Annie’s mailbox: Confronting negative brainwashing
Let stepdaughter know how much you love her
Q. My incredible husband of two years has a 4-year-old daughter with his ex-wife. I have actively helped raise “Christie” since she was barely a year.
We haven’t communicated with the mother since the time we took her to court for refusing visitation, but my husband and I have always provided for Christie in every way possible, above and beyond the court-ordered child support. This little girl loves me. I have never tried to replace her mother, encouraged or expected her to call me “Mom,” or even so much as talked badly about her mother in front of her.
But lately, Christie has been questioning my relationship with her father, saying the reason her mommy and daddy are not together is because of me. When I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do, she says her mommy says she doesn’t have to listen to me because I am not her mother. Even worse, she’s been told that when my husband and I have a baby of our own, Daddy won’t love her as much as the new baby.
Christie is obviously too young to draw these conclusions on her own, so Mom is giving her these impressions or telling her these things outright. I don’t know why any mother would want to hurt her child this way, but I worry it is going to cause Christie to resent me. How can we handle this? – Stepmom in the Middle
A. Many courts now recognize parental alienation. Suggest that your husband speak to his lawyer about this possibility. In the meantime, when Christie is with you, do your best to counter the negative brainwashing. Let her know how much you love her and always will; that a new baby means she will be more important than ever, and the new baby will need a big sister; that everyone in the household has chores to do, and you want her to learn to be a big girl. As she gets older, she will recognize her mother’s bitterness, so please don’t play into that drama.
Q. I am a recent widow in my mid-70s. I decided after the death of my husband a couple of years ago that I would live out my life alone.
I don’t have much of a social life, but I do attend church services regularly. I find myself sitting next to a man who once spoke to me after the service. After several weeks, I could tell he seemed interested in me. After a few conversations, I realized I am 10 years older than he is.
He seems like a kind and polite man, and his wife has been dead for many years. I am flattered by his attention and shocked at this chain of events. I would appreciate your input on the age difference. I am basically a happy, healthy woman, but this is a situation I could take or leave. So if you tell me to come to my senses, I will say “Goodbye, Columbus.” – California
A. The age difference is irrelevant as long as you don’t mislead him about it. If you enjoy his company, we say go for it. There is nothing wrong with a companionable friendship, and if either of you is looking for something more, just be sure you are both comfortable with it.
Dear Annie: You printed several responses to “Looking for a Relationship, Too” and included one from “El Paso, Texas,” who suggested that women take up shooting because “guys like a gal with good aim.”
I laughed, thinking of a song from the Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” which was titled, “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun.” Thanks for a good chuckle. -- Musical Lover
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