Dear Dr. Wallace:
My father left my mother and I when I was seven. I’ve only heard from him twice in the past six years. I’m now 13. Three years ago, my mother married another man. My stepfather is a super guy who has made my mother and me very happy. A friend asked me who my real father was, and I said my stepfather’s first name. Then she said, “I mean your real father.” Again, I replied with the same answer, and that made her mad. Should I have told her about the man (my biological father) who deserted my mother and me?
— Not Looking Back, Seattle
Dear Anonymous: I feel you gave the right answer to your friend. Your “real” father is indeed now your stepfather to anyone who asks. To those that press you on details about your birth father, you can say, yes, you have a biological father somewhere out there, but you don’t know anything about his whereabouts. Smile and say that you are happy with your family as is, and you don’t feel it’s productive to look back.
Dear Dr. Wallace: My parents divorced about a year ago. I’m 16 and live with my mother, who has been going out with a guy from our church for six months. The first two weeks after they started dating, my mother seemed very happy, but now she appears to be depressed.
Her current boyfriend says he is a good Christian, but, wow, he sure doesn’t act like it. In fact, I think he acts like a total jerk. He is self-centered and rude to both my mother and me. I know he doesn’t like me because I have told him several times to treat my mother with more respect. I say this to him right after I’ve witnessed his meanness. It’s not like I nag him all the time; I only speak up when I catch him in the act. If he were a family dog, I would send him to obedience school. But he’s no canine; he’s a grown man who should know better.
I talk to my mom about this guy when he’s not there. He’s pretty good-looking for a man, but his personality is kind of ugly. I only want the best for my mom, and I do not think this guy is the best she can do. However, when I try to calmly tell my mom what I’m seeing, it’s like talking to a zombie. She says she wants to be with him. I’m really confused about what I should do next. What can I do? I feel so helpless to see this go on.
— Concerned Daughter, via email
Dear Concerned Daughter: You were right to talk with your mother and to share your thoughts about the guy she’s dating. Now all you can do is try to support her decision. She needs you now more than ever. Try to focus on your love for your mother more than your dislike for this guy. Right now your mom is likely in an infatuation stage. With the passage of time, she may think differently about him.
Support your mom but keep a close eye on this new man. If he crosses any major lines (is unfaithful to her, physically harms her, etc.), seek intervention from other adults in your family. Besides that, stick to your own life’s challenges for now.
These situations usually work themselves out eventually.
It’s great that you care so much for your mother and that you look out for her so closely. Don’t let that change.