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Girl Must Respect Her Dad’s New Life

Jennifer James

“Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.”

Shelley/The Dublin Review, 1908

Dear Jennifer: I used to live in Eastern Washington and my Dad used to visit me and my sister. Now I live in Western Washington and he only visits on our birthdays and Christmas.

He got a girlfriend and when we used to visit him he would take us where we wanted to go. But now he goes where she wants to go and he lets her boss us around. She is not nice. She made me take care of her dog, she made us write thank-you letters to someone we don’t know.

My Mom said if I don’t want to do something I don’t want to I don’t have to, but for me it’s so hard to say no like when we sleep over. Sometimes I think I smell beer. My Mom told my Dad that when we visit him he can’t drink. He was good at that for four years but since he’s been with her he slips and I smell beer. Please help me!

The slave girl (3rd grade)

Slave girl: It would make your Dad happy, you would see more of him and your life would be easier if you decided to just go along with his new life. You are too young to fight and your Mom and Dad divorced because they couldn’t solve their problems.

I don’t know your Dad’s girlfriend but she is probably as uncomfortable as you are. Offer to help with the dog or things that are important to her and she will probably offer to help you. If you get into a tug-of-war with her you will lose.

Get your sister and hold a piece of rope or ribbon between you. One of you pretend to be the girlfriend. When “she” pulls on one end of the ribbon, you pull on the other. What happens? You can tug back and forth but you don’t get anywhere. Put your end on the floor and there is no tug. Take your end and stand by your sister and there is no tug. Maybe your Mom is tugging on the rope by telling you not to do what the girlfriend asks.

The beer is a problem if you think your Dad drinks too much. Does he ever hurt you or his girlfriend? Did he hurt your Mom when he was drinking? Does he scare you? Does he drive when he is drinking? If you think he has a problem, not just one or two beers after work, then ask your Mom if you can talk to your school counselor. You could join a group for children who have parents who are alcoholics.

Try not to start fights with your Dad, your Mom or his girlfriend. When you want to start a fight because you are hurt or mad ask yourself what will happen, “I won’t see my Dad, his girlfriend will be mean, Mom will fight with Dad?” Make sure you figure out what the result will be before you complain.

This is a lot of stuff for such a young person but you wrote a good letter and I think you can take good care of yourself and your sister. Write to me again if my ideas don’t work.

Dear Jennifer: Re: the 81-year-old left out of the will: This does not happen in Canada well, it can, but the Canadians have a Fairness in Inheritance Law wherein children so dealt with can fight back and win. My brother and I got nothing from our father, but I didn’t care, as I’d much rather have been valued while he was alive. The United States needs a law like Canada’s.


Dear Jill: I wish families could be fair without the law. Regulations sometimes protect, but they are often too general or too specific to solve human issues. I wonder what fairness is in inheritance?

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