Children and responsibility..

If this has been done before, I was unable to find it in the archives. So, sorry in advance. :wink:

Bit of background… Father’s Day came and went at the Kitty household with nary a call or card from the StepKitties. I’m furious, mostly because I watched Mr. Kitty wander about all day yesterday with his cell phone, waiting for a call that never came. I co-lead a support board for stepmothers, and several of the SMs reported similar incidents at their homes (where the kids live with their mother, that is, and neglected to call their father). This incident led to the following post from one of my most respected posters, a woman I adore, which I’ve edited to remove any identifying stuff (oh, and BM stands for “biological mother”):


I responded that in some cases she was correct- that as stepmothers (especilly those of us who don’t have kids of our own) we have a tendency to look at these kids and assign a lot of expectations that are unrealistic. Mr. Kitty and I have been together for almost six years, since his kids were almost 10 and 11. For a long time I wondered why they couldn’t be more like I was when I was younger, or at least more like their dad. Although I could recognize cognitively that the expectations I had for the SKs were totally unrealistic, it still bugged the ever-living shit out of me when they would screw up in a way I couldn’t understand. Like the year they asked Mr. Kitty to take them out shopping so they could get BM’s husband a father’s day present, but didn’t buy Mr. Kitty anything. I can look back now and say “well, they were young.” But they’re older now… how long do we coddle them?

So here’s the point of this post. I want Doper input on the questions raised by the poster from the other board. To sum up: At what age do we hold children responsible for their actions? And beyond that…how are our children being taught to take on maturity and see the needs of others as well as their own? And yes, I recognize that it really does depend on the child. But… how can they learn if we continually excuse their behavior?

Although I don’t really want to argue over my particular situation, if you really want to you can incorporate an answer to the following as well: Was it unrealistic to expect my almost 16yo SS- the same boy who is currently learning to fly a bloody plane- and 17yo SD- the girl who’s getting married in three months, who drove up to spend the weekend with her mom on Mother’s Day- to call Mr. Kitty and wish him a happy Father’s Day?

Thanks in advance, folks.


Wow. That blows big, bloody chunks of phlegm.

And no offense to you or MrKitty, but is it possible that these kids feel closer to their stepdad, or hold MrKitty (whether rightly or wrongly) responsible for their biological parents’ divorce? I only say this because most of the Children-of-Divorce that I know tend to blame one parent over the other…

I don’t know what to tell you except that, assuming MrKitty is as you say he is (great dad, good to his kids), it is NOT unreasonable to expect them to remember him on Father’s Day. However, in light of their behavior, I don’t know how much good it would do for you or MrKitty to call them on their misstep, because it will only make you guys seem unreasonable.

This is something their BM should be taking up with them, IMO.

I think that responsibility is something that has to be taught. 16 and 17 are definitely old enough to start doing these things themselves. There are some kids at 13 YO who: remembers to do all this stuff on their own, or after a bit of nagging, or decide not to do it after the nagging anyway. Of course kids (and divorces) vary.

I think that at 15, if you could see an advertisement for sneakers and remember that you want them and remember later to ask for them, the same thing goes for Father’s day: There are enough ads out there to remind you in case you’re prone to forgetting or don’t own a calendar. I am assuming they did something for the step dad in their own household? Dinner or gifts? Then they definitely knew it was Fathers day, huh?

Maybe you should call them (or their mother) on it, you may be letting them get away with hurting his feelings, so that next time they decide they want to ‘forget’, it’s even easier.

You know, my husband has two dads, his stepdad and his bio-dad. He was estranged from bio-dad for a while, but they’re patching it up. He really likes his mother’s husband (been together since my husband was 4).
I reminded him about 3 times to think if he wanted to plan something for father’s day. I told him to remember to call his dads (either or both) on saturday (meaning call on sunday).
Did they get calls? Nope. I don’t know why, something is up with husband, it might have something to do with his grandfather’s death recently. Does it have anything to do with the dads? I don’t think so.
Lets see, where am I going with this? I don’t know, maybe just that I would certainly say that any problem with your SK is their problem, not Mr. Kitty’s. Hold them accountable that they didn’t call, but assume that it isn’t a reaction (or lack of reaction) to him.

I don’t think it was unrealistic to expect a phone call from the SS and SD on Father’s Day.

When I was 16, I knew I was supposed to do something for Mother’s and Father’s Day, even if it was just give them a hug and tell them I loved them. I can’t speak from personal experience with divorced parents, but my mom always made sure I at least called everyone who could conceivably fit in the category, like grandparents.

Those kids suck. I’m sorry, but come on! Teenagers are fully capable of calling dad of Father’s Day. The fact that they didn’t bother (for whatever reason) makes them the bad guys, not Mr. Kitty.

As long as this is not an acrimonious relationship already, there is no excuse for it.

I wouldn’t excuse their behaviour; they are both old enough to know better, if they’ve had the guidance that they should have (which should have started when they were about 5, IMO). If they haven’t been taught any better, then I think you may need to be the one to tell them. I wouldn’t get angry or anything, just tell them that he was expecting a call and was disappointed. Actions have consequences; they don’t call their Dad, they get a call from you.

They sound like very selfish kids to me. They are certainly old enough to take care of things on their own. Hell, even a younger child would more than likely make a card or something for dad. Picking up a phone and making a 5 minute call isn’t a huge sacrifice.

My ex and I don’t like each other, but each of us ensures that our son has a gift to give the other on birthdays, fathers/mothers day, Christmas, etc. because it’s important to our son to be able to bestow the gift. Most often, he also makes something at school that he can be proud of.

I don’t think you are being unrealistic at all. At the age these two kids are, they should show some self respect by showing their dad some respect.

Until a year or so ago, I couldn’t care less about Father’s day or Mother’s day. Then, I don’t know exactly what, but something made my attitude change. Perhaps it’s that my folks divorced, and my dad moved to Southern NY. I felt it very important to call him on Father’s day, but it is also the first year I’ve really made an effort to do so (I’m 22 by the way, and have been completely “out of the house” for 2 years). When I was a teenager, my mom would pester and pester me until I got my dad a card or something for F-day, and vice versa my dad for my mom.

I definitely understand the kids of that age not being into either of those holidays, but as you say the daughter went to lengths to celebrate mother’s day, that is kind of shitty. Also, at least for me, being away from my Father more has made communication with him more important.

Also, at this point (are both of those kids living in the same home as their BM?) I think their BM should ensure that the kids call/write dad for father’s day.

Woah- look at all the responses! I thought I’d checked email notification… hmmm… Thanks, everyone, for your input.

First off, a bit of clarification. The BM and her husband were only married for (quick calculations…) about a year or two. He’s no longer in the picture, so Mr. Kitty is the only “dad” figure the kids have. SD lives a state away now, supposedly saving money for her upcoming wedding (though I don’t see how this is possble since her bills skyrocketed as soon as she left the house). SS lives with his mom, but has been spending a number of weekends here working on the new house with us. Sure, we’re paying him which motivates him significantly, but it’s still time spent with his dad that normally he wouldn’t bother with.

And therein lies the kicker. When they need something, they’ll call. SS has been getting money from us, in addition to the child support, hand over fist for the work he’s been doing. But the one day they could have called to express their thanks, they didn’t. And it was the one year that Mr. Kitty really expected it to happen. Not only because they’re getting older, but because he’s gone out of his way financially recently, when we really can’t afford it, to make the kids’ lives a bit better.

In case you’ve been wondering, I called the BM Monday night. Left a message to the tune of “you may want to touch base with your children and have them call their father to wish him a happy post-father’s day.” I was (still am, truth be told) livid, so was probably a bit more snarky than necessary, but this is Mr. Kitty we’re talking about. Someone’s gotta look out for him.

Thanks again, folks, both for your support and your insight.


Maybe I’m missing the point, but I thought that everyone holds their children responsible for their actions as soon as they’re old enough to know that their actions have consequences. I mean, if I tell my two-year-old not to swipe cookies from the kitchen counter, and he starts to swipe the cookies, I’ll definitely hold him responsible and take action.

As for the stepkids in the OP – yes, they’re immature, and deserve a good tongue-lashing. But it won’t help Mr. bobkitty feel any better, methinks. :frowning: