Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesSlow down, you’re going too fast
Q: I have been the stepmom to three children for five months. The kids have invited me to their Little League games, their school’s open house and parent-teacher conferences. They like to say they have three parents, and I love being included. We have always told their mother in advance that I was invited and coming to support the kids, but she gets mad and says we are going too fast. She says she needs a slower pace. Do we go at her pace or at the pace the kids request?
A: Really good question. If you read our column you know that we feel the primary rule to good Ex-Etiquette is, “Put the children first.” As a result, our answer usually takes the kids’ feelings into account when making any decision. But this one is tricky. Five months is a very short time to get adjusted to an ex remarrying — especially if you as the bonusmom are taking on some of the responsibilities that she took for granted when the kids were with their dad.
You’ve mentioned three kinds of events — and this has led us to question if the kids have really invited you to all of them. Open house and Little League games are understandable — the kids want you to see what they have been doing in school and want you to watch their games, but kids rarely invite people to parent-teacher conferences, so we think this one may have been your idea. If that’s true, we understand why you want to go, but you may be a little overzealous at this point. For that reason, we say yes to Little League games and open house, but no to parent-teacher conferences — for now. If you are the children’s caregiver, perhaps their father could set up a separate parent-teacher conferences for the two of you.
As your relationship grows with the mother, attending parent-teacher conferences together may be something you want to do, but in the beginning, it’s obvious this mother finds it too intimidating. We did eventually attended parent-teacher conferences together, but it was about three or four years into the experiment and a natural progression to our ability to co-parent and no longer be intimidated by each other’s presence. Five months? There would have been no way. But, it’s definitely something to strive for — for the sake of the children.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.” Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe’s ex-husband. Contact them at email@example.com.