"He's a Lousy Stepfather"

Sheila hoped Will would be a father figure to her daughter. But fights over parenting are tearing them apart. Can this marriage be saved?
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Her Turn

Differing Parenting Philosophies

"The way Will treats my little girl is breaking my heart. Ever since we were married three years ago, he has done nothing but criticize Ashley, who's 8, and punish her for the smallest infractions. Once, he even spanked her, even though he knows I don't believe in spanking. 

"Will wasn't at all like this while we were dating. He said he was thrilled with the idea of a ready-made family, and he did seem crazy about Ashley; he would bring her little presents and play Candy Land with her for hours. I hoped he would become a real father to her and fill the hole that was left in our lives when my first husband, Charlie, did a disappearing act.

"Charlie was a college professor who became a hopeless cocaine addict. He'd be gone for hours and come home high. Then he just left for good one day and moved in with another woman. Charlie didn't contest the divorce, and he's hardly ever contacted us since then.

"The split was hard on Ashley. She became clingy, and sobbed when the sitter came and I had to leave for work. That's why I was so glad she took to Will right away. She seemed fine with the idea of having another man in the house. At the wedding, she was the most adorable flower girl. 

"We decided to postpone our honeymoon, so Will moved in the day after the ceremony. The trouble started the very next morning when he told Ashley to stop watching cartoons and go play outdoors. I couldn't believe it -- he'd never ordered her around like that before. She refused to turn off the TV, so he did it himself. Ashley called him a bad name -- I was stunned, but I guess kids do pick up those words -- and Will threatened to wash her mouth out with soap. When I said, 'You'll do no such thing,' he yelled and said he had the right to make her behave. 

"It went from bad to worse. Will kept picking on Ashley, and we argued about everything from her bedtime to her chores. I did consider cutting my losses and leaving, but I got pregnant just a couple of months after the wedding. I felt we owed it to our baby to try to make things work.

Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued


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