Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesHe’s my kid, so who’s the bonus dad here?
Q: According to a recent DNA test I’m the proud bio-dad of a 3-year-old from a short-term relationship. At our first family court session she asked me to give up my rights. She had started to date a guy, whom she married a year later, who wanted to adopt him. I declined. Then, and now, she states that I need to consider myself the bonus dad. I think it confuses my son. Your take?
A: Well, you aren’t his bonus dad and that’s just reality. And while some well-known radio doctors feel you should step aside and let the other guy raise him, we just don’t agree. The child will inevitably find out the truth at some point and know he’s been lied to by the people he trusts most. It’s really no different from not telling a child that he or she is adopted and then discovering the truth. Better to come clean in the beginning, raise the child to know that both dads love him, and all work together to give him a good life.
If you were raised in a conventional two-parent home, it’s not unusual to think that’s the only way a child can feel safe and secure. But what’s most important for children are things like love, kindness, listening and time spent together. Consistency is too, so if you think it’s cool to play dad now, but change your mind when you get in a relationship and have additional children, that will be just as detrimental to him — and that may very well be another reason your ex is asking you to opt out.
When you do find a partner with whom you want to build a future, let her know upfront it’s a priority for you to continue an active role in your child’s life. Make sure she knows that he will not be put on the back burner when you have children together. If she balks at all this honesty, that’s not a good sign. You made the baby first and he’s lucky to have so many who love him — so long as you work together. If you don’t, you’ll have one very miserable, confused little boy.
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.