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Our readers ask questions about being a stepparent.Letters from CyberParent readers.

StepParents’ Letters

Step Parenting

I just found your website tonight and have enjoyed reading it. I am writing
to request information or organizations with information on stepparent rights.
I married my husband last summer and gained a 5 year old daughter and almost 4
year old son who are wonderful and have a great relationship with me. Really!
My problem is that their mother who has already been remarried and divorced in
less than a year is interfering tremendously with our relationship. She does
not allow me to call her home to speak with the children (she has physical
custody), told my stepdaughter’s school that I cannot be involved in the
teacher conferences with my husband, says I cannot make doctor, dentist, and
hair appointments for my stepkids, etc, doesnt let me hug them or tell them
bye after visitation, she just takes them and runs to the car like she’s going
for a touchdown with 2 footballs in her hand. She has been a neglectful
parent to the children both physically, emotionally, financially, socially,
morally, etc. We have gone to court 6 times to enforce court orders regarding
our visitation and rights already granted to us by the court. We lost our
custody hearing. So we are not interested right now in using lawyers or court
systems to enforce our rights. I just want to know if there are any written
laws or written limitations on my involvement with my husbands kids. I cant
believe that I am not allowed to call and set up an annual doctor checkup for
the kids. (Their mother does not take them to a doctor, dentist, or even get
their haircut). I think the big problem is that she feels neglectful when we
take the responsibility to care for the children regularly, and we think she
is. I just dont want to do anything officially wrong. Can you help me?


Greetings,

My husband has two children from his first marriage, a daughter, age
15 and a son, age 11. He and his ex-wife have been divorced for
about six years. She has remarried also. The children live with
her and have a typical visitation schedule with us – every other
week-end and splitting holidays and the summer. We live about 50
miles apart. The relationship between my husband and his ex-wifem
while not always so rosy, is now fairly pleasant.

My husband is a great father and, until recently, has had a good
relationship with his kids. I too have had a good relationship with
them. We used to talk on the phone at least once a week, usually
more often. Our week-ends were not Disneyland, but doing things
together and just hanging out.

In the space of 6 months, it feels as if we are strangers with the
kids. The kids no longer call us, unless they want something (like
to cancel week-end plans with us). They seem to be interested only
in their friends and their lives at home (with their mother). We
seem to be out of sight, out of mind.

We are intelligent, rational people. At their ages, we would hope
that they would want to spend time with their friends and have busy,
fun lives. We are happy to hear about the fun things they are
doing.

We are in a tough spot. If we call less often or cancel many
week-ends, we go a long time without speaking to or seeing them. On
the other hand, they seem to be not very interested in spending any
time with us.

This past week-end was a three day week-end and we went to the
mountains. After being gone for two days, the 11 year old asked to
call his mother "just to say hi." We said of course, but had to
wonder (silently) how it is he can go two weeks without speaking to
his dad and not two days without speaking to his mom.

Of course, my husband is very hurt by this and then I feel angry
because I see this and the kids don’t seem to or just don’t care.

Anyone else have this sort of situation?

K


Answer

I think we have been in the same situation. My husband’s daughter startedthis at age 13. Later the other daughter started it, too. She was only 12 at the time shestarted dragging her heels about leaving home. At first we were both hurt. But I talked toa friend of mine who is a school counselor and she suggested that it was probably thatteen-age-peer thing. The way she explained it, most children reach an age where nothing ismore important than their peers–seeing them, talking to them, etc. She suggested we justkeep in touch as usual, or do more of it through writing, etc. and wait it out. I can’tsay it doesn’t hurt anymore but at least now we understand it is not really a personalagenda, just part of growing up.
I did puzzle over the fact that the 11 year old wanted to call home. He may have wanted tosee if Mom said who called or came by looking for him.
Hope this helps. Children can hurt you so much.

YK

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