To properly explain this, I should go back to when I first met my husband - nearly seven years ago. From the time he and I met, his former wife/the bio-mom has made many attempts to undermine and belittle him (and later, me). From name calling to explaining to the children that the rules in our house aren't "real rules" and telling the children that we are "stupid" and "liars" - all of these statements were volunteered by the children at different points throughout the years - she has really been on the offense since she and my husband separated. In fact, even though we have the children in our home fifty percent of the time, and are very much part of their lives, when the children are in her home they must address their step-dad as "Dad" and they must call their real dad (my husband) by his first name. This was done long before the bio-mom and her (now) husband were married, and it's something that bothers me on a daily basis.
It has always, always, been my husband's standpoint (which I adopted when we started dating) that we never ever badmouth or undermine the kids bio-mom. When they complain about something she's done or some rule she's set or some punishment they've received, it's been a standard response to remind them that she is their mom, she loves them, and she probably has a good reason for making the decisions she does. Believe me, there are times I nearly bite a hole in my tongue and I get a bit of indigestion from swallowing the hard truth (really, she makes some crazy decisions!). But... in the end, she is their mom, and we can't change or prevent anything she does, so why hurt the kids in the process?
In recent years, it's becoming much more obvious that she's "winning" this battle. I guess when the "enemy" is bombarding us with weapons of mass destruction, our "balloons of kindness" (for lack of a better term) are a bit silly and fluffy and ineffective.
Here on "our side" of the trenches, we are now viewed as weak, ineffective, poor decision makers who are incapable of real parenting. These teenagers (and pre-teen) have gradually decided that when they don't like what we say/do or deem appropriate in our home, they can simply ignore it (per the bio-mom's long-standing instructions).
Tonight, after my husband had a loooong discussion with my step-daughter about her attitude and how she needs to work on kindness, he came downstairs looking plainly defeated and heavy-hearted. "Am I a bad parent?" he asked. I know for a fact that he is an amazing parent, capable of kindness and patience and consideration beyond anything I can ever hope to possess. Regardless, I knew what he was getting at, and I offered him this analogy:
Suppose you worked in a small office; it was you and four coworkers. Your four coworkers are John, Jane, Bob, and Betty. Every day you go to work, John and Jane tell you how utterly stupid Bob and Betty are; Bob and Betty are worthless employees who can't be trusted with even the most simple of projects. They are - in a sense - morons. Conversely, every day Bob and Betty tell you how wonderful John and Jane are; how they handle things appropriately and efficiently. Even when you tell them that John and Jane are always badmouthing and undermining them, they reply that they like John and Jane and respect them as fellow employees of the company.
Which coworkers would you respect? All conversations and accolades are obviously in John and Jane's favor. Bob and Betty don't stand a chance.
I'm beginning to feel this is something we will never ever overcome. Perhaps it's too late - HELP!!!