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Teen won't learn ASL for stepsister; stepdad threatens divorce if Mom doesn't fix it.

Teen won't learn ASL for stepsister; stepdad threatens divorce if Mom doesn't fix it.


When parents get divorced, they usually try to remind the kids that it's not their fault. Well, that doesn't always seem to be the case...

When a frustrated Mom couldn't get her teenage daughter to care about her deaf stepsibling, she gave her an ultimatum. Then, she came to Reddit to ask if that was the right call:

'AITA (Am I the a-hole) for forcing my daughter to learn sign language?'

Smart_Palpitation147 writes:

I (49 F) recently married my husband (52M) who has a deaf 7 year old daughter. She communicates solely via ASL.

For some background, my daughter (17F) is generally a very non-problematic teenager. She does amazing in school, and has never caused any problems other than regular teenage hormone stuff. However, she doesn’t like my husband and step daughter.

She is not outwardly rude, but basically ignores their existence (skipped SDs birthday party, doesn’t engage in anything other than basic small talk with my husband).

I did try to do family activities together to have the bond and all, but I stopped pushing it when it didn’t happen. And as long as she’s not being outwardly rude or harmful to them, I can’t exactly punish her for not liking them.

Now, since my relationship with my now husband started getting serious, I started taking ASL classes and am now basically as fluent as a hearing person can be. My daughter, however, never made an effort, which is ok since she technically has no responsibility towards her.

However, recently my daughter has started watching SD (paid) when we aren’t around, which changes things. In my opinion, since she is now spending time in which she is responsible for a young child, she needs to learn at least basic communication.

Yeah... that should be a basic job requirement.

When I brought it up to her, she outright refused to make any effort at all. I tried recommending YouTube videos, but she refused to try learning even a couple words, saying she’s not responsible for my choice to be in the life of a disabled child.

This issue has also been causing a lot of problems in my marriage. My husband confided in me that he’s starting to feel uncomfortable with his young daughter living with someone who is so cold she refuses to make even the most basic effort, or engage with her at all. He has brought up that he is considering divorce due to his concerns about how SD will be affected by this.


So given all that, I had to finally put my foot down. I told my daughter that we have a disabled person living in our household for the foreseeable future, and if she wants to live here for college (graduating next month), she has to at least learn basic ASL.

She doesn’t have to like her stepfather and stepsister, nor does she have to hang out with them, but she has to have the ability to communicate with her for the sake of safety and basic decency.

I made it clear that if she chooses not to, she is welcome to live in a dorm (that I will pay for ), it’s just that living in our house (that is also my SD’s house, my husband and I paid for the house equally) comes with basic rules.

Well, my daughter hasn’t spoken to me for 7 days, so its about time I ask, AITA (am I the a-hole)?

Here's what Reddit had to say...

AlcoholicCocoa says:

ESH (Everyone sucks here), except the youngling. Your daughter is TA because she misplaces her frustration and emotional discomfort of your new marriage on her step-sister - the last person on earth who it should be put on. Maybe she even resents that you made her watch, paid or not.

Your husband is TA because he threatens you with divorce over this. Instead of talking and asking your daughter how she feels, or consider a different babysitter he pulls out the nuclear option to your relationship.

You are TA because you throw you daughter under the bus for marriage's sake and threaten to kick her out instead of being a mother and trying to understand her and offer her a bail out aka a different babysitter.

miligato thinks:

I think the husband is fully in the right. The issue isn't just the babysitting, the issue is one family member in the house deliberately and obviously rejecting the other and doing so by focusing on their disability. That's not going to be an appropriate setting for the child to live.

But LooseBranDice disagrees:

INFO - when does she turn 18? 'I'm gonna divorce you unless you kick out your 17 year old daughter or make her learn sign language' is an ugly ultimatum.

OP answers:

She will turn 18 in two weeks. He didn’t say he will serve me papers right now if I don’t force her to learn or kick her out right now, but he said for the long term, this situation is unsustainable and harmful to SD’s mental health and development, and if a solution is not reached, he will be left with no choice but to leave for his daughters sake.

NJtoOx writes:

The thing is that she didn’t choose to live with a deaf person, you forced her into that situation. At 17 she’s busy with school/college prep/friends and you want to force her to learn a new language on top of all that? A language she isn’t interested in learning so it’ll take longer and be much harder for her.

If everyone in the house knowing ASL was so important to you or your new husband you should’ve thought about that before you moved them in.

And now you’re choosing your step daughter over your own daughter, or at least that’s how your daughter will see this. Good job pushing her away right as she becomes an adult and can really choose how much time/effort she puts into her relationship ship with you.

OP rebutts:

It literally takes 5 minutes a day for her to learn BASIC words and phrases. I'm not asking her to be fluent. I'm not asking for them to have a relationship. Acknowledging her existence is what I'm asking for. She’s 7 for f*ck's sake, she can’t comprehend why her older stepsister doesn’t like her.

morgaina defends OP:

She's prioritizing the psychological health of a small child over the selfish whims of an angry teenager. also, let's not forget that the teenagers refusal to learn even basic ASL is actively dangerous to the kid

Thatsthetea123 says:

I'm surprised finding a new babysitter wasn't the first order of business? Like divorce has been brought up, forced learning, moving the oldest to dorms etc but they still haven't got a different babysitter. That should have been discussion number 1.

From OP:

Honestly at this point its not just about the babysitting. Anyone living with a deaf person should know basic ASL. If not, I’m happy to pay for her to live in a dorm.

idontcare8587 thinks:

Obvious YTA (you're the a-hole). You get it right in the first part of this post when you point out that your daughter doesn't like / not does she have any responsibility towards your husband and stepdaughter. It's only when your husband threatened YOU with consequences did you start f*cking up.

OP defends herself:

I'm not kicking her out into the streets. If she wants to live with us (a more comfortable situation than her dorm), she has to follow basic rules, one of which is learning at least basic ASL words and phrases.

teratodentata asks:

INFO: Why does your daughter hate your husband?


She just doesn’t consider them real family and thinks I should have stayed “faithful” to her dad, who died when she was 3.

KikiMadeCrazy can't believe all the YTAs:

NTA (Not the a-hole). I know the Reddit people have a beef against step siblings/parents but to go against a deaf little kid, you got to have forgotten your heart at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

You are also quite generous to pay for dormitory at this point. As you pointed it out, they do not have to become BFFs, considering also the age difference, but this is minimum curtesy. It’s also an added skill, another language she can use in the future, put in her resume and so on.

GlacierView8 agrees:

Exactly! Asking a 17-yr old to learn a few signs for basic communication with a deaf child who lives in the house is NOT an unreasonable request. In fact, NOT asking a member of the household to learn a few basic signs to communicate with another household member who is deaf would be unreasonable (which is why I understand why husband is thinking divorce). NTA.

So, what do you think?

Reddit is divided on who the ultimate a-hole is, but there may be more than one. At least we can all agree it's not the 7 year old.

Sources: Reddit
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