that she had to tell him, because he is her husband and if he finds out one day that she knew this and did not tell him that he would hold it against her. I said to her well if he confronts our daughter, my daughter is not trusting me again and will not tell me what she feels again. She sounded disappointed that we decided not sending our daughter to them and told us all the plans they made last night about getting our daughter into a routine and disciplining her etc. – my x-husband wanted to get more involved in her school and attend all her sport and all the school functions, and that he wanted to change his life for our daughter, etc. Which he never wanted to do in the past – although I phoned him every time my daughter had sport at school and all the school plays, etc. he NEVER attended.

I asked her softly, but you sounded so negative yesterday? Then she flew into a rage saying that she is only the stepmom and she does a lot for our child, she spends a lot of money on our child (she bought R600 clothes for our daughter which they keep at their house, all the toys and everything they buy stay at their house). She was highly upset and said that I should never phone her again or speak to her again and I must never ask her anything again, because she is spending so much money on our daughter etc. (My husband is a miser). And she said everyone is saying bad things about her and thinking bad of her. I was very shocked – because actually I feel she is the best thing that could have happened to my daughter and she put me x-husband on the right road and we all like her alot. I have never heard anybody saying anything bad about her, and this is a very small town so people do tend to talk a lot. I could not believe this, it felt like the twilight zone. I tried calming her down (this took awhile and she was still upset). I told her it will not help for our daughter to go to them for 3 months and that we should do something that will last her life long. She said that I make it sound as if she does not want our daughter there. I said to her that is not what I meant. She said why are you backtracking suddenly. I said to her all the negative stuff she talked about yesterday, that is one of the reasons that changed my mind, because what she said is true.

Why was she (stepmom) so upset? And why did she tell my x-husband what my daughter said – as this drove a wedge between my x-husband and our daughter. And if he should talk to my daughter about this, her trust will be broken in me - so my relationship with my daughter will also be broken.

Is my daughter really so terrible and will she really turn out the terrible person they think? My daughter is soft hearted, loving and lazy. (how will my x-husband change his life for 3 months - must I believe this - will he really turn his life around just to have her for 3 months at his house. I still feel 3 months will not change her.)

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Our expert says:
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Dear barbara,
Phew ! Your Ex sounds oddly motivated, and having too much to say about beating children. He sounds like the really wants to enrol the child in a dog's Obedience Schhol ! The one plan he talked about, making a more organized agreement with your daughter about her duties and chores, related to giving or withholding treats, could be useful. I presume that he doesn't inspect the condition of your house, so his complaints about her leaving a mess, must refer to what she does when visiting him ?
He sounds like a difficult man to deal with, and his new wife is probably doing her best to handle the situation ; she may have spoken frankly to you, but then got backed into a corner by him demanding to know what you had talked about. The idea of the child going to spend months with him against her will is a lousy one, especially with his Obedience Training agenda.
From your description, maybe you're rather too lax with her, and she is developing some lazy and messy habits, which could do with iomprovement --- but it's you and your husband who have the responsibility to decide this, and to arrange it. There's something strange and a bit suspicious in your Ex's sudden excess of interest in getting involved in his daughter's life, which doesn't sound wholesome.

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Our users say:
Posted by: lady nina | 2004/01/29

hi there

it sounds like you guys have really worked hard at turning a bad situation ( divorce) into good one ( you being on good terms with your ex's new wife) well done!!!

as a single parent i know how much you want to protect your child and make up for the hurt that was caused - thats not a good thing in the long run...

the fact that you broke your child trust could be a big draw back but it can also be an opportunity to bound with her again
have a meeting with her and tell her you have something to confess and have made a big mistake - you hope she will find it in her heart to 4give you- you also need to promise that it will not happen again - if you feel you have to tell n 3rd party you will ask her premission.... confess that you never intende to harm her or her father and was only asking advice - don't blame the step mom at all, only explain that husbands and wives normally discuss important matters like this and you never told her that it was confidential - take all the blame on yourself - only then will she respect you and feel sorry for you..

i can understand how upset your ex is - he was told he is not good enough and he hasn't even done her any deliberate harm , is all due to him neglecting his parental rights and previledges - image how rejected and hurt he must feel?!
surely he will strike back with hurtfull comments - but im sure he will see the light in the end...

if he is the kind of guy who normally you can have a decent conversation with and who is understanding and carring , then wait till he cools down and then have a meeting with him, his wife, your child and your new hubby.. tell them you appreciate the offer but don't feel it wise - something like a parent getting more involved should happen spontanous not forced by rules - he is welcome to get more involved with he schooling but he needs to take the first step - you are opening the door or opportunity... specially thank the stepmom for all her love and careing - its not easy to love step kids - and she really is good at heart even if she just like all of you have made mistakes, you daughter should also show appreciation and respect -- then discuss the rules and punishments of your child - get input from all 4 adults and if possible get the same rules to apply in both homes - the same rewards and punishments.

you all sound like pretty good people and this is just a test that you have to pass - the best person will be the least and make the effort to keep this happy family together

take care

nina

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