Dear Margo: Fallout from Divorce

My relationship with my adult daughters is strained; how do I patch things up? Margo Howard’s advice

Fallout from Divorce

Dear Margo: My adult daughters have many childhood issues. Their father was an alcoholic, and I was an enabler. My ex and I divorced when the girls were in their early 20s. Since then, my relationship with my daughters can go from quite loving to not being on speaking terms. They blame me for their unhappiness. The negativity toward me includes hurtful comments and ignoring me in public — and on occasion, the younger one attacks me on the phone for all the things she thinks I did wrong as a mother.

My attempts to talk to them about their issues fail. They don’t want to hear why I made the decisions I did. Occasionally, they get mad at one another, and then each of them is closer with me. When they are getting along, their common bond seems to be not wanting anything to do with me.

The situation now is that we are not speaking. I’ve gone to counseling a few times, mostly to learn how to cope with this situation and to get a handle on my emotions. The sessions have helped, reminding me that my happiness doesn’t depend on a good relationship with my daughters. The counselor strongly recommends family counseling. My daughters have ignored my requests to do this. I don’t know how to fix this, and it’s breaking my heart. –Tired of Crying

Dear Tired: Ah, yes … children of a broken home in their 20s. I know children like yours. Their mantra is, “The world owes me a living, and whatever is wrong is all your fault.” I have little patience for this because, in your case, the girls are rejecting family counseling in favor of attacking you, and it sounds like misplaced anger in the bargain. What likely was more damaging was living in a home with an alcoholic parent.

Do you know what I would do? Stop trying to fix things that aren’t fixable. They don’t want to listen, and they don’t want to understand. They just want to lash out at you. I would follow their lead and suggest that you become the one who is incommunicado. –Margo, realistically

A 6-Year-Old Sexpot?

Dear Margo: I know this sounds nuts, and it’s not even my business. But a group of us was at a Sunday brunch, and there was a little girl there, I swear, who was a 6-year-old sexpot. How is this possible? She was crawling up on the lap of any man who sat down, and at one point, while just standing around, it really looked as though she was masturbating. When we all left, I mentioned this to my husband, who said perhaps she’d unfortunately seen some porn on TV. I do not know her parents well enough to bring this up, but I think something is really wrong with this. What do you think? — Disturbed

Dear Dis: I think this must have been a jolt to your system, and there is definitely something wrong. A child that young has no way of knowing anything about sex, even if she’d seen some porn on TV. (If she’s seen a lot of porn, that could be a problem.)

I know this may sound almost unbelievable, but there’s a good chance that some male member of the child’s family is molesting her. This is not to say that young children, even babies, don’t touch themselves, but to be that sexualized at her age means someone is having at her. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing this up with her mother (which admittedly would be difficult, even if you were close friends), I would call the family services agency in your town and just report what you saw. You will have done as much as possible to advocate for this child. — Margo, regretfully

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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81 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Re: the little girl, it’s possible that the behavior was the kind of thing that young children engage in innocently, and some adults read into it.

    If it is just innocent yet awkward, the parents are remiss in not correcting the behavior in a neutral way, teaching her not to climb up on strangers and not to touch “private parts” in public. (I’ve seen plenty of little kids – mainly boys – absently pulling at their crotches… any kind of social correction needs to be taught and enforced early, not wait until a kid is – what – 18?)

    • avatar Anais P says:

      The description of this young girl’s actions made them not seem innocent. From what LW2 described, her actions seemed more like she was molested. Six year olds do not crawl on men’s laps and then appear to be masturbating. Margo’s advice to report this anonymously to child protective services is spot on — as usual.

      • avatar Susan JH says:

        For LW2, Margo, you are spot-on correct.  Don’t ask me how I know this, but it should be reported to children’s protective services immediately, if not sooner.  This type of behavior is indicative of a child who has learned how to get “attention” in all the wrong ways, for all the wrong reasons, and eventually (if not already) from all the wrong people.  She needs to be counselled and her parents need to be made aware of what is going on and with whom, the sooner the better.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          CPS is likely going to ask the reporter what proof they have on which to base such suspicions—and while overt sexual behavior in a child is sometimes a sign, it is not PROOF. By following your suggestion, LW would be walking a a fine line between rescuing a child from a dangerous situation and getting sued for slander. While it would be unfortunate—she better had be right.

          False accusations of molestation don’t really fall in to the category of those things that people laugh about later at cocktail parties.

          • avatar fallinginplace says:

            @ David – reports to CPS are confidential and not subject to slander suits.  People have to be able to file reports without risk of legal repercussions, and that’s what the law provides.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Confidential in theory and confidential in reality are two different things.

  2. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: As someone who grew up in a family dynamic very similar to what you’ve described, I can tell you firsthand that it feels somehow “complete” (for lack of a better word) to have you as the focal point for your daughters’ hatred and negative feelings. My own mother should have left my father years before she did—when it finally came, it was the coda that arrived just a tad too late. By that point, my mother had allowed my father’s numerous infidelities to coax her into having several of her own (which started her drinking problem), and his financial mismanagement destroyed what she had spent decades carefully building (which exacerbated her drinking problem). My mother will have been dead ten years this spring—and I’m still mad at her for allowing that, and dragging my brother and me into the emotional chaos that followed. But not as mad as I remain at my father—who managed to emerge from it relatively unscathed, and who then decided to put on his responsible pants when he met his latest wife.

    I really don’t know what to tell you to fix this situation—but I disagree with Margo in that it’s not the attitude that the world owes your children a living which is the problem. It’s that you created and perpetuated a really screwed-up dynamic (which is likely permanent) for your children by staying in your marriage. Maybe you should start there (if you haven’t already) and ask your children if they would like to go their separate ways from you. Forever. Putting forth such an idea in blunt, unwavering and permanent terms will hopefully give you an answer and allow you to move forward with them, or to move on.

    LW2: I read this letter and came away feeling conflicted and unclean. One: it’s not “nuts” to stumble across the possibility that a child has been molested—hypersexualization is a classic indicator of such, and it probably happens more often than you realize. Two: calling a child a term like “sexpot” makes me view you in less-than-flattering terms. “Idiot” comes to mind.

    Perhaps it’s just the way that the letter was written—but I sincerely hope that someone witnessing this kind of behavior from a young child wouldn’t react in such a water-cooler-ya’ll-ain’t-gonna-believe-what-I-done-seen manner.

    • avatar CatA says:

      I wouldn’t call LW2 an “idiot” but her labeling the child a “sexpot” shows her limitations – she might have been at a total loss of terms for this.  Of course, what the writer described is disquieting and possibly should be reported to Child Protective Services for investigation.  On the other hand, it might be harmless.  If the writer has contact with the family, she might take another opportunity to observe them again to see if the behavior is a pattern or not. If it is, she will need a pair of those “responsibility pants” and should file a report with the CPS.  Unless this was just prurient water-cooler-discussion fodder, as you’ve suggested. Let’s hope not…

    • avatar sparktest says:

      LW#1:  What David Bolton said.

    • avatar April says:

      ask your children if they would like to go their separate ways from you. Forever. Putting forth such an idea in blunt, unwavering and permanent terms will hopefully give you an answer and allow you to move forward with them, or to move on.

      Even though the last line makes it obvious to me, I would emphasize to the LW that she should ask this question *and* be willing to accept that the answer might be “yes” the children want to separate. She should not ask this question thinking, “It will shock them so much that we will work towards reconciliation.”

  3. avatar Florafloraflora says:

    I have a different take on the six-year-old sexpot. I hesitate to say this for fear of encouraging some pedophile, but I too was a precociously sexual child. At age six I found some of my dad’s porn (a novel–I was a precocious reader) and read most of it. I couldn’t understand a lot of what was going on but I knew I was definitely intrigued. I can’t rule out the possibility that a (developmentally disabled) relative may have taken a sexual interest in me early on, but there was no inappropriate touching. I had my first sexual thought at age three while watching a wholesome TV show. I also began entering puberty around age six. [Side note to pedophiles: none of this meant that I was ready for sexual contact. You are still scum.] I was an early bloomer, but hardly unique; plenty of kids play Doctor and other games at that age. 

    I would hate to give an abuser any cover, but it’s possible that the six-year-old who disturbed your letter writer was like me, just having impulses that were ahead of her time. Her parents may be well aware of her actions and just choosing not to make a big deal of it to avoid inducing shame. Bringing in any authorities could save the girl from an abuser, but it could also screw up her developing sense of self at a tricky time. Ultimately your writer knows the situation best and has to decide what to do. I’m just putting another possibility out there to suggest that it might not be crazy to start by making a casual comment to the girl’s mother about her precocious behavior. Unfounded allegations of abuse can really shake a family. It might not be a bad idea to learn a little more about the situation before calling in the big guns. 

    • avatar V says:

      I agree.  There are so many people calling out sexual abuse when there is none and people’s lives are ruined because of it.  I am not an advocate of CPS.  They have “killed” plenty of children under their supposed “care”.  For goodness’ sake, MAN-UP and SAY something to the mom or dad.  That’s what parents are for.  I am not a fan of Margo’s advice to call CPS instead of talking to the parents first.  There’s been many many news reported of CPS screwing families up because of a simple misunderstanding and you never hear CPS apologize for it even if the death is caused by placing the care of the infant or children under an unfit foster home.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        There is a selection bias in what you hear because you do not hear about all the good things CPS does to save kids from a bad situation.  Those records are not available to the general public.  CPS agencies are not perfect and there are some that I would say are terrible, but I think most do a pretty good job.  There are some really terrible parents out there.

  4. avatar Dana Griffiths says:

    LW2: Please get up the nerve to speak to the mother before social services. Once SS gets a tip, by law they have to act on it, and continue to investigate. The child could, in all likelihood, be taken from the family during this investigation. The impact on this family could be devastating.

  5. avatar toni says:

    I agree with the two previous posters that CPS is premature. (and also that labeling her a sexpot reveals more about the LW than the girl.) I think one could even have gone up to the girl and asked if she needed to use the bathroom. If she didn’t, just smile and in a low key way say, then sweetie you need to wash your hands and stop doing that.
    It was about that age when I was told I was too heavy to sit on laps – which made me want nothing more!! Instead of scarily precocious, the behavior sounds to me more scarily regressed.

    Re LW1: Margo the lw made no reference to her daughters’ work ethic – although I agree that entitlement is pandemic. 20s is still very young, and the lw agrees they’ve been through the ringer. Instead of ultimatums or demanding they go to therapy, just be there like Switzerland when they do need you, and refuse to tolerate their dysfunction when they dump on you – with a healthy No Blame boundary setting even if it means saying, We’ll talk when you feel better – and hanging up.

  6. avatar toni says:

    Went back and reread LW1. Margo I usually agree with you but I feel like you missed an important clue “My attempts to talk to them about their issues fail and they don’t want to hear about why I made the decisions I did”
    So. She’s nagging them about their issues (which she and hubby caused) and rationalizing her own behavior. Then hits them up with demands they go to therapy – when she isn’t even taking responsibility for her own actions. I think she needs more therapy.

    • avatar Kriss says:

      I thought the same thing.  She’s not hearing them & their complaints & she’s too busy trying to justify her actions from the past.  As long as they think she’s trying to excuse her own behavior & dismiss their hurt, they aren’t going to be receptive to her.

    • avatar Jessica J says:

      Exactly–she needs to go through twelve steps herself. I wonder if she’s ever actually thought about what she did to her kids. It certainly doesn’t sound as though she has any remorse for the childhood she put them through; she’s just upset they aren’t willing to pretend it didn’t happen. I think she’ll find that the problems go away when she goes to AA or the equivalent for her situation and faces facts. Frankly, as an enabler, she functioned in much the same role to her kids as the alcoholic himself, so AA would probably work just fine.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You’ve admitted having been an enabler, but unfortunately we all reap what we sow. I’d try for personal counseling and then make one request for family counseling. If that’s a no-go, then you’ll have at least tried to mend fences a bit.

    L #2: What Margo said.

  8. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    Re LW#2 I can’t believe the posters here are attacking the letter writer about the term sexpot and suggesting it says more about the letter writer than the girl. Really? She was trying to refer to it in polite terms. Would it be better if she had suggested the girl is trying out for role of town slut at the ripe age of six. The fact that the girl’s parents are impervious to her behavior speaks volumes about them and their family dynamic, not the letter writer. Margo’s advice is spot on. Report it and realize she has done all she can in the situation.

    LW#1 Margo again is spot on. As someone who could have chosen to stay angry for childhood issues and failures on my parent’s part, I chose to get therapy, stick with it, come to terms with my issues, move forward and develop a healthy, respectful relationship with my parents. All too often posters and letter writers go on and on how they have managed to stay angry for most of their lives because of childhood hurts and injustices. Margo continues to espouse therapy and most people poo poo it. The truth is, therapy can work, but it takes work and time. The problem is, we live in a world where we expect instant rewards. It ain’t gonna happen when complex feelings of betrayal, mistrust, and anger control our lives. Every week or so we read about another person for one reason or another has managed to make it to middle-age who has never dealt with their issues, wonder why they can’t forge strong, healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers , and even neighbors. It is precisely because they have never made the effort to fix themselves and they reject the notion that they have any role to play in the continuing drama between themselves and everyone around them. In the immortal words of St Luke,”physician heal thyself”.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Lisa, you obviously have never been part of a dysfunctional abusive childhood, you don’t know what you are talking about. See most of the other posts on the subject, including mine.

  9. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: We only have mom’s side of the story. Wonderful that she feels that she has moved on and cleared the air for herself, and that she knows what she needs for HER happiness. But the wounds may still be very raw for the children that her husband the alcoholic, and she, the enabler, damaged in over twenty years of misery and abuse (yes, being in a situation like that is abusive). So she’s gone to counseling a few times, mostly to get a handle (if I’m reading her syntax correctly) not on her culpability in damaging her children…but on their refusal to A): allow her to discuss and dissect THEIR issues, and B): allow her to explain (perhaps make excuses for? She never mentions feeling the least bit responsible or sorry for the hurt she caused) the reasons for her decisions.

    Of course, they should immediately jump on her bandwagon so that she’ll feel good about herself. After all, she doesn’t need THEM to be happy, she actually stated this. It’s her turn now. I suppose that she’s neglected to remember all the years they were trapped between her and the drunk she helped stay that way. If the divorce is recent, she’s free, and as young adults so are they, but they had no childhood at all, and it can take years for the adult children of alcoholics to be “free”. They haven’t recovered yet…and she doesn’t seem to care a bit. It’s all about her. “Entitled”? No. Angry and hurt and rightfully so. I think that they should cut HER loose.

    Re:L#2: “Sexpot” is a term generally used to define a young ***woman*** who is sexually attractive…not promiscuous or, in this case, a sexually precocious child. LW2 may be way off base here…but then, everyone seems to be eager to call in CPS or the equivalent. Not all sexually molested children behave this way…in fact, many are withdrawn, socially awkward, and afraid of those who are of the same gender as their molester(s).

    Also, little girls, as well as boys, will masturbate. They do it when they need to urinate, but they also do it because it feels good, and as a comfort mechanism. In very Western countries, we look on this as unacceptable behavior. In other places, it is frequently ignored (remember, in some Christian denominations, and certain Orthodox sects of Judaism, it’s a sin or an act of self-abuse, and proscribed as unclean because it isn’t a sexual act of procreation). As for climbing into men’s laps…this could be a bid for attention, she may, as another post suggested, just have been told she’s too big for this activity and is testing her parents’, or she may be engaging in pre-erotic behavior.

    Some children experience sexual feelings and thoughts very early, and it isn’t because they’ve been molested. Molestation can lead to the opposite…arrested sexual development. LW2 doesn’t know the family, and has no real idea what is going on with the child. I would certainly ask other people who might have more familiarity with them in a non-confrontational manner, perhaps sans terms like “sexpot”, if the child is always so affectionate with men. She might learn something to ease her mind…or that others are concerned…with reason.

  10. avatar D C says:

    David Bolton:  “Two: calling a child a term like “sexpot” makes me view you in less-than-flattering terms. “Idiot” comes to mind.”

    When did it become OK for posters in here to attack each other?  It’s happening more and more.  If you don’t agree with something someone said, then just say you don’t agree.  Name calling is childish and unacceptable.  There are others in here who flash their fangs and pounce in overreaction. 

    I know I may be naive to expect this place to be somewhere where intelligent discourse and exchange of opinions and ideas can be done, but I really did.  That’s how it is presented at least.  If the people who post in here cannot bring themselves up to that level, then maybe they should go elsewhere to attack, like a political blog — it’s expected there. 

    David, I usually like what you have to say, but you are out of line calling another poster an idiot just because you don’t agree with their opinion.       

    • avatar R Scott says:

      DC – He was referring to the LW not another poster.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      DC, I didn’t call another poster an idiot. And I didn’t directly call LW2 an “idiot” either—I said that her approach to writing her letter made me think of her in that context.

      And I DO agree with you about name-calling, however—sometimes a spade is a spade and I’m not going to be afraid to say such. Regarding LW2, I concur with many of the posts that the girl’s behavior could be attributable to a number of scenarios. None of these scenarios require writing an “omigosh-I’m-so-titillated” letter to Margo, and at least one of them requires some action on the part of an adult. All of the scenarios require some careful thought on LW2’s part before making a decision to act, should she choose to do so. I would hope that she carefully takes the time to think about what she could—and SHOULD do—and weigh options before doing such, because she could permanently affect some lives here. And she should certainly give it more time and effort and thought than it took for her to come up with “sexpot.”

      • avatar D C says:

        Yes, I was wrong on who was the target of the term “idiot”.  However… can we agree on the idea that most people who write letters to Margo are, quite possibly, posters themselves?  I wrote one a long time ago, after being a reader/poster for a while. 

        Whether or not a letter writer is seriously asking a question they need an answer to, or are just throwing a wild hair question out to see what happens, my concern is that this particular forum sometimes looks like a shark tank and opinions are like live bait in the water.  Some sharks just take a big fast bite, while others nibble on and on… and on, explaining how smart they are and how utterly stupid you are.  Mean girls is what it is at times, and that issue was discussed recently as well.  

        I think that’s the reason this site has gone so far down from what it was.  The people who started it got tired of all the mean and moved on to more uplifting endeavors.  

        I suppose this all boils down to being tired of mean.  I need to move my office space away from that woman across the way.  I hear it all day from her, and then I come here for escape and it’s the same thing.  

        ***Sigh*** it’s my day off.  I have chores to do.  Back to the dishes and laundry. 

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I agree with you DC, and I’ve tried to tone down some of my own name-calling because I get sick of seeing the same back-and-forth sniping that goes on between people on here who obviously hate each other. Unfortunately it’s the nature of the beast that some posters will get butt hurt when someone else says that the advice they gave is awful. And some posters go on the offensive and attack everything from the most innocuous things a poster may have said, to the length of their post, how many times they post, whether or not they find some personal insight in the OP—or my pet peeve, what awful advice that Margo sure gives, and how she must be carrying on the tradition from her mother. Indeed, I hope people like that go away and never come back. Ultimately, the reason why I post here at all is because I need to learn how to accept the viewpoints of others, and I also could stand to learn some wisdom from others who have experiences that I do not. Indeed, for that very reason there have been OPs where I posted nothing because I didn’t feel that I had anything useful or valuable to contribute. And there are OPs where I have posted a lot.

          This can be a fun place to see some interesting viewpoints, as long as the majority tends to view it that way. Bad apples do spoil the whole cart, because judgmental posts from one have a tendency to bring out judgmental posts in others. I just wish that every OP would give feedback—those tend to be the best, most interesting posts of all.

          And one thing I’ve tried to do recently is be devil’s advocate on some posts, simply because I do believe it’s important to see both sides of the equation. Do I believe that LW2 is an awful person? No, and I don’t mean to imply such. But I do think that she comes across as aware-yet-not-savvy.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          @D C: David Bolton said this: “…And some posters go on the offensive and attack everything from the most innocuous things a poster may have said, to the length of their post, how many times they post, whether or not they find some personal insight in the OP…”

          In the past, you have been very critical of me, and asked me why I get so, shall we describe it as “curmudgeonly” (Lila used that term, and it does suit) at times. Read David’s words above. Then read them again. I don’t jump people for the length or brevity of their posts, or how often they comment, or for what is termed “personal anecdotal information”…drawing from their own lives’ worth of experience, learning, curiosity, knowledge and thought.

          I also don’t generally refer to them by pejoratives…such as crazy, stupid, ignorant, hateful, etc.. All of these were applied to me (and much more vitriolic insults as well) in my early days on this site. I received a lot of complimentary comments from other readers…and from a number of the columnists expressing their thoughts on my fairness, balanced thinking, and rationality (and how I appreciated and held close to my heart those comments…I do NOT have a lot of confidence, nor am I the “braggart” I have been labeled my several readers. Very much the contrary) and even professionalism. That was when the attacks began…too bad WoW saw fit to erase years of threads. Some were utterly baffling…baseless, rude, childish and perverse.

          There were others who suffered the same garbage…with the same results: any retort made, no matter how eloquent and lacking in crassness and vulgarity it was, would disappear, but the attacks would remain. Most of those who were subjected to this treatment are long gone…and I eventually took several months’ hiatus. I returned because there are people here whom I value…and the attacks began again.

          There were once political threads on this site…be happy they are gone, because the staff of wow was heavily biased toward a certain group which could never provide anything even vaguely substantive, intellectual, or even coherent…was incapable of coherent thought, once produced and avatar which featured a bleeding slashed circle with Barack Obama’s face in it (that was removed, but only after a LOT of protest), racial slurs, vulgarity, and was repeatedly, constantly guilty of “flaming” in its worst form. One line comments full of crude, useless jargon, threats, personal insults, racist commentary…the works. This sent many readers fleeing…and I think many more took their leave at the prospect of another election year looming. Who wants to have someone screaming racist, religious, even misogynist diatribes on a site supposedly dedicated to intelligent, evolved women?

          At one time I made every effort to keep my emotions very much under control, and mostly succeeded. I don’t see much point now, and haven’t for some time. Again, from David Bolton (who is possibly suffering from similar frustrations):

          “…And some posters go on the offensive and attack everything from the most innocuous things a poster may have said, to the length of their post, how many times they post, whether or not they find some personal insight in the OP…”.

          In the last year, I have been repeatedly attacked by readers who can’t even make a coherent comment, or read the letter that is the subject of the thread for comprehension, for every single thing he mentions. So have others. I’ve entirely lost patience. I don’t “hate” anyone (why do people insist on using “hate” as the verb of choice? Hate is powerful and intensely personal.), but I am tired of the sheer senselessness of their attempts to fill some spoiled, childish hole in themselves because they are lacking in comprehension, experience, literacy, knowledge…whatever.

          So if I seem extra “mean girl” (and trust me, I was the fat-and-ugly girl through 11 years of school. The FAUG who might just turn on you in a very frightening way when pushed too hard, as a few unfortunate bullies found out. No parental support, not even, “learn to stand up for yourself” and in the ’60’s and ’70’s, there were no programs, or awareness campaigns, or documentaries, nor was bullying a news subject. I was never a Mean Girl…but in the end, I made a few of them very, very scared) it’s because I’m tired of morons (yes, I’m being insulting) like chuck alien, and Belinda Joy (who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, no loss there) and LAWHIZ (don’t know who she is, but she is an arrogant, nasty bitch and is awfully familiar) who seem incapable of anything but sniping from dirty little worm-holes. Nothing to say, no intelligent thought, just dreck. Feh. It’s a lot like litter thrown from cars. Nasty, and a sorry bit of human detritus left on the roadside for ants to pick over.

          So, D C, if the site went to hell because of the sniping and ugliness, it’s because the progenitors of WoW promoted and condoned this behavior, favored those who engaged in it with most vitriol and lest intellect, and had a virtual pogrom against anyone who tried to stand up to them. Don’t blame the readers…blame the “women of WoW”.

          Some of tried hard. Cavalry, no matter how elite and skilled, can’t compete with tanks.

    • avatar cbs721 says:

      AGREE!! It has gotten meaner around here. And can we agree that the derogatory terms like “idiot” shouldn’t be thrown at a poster OR a letter writer? And that includes the semantic games of “well I didn’t call them an idiot, I just said I viewed them as an idiot”(paraphrased). I do like to hear other folks take on the issues, but when it gets uncivil it is a big turnoff.

      I do know of an advice columnist on another site that unfortunately is unmonitored. I feel for the columnist (and the rest of her family).

  11. avatar llmcr says:

    LW1 – My father was an alcoholic and my siblings and I seemed to be in a perpetual cycle of anger and blame after his recovery. We eventually stopped because after a time my parents ended up telling us (repeatedly) they were sorry but they cannot change the past. We got no further attention to our negative unproductive feelings and then we gave up and started to build a relationship.

  12. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Here’s a little story and then I’ll shut up: Although, as an older guy now, I can appreciate him a little more I had a tumultuous relationship with my dad growing up. I carried a grudge for sometime over perceived or real slights and wounds. Once when I was about 19 I was complaining to an older sister (10 years my senior) about my life and my dad and, my struggles and my dad and my bad luck and my dad, blah, blah, blah…… We were sitting at her dining room table and she started looking around the room very dramatically, even looking under the table and then scanning the room.

    I asked her what the hell she was doing and she said, “I’m looking for Daddy”. I responded, “Well, he’s not here”, to which she replied, “You’re right. He’s not. Now let it go and start writing your own life. More coffee”?
    LW2 – I too find it disconcerting that you refer to a 6 year old as a sex pot. What? “Slut” was just a little over the top for you? *sarcasm off* She’s 6. She’s not a sex pot. She’s a little girl who is behaving somewhat inappropriately. Since you don’t know her parents well enough to bring it up and, maybe you’re not the best one to do that anyway, get in touch with someone who is. Mention it to them out of genuine concern. And when you do, don’t say “sex pot”.  Blech . . . . .

    • avatar Pinkie says:

      Your sister is a smart woman. She cut to the chase without being nasty about it. I think I’ll take a page out of her book next time I’m in that situation!

  13. avatar Artemesia says:

    The mother allowed her daughters to grow up in a horrific abusive environment; she didn’t protect them from the damage that growing up in an alcoholic/enabler household causes. She has likely damaged them for life. It is a bit much then to blame the daughters for being ‘entitled’. Yes. They were entitled to be raised in a healthy home but this mother didn’t bother to consider the needs of her children and subjected them to this horror show for their entire childhood. She should be ashamed of herself and not trying to justify this to her daughters. This attitude that the daughters are the problem rather than this selfish self involved mother probably enrages the daughters.

  14. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Stop playing the “mommy will try to fix it” game where the main focus is on rehashing a painful past. Get on with your life with new personal achievement goals, since it sounds as if some pleasure is in order.  

    LW2: It may be jumping the gun to call child services based only on what was observed at a brunch, but as Lil’ Lolita ages, any continued inappropriate behavior will become all the more evident. Meanwhile, do caution any man in your life to steer clear. Dollars to donuts, there’s more trouble brewing with this child. 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      @jcf4612: L’il Lolita? Don’t let your male friends loose around her? What, is the 6 year old menace of Snoburbia going to break out her Miraculous push-up bra and her Manolo spike heels and offer an around-the-world to him?

      This has to be one of the most demented and sad comments I have seen on a thread in months. L’il Lolita. Ladies, watch out for your men around the local pre-school…those Pre-K girls are hell on wheels.

  15. avatar KL says:

    LW 1 — I couldn’t disagree more with Margo on this one. This mother created a horrific environment in which to grow up and now she’s pissed that her children aren’t thrilled with her? I’m not sure where Margo gets the entitled bit from at all. They’ve got some major healing to do that is a direct results of her and her husband’s actions. She sounds incredibly narcissistic to me (only worried about her happiness) and lacking in empathy. I hope her kids go to Al-Anon and figure out a way to heal the dysfunctional dynamics they grew up in so that they can go forward and make meaningful connections with others. I think it’s the children that should cut off contract with such a narcissistic, unempathetic mother — talk about destructive!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Easier said than done. Part of me would live to have a relationship with my father. Part of me recoils from it, and part of me is pissed because I recoil from it. Sometimes the concept of family is hard to break away from, which is why people justify staying in awful relationships for decades, when they could be free to screw someone else’s life up. (grin)

      I don’t know where the entitled angle comes from—I will grant that children SHOULD feel entitled to a functional household and family that isn’t served neat or on the rocks. This is where part of me aches for LW1, because at one point in her life, my mother was LW1, estranged and alone and not sure of what direction to go in next. I am a firm believer that sometimes estrangement is for the best, and in this case it may work well for both sides to adjust to life alone, and see how it compares to life together. If it’s better, accept that and move on.

      • avatar KL says:

        David — Oh, I agree, it is easier said than done. It’s really hard to break out of destructive cycles. But if you don’t, you’ll likely just pass the demons onto the next generation.

        That’s why I was so surprised that Margo acted like the children were spoiled, entitled brats when they’d grown up in an abusive, alcoholic household and now the enabler is complaining about her woes and how they aren’t very loving to her (when she hasn’t been loving to them for YEARS!). I’ve just got no sympathy for the mother in this case. Compassion for her struggles as a human being, but not sympathy for her failure to take any accountability for her own life or how greatly she impacted the lives of her children with her own weakness and destructive patterns.

        If she had been more humble, repentant or showed the least concern for the struggles of her children from problems she greatly contributed towards, I’d feel more sympathy for her. But to me, she just reads a continuation of the unempathetic, narcissistic behavior and until she gets past that, her children are probably better off without a strong connection (or no connection) to her.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Well, awareness of the issue is a start. And it’s not like she’s saying: “I just don’t know where they get this from.”

          • avatar KL says:

            I’m not so sure, David. She recognizes that her ex was an alcoholic and she was/is an enabler, but she doesn’t seem to understand the effect that has had on her kids. She wants to talk to them about “their issues” and explain “her decisions”. I see no sorrow or empathy for them — no repentance for being so broken or failing to give them a safe, loving environment in which to grow up. Her desire to “fix it” seems to stem not as a genuine concern for them, but because it feels so crappy to her — it all just seem uber narcissistic to me, that she isn’t looking beyond herself at all.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Well, “I was an enabler” is an acceptance of sorts. And the kids can’t blame everything on their childhood—at some point we have to accept responsibility for actions and break a cycle if they are part of one. And sometimes a safe, loving environment gives rise to a bad person as well.

          • avatar KL says:

            I’m not sure the kids have to accept any responsibility for their parents actions (if that’s what you mean), but I do think they need to accept the reality of their situation (i.e. sort of screwed up due to their upbringing), take responsibility for themselves going forward and ideally work on healing those past wounds so that can be productive, healthy folks with meaningful connections to others.

            Bad pasts don’t justify future actions or hurting people, though it may make it understandable since the person is wounded. But I can understand still being angry with the person that hurt you, especially if she’s taking absolutely no responsibility for it and shows no remorse — and instead of showing concern for hurting you, she’s demanding your concern for her instead (and attempting to explain her bad behavior).

            Any way you slice it, the Mom is in the wrong here for the past (at least vis-a-vis her kids and even if less “wrong” than the father) and it’s up to her to try and make amends, if the kids will allow it. But it’s also the children’s choice to not forgive and forget — that it may be easier and potentially more healthy for them to just cut their losses and move forward (and I would say that’s the case with this mother because she still doesn’t “get it”).

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            It is very, very hard to “forgive and forget”, or move forward, or evolve, or do anything constructive, when the parent partly responsible for the abusive failure of a marriage that damaged and scarred her children refuses to ***really*** accept responsibility by apologizing and accepting her culpability (saying “I was his enabler” is not the same thing)…but instead repeatedly insists on confronting her children with THEIR issues, and her REASONS for her decisions, and insisting that THEY need therapy. This can go on for years, or decades. In my case, it is decades…I was the one who came to the logical and sensible decision that my mother would never change, never be capable of personal accountability, and never be a “mother”…and I rolled on and evolved. This is simply a statement of what was…my mother no longer has the power to damage me, and I refuse to listen to her skewed, reinvented version of the past anymore. When she brings it up, I tell her the topic is off limits, and tell her I have to hang up if she refuses to let it go. We have a functional, long-distance relationship…but I haven’t the time or inclination to listen to fabrications and arrogant claims of her perfection, and everyone else’s defects. Yep, she’d still be at it if I allowed it…and that is exactly the sort of person LW1 seems to be, in my opinion.

            Her daughters hopefully will mature, evolve, and roll on by. Just like beautiful river water under a damaged bridge that no one wants to cross anymore.

          • avatar LandofLove says:

            I like your analogy, Briana.

  16. avatar Carib Island Girl says:

    I normally agree 99% of the time with Margo, but LW1 advice is wrong. LW admits she was a lousy mother and now is upset that her kids want little to do with her. I had a lousy childhood too and still, at 47, harbor anger, but I have managed to forge positive relationships with my parents, but I still have bouts of rage every now and then when she reverts to her incredibly self-centered ways.

    She needs to quit with the “poor me” attitude and give her girls some time, probably a long time. My husband, who is the sweetest man I know, would have little to do with his mother until his late 40’s because of his abusive and neglectful childhood. LW needs to own up to her role in this and that it’s HER OWN FAULT.

    • avatar KL says:

      I agree Carib — this woman is essentially an abuser who is complaining about those she abused being upset with her. Really? Who else should they be upset with? And any challenges they may be facing likely are a direct result of this abuse? Sure, you can’t make excuses for your bad luck (i.e. abusive family) for the rest of your life, but it’s not like there isn’t a real strong causal connection here either. Accept that your parents sucked and that’s given you some additional challenges, then work on meeting those challenges to be a healthier person (i.e. break the cycle of destructive behavior). But as far as the original abusers are concerned, yeah, it is their fault, regardless of whether it’s understandable or not. The mother should be asking for forgiveness, not trying to make her daughters understand why she was a shitty mother (though if she asks for forgiveness, she may get some of that compassion and understanding in return).

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        Agreed KL. But also, just moving past it is easier said than done, I’ve worked on it for years, but I am still a bit socially awkward and it’s impacted my career and for my husband the same, so yes, shitty parents can really ruin your life. Not saying mine was, but definitely negatively impacted. I try to love my mother, but there are some things I just can’t forgive.

        • avatar KL says:

          Oh, I agree. It’s a big deal and really, really hard to do. That’s why the fact that Margo made the daughters out to be entitled whiners really bothered me.

        • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

          Which brings me to something I’ve long pondered: if you don’t want or can’t take proper care of children, why the hell you you have them? I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

          • avatar KL says:

            Biological drive, Carib. Tons, literally tons of people, have kids without really considering what that will mean or require of them (I probably know more people that had unplanned pregnancies than had planned ones). Some of them have good instincts and are relatively healthy, so it works out reasonably well. Others are really broken/wounded and just make a mess of it. Like the quote from Tolstoy: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But the sexual drive to reproduce is the engine of evolution.

          • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

            I think also people just get sloppy about birth control or just can’t believe they’d get pregnant because “it’s just thing one time”, who knows. I never wanted children and getting fixed was the BEST decision I ever made. Life is hard enough and if you aren’t entirely well equipped, having children is disastrous.

          • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

            Opps, meant “this one time”

  17. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2 – my young neice was a sex addict by the age of 12 (that I know of, God forbid if it was earlier).  I remember she was the type who would start masturbating in front of people at a very young age.  She’d be told to go to her room if she was going to do that. She’d sneak out of the house to meet boys (strangers) to have sex with them.   In her case, it wasn’t about sexual abuse.  It was because she had two parents falling into alcoholism and divorced shortly after she was born.  She wasn’t getting the proper attention so she looked for it elsewhere.  Thankfully, thankfully, even her dysfunctional parents got her into therapy when all of this came to light around the age of 15.   Today, she’s 21 and while she still has directional issues to work out (who doesn’t at 21?), she is smart and a hard worker.  I’ve told her several times that she got a rook deal when they were passing out parents and that it’s not her place to parent the parent.  She knows.  She knows, too, that she does have family members who love her and have been strong role models for her.  Luckily, I think she’s on the right track.

  18. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Why didn’t you feel comfortable bringing it up while in the midst of seeing this? That confuses me. What were the men saying that allowed her to “crawl up onto their laps?” Are we (the readers) to understand this child was acting out provocatively and not one adult….not even her parents….called her out on her actions?  I find that disgusting if indeed she was as sexually provocative as this letter writer implied.

    What is so hard about saying in the instance of seeing this “Suzy is acting out a bit wouldn’t you say? …..She looks like she is masturbating Helen, please do something with Suzy.”   I would say that with ease. It would be made easier for me to say this given the fact we are talking about a young child. I get so sick and tired of men and women whinning about how we must “protect the children….” and then when incidents happen that are red flags to something being amiss…….crickets….crickets……

    There are times in life where the desire not to cause a seen or being unsure of speaking out of turn are trumped by doing what is right and just thing. A little 6 year old masturbating and acting sexually provocative in the midst of a room of adults can and should be easily controlled. However, to have a room full of grown men and women red faced and embaraced, acting as if they don’t see it is ridiculous and irresponsible.

    Who was in control at this event, the adults or the 6 year old? Clearly it was the 6 year old. If this letter writer couldn’t speak up in this scenario, God forbit if something even more extreme had taken place.  

    Letter #1 -Margo’s advice is spot on. 

    I think this letter writer needs to do the hardest thing she will ever do, and that is allow her children to chase her instead of chasing them.  Like a lot of parents that go through divorce she sounds like she has a lot of emotional guilt. Guilt that is well deserved given the fact she admits she was an enabler.   She has a HUGE hand in nthe dsyfunction of the household these kids were raised in. They have a legitimate reason to have hurt and anger toward her.

    The problem is they don’t want to work through those emotions. So because they don’t want to do that and want to stay emotionally stunted, she can’t force them to let go. No matter what she says or does, until THEY are ready to move on, nothing will happen. SHE may be ready, but they aren’t, she must respect that. Just as if the tables were turned and they were the ones seeking closure.

    And in the interim while they are living their lives, so should she. The more she puts all her energy and focus on other aspects of her life, the less space her loss of them will weigh on her mind. And if her kids were “her life” its time for her to map out a new life. One with friends, dates, hobbies, travel, laughter and love.    

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      @Belinda Joy: it is not at all sexually provocative for a 6 year old girl to climb into the laps of men. I have a question for the LW…did the child also climb into the laps of women? It’s something that should have been clarified. Nor did the men have to be making any suggestive remarks or gestures that would encourage the child to climb all over them. An affectionate child, at an informal gathering (and there is no indication that this was anything else) who is simply bored will seek attention from everyone. If no one objected, and the LW does not mention anyone else sending anxious, sidelong glances at the “sex pot”, or commenting on the girl’s “provocative” behavior, then I have a suspicion that no one was worried OR offended. I have a feeling LW2 is the sort whom, had she noticed other people becoming uneasy about the little “sex pot”, would have mentioned it.

      And children, both boys and girls, of six years of age, do masturbate…even the most-well behaved variety. Especially if they need to urinate or are bored and fidgety. It’s a comfort mechanism…not a sign of precociousness or being a “Little Lolita”. If LW2 was so grossly offended, she ought to have approached the mother, whether she knew her well or not, and said something like, “I think your little girl may have to use the restroom”. No talk of “acting out”.

      Certain people see sexually provocative behavior, perversion, deviates, pedophiles in everyone and everywhere. I know that you set an impossibly high moral and sexual standard for everyone but yourself, and that you have absolutely no understanding of children (since you admit freely that you loathe them) from reading your posts…and as I’ve commented previously…you’re the last person whose opinion on these matters I’d have any interest in accepting as having even an iota of validity.

      I have a feeling that LW2 has about the same credibility as you do.

  19. avatar Ellie M says:

    I initially thought LW #1 was my mother! As is the case with my family, there could be additional issues at play here other than just the enabling. In my own family, my father drank, but my mother had (and still has) such uncontrollable mood swings that it was extremely stressful to be around her. She could be fine one minute, telling stories and enjoying herself, and then the next minute she’d get upset about some slight, real or imagined, and she’d fly off the handle. She had physically attacked me and my sister, and verbally abused us all. She’s kicked my brother out of the house at least 10 times, starting at about age 15 or so. Then a few days later, everything would be fine. Sorry to bore everyone with my life story, but it’s very possible that there’s more than meets the eye in this situation. My mother often tells people how horrible and ungrateful her children are, despite the fact that we all do the best we can to maintain a relationship with her. I’ve often thought of trying to make her go to counseling, bust she’s often said that counseling and medication ares only for “crazy people”. I would love to hear the daughter’s side of this story– I bet it;s similar to mine.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      I bet too Ellie. Any parent who complains about how ungrateful, blah, blah ALL their children are should set off a huge red flag. The fact this woman’s both children say the same thing leads me to believe THEM and she’s living in denial to the extent of the damage she is culpable.

  20. avatar kate says:

    I am a long time reader, but I first posted a couple of weeks ago concerning the letter from the woman in what appeared to be a verbally abusive relationship.

    I have notice over the past year that some of the posters show a certain lack of understanding or empathy for certain situations people are writing about. However, this is an open forum where people are invited to post their opinions and views, we may not always agree with them, but they will always give us a different perspective on our own opinions and view. The meanness and name calling should not be necessary to express yourself. Using the old carpenter rule – think twice, speak once.

    Concerning the mother writing about her daughters anger issues that stem from their upbringing, I can totally relate to the mother AND the daughters. How I was raided influenced my decision making process in why I stayed in a verbaly and emotionally abusive relationship that involved issues of deppression and anger and alcolholism with my ex husband for so long. Decisions that I made when my children were small, lead to consequences that played out when they were a little older ,which led to other decisions and other consequences. At the time I was trying to make the best of the situation I was in with the goal of sheltering my children from the dynamics between my ex husband and myself and keeping the marriage together.    

    Does this make me an enabler? Does this make me a bad parent? I don’t know. But through therapy, councelling, and meditating I am trying to come to terms with the decisions I made and chart a new course for the future.

    Have my decisions affected my children? Of course they have. I can talk with them, take them to counselling, Al-Anon meetings and apologise. Right now they are still teenagers and I have some control over accesssing services for them. What they choose to do as adults I have no control over. 

    Regardless, I accept responsibility for my actions and my decisions, and understand that these things will affect my children’s life and relationships forever.

    Mom – don’t justify yourself, dont blame their father, dont pick sides and play one childs anger off the other. DO continue counsellling, DO countinue to urge your children to go to counselling, DO be grateful everyday that we live in a time and a place where it is possible for you to leave the abusive situation you were in and rebuild your life with the help of others and express that to your daughters.     Most of all DO continue to be there everyday for your children to tell them that you love and value them and that you will support any positive changes they make in their lives.    


  21. avatar Susan G says:

    LW#1 Wow. Unless Margo has edited essential parts of the letter, she’s made quite a leap from unhappy daughters to condemning for neglecting their own livelihoods. Is there something I missed in the letter about jobs?

    But from the letter I get a picture of a mother less hoping to mend the rift and more writing her Margo for permission to distance from her daughters.

    There is so much information missing from the account. What I read however is a relationship that seems utterly defined by Therapy Think: her issues, their issues, who-is-blaming, her “happiness,” her counseling , and refusing to join in their counseling. How could anyone enjoy their salad amidst this convolution?

    Sometimes the therapy-think that counselors promote creates more barriers between people. Therapists even might stoke a victim mentality and encouraging clients to “blame” someone else for their discontent.

    It sounds like a difficult road. But I encourage mom to back away from her daughters’ “issues” which probably is making her utterly annoying. Maybe the next time the family gets together they could try an embargo on all the psychology trash like issues, and blame and sources of unhappiness and simply try enjoying salad and each other’s company.

  22. avatar wlaccma says:

    To the women who has a bad relationship with her daughters. Give up. They will come crawling back to you when they want something from you or they get older and wiser. I have a great loving relationship with both my children who are in their 40’s. However, they live on the other side of the country. I see them as often as I can. In the meantime, I have cultivated relationships with my friends’ children and neighborhood children. I get invited to everything. I have long conversations with them about their lives and help them out when I can. Every family needs a grandma and so many of us do not live near our own children and grandchildren. Create relationships with people who will appreciate you and love you. I love baking and pass my baked goods around the neighborhood too. Stay away from those two daughters until they treat you with respect and get over your past. No one is perfect.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      @wlaccma: Her daughters will “come crawling back” when they want something? Not necessarily. I left by parents behind 29 years ago when my first husband got a job 1300 miles away from “home”. I didn’t want to leave…my horses. My mother was an abusive, vicious, narcissistic alcoholic…and my dad was rarely present, a little tyrant, catered to her fabrications rather face her cruelty, and was highly critical. Neither had any respect for the other and the fought (not argued, fought) bitterly and furiously, for decades before their marriage dissolved in an acrimonious and hideous divorce…after 27 years.

      I never went back. No matter how hard it got. I tolerated my mother’s drunken AND sober abuse and vitriol for years long distance. I worked hard, got clean and sober on my own (no rehab, no AA, no support from my abusive husband), lived through loss of jobs (no firing…ever), two divorces, eating nothing but ramen noodles and cheap tuna for months. I never asked her for a thing. Not once. Or “crawled back”. I suffered a late term miscarriage, almost died (literally, I am no drama queen) of a bone infection…and she never came…and she’s only seen my 20 year old son about 7 times, and the younger five…even though we’ve (I’ve been married 18 years, happily, joyfully) offered to pay her entire way (we can’t afford to fly to her, and driving requires my husband get two straight weeks of vacation…not so easy. And we can’t stay in her house…it is infested with mice, spiders and mold, and reeks of years of smoking…and she has no beds and only one working shower and toilet) she refuses to come here…because she can’t smoke in our house. She is 80 now, and the last time I saw her was 3 years ago, when we made the road trip to visit her. She made the trip miserable…blowing smoke in my face, refusing to let me converse with my relatives about any topic but her, complaining about us inviting her on outings and then refusing to go…and kvetching endlessly about us going without her (my son wanted to see Chicago’s museums. We bought a special seat so she could rest and be comfortable on benches as needed, would have rented a wheel chair, anything) and being “late” for the meal that gave me food poisoning (I mean that literally).

      I call her once a week. I keep tabs on her health (which she detests…but I’m the only one of her children who has any sense of reality and responsibility) because she lies to her doctor, which she’s rather proud of…and she has everyone else fooled. I am no martyr…someone has to care and the idea of ANYONE falling down the stairs and lying around broken for days is disturbing to me. I wish I didn’t love her, but I do. But I’ve never crawled back to her for anything…and any guilt I have when she dies will be because of the relief I feel at her passing.

      Seems you’re blaming your children for everything in your past…which is, according to you, something THEY need to get over because, after all, YOU’RE over it. Rotten ungrateful children…you gave them the gift of life, you raised them, blahblahblah and now they dare to have their own lives, etc.. After all, everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, forgive and forget. I wouldn’t count on your kids creeping back…or LW1’s children ever needing her…as she’s apparently proven herself incapable of empathy, any parental instincts or caring about anyone beyond herself. They did need her, in a way that has nothing to do with financial support, or advice, or a roof over their heads…and she was not there. Nor is she now.

      My hope for them is this: to learn not to need what they’ll never have.

      “Teach us to care and not to care
      Teach us to sit still”—-from “Ash Wednesday” T.S.Eliot

    • avatar blueelm says:

      Some people never have anything their children want because some things just aren’t worth the price.

  23. avatar jezoebel says:

    LW: It doesn’t take family counselling to figure out that your daughters are still angry that it took you twenty years too long to finally break free of your abusive marriage. As the mother, you let them down by enabling their drunk father instead of getting the kids out of that environment a lot sooner. If you still want to now what their “issues” are, instead of dragging them to family therapy, read THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls.

  24. avatar athomasfl says:

    I have a completely different take on this. My father was the alcoholic, my mother the perpetual enabler. My father was fun. He used to take me to the Army base pool and drop my off while he went to the club to get drunk, then drive me home. This was when I was between 7-10 and I didn’t know how to swim at first. I taught myself totally unsupervised at the pool. When my mother realized I wasn’t being supervised she put a stop to the pool visits. I was never allowed to join anything that might require a ride from parents unless I could find another parent who would drive me all the time. God bless my Girl Scout leader who drove me to every meeting for six years. My mother was just trying to keep me safe because my father would often insist on picking me up, drunk. My mother was also super concerned about how things looked to the outside world. The yard, the house, had to be perfect. This didn’t leave her much time to connect with me. It wasn’t until I had my own child that I began to understand my mother’s actions. But in my early 20s, no way did I understand.

    I have heard in Al-Anon that you can often tell an alcoholic more by the actions of their spouse than by their own actions and I have seen proof of this. Out in the world the spouse is seen as hyper-vigilant, bordering on witchy. I’m betting that the LW is also berating the kids father to them. It is possible he was angry and abusive, but it is also possible that he just drank away from home leaving the discipline and just generally keeping things afloat to her, making her the bad guy in the daughters’ eyes. I suggest the LW get to Al-Anon ASAP.

  25. avatar Lisa Bonnice says:

    My daughter told me a story of a neighbor girl, about six years old, who was teaching my granddaughter (also six) about how to act like they do on Girls Gone Wild (apparently she had seen it at home). This little girl was EXTREMELY sexual in her behavior, and thank God my daughter walked in and stopped the “lesson.” So being molested is not necessarily the only way that little girl could have learned to act like that. Gee, many reality shows on network TV are enough to do that. And don’t they teach little girls how to pole dance in some fitness studios?

  26. avatar blueelm says:

    Margo I think you missed it with LW1. They don’t sound like “spoiled brats” from just any separated family. They sound like children from an abusive dysfunctional home who are used to this dynamic and who never had a secure home. LW1 needs to realize that this is what happens and let go. If they are going to have a relationship with her it won’t be the way she is now. She is probably contributing to the situation herself, and her children probably don’t even know *how* to have a family after years of having to take care of drunk daddy.

    Yes, this is a part of the tough choice you make when you have an addict in the family. You can’t make people love you. It may be her kids got used to not feeling loved and don’t know how to give her what she wants. Think of it this way LW1… some people’s kids are dead. So at least you can hope maybe after they have some time to deal with it all they’ll want a relationship with you.

    If they’re yelling at you, they’re saying that they don’t want you around. So leave.

  27. avatar fallinginplace says:

    LW1 could have been my mother, except that my parents divorced when I was 13.  My mother also tried to get us to do the family therapy routine – but while my sister and I had both had a lot of therapy on our own, my mother hadn’t felt the need.  Nothing wrong with her  – except that her kids didn’t speak to her.  I’m well into adulthood now but still bear the effects of my childhood.  I don’t spend any time whining about it, but therapy has not transformed me into a well-adjusted person, just one who better understands and accepts her limitations.  My mother is elderly and while I now speak to her, I still limit our contact because I don’t like the person I become when I’m around her.  Not everything can be “gotten over.”

  28. avatar Briana Baran says:

    @fallinginplace: “My mother is elderly and while I now speak to her, I still limit our contact because I don’t like the person I become when I’m around her. Not everything can be “gotten over.”

    I have never understood the whole “forgive and forget”. I’ve made it to roll on by, move forward, and evolve. Like you, I talk to my mother (she’s 1300 miles away, and 80, and we speak over the phone…no cell or computer for her as she refuses these things…at least once a week). I learned to be a different person than the one I loathed…the angry, frightened, brow-beaten, abused fat-and-ugly-daughter-who-mom-hated-from-birth…because MY survival depended on it. Now I have set boundaries that I refuse to allow her to cross, tell her jokes, surreptitiously check on her health by listening to her contradictions and come away from the conversations feeling…not much of anything. Which is a vast improvement over the past.

    Therapy won’t ever transform you into a “well-adjusted person”. Only you have that ability…and from the sound of things, you’re well on the road to your very own, individual, personal place of adjustment. No two people require the same tinkering, gauges and tools…and each human being has her own place at which she rests at her best balance and functionality. The trick is to add a bit of harmony and music to the functions. Therapy only helped me understand my own understanding of my self, and how to cope with it…and I’m still partaking.

    Which is not to blithely say you’ll be all right, and learn to love our mother just as she is. I love my mother, and profoundly wish I did not. I have no idea why I do. I think it’s a truly terrible thing to love someone who has taken every opportunity, your entire life, to hurt you, minimize you, rake you over the coals and sneer at you in utter contempt. Who is incapable of telling the truth, feeling compassion, or putting anyone before herself…ever. But you may come to accept that it is beyond your power to change her…and that this is all right, that it isn’t your responsibility, nor is it necessary or your fault that she is as she is.

    I wish you peace. We can’t have it every day…but I have more days of serenity than not.

  29. avatar Susan JH says:

    I will admit that I would like to see any child molester punished, but in this case, that is not my immediate reaction.  My immediate reaction is to get the child some help and retraining, if you will, to teach her that she is going about getting love and affection THE WRONG WAY before she makes some more serious mistakes going after it from the wrong person.  After that, figure out if and who and why, and nail the guiilty party, but first fix the damage done to the child’s psyche and attitudes.

  30. avatar HelliePie says:

    Re. LW#1: Considering that every alcoholic is estimated to affect at least four other people (usually negatively), it’s amazing that so many of the posters here are so familiar with alcoholics and so unfamiliar with alcoholism. The spouses of alcoholics have their own disease, called codependence. It is the flip side of the coin of alcoholism, and it is every bit as destructive. The alcoholic is the public face of the dysfunctional family, the codependent (or enabler) is the private one. I am an alcoholic and the daughter of an alcoholic and a codependent, and I can tell you the one who did me the most harm was not the drinker. Of course, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by blaming one’s parents. They are also the victims of victims. (Of all the cornball slogans in AA, one of the most useful in this regard is, “If they knew better, they’d do better.” LW #1 was a victim of her husband’s alcoholism, but what was her part in it?

    As for the daughters, it is unfortunate, but no one escapes being damaged by his or her parents. Some of us are just soiled, some of us are scratched, and some of us are torn to pieces. Read Alice Miller to learn about the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect. As the poet Auden said, “those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”

    LW #1 is STILL a codependent and needs Al-Anon, just as, even if her former husband has entered recovery, he will STILL always be an alcoholic, and will always need treatment. The daughters will likely form relationships with alcoholics or, if they are alcoholic themselves, with enablers/coedpendents, unless they enter recovery themselves. The twelve steps are the only known, somewhat successful treatment for alcoholism, but recovery for all concerned IS possible.

  31. avatar Lym BO says:

    RE the “sexpot” (really?!?!) . My children, 7 &4, are very comfortable & friendly & crawling on a man’s lap wouldn’t be out of line for them- in a pile up on a grandpa type figure kind of way. As for masturbating- Inappropriate in public for sure, but my 9 yr old has been masturbating since she was 2. My 7 yr old started it this year as well. While masturbation is not super common, it is considered within normal limits at six years old. Her mother needs to stress it is inappropriate in public. Readers please note the observer, obviously a woman in her 70s or later, wasn’t even sure the child was masturbating. She was speculating the child may have been. Bottom line, the LW likely needs to observe a bit longer. Perhaps the minister needs to be made aware or the sunday school teacher to keep an eye & ear alert. CPS is way to aggressive at this point.

  32. avatar Notakid says:

    Re: Adult daughters
    I am really shocked by how willing people are to jump to the daughters defense and bash this mother. You have few facts- but sexism in the form of automatic mother bashing is alive a well on this site. 
    Consider these details:
    1. When they fight with each other these kids are more than happy to use mom.
    2.  though mom calls herself an ‘ enabler’ perhaps she was a mom in an impossible situation where nothing a parent does can make it ‘ all better’ . And maybe these girls think- incorrectly- that even at their age- she has to be glinda the good witch to deserve the time of day.
    Maybe shes not the enabler she says- maybe she had no choice other than what she did and has been labelled in order to blame her( again) and she is so at a loss that she has accepted that idea. Maybe she is an abuse victim. That is not the same as an enabler.
    3.Maybe its understandable that she wants her grownup kids to know how and why she did what she did. Maybe she loves her children!  And maybe- one cant just up and leave a marriage with your children and disappear. Because- you cant. 
    4.Why is there so much silence about the Dad.? Not one comment. Not important? Nope.  Whatever happened- lets blame MOM. Maybe she did the best she could to protect her kids..  Do you think children dont get angry for the wrong reasons some times.? Or believe lies? Or get lobbied. 
    5. Losing your children is as painful as it gets. She doesnt want to.  But- thats the fate she deserves? 

    Show me a parent  who can take the advice that she/he should forget the kids she/he  raised- and i will show you a REALLY neglectful parent

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Did you read the same letter as everyone else did? It was written by the mother…not some third party. In it, all she talks about is herself, no empathy for the daughters who spent their entire childhoods and teen year living with her and their alcoholic father. Over twenty years. Are you seriously saying that in that entire time she couldn’t break free of this marriage? And that, now that she has, it’s completely the responsibility of her daughters to forgive and forget because mom couldn’t help herself?
      No one has mentioned the father because it’s a given that he was an alcoholic, and everyone accepts his culpability in the situation. That the LW doesn’t speak of him is an indication that her girls are not using him as a weapon against her, and are probably not associating with him because he’s out of their lives. No one is being “lobbied”. Children who live through family situations with an alcoholic and an enabler usually don’t like either one of them. And they don’t believe in fairy tales or happy endings. “Maybe mom was an abuse victim”…she doesn’t mention this either…but her children definitely were.
      Sexism? I suppose if a man had written the same letter, you’d be hammering him for enabling his alcoholic wife, not getting her into rehab but instead divorcing the poor, damaged creature and abandoning her to her fate, not protecting his daughters, and being a selfish bastard who’d better just understand how he was soley responsible for ruining his daughters lives. Misandrists are no better than their opposites…not one bit.

  33. avatar roxanne9000 says:

    Lw1: Margo, I’m surprised at you. Maybe because you are a mom you’ve got your blinders on for this one… Because I don’t understand why you would side with an abuser over her victims. A mother who enables the abuse of an alcoholic father is abusing and neglecting her children. Her young daughters are likely just realizing the extent to which their mother has failed them… And their anger is justified. Maybe instead of boo-hooing and poor-meing about how hearing about her shortcoming hurts her, she should take responsibility for the harm she’s done and do what she can to make it right. That’s what a good mom does.