"He's a Lousy Stepfather"

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His Turn

Boiling Points

"I meant it when I told Sheila I wanted to be a real father to her daughter. My friends thought I was crazy to get involved with a single mom, but I was really taken with this beautiful, compassionate woman and her incredibly cute kid. It was so much fun to have a little girl to buy things for and play games with. I love children; if my parents hadn't pushed me to be an accountant, I'd have been a teacher.  

"When Sheila and I were dating, I thought she was being too lenient with Ashley, who could be a brat at times. I figured that once we got married, I could give Ashley the rules and structure she needed, and her behavior would improve. 

"Of course, Sheila and I also spent time alone. She would hire a baby-sitter and we'd go out to dinner and a movie, or to my place for a romantic evening. Those were very special moments. 

"Then we got married and everything changed. I found out right from the start that Sheila had no intention of giving me any say in her daughter's upbringing. It had always bothered me that Ashley spent her weekends watching stupid cartoons; as a kid, I was never allowed to vegetate in front of the TV for hours. But until I moved in, I didn't think it was my place to say anything. When I told Ashley she ought to get some fresh air, you'd have thought I wanted her to jump off a bridge. All of a sudden she was bawling and calling me names, and Sheila was sticking up for her and telling me to lay off.  

"I've tried to lay down some ground rules and set consequences for breaking them, but Sheila keeps undermining my efforts. One day, I told Ashley that if she didn't clean her room, she couldn't watch a video that evening. Sheila told me to give the girl a break, and then straightened up the bedroom herself. She even let Ashley watch the movie. When is this child going to learn responsibility?

"I admit sometimes I go overboard without meaning to. The day after the video incident, I got irrationally angry when Ashley didn't thank me for passing the bread. And yes, I did give her a smack on the bottom once when she called me a dirty name. I'm very sorry I did that; I was just pushed to my limit. I'm shocked that Sheila tolerates that kind of language from her child. Fortunately, Billy hasn't picked up his sister's foul mouth. 

"Sheila accuses me of loving my son more than my stepdaughter. Well, I'm only human. Billy is a great kid who's always ready with a hug, but Ashley won't give me the time of day. At the dinner table, she'll say, 'Mom, is he going to pick me up from ballet class tomorrow?' She shut me out years ago, and I don't see how we'll ever change that. I give up. Right now, I'd just like to take my son and leave."

Continued on page 4:  The Counselor's Turn


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