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All kids frown on parents' sex-lives

SUDDENLY step-parents are in and I'm not just referring to Joanna Trollope's Other People's Children, which started on Saturday, or CBBC's Micro-Soap with its "Hey, now we've got two dads!" upbeat posturing.

Divorce has created not just a brand-new fictional character but also a whole new subgenre. Just about every Jacqueline Wilson book has a "step" in it somewhere and Hollywood has cast actors as varied as Chevy Chase (Man Of The House) Robert de Niro (This Boy's Life) and Pierce Brosnan (Mrs Doubtfire) as mom's new boyfriend. Miranda in Sex amp; The City has had a go at the stepmotherly role, as have Julia Roberts (Step Mom) and Kim Basinger (My Stepmother Is An Alien).

I've become very aware of this recently because of Celeste, daughter of Marie who - you may remember - was attempting to share a Spanish pension with Divorce Doug this summer. Thirteen-year-old Celeste objected, not just to Doug but to the very idea of her mother in a relationship.

When Marie slunk back from the Costa del Sex-Crime the battle of minds was joined. Celeste at the video shop verypointedly hired Parent Trap in which two love-able twins bring their mom and dad back together again after exposing Dad's new girlfriend as a gold-digger.Undeterred, Marie countered with My Girl in which Dad's new girlfriend is proved to be golden-hearted. She even gave Celeste a copy of Goggle-Eyes in which a young girl comes to recognise that her Mum's boyfriend is human after all. But this only provoked Celeste to fight back with the complete works of Jacqueline Wilson in which stepfathers are known variously as "Monster Gorilla", "The Baboon" and "That Great Scottish Git".

For Marie, now back teaching English in our local Catholic school, a painful lesson has been learned this summer. Fiction is always more successful when it plays on our fears, rather than indulging our fantasies.

While it's understandable that, in the first flush of second love, single parents may hope their children will love this Wonderful New Person, the fact remains that kids always hate the idea of their parent having a sex-life, even if it's with Julia Roberts or Pierce Brosnan.

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