My Step-Daughter Won’t Accept Me (Welcome to the Helladay Season)


Dear Robin,

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 for these things, 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.

I thought the courts used to counsel parents when they would divorce to be careful around the children and not drag them in. I know Only Child is kinda old for this, but really? Perhaps all couples should receive counseling regarding this transition. What do you think?

Lady Tremaine


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.  While this is always a tough proposition, the battlefields of blended families 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)

Or, if you are more of a modern lady and know how to operate a computer,

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 suggest Palm Springs, and when you go there, be sure to listen to my friends Bill Feingold and Kevin Holmes on 94.3 FM KNEWS radio.  You can also find them online at KNEWS.COM.  They are a wonderful radio duo who will fill your mornings with laughter and fun!

I’ll be appearing on their show December 5 so stay a few extra days after Thanksgiving and catch me live.  Then I’ll buy you a drink that evening and explain why you were in Palm Springs for Thanksgiving instead of having a nice time with your new “family.”


^^^This is your step-daughter Only Child: a 30 year-old spoiled princess and future lifetime alimony recipient.  Without proper intervention, spoiled children grow up to be spoiled precious adults who see themselves as special snowflakes demanding constant accommodation, commendation and validation.  Their way of life is based upon selfishness and they 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 in 2012 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 a parent is put at an extreme disadvantage because all the child is hearing is one side of the story.

That’s a conversation your husband may want to have with his daughter, because her intransigence towards you is irrational and mean-spirited, especially considering it was her mother who initiated the divorce.  This petty exclusionary behavior is based on something and I suggest your husband open up the lines of communication to determine what exactly the issues are and how they can be fixed, if they even can be.

“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.  Your husband sounds like a stand-up guy and I applaud his refusal to attend family events without you.  If he went along with that crap I’d be sitting you down and counseling you on finding another man who won’t be bullied by a 30-year-old spoiled and obnoxious toddler.

If you can’t 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 somewhere nice during the helladays.  While your making your travel plans, be sure to take a moment out and call your 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.

Please follow up and let me know how things go over the holidays.  If I see you in Palm Springs I guess I’ll know they didn’t go well, but we can always laugh about it over a cocktail.


This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. echinachea

    Right on the money, as usual!

  2. Debbie

    “A man’s responsibility is towards his chosen family (spouse) since it is a voluntary commitment while the family of origin is an imposed reality in which one does not have any choice therefore no assumed responsibility. Parents owe their children until they become adults and make their choices.”

    This was told to me by a very wise man…

  3. YouCanLeadAHorticulture

    Wow 30 years old is pretty long in the tooth for such childishness. Makes you wonder what miss stepdaughter has going on in her life that allows for so much time and effort wasted on bs. Great advice as usual! Can’t wait for your next Palm Springs radio gig!

    1. Ungrateful Much?

      Many 30yr olds today are selfish, spoiled, insufferable brats. My husband & I have been married 20yrs & were told by his son (my step) that if we “dare” attend a family function (that his mother will be attending with her 3rd husband) we’ll “never” see our unborn grandchild. We didn’t attend & have been able to see our grandchild (2-3 times per year) when we pick her up to bring her on a shopping spree. She’s 3yrs old & each year him & his wife have rented a hall to hold “all” the guests for her birthday bashes but we’ve NEVER attended (according to him, “it would be best”)! At least they’ve “graciously” emailed us a photo each year of her wearing the birthday dress WE purchased! Guess what? – In a few months, forward, they’ll be buying their own dresses.

      1. askdescamp

        Wow – what a little prick. I feel sorry for his daughter. You need to stop with the gifts ASAP. Isn’t it strange how the kids will side with one parent and let that parent attend family functions but not the other?? It sounds like your stepson may have been brainwashed as a child and have a VERY different version of the truth of his parents’ marriage than the one dictated by the facts and reality.

        I’m so sick of the holidays and it gets worse every year, not better. I’m thinking of starting a travel group for people like me (and all of you) who just need to get away and stop making themselves sick each year via constant effort and the omnipresent rejection.

        1. Ungrateful Much?

          Hubs was an amazing “dad” who tried to raise his son with a moral compass but unfortunately – son sided with his “friend” (aka bio-mom) who allowed (& participated in) many unhealthy (& illegal) activities. We were hoping once he became a father himself, he’d see the light but so far — still darkness.

          Other than the once per year birthday dress photo, we’ve never seen anything we’ve purchased (toys or clothes) so we’ve now decided to deposit the money we would have spent into a college fund. If we have a relationship with her when she’s older – the money’s hers otherwise we’re going on a fun-filled trip by ourselves (or with a holiday travel group)!

  4. Lee Kallett

    Robin, once again your advice is absolutely spot on. My adult kids as well as the ex-wife also tried to pull the same manipulations and told me they didn’t want to spend any time with my wife and I together. I refused to attend a family birthday party for my son since I was told I couldn’t bring my wife (then my girlfriend). Yet, I had to tolerate many family gatherings with my ex-wife and whomever was her female lover at the time. I’m glad I have my priorities in place–my wife comes first and will always be at my side. I set my boundaries expect my life partner choice to be respected.

Comments are closed.