Hello everyone, I'm new to being a mom of any sort, so I have a lot of questions.
I'm currently in a relationship with a man I've known for over a decade.
He has been divorced for about a year and has an 11 year old daughter, who is about as nice of a kid as one could ask for. Never talks back, always smiling, funny, kind, interesting, etc., but I am really struggling with her lack of independence. She has been babied her whole life, especially in the last 4 years. She lives with her mother and grandparents when she isn't with her father. She doesn't act spoiled, but it's like she has no idea what to do with herself when in the presence of adults. She seems fine with other kids or at school.
8 months ago, she didn't even cut her own food up at meals, she didn't know how to order meals in a restaurant, she had never made her bed, picked up her room, or made a bowl of cereal. When we go into stores, restaurants, etc. she doesn't open the door. She waits for someone to open it for her. Over the last few months, I've been slowly trying to work on establishing some independence in her, and she and her father are always receptive to the changes, but I seem to be hitting a major wall lately. Some things have definitely improved, but there are still so many hurdles to overcome, and I seem to be becoming less tolerant of it all.
I'm a type A introvert. I need to have my space. I'm a terrible communicator in situations that are out of my comfort zone...this one.
The 11 year likes to follow us/me everywhere. When she's with us, she never, ever goes off on her own to do anything. If I go to the basement, she follows me up and down. If I go to another room, she follows me back and forth. If we are all in the kitchen cooking, etc. she is standing in the middle of it all. Just standing there not doing or saying anything. She's not a motor mouth, and is generally pretty quiet, but happy. I think I could tolerate it better if she was a spazing, motor mouth, because then I would at least know the behavior wasn't because of lack of confidence. The other day she left her Dad outside and came into the house while I was cleaning the kitchen. She just stood in the middle of the room and didn't say anything...just sort of stared at me. I had acknowledged her and said a few things about what was going on outside, but I was busy doing something and was focused on that. I finally nicely said, "You look like you could use something to do. Why don't you read a book, or go outside and play with the dogs."
There was another incident in the kitchen (my kitchen is tiny). I said three or four times, "Too many cooks in the kitchen" because while she wasn't doing anything, she insisted on being right in there with us. I finally just booty bumped her out of the way as I bent over to get something out of the fridge. She finally got the hint and happily moved out of the way.
It's just painful to be around a child that has absolutely no imagination and no desire to do anything unless she's told to do it. She's happy as a clam if you put her to a task. We still do things together all of the time, but I feel like such a jerk for wanting her to go off on her own sometimes. I feel completely smothered and I'm finding myself avoiding her so I don't have to deal with her being a shadow. I like to spend time with her and I hate that I've started to feel this way.
She does the same stuff to her Dad, but him being her Dad, he just tells her to quit following him and to go do something. That is very rare though, as he's so used to her following him around, that he doesn't see/feel it as much as I do. Or if she's always underfoot, he is fine telling her to get out of the way. He doesn't have her as much as her mother, so there is also a desire to spend more time with her than would be felt if she lived with him full time.
So my question is this, if a child has way more than most kids ever thought about having, is it concerning that an 11 year has so little desire to do anything on their own? What are other 11 years olds generally like? If I had even 1/10 of what she has to play with/do, I would have been in heaven growing up.
I don't think this is the result of his divorce. I think it's just the way she's been raised to this point. Her mother is very, very, very (did I mention very) controlling. Her father thinks that's where it comes from, as she's not really this way with other kids or at school. I encourage her all of the time and have never raised my voice to her. I have pointed out if she leaves her clothes wadded up on the floor in the closet, etc., but there have been no tense moments, other than me wanting to run and hide.
How do I encourage independence in a child that isn't mine, but is very much a part of my life? She's pretty mature outside of this, so is she old enough to understand if I talk to her about my concerns and explain to her that it's okay to go off on her own, do things, break things, etc. Should this talk be coming from her Dad?