Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - by Amy Dick­in­son

Dear Amy: I am mar­ried to a won­der­ful man. I have an adult daugh­ter from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage whom I love and am close to; we bonded well when we were alone af­ter the di­vorce.

In my sec­ond mar­riage, we have two young chil­dren who are 8 (daugh­ter) and 5 (son).

My sec­ond daugh­ter was my now hus­band’s first child. He did every­thing from the mo­ment she was born. He has doted on her, which is nat­u­ral.

Although I did share in her care, I feel I have never bonded with her and find I feel no deep love for her.

It is very hard to ad­mit. I do care for her but not even close to the same way I feel about my older daugh­ter and my son.

It does not help that she has be­come very dis­mis­sive of me, and only lis­tens to her fa­ther. She tries my pa­tience. This is caus­ing a strain on our mar­riage, as it is be­com­ing more ev­i­dent that there is a deep di­vide be­tween my daugh­ter and me.

I have tried talk­ing with my hus­band, but he feels I am just cal­lous and cold to her be­cause I choose to be. What can I do? I would like to go to coun­sel­ing but can’t af­ford it right now. I feel like a fail­ure as a mother. — Failed Mother

Dear Mother: The fail­ure to bond is a tough thing for a mother to own, but it is more com­mon than you may re­al­ize. Please un­der­stand that your girl’s be­hav­ior (be­ing dis­mis­sive of you) is likely a reaction to her acute aware­ness that you fa­vor her sib­lings. An 8-year-old has lim­ited ways to ex­press her own emo­tions, anger, and con­fu­sion about the re­la­tion­ship. You both need help.

Your lo­cal De­part­ment of Fam­ily and Chil­dren Ser­vices should of­fer low-cost par­ent­ing coun­sel­ing and sup­port. You and your daugh­ter could at­tend ther­apy to­gether, and you should also pur­sue in­di­vid­ual coun­sel­ing. Your hus­band also has an im­por­tant role, and he should try to help you, rather than judge you.

It is pos­si­ble that your hus­band’s “dot­ing” dur­ing your daugh­ter’s early life con­trib­uted to your own fail­ure to bond (there are many other pos­si­ble causes, in­clud­ing post­par­tum de­pres­sion). Those early days of feed­ing, hold­ing, bathing and read­ing to a baby can help to cre­ate a bond that the par­ent builds upon through­out child­hood.

In ad­di­tion to pro­fes­sional help, you should de­lib­er­ately seek to spend in­di­vid­ual time with your daugh­ter do­ing some­thing she en­joys.

Dear Amy: My 21-year-old step­daugh­ter lives with her mother. They are both fairly sloppy and tend to­ward hoard­ing. We reg­u­larly do­nate un­wanted items to char­ity so we al­low my step­daugh­ter to bring items for do­na­tion to our house.

She re­cently brought some things over in small gro­cery bags. I was sort­ing do­na­tion items — some go to a free cy­cle store, some to a cloth­ing store, etc.

I found a vi­bra­tor in one of the bags. Amy, please say some­thing to make me feel bet­ter. I can’t do­nate this be­cause that just isn’t san­i­tary. Also it’s creepy — and that’s the real rea­son I write.

Why would she put this in our do­na­tion? Does she truly not un­der­stand that you can’t do­nate sex toys? Does she truly not un­der­stand that is TMI for par­ents? Why would she even in­volve us? Do I put it in a bag in her room, or do I toss it with­out say­ing any­thing? What should I do? — Gobsmacked

Dear Gobsmacked: So many ques­tions. So very many ques­tions.

I have a few of my own, nat­u­rally. But I think you should ta­ble your ques­tions, and leave the item in a bag in your step­daugh­ter’s room and sim­ply say to her, “I don’t know of an or­ga­ni­za­tion that will ac­cept this as a do­na­tion.”

It’s pos­si­ble that it landed in the do­na­tion pile by mis­take, or as some­one’s idea of a (bad) joke, but I don’t think it mer­its much at­ten­tion or com­ment.

Dear Amy: “Won­der­ing” asked what she should call her for­mer in­laws, who she had re­mained close to.

Although I’ve been di­vorced for more than 18 years, I’m still very close with my ex’s fam­ily. I re­fer to my for­mer mother-in-law as my “Mother UN-law.” It works for us! — Marcia Dear Marcia: I like it.

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