Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesAdvice for a ‘most outrageous’ award contender
Q: Sometimes my stepson will have a T-ball game when he’s scheduled to spend time with us. But, when we pick him up for his visit, his mom will not send his glove or bat with him. She will meet us at the field with the items because we are “irresponsible and will probably lose them.” We have never lost anything, nor has my husband ever been late on anything from pickups and drop-offs to child support. To top things off, my husband’s ex will run out on the field and undress their child right there so that we can’t take the baseball uniform home with us. How do you handle this?
A: If we were going to have a “most outrageous award” for ridiculous behavior, we think your story will be a top contender. We can just see this truly confused little boy standing in the middle of center field after a game while his mother rips off his jersey to prevent it from going home with dad. She obviously feels out of control and is looking for a way to stay in charge at all costs. But rather than attempt to analyze mom’s obviously poor behavior, let’s talk about what it’s saying to her child.
First, it’s doubtful that the child has never overheard mom, dad, or you, discussing mom’s behavior, and when parents badmouth each other it undermines the child’s security and inadvertently asks him to consider, “mom or dad, whose side am I on?”
An even more detrimental aspect to mom’s behavior is how it displays her open distrust of dad. Some might think that’s obvious. After all, it’s nothing new for exes to not trust each other. But this child is reminded of it on a daily basis. Each time his mom does not pass on his glove or runs out to the field, the child is reminded that his mom does not value his dad’s judgment. If parents are to successfully share custody, they must keep their animosity away from their kids. If that can’t be done, it’s time to look for another custody alternative. It is just plain abusive for children to have to face their divorced parents’ constant bickering or manipulative behavior.
When there is a disagreement, divorced couples should start with an honest conversation about their sincere aspirations for their children. But from what you describe, we think that has already been attempted with unsuccessful results. The next step is co-parenting counseling on how to successfully share custody. The behavior you describe is not even close.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.