After 15 Years, She's Still Petty Towards My Son. Should We Talk About It?

Updated on May 27, 2017
T.H. asks from New York, NY
12 answers

Ladies, hello. On yesterday, my teen son shared with me that his father called him and expressed that he would be taking him to Greece as part of his birthday celebration. My son stated that it would be him, his sister, his sister's mom and of course his father. His father hasn't shared any of this with me yet. Not one detail. I am excited for my son to have this experience as traveling the world is something that I intend to do with him as well. We actually have some international trips already planned for the summer.

The reason why I'm writing this post is because I became slightly annoyed with a little of what he did share with me (because his father doesn't plan trips like this unless a female is involved)
He's dropped the ball many times when planning something for our son). In the past, this woman has indirectly made comments to my son about me. For example, a few years ago while they were out shopping (all 4 of them), she sneezed and asked my son is he had heard her sneeze and when he said that he had, she asked him "Your mother never taught you any manners?" Yes, she wanted him to say "God bless you". There have been other times, when he's been around visiting and she'll try to "make an example out of me." I'm assuming that because they've been dating off and on for over 15 years now (my son is 14), that she's jealous. My son's father cheated on me with her. I left him when I was 4 months pregnant.

Anyway, I spoke with my son's father about the indirect insults and he stated that he shared with our son that it would've been nice to have said "God bless you", but that he expressed to the girlfriend that it wasn't necessary for him to have said it.

Here's where I need advice. I've come to realize that this type of pettiness has been going on for years, ever since he was a little boy. I know that because his father stated that when our son was a baby, he told her that she didn't have to "be involved". That because it was his son, "he would take care of everything". I know for a fact that she has had influence on his father's level-of-involvement throughout the years.

My question is, I'm leery about this trip they're going to have together. I know that she's not "mean" to him per say (he would've told me) but I think this is something that us 3 adults should talk about. I'm not sure. It's so petty that this foolishness takes place. I know my son can handle himself but shouldn't I let her know that her comments have been unacceptable. This is just a weird situation in a way.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much Ladies. All advice has been well-noted. Taking the high road on this. I'm going to let dad know that I heard a little about Greece and that I'm very happy that he'll be taking our son on a beautiful, international trip and I would love to see the itinerary. I'll be sure to communicate that I need access to checking in on our boy as well. I'll trust that dad will do the right thing if any boundaries are crossed and that my son will stand firm if any negativity comes his way. I'm reassured that this is a blessing and nothing can come between that. I definitely won't be petty in return by attempting to discuss anything with the girlfriend.

More Answers

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

If it doesn't bother him, ignore it and know that she's just a small, petty and insecure person. At 14, he's old enough to "get it" and understand that she's petty and to be ignored.

If he is telling you that it bothers him, and he's not comfortable talking to his dad about it directly, then it's OK for you to help facilitate that conversation. My younger sons are 11 and 13 and when my ex does something that bugs them, I tell them to talk to him about it. If they're really upset though, and want my help, they'll tell me that and I'll broker a conversation between them and their dad (who can be childish and petulant). If my ex had a significant other who also said or did things that bugged them and they weren't comfortable talking to him about it, I'd help them with that conversation as well.

But if he can let it roll off his back and doesn't care, then let it go - it seems that he's probably figured out that he's the bigger person (compared to your ex's girlfriend) already.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I agree with J.B. You cannot do anything about a woman who has been in your husband's life (and your son's) for 15 years. Your son needs to develop a backbone and learn how to deal with difficult or petty people.

He can
1) talk to his father, who seems willing to put this woman in her place if she gets way out of line and to let her know that he is the parent, not her
2) learn to ignore her
3) learn to speak up, respectfully, and say, "My mother raised me just fine, just as well as my father did. I respect them both and won't discuss it with people who don't," and then change the subject.
4) decline the trip
5) spend more time with his sister.

Your job is to help him build resilience. Yes, this woman has been around for years, but I notice that his father hasn't married her, apparently. Any 14 year old needs to learn how to talk with adults with whom he disagrees, including teachers and coaches and activity advisors and so on. He needs to learn to choose his battles.

Your other job is to contact your ex and say, "Our son informs me that there is a trip to Greece planned. What are the dates?" When the time comes, I think you're entitled to a general itinerary. I don't see why the 3 adults should sit down and discuss this - it's between you and your son's father only. But the discussion cannot include any mention of this woman's thoughtless remarks. That's just not your business, nor is it anything you can do anything about, so it's only going to build resentment and probably make her more inclined to criticize you. Take the high road here.

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J.B.

answers from Tulsa on

It's really not your place. This is between his father, your son, and his GF. I've been a stepmom for 17 years. I'm sure we did some things that BM didn't like and I know she did things we didn't like but, the reality is, it was not our place to tell her how to interact with the kids anymore than we would have accepted that sort of critique coming from her. In the big scheme of things, it doesn't sound abusive . . . . and your son is at the age that he can address it with his father if it really bothers him.

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

I would be honest with your son. Build him up so his self esteem can handle the criticism and cutting remarks and help him figure out what emotions are behind her pettiness. Work on some role playing so he can have a respectful but smart comeback or at least have a positive reaction in his mind about what a great kid he is when she takes the low road. My son is 14. It's difficult enough to navigate the waters as a new teen without an adult in your life tossing out snide comments. Give HIM the tools he needs and empower him to handle jerks in his life. She's not going to change and may take it out on him if you call her out. Don't do that to your son. He has no escape in a foreign country.

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D.D.

answers from Boston on

There will always be someone negative in your son's life; bosses, teachers, coworkers, classmates, etc. As long as he's surround with loving people those negative ones will have little impact on him. As he's getting older your job is to stop hand holding him and set the example on how to handle situations as they come along. Remember your job is to raise a productive adult who will survive in the world long after you are gone.

If this woman says negative things to your son then its his choice to either speak up, correct her misinformation, or stay silent. He doesn't get to stay silent and then complain to you so you'll talk to his father about it. He's not a little boy anymore.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't think this is the time to bring this up. Your son has apparently taken the comments in stride for 14 years. Why sour a great opportunity to travel with this conversation now? My advice is that IF your son mentions these comments to you, just laugh them off and tell him not to worry about anything his stepmom says about you because it doesn't bother you (and don't let it bother you).

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M.S.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I think your plan to take the high road is spot on!

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H.D.

answers from Chicago on

It is your right to know what is going on with your son specially if they are going out of the country. I believe the reason she is so petty because deep down inside she feels insecure or have less value than you. People talk about others to feel superior. I wonder what is her relationship with her daughter is like and if at some point your son's dad criticized her for something you do well.
It could be your Son's relationship with you that makes her jealous or it could be that your son,rightfully so, does not have respect for her for breaking his family before he was born. Your son's father should draw the boundaries for her and tell her to not speak of you if she doesn't have something nice to say. I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of getting to you. She has the man and still jealous of you. That says a lot about how insecure she is.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I think your son sounds old enough to speak for himself. If he didn't want to say "God bless you" he didn't have to say it and it's his own choice to say it or not.

He could have said "Yes, I learned manners and I don't like using God's name in vain over a sneeze. It's a silly tradition to do that and I choose to not follow it". Or something similar.

He can speak up for himself. I'd stay out of it because #1, his dad raised him too so it's an insult on him too and he didn't take it too seriously, #2 it just makes you look petty. It's just an admonishment for not doing a silly tradition.

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D..

answers from Miami on

The problem with bringing it up before the trip is that she might punish him more by doing more of it just to get back at you.

I do think that sometimes you should sit down with your son and tell him that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, and you hope that he will remember that and never do it to anyone else. If you don't tell him it's unacceptable, he may internalize it and eventually talk like that himself.

And yes, you have to grit your teeth and let him go on the trip. What you can and should do is expect and obtain a detailed itinerary. And your son should have some way of contacting you.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Good advice below.

Your only contact should be with his dad. At 14, your son can address it with his dad if it bothers him. He can also address it with his dad's girlfriend - in a respectful way. You can just use it as a life experience to learn from - that when someone disrespects someone in your family or a friend (or you) that you can either not respond at all (which I tend to do), or put it back on the person - saying "that's not really any of your concern".

I fully agree that you should not get involved in it unless it gets worse or your son doesn't want to visit with his dad any more because of the girlfriend. In that case, as JB says, you can respectfully set up a conversation with your ex and your son - and leave them to it.

I don't think you have to be involved in their trip plans - but certainly you will need to know some details. I don't know how good communication is between you and your ex, but I'd just casually mention you're aware of the trip and would like some information just so you're up to speed.

You deal with your ex only where you have to. Don't deal with his girlfriend. Let your son take the lead and support your son.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

"I know my son can handle himself"...
And stop, right there.

I'm sure your son has enough common sense to understand that his father's girlfriend/wife/whatever is a bit silly. To expect someone to comment on one's sneezing? Rather silly.

I would let him go without a big talk beforehand. It's obvious your ex is going to back his partner up, and your son will eventually see the forest for the trees in how he is treated, Dad's level of interaction, etc. It may completely backfire if you address this, because it's small stuff... just let him go. Let him know he can call you whenever he needs to. I think it will be fine.

Ah, tired-- just read your resolution to take the high road. Good for you!

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