I am the step-parent to a 30-something (“Only Child”) and when I got remarried I was excited about being part of a family again. Unfortunately, it isn’t turning out at all as I had hoped.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. One week after our late October wedding 3 years ago, Only Child called her father and uninvited us to what would be our first Thanksgiving with my new family. I was crushed. Her reason? “Mom will be there.”
My husband found this especially interesting because his ex-wife showed up on Thanksgiving with a date during their separation!
Three years later, Only Child believes that it is OK to invite only her father to holiday gatherings, expecting me to find something else to do, or perhaps just hoping I’d be moping. Lucky for me his priorities are correct: his wife will be by his side or we don’t attend.
What do you think?
Dear Lady Tremaine:
Welcome to the wild and wacky world of step-parenting: the toughest job you’ll never love!
I kid, I kid. However, being a successful step-parent involves negotiating a very fine line between being warm and welcoming and not coming off as trying to usurp the role of the former spouse/parent.
This can be a tough proposition. The battlefields of post-divorce family wars are littered with the bodies of those who tried and failed to master this delicate dance during the toughest time of the year: the holidays. Fear not, for I can help!
Grab a pen, because you are going to want to write this down.
Ready? OK, good. 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522)
If you are more of a modern lady and know how to operate a computer, please visit www.alaskaair.com.
I know you live in Oregon, so you are now experiencing the lovely weather we live through every November through June. What better way to celebrate the holidays than hopping on a plane and going somewhere warm?
I’ll meet you there for a few days before Christmas because the weather right now is challenging my goal of making it to the end of each day without opening my wrists with a rusty can opener. I’ll buy you a drink or three and explain why you were in Palm Springs for the holidays instead of having a nice time with your new “family.”
Only Child is a Spoiled, Entitled Princess
Your step-daughter is a 30 year-old manipulative spoiled princess and future lifetime alimony recipient.
Without proper intervention, spoiled children grow up to be spoiled precious adults who view themselves as special snowflakes. They require constant accommodation, commendation, validation, and compensation. Their way of life is based upon selfishness and they both demand and relish their position as the center of the family universe.
When we traded emails you told me nothing has changed in three years although a business dispute made things worse and now she basically ignores you. You also mentioned you are currently enmeshed in an alimony modification effort but that your husband and his daughter agreed during a joint counseling session to never discuss divorce issues.
That’s a great rule if everyone is following it, but I can’t help but wonder if your step-daughter is getting an earful from her mother and being sold a story that is both inaccurate and one-sided. While I almost always agree that children should be left out of parental disputes, there are times when one parent is put at an extreme disadvantage because only one side of the story is being shared with the kids.
Perhaps It’s Time to Share:
- Does your stepdaughter know that when her uncle passed away last year, he left his entire estate, valued at over $650,000, to your mother?
- Does your stepdaughter understand that your husband’s recent income decline has made paying the exorbitant amount of $7,200 per month impossible and that he must borrow money every month to pay it?
- Does your stepdaughter understand that her mother has never lifted a finger to earn an income since the divorce, even though she was still young when the marriage ended and had an advanced degree?
- Does your stepdaughter know that in the divorce, her mother received far more than 50% of the marital assets?
- Does your stepdaughter have any idea how much money her mother has and how little your husband has in comparison?
That’s a conversation your husband should have with his daughter, because if she is angry that her dad is trying to modify his adult baby support payment, she may come around when she has a full understanding of just how unfair the situation is.
This snotty and stubborn exclusionary behavior is based on something, petty or not, so you and your husband must open up the lines of communication to determine what exactly the issues are and how to fix them.
Sit down with Only Child together and tell her you want and need to develop a better relationship. If there are things you should apologize for do, but hold her accountable for her behavior as well. Present a plan for improving things between your families and impress upon her the importance of starting the new year with a clean slate and a positive attitude towards each other.
Improving this mess is especially important now, since she and her husband want to start a family. Your role as grandparents will be important to you and your grandchildren.
“But wait!” you are thinking, “I thought she said I had to go to Palm Springs for the holidays! Now she is saying we should figure things out!”
Everyone needs a Plan B, honey, and this time of year is rough enough without throwing family drama into the mix. Plan B is Palm Springs and will be put into effect if Plan A (in which you attempt reconciliation) fails.
If you and your husband cannot get Only Child to come to the table with an explanation for her actions and a willingness to make peace, you need to take that loving man and go south for the holidays. While your making your travel plans, take a moment to suggest your husband call his estate planning lawyer to make some changes to the will.
Feel free to write my name in where Only Child’s name used to be, because while I tout this blog as delivering “free advice worth every penny,” mama needs some cash.
Finally, I’m not punting you to a marriage counselor just yet, but I’d suggest you and your husband keep a very sharp eye on this issue. Difficulties with stepchildren can be extremely tough on a marriage.
If Only Child continues down the road of familial bifurcation, it could have long-lasting negative effects for your relationship. I applaud your husband’s refusal to attend events without you, but at some point his exclusion may have ramifications you can’t foresee today, so be aware of any budding troubles surrounding this issue.
That’s just a little more free advice that’s worth every beneficiary designation.