Once upon a time, I dreaded school events I did my best to avoid mentioning them to both my ex and my husband’ ex and when they did come up I prayed that they wouldn’t be able to make it. Not that I didn’t want them there for the kids, because believe me more than anything in the world I wanted both parents to want to be parents, and embrace the children, and they did. The feelings on my end were more of the uncomfortable nature, socializing isn’t exactly my calling I’m not very good at it, so an awkward situation gets heightened to new extremes when you mix the antisocial person into the mix.
Any new situation is hard, so of course the first school event that both my ex and my husband’s ex attended with us were uncomfortable ones. There are a lot of unknowns, and unknowns can be scary so treading on thin ice is what the first event felt like. The less forced the interaction between all parties, the better. I always think organic reactions are best, such as hellos and goodbyes. I don’t believe that you should force yourself to start up a conversation, and the same goes for the other side as well, especially if feelings are still hard towards one another.
When my husband’s ex first attended a school event it was after five years of him and I started dating so our relationship wasn’t new, nor were our opinions or feelings for one another. She and I had a very bumpy start in the beginning, which is expected but neither of us made the transition a smooth one which made situations such as these seem almost unfathomable. The dynamic of everything was rapidly changing and she was getting a lot more involved than in past situations, I had no other choice but to put my uneasy feelings on the side and try to work on a relationship with her even if it just meant that we were acquaintances it is better than viewing her as my enemy.
As the whole situation was new territory for the both of us, it was hard to know what was appropriate or not. I still question my moves when we are together, and wonder if I am making the appropriate choices, this is often when I utilize the recommendations of our childrens therapist, and counselor’s as they know what would be best for them therapeutically and can offer unbiased opinions.
Issue 1: Who is in charge?
This is a tricky one, one I have had a lot of comments about but not from her from people in our surroundings. When we are all together the behaviors don’t just stop, to be honest I think they can occur a little more because the children have this cute little thing where they try to play one parent against another and pull at the heart strings. We follow the general rule of whoever’s time the child is on, that is who calls the shots. An example of this is we were out at a show and my “step “son saw his mom who was meeting us there, I had no clue that he ran off, and next thing he was just missing. Luckily I knew where she was so I was able to spot him, and explain to him that he needs to ask, and tell me where he is going. It’s definitely confusing for the children because they view all parties/parents as authoritative figures, this is where being on the same page regarding parenting styles is very important. When the children are with us, my husband and I are the ones who intervene in the situation and vice versa, which we have yet to encounter an issue utilizing this approach.
What I often do encounter is when I step in as the “step” mother, I get a lot of “outsider’s” wondering how come their mother and I aren’t brawling on the floor for me disciplining HER kids. It’s truly eye opening to hear and see other’s perspective and it gives a great example of the stereotypical thoughts against mixed families.
Issue 2: What’s your name?
This for us has been a huge dilemma and has actually earned its own chapter in my new up and coming book. Namesake is hard, no parent openly wants their child to call another person mom or dad. It is one of those things that slowly kills you every time you hear it, I get it. All though I am not personally in the situation I can empathize with it which is why I have tried so hard to find a happy medium. To briefly review it, my “step” children asked to call me mom after a few months of me and there father dating, with his approval and approval of their social workers who felt that the most important thing was that the children were comfortable my new title with them were mom. Alternatives were always offered, and are still now offered yet they both state they WANT to call me mom, just like they was to call their bio mom, mom. Naturally, this bothers her and although we do not necessarily want hard feelings, in this instance it is truly what makes the children happy. When we are at outings together the children both refer to us as mom, and yes sometimes it is hard to know who they are speaking to but we always figure it out and if I answer when they were speaking to her they generally will correct it and say “no, I was talking to my other mom”. This is one that we are still working on, and probably will continue to work on.
Tips for Success
It all takes baby steps, you have to learn to walk before you can run. Do not get over zealous with the situation and bite off more than you can chew, choking in such a situation can be detrimental to all of the progress that has been made.
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