DILEMMAS: I will not buy this satchel

What Virginia says

Veronica's involved in an acrimonious divorce. Although her husband said he'd pay for their son's school gear, he never has, and she's coughed up. Now her son's rucksack is falling apart. This time Veronica refuses to pay as a matter of principle and insists her eight-year-old son ask his dad for a new bag. But his teacher says she should buy one as it's urgent. What should she do?

If some bully with a huge dog came to the door screaming insults, Veronica would never send her son out to deal with him. So why does she get this wretched creature to fight her own fights on the matrimonial front?

Because she cares more about her own bitter "matter of principle" than she does about her son, it seems.

How anyone could use an eight-year-old boy as a pawn in an acrimonious divorce is beyond me. How anyone could use any child of theirs, from four to 40, is actually beyond me as well. How is this child going to bring the subject into the conversation with his dad, anyway? "Mummy says you ought to buy me a new rucksack" is likely to herald a torrent of abuse against his mother that he won't want to hear. And at the end of the conversation the poor little boy will almost certainly be left with the instruction: "Now you tell your mother that Daddy says..." which he will feel he ought to relay back to his mother. This will then be met with another load of invective. The little boy will feel responsible. And in a way he will be right, for his statement will have been responsible. If he'd never mentioned his rucksack to his dad, this latest argument would have been avoided.

It's the duty of every divorcing couple to consider the children first, although they rarely do. They should do their utmost to present a united front and carry on their fights through their solicitors without ever mentioning a word of it all to their children, who are completely innocent victims in the war. They should be able, however much they seethe and loathe underneath, to express reasonably decent remarks about their exes to their children, realising that by saying unpleasant things they are almost criticising the child as well, because he is his or her closest blood relation.

If Veronica really loathed her husband she would be delighted that he refuses to pay for the rucksack. Why? Because it gives her a chance to show how much she loves her son by buying him one herself. She becomes the giver-out of essentials, the one who's always on hand in an emergency with the odd fiver. Every time she gets her son out of a difficulty, be it buying a new rucksack or comforting him when he's down, she makes the boy love her more. Love should never be used as revenge, but there's no doubt that getting her revenge is a by-product of love in this case. After all, some wives complain that their exes are always buying their children expensive things and giving them a nice time, deliberately, they feel, eroding the loving relationship with their mothers.

Veronica should go straight out with her son and let him choose a new rucksack. She should also buy him anything else he lacks at school. She is not just buying him material things; she is buying him some kind of self-respect at school, because anyone who is "different" always gets a hard time and anyone who has a hard time at school doesn't enjoy it and usually doesn't learn as well as they might. So if the cuffs on his shirts are frayed or his trainers have holes in the bottom, she should get him up to date on those as well.

And feel, not resentment and fury, but enormous pleasure at being given a chance to show her love for her son in a material as well as an emotional way.

What readers say

It's your responsibility

To hell with Veronica's principles! With such an attitude as hers, it is surely no surprise that her divorce is acrimonious. Her poor lad is already, no doubt, distressed enough by the breakdown of his parents' marriage, without the added trauma of being used as a pawn in their childish bickering.

She must get the kid his new rucksack - or a good second-hand one if that is all she can afford. It is her job, through her solicitor, to sort out her marital problems - not the responsibility of an eight-year-old.



Don't use your son

As a divorcee with an eight-year-old son, I feel that if Veronica has any feelings for her son, she will stop using him as a bone of contention between herself and her ex-husband.

From experience I can assure her that what she loses financially in providing what her son needs, she will gain in having a happy, well adjusted child who has not had to partake in such ridiculous situations.

Matters of principle are often not worth the stress they cause, and for her own sanity I would advise Veronica to let it go. Her ex may win in the short (financial) term, but the long-term bonus of a well adjusted, loving son will be hers.


Wolverhampton, West Midlands

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

This is a really embarrassing problem, but can you help? I often stay at my boyfriend's flat for the weekend and often have a bath, but whatever time I seem to take it, he always comes in and goes to the lavatory while I'm in the bath. Not just peeing, either. There's no lock on the door. I find this really embarrassing and repulsive, but some of my girlfriends say I'm just hung-up, no one these days minds about this sort of thing. Are they right? What can I do?


Letters are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a bouquet from Send comments and suggestions to Virginia Ironside, Features Department, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182, or e-mail: dilemmas@ independent.co.uk - giving your postal address, please, for the bouquet.

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own