"He's a Lousy Stepfather"

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Her Turn, continued

"The only time Will showed any sympathy toward my daughter was when my ex re-entered the picture a year after my marriage. Charlie called Ashley every week for a couple of months, each time promising to take her for the weekend. I wasn't crazy about having him back in our lives, but I couldn't forbid him to talk to his child. Ashley would get her hopes up, pack her suitcase, and wait for her dad. When he didn't show up, Will would console her. Yet even after those tender moments, Ashley would inevitably do something to set Will off, and we'd be back where we started.  

"I'm not saying Ashley doesn't make mistakes -- all kids do. But Will is too hard on her. You don't forbid a child to watch TV for a week just because she doesn't apologize for spilling milk. If I tell Ashley that she'll get the privilege back after a day or two of good behavior, Will gets furious. He thinks all parents should be as strict as his own were, but I pictured us being a happy, easygoing family, like the one my brother and I grew up in. 

"Will's job situation is making him even more miserable. After our son, Billy, was born, Will decided to leave the accounting firm he was with and start his own business. Unfortunately, he took a financial beating and recently went crawling back to his old boss. 

"The only thing that makes Will happy these days is Billy. He's a sweet 3-year-old with a big grin, and he never needs more than a little warning to make him behave. But Will still gets on Ashley's case, and now she won't even look him in the eye. She says she hates Billy, too; she teases him and makes him cry. Will and I are barely speaking, and our sex life is nothing but a memory.

"I feel so bad for what my poor daughter has been through. First she was abandoned by her father, then her stepfather turned on her just as she had begun to trust him. If I tried to leave, I'm sure Will would fight for custody of Billy, and I couldn't bear to lose my son. But if I stay, Ashley's life will be miserable -- and so will mine."

Continued on page 3:  His Turn


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