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JUST JOAN THE AGONY AUNT WITH ALL THE ANSWERS; Stepdaughter's antics are threat to our marriage.

Byline: Joan Burnie

Q BEFORE I married my wife, my five-year-old stepdaughter and I seemed to be getting on great together.

At the wedding she looked like a wee angel and I was really looking forward to being her daddy. She stayed with her gran while we were on honeymoon and was fine. But since the first night we returned home, it has been a nightmare.

She refuses to sleep in her own bed. On the one occasion I made her by trying to tie her in, she urinated on her sheets. She won't call me daddy. If I try to kiss her mum, she starts hitting me. Her teachers have told us she's also hitting her classmates. All in all, I am at my wit's end.

My wife says we must be patient and won't even allow me to discipline her. We have been married for less than six months, but unless the situation improves, I can't see us making our first anniversary.

A BEFORE you do anything or anyone can help you, you must stop behaving as if you're the principle victim in this sad but only too familiar story. You're seeing this problem almost entirely as it affects you.

Can I please ask you to remember this is a five-year-old child we're talking about, a wee girl who is hardly more than a baby, so I'll tell you right now she is the one for whom I have by far the most sympathy.

I'm sure it's tough on her mum as well but, with respect, your attitude is making a very difficult situation even worse. So if you've come crying to me, thinking I'll feel sorry for you, then you're come to the wrong person.

So try to think about how everything looks to your small stepdaughter.

In her short life she will already have gone through many unsettling changes. You don't mention her father, so I take it we can assume he's done a runner or at least is no longer around. That probably means she and her mum have become even closer than they might otherwise have been.

In other words, the child was used to having her mum to herself and didn't have to share her with anyone.

Then along you come. No doubt you soon realised you couldn't have the mother without her daughter. So you set out to charm them both. I bet you bought the little girl sweeties and presents and even spoiled her rotten.

Not so much in the child's interest, but because if you were to have any chance of wooing and wedding her mum, you had to curry favour with the daughter and get her on your side.

So far, so okay. No doubt when her mum agreed to marry you, the pair of you explained that soon you would all be living together.

But what you don't quite seem to have grasped is that a child of that age has absolutely no idea of what it's going to be like having someone living permanently with her and her mum.

I'm sure she looked forward to the wedding itself because what kiddie doesn't enjoy a party? She'd love the fuss, dressing up in her nice new frock and being, along with her mum, the centre of attraction.

But now it's back to reality and it doesn't seem nearly so much fun. Especially when you seem to have changed overnight from Mr Nice Guy into a nasty man, who not only tells her what she can and cannot do but orders her to call him Daddy.

Be in no doubt - you are not her father. You have not the slightest right to that title. It is, of course, possible that in time your stepdaughter may well decide to use the word. But first you have to work an awful lot harder than you are to earn such a honour - and it is an honour.

What you've got to grasp is that your stepdaughter needs love, not discipline.

And if she does occasionally require the latter, it shouldn't be administered by you. Leave it to her mother to handle and don't interfere, far less hand out punishment. This sounds one desperately unhappy an insecure kid and that is what is causing all these behavioural problems.

Her mum will, of course, have to explain to the school everything which has been happening at home. They might suggest your stepdaughter sees a child psychologist who will help her come to terms with the fact that you are now a fixture in her life.

But you yourself should contact Step Family Scotland's Helpline on 0131-225- 5800 for some common-sense advice, as well as support.

It's never easy taking on someone's else child, but what you've got to grasp is that it's even more difficult for this little girl.

You may not be a wicked stepfather, but tying the child to the bed and threatening her makes it a damn close-run thing.

YOUR VERDICTS

IN response to the man who can't get his stepdaughter to call him daddy, I think it would be better for the woman and her daughter if this marriage didn't see its first anniversary. Who in their right mind would tie a five-year-old girl to a bed just to keep her there and to the point where she wet herself? Where was the mother when this was going on?

Instead of bullying this little girl, wouldn't it be far better spending time with her and showing her some affection and love? That way he just might earn the respect of this scared and vulnerable little girl.

I assume if this man was to have kids of his own, then split up with the mother, he would be happy for another man to tie his daughter to the bed.

Disgusted father of two.

I AM a step-parent and it's not easy. But I have never asked my husband's two sons to call me mummy.

Their mummy died when they were three and six and, in some ways, that was worse for me because they had built her up into this wonderful, saintly woman who was always smiling and never told them to go and clean their rooms.

We had temper tantrums. They told me they hated me. They said they wished I would die. Many a time I wanted to go away and was in tears, but I stuck it out because I loved my husband and I grew to love them as well. Three years ago, on Mother's Day, they gave me card which read: "We love our No.2 Mum". I cried again - but this time with joy. We now have a baby girl they dote on and I can honestly say that, No.2 Mum or not, we are one happy family.

Isobel Robertson, Glasgow.

NEXT WEEK'S PROBLEM

MY father died four years ago and my mother is killing herself with drink. She makes out she's ill when she has a hangover and denies she is drinking, even when she is drunk.

They were a very close couple and only had each other, so she has no friends and we have no other family. She refuses to go to any OAP clubs or anything like that. She's 78 and otherwise healthy, but complains constantly that she's lonely, yet won't do anything about it. She has fallen over in the house and knocked herself about, but maintains it was a dizzy turn or she was sick. She's drinking a lot of whisky.

My brother lives with her, but he goes to work and goes out some nights, so she gets drunk and phones me up crying and saying she's lonely. I visit her every week and we take her out now and again. We are worried about her, but don't know what to do.
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Title Annotation:Problem Page
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 10, 2002
Words:1305
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