In our home our children have a lot of extracurricular activities which is great and all but sometimes, when it means being in the same place as the ex’s, tension as well as anxiety levels can be high. Last night for my son’s playoff football game we were all gathered into a not so large indoor space, shoulder to shoulder we stood there cheering on the boys, and enjoying the game.
In a past blog Co-Parenting Woes: School Events I discussed three tips for getting through the events: 1.Respect and know boundaries, 2.Share the children, 3.Know when to bow out. For extracurricular activities it is quite similar, however with activities such as sports your more there to cheer on the kiddies and watch than to participate. http://www.mommsieknowsbest.com/blog/co-parenting-woes-school-events
With situations such as these there are a few questions that come up with regards to what is acceptable, and not:
As with almost all other parenting situations, my all-time favorite advice is take baby steps. It is so important especially in scenarios like this when you are out in public to not push your comfort zone. It all takes time, and if you are new to this you don’t want to get overwhelmed and worked up so make sure you listen to your self and simply go with the flow.
Sara, Mommsie Knows Best
Let The child be your guide
You have mom, and then there is dad. Two very typical socially known titles for the two individuals who parent us. Parents don’t have to figure out what their children are going to call them, it is what it is.
When it comes to being a step parent and your namesake to your stepchildren you’re stepping in territory that you may want to stay clear from for quite a while. However it is inevitable to come up into conversation.
I remember sitting at my mother’s house, drinking a cup of coffee, while my son, and the new little humans in my life played together, when I was approached with the daunting question of "can we call you mom?" There in front of me sat two bushy tailed, wide eyed sweethearts, what was one to do. Not knowing what to say, I simply diverted it to their father, "let’s ask your dad when he gets home”, I muttered to them. I didn’t really know how to react, I mean I was new to these two, as they were to me. I wasn’t their mom, I mean I acted as one by merely playing the role when their father was at work. Many questions started running through my head at that moment, Was it that they heard my son call me mom? Were they confused? What was the right thing to do? What if their father and I break up?
None the less, this is a tough situation yet using the child as your guide can really help direct how all parties involved should handle the matter. Adapting to a new family dynamic is hard enough, expecting too much could be just that, too much. Pushing the children out of their comfort zone could cause them to retaliate and go in the absolute other direction. Children don’t ask for their parents to split, heck they want anything but that so ensuring that this transition is the most comfortable for the children should be priority. My step children refer to me as mom, they are comfortable with this, and their father and I both agree and don’t mind. However, because mom is generally a title that is given once you birth a child, for their biological mother this was quite daunting. It’s hard for someone to hear their child call someone else mom. I was never there to replace her, or resolve who she was in there lives, I was a different mom in a different family dynamic, I wasn’t her, and I think making that clear is very important.
In the name of respect, I have offered the children alternatives to calling me mom thinking that the alternative would be the better. Mama Sara, Sara, etc. The children always made it clear when they were in our presence that this is what they wanted to address me as.
The topic of what the children called me had come up on several occasions by their mother. She really felt compelled in the argument that I was not their mother, and she wasn’t totally wrong. I could never argue her on the fact that I didn’t birth them, however due to our living arrangements I was in sort the children’s mom. I felt compelled in allowing the children to call me mom because my roll was full time, having them a substantial amount of the time, and with a combined family, all children calling me by the same namesake less complicated things, and gave us our own type of bond. What really motivated my husband and I in allowing the children to call me mom, was it was their request. Again, making the children as comfortable in the process can really ease their acceptance and limit the emotional stress that it will have on the children.
My son is a very shy kid, he is sometimes afraid of his own shadow. It takes him a really long time to get use to something, change is not his friend. He really is quite the opposite of my step children. A strong relationship with his father he did not have, but loyalty was there by default. The topic of what he was to call Billy never really came up, he still to this day calls him Billy. Just as we did not address my step children on the matter, we don’t plan on doing so with my son. It’s important to realize that each child is different, and the child should not be pushed out of their comfort zone especially regarding something as sensitive as this.
Before taking on a title so privileged as Mom or Dad, or even one remotely close, really ask yourself a couple of questions.
Ever see “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, well if there was ever a real life rendition of the Whos in Whoville, it would be me. I am often told that the Holidays look like they threw up all over my home. What can I say, I love the magic of all of the holidays. For a rather long time we had all of the Children, all of the time, and then came a change in the wind and the holidays started to be shared. The change was an adjustment to be made, but after long and hard review of all of the important factors we have found a way to happily adjust, and more importantly make for a smooth transition for the children.
Last year was the first year my (step) children started going to their (bio) mom’s house for alternating holidays. My son always only went on thanksgiving for half, Christmas Eve, and half of Easter, which never bothered me at all. With the “new” schedule for my (step) kids we would be missing WHOLE DAY HOLIDAYS. It honestly made me sad when the agreement was first finalized, I thought of all the activities they would be missing and all the memories we would be losing, but I also lost sight of all of the memories they were missing from making with their mom. My then greediness turned into sadness, and I now find ways around the void.
We have our traditions and she has hers, and luckily for us a lot of the times we are able to meet somewhere in the middle so the kids still get the best of both worlds. A great example of this is Thanksgivings are every other year from early morning to late night, a long standing tradition of ours is the Elf on the Shelf makes his grand entrance, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade gets plastered on every television in the house. Rather than missing this tradition, she very graciously agreed to pick the kids up later. We do a lot of give and take, but at the end the day the goal is to achieve what is best for The Children.
Again, with me being the real life representative of WhoVille the holidays aren’t just one day, nope Christmas last from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas. I could very easily schedule things when I feel like it, and not around the children but where exactly would that get anyone. It is important to be flexible. Making the children feel torn between the two parents does not feed a healthy lifestyle for an already hard situation, so scheduling around the children’s visits are best. When worst comes to worst and we are bound to dates and times, we try to work something out with their mom, but we completely understand that she has a life and plans as well so sometimes that isn’t an option. When the kids can’t make something, find a way to include them anyway. My stepchildren weren’t able to make a gingerbread party, rather than them feeling excluded we purchased them houses to decorate when they got home. Compensating for the loss is important, but over compensating is a big no no, nor is reminding the children that they will be missing anything. Believe me, we have had many moments where my (step) children get upset about going with their mom for the holidays, but it is our job to put the positive on it. Never entertain negative feelings about the kids going with their other parent. It is a recipe for disaster, and it only opens the door for them to try to play one parent against the other, nip it in the bud right away.
I often try to find ways for the children’s (bio) mom to be included when she doesn’t have them for the holiday, this I find helps soften the blow when she does have them so they do not feel that much of a change in routine because she is around for “every holiday”. This is as simple as a phone call, to sending pictures, buying her gifts if holiday appropriate, and even having her over for holiday activities. The children should never feel alienated from their parents especially on holidays.
It is okay to have trouble with sharing the holidays, and not having the kids with you all the time, honestly it’s a hard adjustment and hard feelings are expected. When you first had children I am sure your dream of the perfect family didn’t included divorces and shared holidays, but just as you didn’t ask for this neither did the children. It is important to keep your eye on the prize with this one, and that is to raise a child who doesn’t suffer the terms of the divorce/separation.
I hope my tips help you get through the holidays, and more importantly I hope the Holidays are warm and comforting to you and your family.
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