When I met my nine-year-old middle stepson, Terrwyn∗, he wanted just one thing. He didn’t want a robot. He didn’t want a mountain bike. He wanted just one thing: to be tucked up for bed and kissed g’nite on the cheek.

That’s all he wanted. He wanted it so badly that, if his father and I were tired and made an early night of it, while his siblings watched telly, Terrwyn would dive for his bed so he could be tucked in and kissed g’nite before we retired for the evening. His longing for that simple, natural act of nurturing betrayed how badly his birth mother was neglecting him.

Like all new stepmothers, I went into it with the highest of hopes, the most rigorous of intentions. When the kids were expected for visitation, I cleaned, cooked, planned menus, prepared food for my new stepchildren to take home, planned activities and scrounged enough blankets and pillows so everyone had a comfortable place to sleep.

That first meeting was something of a culture shock. Frankly, my stepchildren stank of sweat. Their clothes were threadbare and ill-fitting. Not one of them had packed a toothbrush or even feminine hygiene products. Before bed, they didn’t wash, brush or change into pajamas. They barely even used the beds I’d prepared. They slept where they fell, beyond exhausted. The next morning, no one bothered to wash their face or brush their teeth. To say it was a culture shock was putting it mildly. It took some doing to coax, cajole and order each of them into a nice, hot shower. Apparently, soap and water was the exception, not the rule in their mom’s house.

Worse still was their treatment of each other. The boys beat each other unmercifully, not in jest or play, but for real. Twice I discovered the older brothers holding Terrwyn down while his other siblings punched his groin, not in anger, but in the spirit of sexual abuse. Twice I reported this abuse to Rhys who twice laid down the law in no uncertain terms.

That’s when Parental Alienation reared its ugly head. I believe the kids’ birth mom did it out of jealousy. She knew I was a better mother than her and she resented it. I was nurturing and loving her emotionally-starving children when she has all the warmth of a mother pig about to savage her squealing piglets. Rather than allow me to give her children the warmth and love she was unable or unwilling to give them, she played the Parental Alienation card.

Bribed with the promise of smartphones and laptops, paid for out of the child support money, the kids conspired with their mother to ruin their own visitation. Suddenly, they posted cruel lies on social media. Process servers were knocking on our door. Horrible quotations were put in our mouths and bandied about online.

All the children turned against Rhys and I, except Terrwyn. But his siblings slapped, punch, spat on and beat him unmercifully if we texted or called with him. It became clear that contact with Terrwyn was putting him in grave physical danger. Chalk one up for Parental Alienation. The Welsh Child Protection staff would do nothing. We tried.

Stepmothers, if you have been rejected and attacked, it may be because you were loving, caring and kind. If you are the victim of Parental Alienation, it may be because you have those three wonderful traits and your stepkids’ birth mother hates you for it.

∗ All names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.