Well, it’s been four years and I haven’t spent much time with Grace. She spent a summer with us early on and she and I were driving to the store together alone when a conversation about boys and crushes and kissing came up. I asked Grace if her mom had had the sex talk with her yet. She was 12 years old at the time, so I thought it would be ok to ask because I had the same conversation with my girls at that age. She told her mom what I asked, and her mom went ballistic, accusing me of being inappropriate and being a bad person. So after that event, her mom did not permit Grace to come to our place for any visits for the entire year of 2016. I should mention that Frank’s kids live a couple states away from us.
Since then, I’ve found myself pushing back from getting to know this little girl; I honestly don’t want to be around her. When Frank talks about her, I cringe and I’m instantly annoyed! But he insists that in time my feelings toward her will change. This year Frank and his ex have finally become more civil and now she wants Grace to come visit us when her little brother — Frank’s biological son — visits.
My question is: What are some things I can do to get through these situations? I’ve asked my boyfriend to not have her visit, but he said it’s not my decision. I’ve told him how I feel, but he doesn’t care. We live together, so if she visits, I’m stuck dealing with it. He also plans to have me take care of her for spring break while he is at work. I don’t want too. Please help! — Not Interested in Caring for This Girl
You want to know what you can do in “these situations”? You can grow the hell up! And you can quit taking out your jealousy on this girl. What you said to her — broaching the subject of sex — WAS inappropriate! It was very inappropriate. It doesn’t make you a “bad person,” but it certainly raises some red flags, and if it were my daughter you said that to, I sure as hell would have deep concerns about sending her to sleep in your home two states away from me, let alone spend an entire summer with you. And that you think you were the one wronged here and you don’t seem to take any responsibility for Frank not being able to see his daughter for over a year (and vice-versa) really speaks volumes. Frankly (no pun intended), I’m very surprised Grace’s mother is allowing her to come visit in your home, and that both she and Frank are ok with your being alone with Grace during much of the duration of her stay. (And that also raises some red flags about Frank, to be honest. His kids, whom he hardly gets to see are coming to visit and he’s not even bothering taking off work? But I digress.)
In one sentence you seem to say that broaching the subject of sex with a then-12-year-old was a totally normal thing to do because you did the same with your daughters (which: fine, great. It IS appropriate to discuss sex with your pubescent daughters, but that’s not the same as discussing it with someone else’s daughter!). In another sentence, you call Grace — now a young teenager — a “little girl.” Well, which is it? Do you see her as someone who is mature enough to discuss sex with a woman she barely knows, or someone who needs the kind of protection and guidance a young child needs?
The truth is, at 12 or 13 or 14, a girl is somewhere in between, isn’t she? It’s a tricky age where bodies are changing rapidly (or not… which can create a whole other set of concerns and insecurities), hormones are raging, and relationships with parents can be rocky. It’s an age when the adults need to be especially thoughtful in the words they choose and the messages they send. It can be hard to know how to meet girls’ needs when you’re a full-time parent of the same sex, but if you’re a parent of the opposite sex who lives a couple states away or an adult who’s simply romantically involved with their parent, it can be even more challenging to know how to treat these girls who aren’t little kids anymore but definitely are not yet women. You, as a woman yourself who was once that age, and who has or is raising two daughters of your own, should know this! You should understand that, when all else fails, offering love, compassion, and friendship is generally a safe course.
Maybe, in broaching the subject of sex, you thought you WERE offering these things. Maybe — apparently — you didn’t see the conflict of interest. But it was there. Grace saw it and so did her mother. I’m betting Frank did, too — if not immediately, then certainly when Grace’s mother didn’t allow her to visit him for over a year. I think you owe him an apology if you haven’t yet given it, and the promise that you’ll try better next time (the next time being very soon, it sounds like). And if you feel in your heart that you’re just not up for it — you simply cannot offer Grace love and compassion and friendship, or you don’t know how to offer it without crossing boundaries (or you aren’t clear what the boundaries are), you need to have a frank (again, no pun intended) discussion with your boyfriend about that. Maybe the answer is you aren’t the right girlfriend for him because you can’t accept the kids in his life, aren’t really interested in knowing them, and can’t support him, as his live-in partner, in being a good dad. Again, that doesn’t make you a “bad person.” It simply makes you not the right person for him. It’s a shame it will have taken four years to figure that out, but better now than spending another visit with the kids saying and doing the wrong things and blaming them for it.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.