Ask Amy

Dear Amy: I have a daugh­ter who is a high school fresh­man. When she was two, her fa­ther di­vorced me. I was dev­as­tated be­cause I loved him, never wanted a di­vorce

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Amy Dick­in­son Send ques­tions via e-mail to askamy@tri­ or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tri­bune, TT500, 435 N. Michi­gan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

and didn’t want our daugh­ter to have to face this pain. Be­fore the di­vorce was fi­nal, he started dat­ing a col­league of mine who I had to see ev­ery day. His ac­tions were hu­mil­i­at­ing and hurt­ful.

Af­ter two years of work­ing full time, rais­ing a tod­dler alone and go­ing to grad­u­ate school on week­ends, I ac­cepted a teach­ing po­si­tion sev­eral hours away, partly in or­der to es­cape his or­bit, but I stayed within a few hours of his home so that my daugh­ter could see him reg­u­larly. For 12 years she has seen him ev­ery other week­end, half of each sum­mer and on ev­ery other ma­jor hol­i­day. I es­tab­lished a good ca­reer, have a nice home and we have a good life in this com­mu­nity.

My ex-hus­band even­tu­ally re­mar­ried and had two more chil­dren. I stayed sin­gle and re­mar­ried a few months ago. My daugh­ter is close to all of her fam­ily mem­bers. I be­lieve my ex has gen­er­ally been a good fa­ther to her. How­ever, he has been vo­cally crit­i­cal of my move and how it has “taken her away” from him. He says things to her like, “I’d love to come to your game, but I just can’t make it. It’s too bad your mom moved you so far away.”

Now, my daugh­ter has started to par­rot many of his com­ments. I’ve not re­sponded to her crit­i­cisms be­cause I don’t want to soil her view of her dad. But I’m get­ting re­ally tired of be­ing made to be the bad guy. Should I tell her the truth about the di­vorce, his be­hav­ior and why I moved away? — The “Bad Guy”

Dear “Bad Guy”: You are con­tem­plat­ing con­vey­ing to your daugh­ter what a jerk her fa­ther was/is. But what pur­pose would this serve? Be­ing the bearer of this in­ti­macy would surely back­fire.

The wis­est thing to do is to speak with your ex about this. Tell him that these state­ments hurt his daugh­ter’s feel­ings and make her feel bad about her sit­u­a­tion. He is try­ing to ex­plain his ab­sences by blam­ing you for a choice put in mo­tion by his own long-ago ac­tions, but all the same — you did choose to move away. So own that choice.

You should calmly say to your daugh­ter, “I’m so sorry this is hard for you. I don’t think it is quite fair for your dad to blame me be­cause he can’t come to some of your games, but he’s try­ing to tell you that he wants to be here, though he can’t al­ways be here.”

Un­der­stand that ado­les­cents will gen­er­ally act out to­ward the cus­to­dial par­ent. Also un­der­stand that your daugh­ter is ad­just­ing to the pres­ence of a new par­ent in your house­hold, and she is likely trans­fer­ring some of her anx­i­ety about this onto a sit­u­a­tion which seems to have worked well for many years. The time to dis­close de­tails of how your mar­riage ended is when your daugh­ter asks, ex­plic­itly, what hap­pened. And even then you should be cir­cum­spect, care­ful and kind.

Dear Amy: My sis­ter is with a much older man. He is not all the way done with his di­vorce. He has chil­dren, and I feel like she is do­ing the wrong thing. I want to tell her what I think, but I’m scared that she will get mad at me and ig­nore my in­put. Any advice as to what I should do? — Con­fused

Dear Con­fused: If your sis­ter is in the throes of a new re­la­tion­ship, you can ab­so­lutely count on her ig­nor­ing and get­ting an­gry over your neg­a­tive re­ac­tion. But that’s not why you should keep your opinion to your­self. If your sis­ter is an adult, then she will make her own choices and bear the con­se­quences. If she ex­plic­itly asks you what you think, you should tell her, but oth­er­wise tell her you are hop­ing for the best.

Dear Amy: Re­spond­ing to the let­ter from “Baby Blues,” who was up­set by her friend’s preg­nancy, dur­ing my strug­gle with in­fer­til­ity, my brother called to tell me his wife was prob­a­bly preg­nant. As this was the third preg­nancy I had heard about in three days, I burst into tears. My brother told me that I can’t cry ev­ery time some­body gets what I want! — Even­tu­ally a Mom

Dear Even­tu­ally: That is bril­liant.

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