DEAR AMY: My 16-year-old stepdaughter came to live with us full time rather suddenly. My husband and I made the best accommodations we could on short notice. My house is small. She took the spare bedroom and we cleared out a huge dresser for her to use. Back at her mom’s house, she was used to having a huge room and bathroom all to herself. We gave our teen time to adjust to her new school and gave her all the support we could possibly give, but now that she has a little more freedom and is starting to forget assignments and is failing her classes, we have been cracking down on her non-school activities and lack of responsibility. We just found out that, apparently, she has been crying to her mom about missing her old friends and so forth. Along with that, she stated that she misses her old room. Her mother then yelled at my husband that our house is too small. It is clear to me that our teen is making excuses for her poor choices and performance. This house is my premarital property. My husband doesn’t pay a dime for it, because he has so much debt. If it wasn’t for me, he would be living with his parents. The fact that she has to share a bathroom and a closet is the pettiest complaint I have ever heard in my life. I find it extremely disrespectful, selfish and downright hurtful that my husband is now taking their side, and essentially believes our house is not good enough. I feed them, and even bought her a car! I feel so used. Am I wrong to say that they should be grateful that I welcomed them into my home?
DEAR UNAPPRECIATED: No, this girl should not be grateful. Our children are not supposed to be grateful for their many blessings until they get older and realize that their challenges were surmountable and their parents were occasionally right. And you feel your husband should also be grateful to you? He is not your ward — he is your partner.
This girl is not doing badly in school because of her room, but because she has bounced around between a mother who (I guess) doesn’t want her and a stepmother who resents her presence. You should patiently ignore all room-related complaints, the way parents have been ignoring their teens’ complaints since the dawn of time. All the same, I don’t know why a 16-year-old needs her own car. If you are going to hold it over her head, perhaps you should take it away.
You have been hit between the eyes with a huge life change, but that’s the way things go when you’re in a family. Stuff happens, and the adults have to deal with it.
You and your husband need to figure out how to co-parent your stepdaughter. He should not validate her complaints, and his ex-wife’s opinions should have no traction in your household. If you undermine one another, this teenager will fall through the cracks.
DEAR AMY: About three years ago I found out that my wife of five years was having affairs with multiple men. I was crushed, and we got divorced. About a year ago I ran into her twin sister during a work event, and we began dating. We love each other very much, but now my ex-wife has threatened to sever all ties with her sister and turn the family against her if our relationship continues. I never told my ex-wife’s family about her cheating because I didn’t want to embarrass her. Should I tell the truth, or just move on?
DEAR SOS: It seems to me that if your ex-wife really has the power to banish her own twin from the family, she also has the power to yell, “Fake news!” regarding any story you’d care to tell. You and your new love should do what you want, while understanding that you might not be able to control the story — or the consequences.
DEAR AMY: “Worried Sister” was wondering about including her brother, a sex offender, in their family holiday. I am in law enforcement. She should listen to her instincts! Also, she should check with his probation officer. There might be restrictions regarding whom he could be around. Ages, women, children, etc. Most importantly, one needs to listen to their “little voice.”
DEAR DEPUTY: Our instincts are sometimes smarter than we are. Thank you.