Elena loves black licorice ice cream and hates how the Harry Potter movies ruined the character of Ron Weasley. Elena is my 14-year-old and apart from being phenomenal at everything she does, she hates her stepdad.

Pop-quiz: Why?

Let’s see. Nick is no Clint Eastwood but he is a reasonably nice man who is reasonably fond of my daughter. El seemed okay with me having a serious relationship with him two years after my deceased husband decided to, well, be deceased in a drunk-driving accident.

My former husband (Aaron) and I were high school sweethearts and pretty tight till we weren’t. Everything was going smooth until I found he lost all our savings gambling.

What? When? Why? What the ducks?

To say I was pissed out of my mind would be the understatement of the decade. I was disappointed, a LOT. El was only four at that time and my Aaron wasn’t exactly earning millions.

So exhausting all our savings gambling was him being next-level irresponsible. I am speaking ill of my gambling-addicted dead husband. Sue me!

Although he repeatedly apologized and promised to do better, he didn’t. And just like this, one bitter incident at a time, we grew apart.

We were living in the same room, constantly bickering about stuff. To this day, I keep wondering if I could have tried harder to make our marriage work.

No child should have to witness their parents drifting apart like this. She took it a lot harder than what met the eyes.

Even though Aaron and I made it point to pretend NOT to be at each other’s throats, she could see right through our ruse. That’s Elena for you. Her intuitions can be baffling to the majority of us, the lowly plebs.

No points for guessing that I’m going way off-topic, so let’s get back to rambling on about why my daughter hates my husband, who is not her biological father.

How do I know she hates Nick? Well, for starters she told me the same explicitly. Secondly, I can see how hard Nick tries to fit in the shoes of El”s biological father.

Aaron may not deserve an award for World’s Most Responsible Man but he and El shared a pretty special bond. They would go out every Sunday for two scoops of black licorice ice cream, an odd flavor to be fond of.

Things got heated up when El literally forbade him from attending her school’s parent-teacher meeting. She went as far as dropping the F-bomb and locked herself in the room for the rest of the night.

Before this, she always refused to have him drive her to school or hang with him. The silent treatment over breakfasts and occasional lashing out over trivial issues also generously helped in making her point clear.

It was a frustrating sight to behold and at times, I really had to struggle to keep myself from yelling. I never forced my second marriage on her. I don’t recall telling her to call Nick “dad” unless she wants to. I did my best to be there for her.

I tried the fan-favorite method of talking things out on numerous occasions. In fact, I had a whole questionnaire prepared about what she disliked about Nick.

Her answers confused me a bit. In her own words, she thinks Nick is a cool guy and the only trade-off she mentioned was his unhealthy attachment to the Filet-O-Fish of McDonald’s. The admirer of black licorice ice cream is the one to talk. Funny.

That’s enough digressing for the day.

So anyway, what I concluded from our conversations was that neither Nick nor El was the problem. It’s absolutely normal for a child to perceive the stepparent as a guest who overstayed his welcome.

The pressure to get along with a guy her mom fell in love with after her dad’s death can be mortifyingly intense. El is a sensible child but accepting a new parent doesn’t come easy to the best of us.

Cut to the present day, things are slightly better than they used to be. El agreed to meet a parent counselor and was okay with me tagging Nick along.

Therapy doesn’t work like a magic potion but I am noticing the small changes. A quick exchange of pleasantries has now replaced the awkward silence at the dinner table. She even let Nick help her with her school project about a week ago.

She is still a long way from bonding over black licorice ice cream with her stepdad but I do see hope. It would be a nice change of pace to be a part of a happy family for once, whatever that means.

Rebecca Miller



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