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Brief history:

Became involved with a young woman, knowing she had a 5 year old daughter. Biological dad was in the picture til daughter was 2-3, and then left the state. Strangled mother while pregnant, does drugs, all around no-good.

My fiance (young woman) lived with her parents, and her parents generally raised daughter. When I came into the picture, fiance started coming around me more often and daughter grew to love me. However, there was definitely a noticeable need from daughter to be with grandparents and quite frequently.

We became pregnant and had a beautiful baby boy. Now my family consists of Myself, Mother, Daughter, and son.

The mother and grandmother are pretty close I would say and whenever the grandmother wants to see daughter, Mother let's her go. This has, in my opinion, gotten a bit out of hand when all summer (2+ months - EVERY weekend) daughter goes to her grandparent's house all the time.

Now, from her perspective - She was a single child, who inherited a brother. I'm generally gone during the week days working, and she has to fight for her mother's attention with her little brother. But when the grandparent's beckon her, she gets attention from both grandparents and they leave the boy home with us. So she gets undivided attention from two people instead of having to share one person's attention with her brother.

From my perspective. I don't get much time with either child during the week. My only time to spend with them is on the weekends. I expressed my thoughts to Mother - I don't get to see them. I'm trying to blend this family, but every time I have an inkling of time to spend with them together, she bails and goes and gets that 2 on 1 attention. When we are together we are two peas in a pod and vibe really well. I love her and try and do cool things with her and teach her. I've also bought us a new home that fits all of us with plenty of play room and got a new job to support all of these changes.

Now, we have another child on the way and I think it's super important for her to stay with us on the weekends. We are essentially making rules for my boy, and making daughter follow them too because now he looks up to her and does what she does. We are holding her accountable which without a doubt is probably a bit harder on her than when she was an only child, because she is constantly being told not to do something for reasons a, b. But we are explaining to her why we are enforcing these rules...we aren't just hushing her and sending her away. We take the time.

If she continues to go away on the weekends I feel like she will become alienated when the new baby arrives. I feel like she will pick up habits of her grandparents instead of habits of our family. I guess I'm curious if I'm being overbearing here...am I wrong to want her to stay with us? I mean sure get out every other weekend and get some time away with your grandparents (who spoil the heck out of her). But the majority of the time should be spent with us...

So another point is I'm the step-father. I feel like if I start enforcing this stuff with her mother, I will be looked at as the bad guy. I don't want to make either party upset, but this weekend for example she was gone from Friday 4pm to Sunday 5pm. I barely saw her at all. I was a bit upset about that. Do I have a right?

Any advice is much appreciated. Sorry for the length, but this does require some explanation. Thanks in advance!

UPDATE 1: Mother's thoughts - Mother sees things from both perspectives. She has usually allowed daughter to go with grandparents regularly because she, as a child, went to her grandparents regularly. My concern is that her parents didn't really prepare fiance for life and a lot of that fell on my shoulders. So when I raise my concern she sees it and feels deeply for the situation and tries to make adjustments but ends up just telling the grandparents "OP wants to spend more time with daughter so your weekends are cut off" Which ends up making them resent me.

Update 2: Questions to myself- It seems the grandparents have assisted in raising her as some commenters have mentioned. To answer some questions: I do feel like there is a power struggle. I will make house rules, and have a clip down system (taken from her school) so if she's bad three times she will need to go in timeout or whatever fitting punishment at that time. I enforce this. Mother enforces it when I'm gone. When she goes to grandparents she has free reign and no boundaries and comes back with no sense of accountability and does what she wants. Do I feel the need to have control? Yes, I would say I do feel the need to have control. Because of poor choices made in the past, which we are all guilty of, this girl has a void in her heart. I want to have at least a part in making that better, and filling that void as a father figure that loves her mother, and her. Grandparents are coming in as psuedo parent's and when they get two-on-one time it generates momentum in another direction. Then I find myself asking if she even wants to be here? If 9 times out of 10 she chooses to go hang out with them, does she want to live there?

Seems general consensus is to seek family counseling, which we will look into but I guess I am looking for some kind of validation here. If I'm invalid in my behavior and thoughts I can change and I will be the change, but I need to know if I'm way off base or if this makes sense.

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    You raise some very good points here, but what you haven't told us is what the mother thinks of all the things you say and why. Clearly there is disagreement if step-daughter was gone all weekend against your expressed desires. Have you thought about counseling? – anongoodnurse Jun 30 '15 at 1:18
  • @anongoodnurse Hi, and thank you! Mother sees it from both sides. She knows daughter wants to go have fun with the memaw type deal, but she also sees a growing divide in my time spent with her. I raise my concerns and things change temporarily but usually go back to the way things are now. – Hituptony Jun 30 '15 at 12:07
  • Perhaps a stupid question, but are the grandparents still working or already retired? If so, there are five more days per week they could spend time with her, making up for "time lost on the weekends"...? – Stephie Jul 1 '15 at 6:21
  • They are still working but they work between morning and evening shifts as medical coders/manager. Which I agree, they could definitely utilize that to spend their time with her. I am only off on the weekends and my work week is usually crammed. Great suggestion! – Hituptony Jul 1 '15 at 14:03
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I don't think your desire for time with your step daughter is wrong. It's a good desire. It sounds like you get her for the weekends a lot more during the school year than during the summer, though, and it also sounds like she has a wonderful support system between you, her mom, and her maternal grandparents.

First, you don't need to worry too much about her standards slipping because her grandparents don't enforce the same rules you enforce at home. There are probably a few things you'd definitely like them to enforce. Say, for instance, a rule about not swearing - if they are teaching her this or allowing her to watch entertainment with a lot of this and you disagree, this might be a place to step in and assert, with your wife, your rules you would like them to use with her. Children are very good at understanding rules and limits based on time, place, and people they are with, though, and between you and mom she is getting plenty of time learning from you two. I don't think you need to be concerned about confusion - allow her grandparents the freedom to set and enforce the rules in their home, and chances are good she will be better for the experience than worse. Keep in mind that the more rules you have, the more time and effort they take to enforce. Grandparents like it when you have a good solid foundation for rules, because they don't really have to enforce them, and if they find they need to they merely need to mention to the daughter, "What would your mother or father have to say about your actions?" and will gain compliance when needed. Their "lower" standards aren't trying to undermine your parenting - they are taking the easy road, and after raising their own child(ren) this is probably very refreshing. Choose very carefully the rules you really want them to enforce, and otherwise let them have the freedom to play with her on their terms.

Second, the frequency of the visits suggests you live fairly close to the grandparents. I'd suggest you and your wife involve them more in the younger children's lives, perhaps by asking them to babysit the younger kids for a few hours a week or month so you and your wife can go on dates. They and your children deserve a good relationship with each other, and giving them more access to your family should help resolve any lingering feelings of unfairness when you say, "No, we have plans for this weekend." Further, you don't want to generate additional jealousy or animosity in your younger children towards you or their grandparents due to the obvious difference in relationship. There will be a difference, but it needn't be increased.

Third, when you want time with her make firm plans at least a week in advance. When you talk with them in the course of dropping her off or picking her up on a given weekend, just mention that the following weekend you'll be doing something specific with her. Invite them along if appropriate. They will likely be content about your time spent with her and away from them if it's planned in advance and communicated often, rather than finding out the day before and feeling like they have to get permission every single time. Even if you don't have a specific event or schedule in mind, just letting them know a week in advance that the following weekend is already spoken for will help.

Her grandparents spent a great deal of time practically raising her. This is a very strong relationship, and wanting to visit every week is perfectly natural. Please don't begrudge them this time - to some degree they've lost a daughter and gained a granddaughter, and it's stressful on both them and her, even years after she moved out. This will change over time, but don't see it as alienation - if anything, she is experiencing alienation from the people who raised her for several of her most formative years.

I think you can trust that the relationship is good based on the signs you are already seeing, "When we are together we are two peas in a pod and vibe really well."

It's difficult, but sharing her with her grandparents should not be a source of unhappiness for you. Consider the above suggestions, but don't try to separate them any further - this isn't harmful for your daughter or you, and the feelings of loss you are experiencing are natural, but not any worse than what she and they are also experiencing.

Work it out with an eye towards love and I'm sure you will all find a happy compromise.

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    This is the answer I was looking for. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I will go forward with this in mind! – Hituptony Jun 30 '15 at 15:09
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As detailed as your question was, quite a few pertinent facts were not mentioned, but I'll do my best with what I have here. This is also long, and I hope I can help.

I can tell you from experience that legally speaking, perhaps depending upon the state in which you live, your legal rights are quite limited until you are actually married, and even then they are still limited by grandparents' rights, which in the case of this daughter would be quite valid, as would be the rights of the girl's biological father, even though he has moved out of state. I do not know if he is paying support or not, but if he is current on that, he is on even stronger footing unless he has actually signed away his rights. Obviously this is only an issue if you decide to really force an issue to which everyone else objects. You do not sound ready to do anything of the sort, but that would be the worst case scenario.

If you are asking for a validation of your feelings in the matter, I simply do not have enough information to make that kind of call, nor would I. That is for the parties involved to decide and that is where family counseling may be of service to you if you continue to have strong feelings about the need to change the current arrangement.

The wisdom of "stirring the pot" now because weekday and Sunday evenings are not enough to satisfy your desire to play a more powerful role as "man of the house" or "head of household" or, as you put it "enforcing things" in "daughter's" life, even though you seem to feel strongly it would be to her benefit for you to do so, could be seen as questionable given the complex and diverse set of circumstances in which you find yourself. This is even further complicated by the fact that according to what you wrote, everyone but you is quite happy with the situation as it is.

That said, my best advice for you would be to take a good, hard, deep down and honest look at what is motivating you, possibly beyond the understandable desire to be more inclusive of "daughter" in your blended and growing family. One question may be: "Am I actually having a power struggle of sorts with the grandparents?" or "Do I have a need to feel in control?" or "Do I feel entitled to have my way because I'm older, wiser and work hard for the money that supports this family?" I'm not asking you to answer these here, but do consider them. There is no right or wrong answer, just better insight into the situation.

My personal advice would be for you to make home life as pleasant as possible for her, with reasonable boundaries (kids really do crave them) and lots of love and support and communication and not too much "I'm the boss now" kind of interaction. As you pointed out, she is not your daughter, but over time she WILL come to think of you as a dad if you don't push too hard and give her lots of love, support and gentle structure, which she badly needs during this transitional time. She's had a lot of uncertainty in her life and her grandparents mean security to her right now. If all the grownups act like grownups she will see 'home' as at least equally secure. I would define that as your top priority for her right now. Part of being a parent, maybe especially in a blended family, is learning to put one's own feelings on the back burner at times and being able to compromise for the greater good. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Right now it seems everyone is getting along reasonably well in a situation that could easily have been far more difficult and which could also easily blow up in your face. If you push this, hard feelings are inevitable on the part of the people who were there for this child and raised her from birth and are probably still smarting from the loss of five days of custody/companionship per week to someone who, in their eyes, has not yet seen fit to fully commit to their daughter. They are older, and in my personal and professional experience this is how older people tend to view the current use of the word "fiance" to describe a broad spectrum of relationship styles from completely uncommitted to true family-type situations in which couples do not feel the need for legal protections.

Speaking of which, this lack of legal protections, ie; marriage, rarely works out in favor of the male parent, no matter how long he has supported a child, no matter that his name is clearly on the birth certificate, no matter what the history of the mother and no matter how good his attorney. A strong and sometimes deeply flawed bias still exists in favor of female parents--even when couples have married, so if you're serious about this family, that is a "right" I would advise you to seriously start thinking about protecting too. Men are truly left out in the cold in custody cases far too often. Again, I will clarify, I have no way of knowing what "fiance" means in your situation, but it appears fairly open ended, given you are on your second child together and still not married. That is an observation, not a judgment, and I bring it up for your protection and no other reason.

So, this is where I see your rights at the moment. As above, feelings are difficult to ascertain in this kind of venue. I would just ask that you consider the fact that this girl probably sees her mother as more of a sibling than a parent and sees her grandmother as more of a mother at this point in time. That is going to take time to change, and forcing the issue is very likely to have the exact opposite result of that which you are trying to achieve. A little bit of empathy and a lot of patience are probably your best allies right now.

Best wishes to you all, and congratulations on your pending new arrival!

  • Please see updates in post! Thank you for your answer! – Hituptony Jun 30 '15 at 12:21

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