Loyalty bind putting child at risk

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  July 25, 2012 06:00 AM

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[This letter has been condensed. BFM]
Help...I'm at my wit's end. My 6 yr old stepson acts horrible! He has 13 and 19 yr old sisters and their mother was deported when he was a baby. His father's two sisters [Margarita & Marcy] helped with the kids. In fact, Margarita, who is unable to bear children, moved in and basically raised Santiago, the 6yr old. Marcy basically raised the oldest, leaving the middle child to be raised by dad. Then I came along. They are a Hispanic family and I am Anglo. Their father and I dated for two years...all seemed ok. Then we moved in together and all help broke loose.

Aunts still came in house taking over and not allowing me to take care of kids or much privacy. Until recently I was not allowed by aunts to take 6yr old to school or attend school activities. They didn't care about middle child. She and I have become very close. 6 yr old and I started getting close and wanting to call me mom and the aunts had a fit...in front of him....He cried to me and asked why his aunts dislike me. I had to lie and say I don't know sweetie...don't worry..it will all be ok. We basically share custody with the aunts because he spends Wed night with one and Fri night with other. Plus they pick him up from school almost every day.

Basically....we know they have said bad things about me and talked bad about me to him and in front of him and he is acting so bad with me. They let him do anything he wants...no rules...no boundaries while at their house and his behavior is horrible. He throws fits...screams at everyone... He now talks bad about me in Spanish and no one corrects him when he does it but his father. Ramon has talked to them...fought with them yet they still will not discipline him. He is getting worse because he is spending more time with them and it's awful! I'm at my wits end and about to move out cause between the aunts and this kid hating me....I just don't think I can handle it anymore. There is so much more but too much already typed. :(....please help.

From: Sherry, Paris, TX

Dear Sherry,

Stories like this make me so sad; I honestly can never understand why grown people put vulnerable children in such loyalty binds. . Ramon, by his inaction, is just as guilty as they are, because he is allowing this to happen. It sounds like he's made only half-hearted efforts to deal with the aunts. I'm sure he feels indebted to them for their help after the boy's mother was deported, and I'm sure there is also some cultural issues here, but -- and this is a big "but" -- he's still the child's father. It's one thing to share custody with extended family; I have no problem with that in theory. But it sounds like these aunts are hijacking this little boy's childhood, forcing him to choose between them and his father and you. (And why is he spending more time with the aunts? Why is dad allowing that to happen? Maybe he doesn't see it that way? Maybe he doesn't care? There are so many possibilities here.)

The bottom line, though, is that your description of the situation sounds like a potential disaster in terms of this little boy's mental health and, from the sound of it, yours, too. Dad needs to set limits not only on the custodial arrangements but also on the emotional, behavioral and psychological ones. Otherwise, this child is growing up with a list of potential issues, starting from wishing his mother could be in his life (and possibly, via magical thinking, thinking it's his fault she isn't); wondering why his father doesn't play more of a role, and feeling torn between aunties and daddy and step-mom. As the step-mom here, though, there isn't much you can do. You are the interloper. Even in the best of circumstances, it can take years for a step-mom or step-dad to comfortably take an active parenting role.

I hope Ramon steps up. If he doesn't, I agree, you've got some decisions to make.

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2 comments so far...
  1. This quote from Barbara, "it sounds like these aunts are hijacking this little boy's childhood" - this is unfair.
    Obviously they shouldn't be speaking badly about the stepmom and the father should step up. But this kid's mother was deported and the aunt moved in and raised him from a baby! The aunt raised this child. Now she's supposed to step aside, as if that never happened? And it sounds like the LW is not even married to the father, so the aunt-who-is-like-a-mother is supposed to relinquish the child to someone who has made no commitment to stay around? Certainly, the aunts are acting badly, but it sounds like they're acting out of uneasiness and worry for the well being of the child.
    There is unfair behavior on both sides. It sounds like a formal, written schedule and plan (facilitated by the dad) would give everyone the most security. The adults would all know when they had their time, and the kid would be secure knowing his schedule.

    Posted by maryc July 27, 12 11:05 AM
  1. I agree with maryc, that quote is unfair. The one aunt moved in and raised him for several years! And then she was expected to move out and go to one night a week? Certainly, they should not speak poorly in front of the child, but their unhappiness is understandable. Dad and aunts need to sit down together and work out an arrangement regarding custody and rules.

    I suggest the LW and the aunts spend some time getting to know one another, since they will always be a present part of the child's life. They don't all have to be friends, but the child needs to see all the adults in his life getting along with each other, and with shared rules.

    Posted by mm July 27, 12 02:41 PM
 
2 comments so far...
  1. This quote from Barbara, "it sounds like these aunts are hijacking this little boy's childhood" - this is unfair.
    Obviously they shouldn't be speaking badly about the stepmom and the father should step up. But this kid's mother was deported and the aunt moved in and raised him from a baby! The aunt raised this child. Now she's supposed to step aside, as if that never happened? And it sounds like the LW is not even married to the father, so the aunt-who-is-like-a-mother is supposed to relinquish the child to someone who has made no commitment to stay around? Certainly, the aunts are acting badly, but it sounds like they're acting out of uneasiness and worry for the well being of the child.
    There is unfair behavior on both sides. It sounds like a formal, written schedule and plan (facilitated by the dad) would give everyone the most security. The adults would all know when they had their time, and the kid would be secure knowing his schedule.

    Posted by maryc July 27, 12 11:05 AM
  1. I agree with maryc, that quote is unfair. The one aunt moved in and raised him for several years! And then she was expected to move out and go to one night a week? Certainly, they should not speak poorly in front of the child, but their unhappiness is understandable. Dad and aunts need to sit down together and work out an arrangement regarding custody and rules.

    I suggest the LW and the aunts spend some time getting to know one another, since they will always be a present part of the child's life. They don't all have to be friends, but the child needs to see all the adults in his life getting along with each other, and with shared rules.

    Posted by mm July 27, 12 02:41 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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