Layla was a shy, reserved, nine-year-old “daddy’s girl” who had done poorly since her parents had divorced and she had lost the full-time emotional support of and connection to her father. Lisa was my patient, whom I had seen through a divorce from an emotionally abusive man and several years of dating, and she now knew she had found the right man for her in Luke. Lisa and Luke hit it off right away, but moved slowly, each bearing the scars of their first marriages. Finally, though, Luke decided it was time for his precious daughter to meet the woman who would, most likely, be his new wife.
Layla stood behind Luke, holding his hand, as they rang the bell to Lisa’s home. Lisa motioned them in and moved in to greet Layla with a hug when Layla stiffened, holding her off. She looked Layla straight in the face, and, without so much as a hello, stated her claim: “He’s MY Daddy,” she said, and walked back behind Luke.
Consider the territory officially staked out.
Jason also had a super-attached daughter, and she, too, took it hard when he left the house, and married Julie. But his daughter Jesse’s issue wasn’t with Julie–it was with her daughter Jessica. For, you see, Jesse and Jessica were parallel ages. But Jessica, definitely on the manipulative side, all agreed, staked her claim to Jason, her step-father, in a take-no-prisoners fashion. Especially when Jesse was over visiting with her father on weekends and holidays, Jessica could be found sprawling in Jason’s lap, holding Jason’s hand, demanding Jason’s attention in dinner conversation and his help with homework, laying claim to the new man in her life, and making it indisputably clear that Jason was now hers, not Jesse’s. Jesse became progressively more withdrawn.
Territory officially conceded.
In the first post in this series I ran through a list of the issues most blended families face, and the ultimate issue on that list was competition for more parental attention, whether it’s competition between children, or between child and step-parent. It’s a common issue that comes up in a majority of blended families, and one that should be dealt with as proactively as possible.
Feel free to write in with how you managed the inevitable competition for one parent’s attention, and I’ll address the question in the next couple of posts. Because “my daddy” or not, children of combined families will have to learn to share their parents with some newcomers–no matter how much they protest, squawk, and try to make life generally miserable.