It’s Complicated

No, I’m not talking about the movie.  This post is actually about a chair.  Well, more than a chair… it’s complicated…

Background:  For as long as I’ve been attending public events with Boyfriend, I’ve noticed this trend:  Drake and Josh will not acknowledge their “other” parent in public.  If Mom takes them to the event, Dad doesn’t exist.  And vice versa.  99% of the time they are with their mother and Boyfriend is ignored.  The kids know their parents had a stormy divorce and they don’t want to do anything that might stir up more conflict (because in that event, they suffer immensely).  Boyfriend and I have always remained silent about this.  Until yesterday.

Birthmom got married a couple weeks ago and returned from her honeymoon yesterday.  Yesterday, “our” weekend with the boys was scheduled to end at the approximate conclusion of Drake’s 3pm baseball game.  Birthmom and Boyfriend had made arrangements for Drake and Josh to leave the game with her.

Drake had to be at the game early to practice with his team.  We dropped him off on time and then ran home to gather some chairs and the boys’ belongings.  On the way to the game, Boyfriend gave Josh a few dollars to spend as he wished at the snack bar.  This offering met with a smile and a “thank you”.  When we arrived at the game, the boys’ mother was already there.

“Do you see your mom?” I asked Josh.  He nodded.
“Don’t you want to say hi?”
He shook his head and kept walking.
“But you haven’t seen her in over a week,” I said.
Boyfriend encouraged him, “Go ahead.  Say hello.  You can take your overnight bag to her.”

So away he ambled and that was the last we saw of him.  He was greeted enthusiastically by his mother, who wrapped her arms around him, pulling him onto her lap.  And there he stayed without so much as a glance in our direction.  After they took a trip to the snack bar, he migrated from her lap to the grass at her feet.  Next to me was the chair we’d brought for him- the kind of chair he requested.  I wondered if I should take it to him so he didn’t have to sit on the ground.  I wondered a lot of things:

  • She’s claimed him as “hers” now.  Is it wrong for me to venture over there?
  • Who am I to offer the chair?  I’m just the dad’s girlfriend.  Is it my place? Now that she’s officially married to her partner, does that make me even less significant?
  • Would she think I’m trying to get too close to her?
  • Would she think I’m trying to make a point that we brought a chair for him and she didn’t?
  • Would she think I’m trying to piss her off?
  • Would she view it as an act of aggression?
  • Would she see it as an opportunity to reach across party lines?
  • The divorce is over now.  She’s remarried.  It’s time we put an end to the kids’ loyalty conflict.
  • Maybe we should start sitting closer to Birthmom at these events.  It would make it easier for the kids to make eye contact and sneak a wave to their father.

Boyfriend was rather hurt by the incident and didn’t want to talk about it.  He busied himself with his photographic equipment and took magnificent pictures of the game.  I proceeded to get all cerebral about the chair and the issues it represented for hours.  Truly, it is time to tear down the wall and give the kids the freedom to interact with their family regardless of who is present.  Countless times over the past few years I’ve wanted to, in some fashion, extend my hand in a peace offering.  And yet every time I am stopped short by the knowledge that “they” don’t like “us”.  And I don’t want my gesture of goodwill to cause additional drama/trauma for Drake and Josh (or myself, admittedly as I carry several emotional scars from previous interactions).

Readers, as always, I welcome your thoughts on this topic.


12 comments on “It’s Complicated

  1. Lauren Forry says:

    It was always really hard for me to acknowledge my dad when my mom was around. I felt I owed it to her to be closer to her. However wrong this feeling is, it’s a kid’s version of keeping the peace. I agree that maybe since she’s married now and the divorce is officially over, it may be time to reach across party lines and make it easier for the boys. And no, the marriage of the boys’ mother does not make you any less significant. Boyfriend has made a choice to have you in his life with or without a piece of paper. The boys, I’m sure, know how important you are and that you care for them. I’m sorry for you guys’ difficulties in this f-ed up situation. If only all divorced women could be as enlightened as you are.

    • Thanks, Lauren. It’s interesting that you used the phrase “owed it to your mom to be closer to her”. I’m sure the boys feel much the same way. The culture in their mother’s home is very different than when they are with us. I realize they are doing what they feel they need to do in order to keep the peace. It’s unfortunate, yet it also proves that the kids know “no drama” is best.

  2. Have you asked Josh if he would have liked you to bring his chair over to where he was sitting with him mom? Or, if you haven’t had a chance to interact with him since this happened, maybe you could ask him that the next time you have the opportunity? It’s just my 2 cents, but I would try to let the kids be the guide in this one.

    • I was hoping to hear from you 🙂 I do plan to ask the next time the boys are with us. It’s a topic I’ve been looking to discuss for some time now… it will help me and Boyfriend a lot to know how the boys are feeling and what the situation is like for them- especially now that they have a new stepfather and stepbrother.

      • To some extent, if Birthmom doesn’t want to play nice there may be nothing you can do to ease the situation for the boys or for Boyfriend. Even so, surely it would help Drake and Josh to know that you and Boyfriend are willing and eager to collaborate and share in their activities if it can be done in a way that makes Birthmom and New Husband comfortable? If that’s a situation that Drake and Josh would like to have, then all you can do is approach Birthmom about it. It doesn’t sound like there is anything about that set-up that benefits any of the players, however. As much as it pains me, The Ex and I are at every kid function together, and our children deal with us jointly during those times. He and I may not have a lot to say to each other directly, but we are both their to support the kiddos. We sit near each other (if not together), we cheer together, we pass the kids back and forth during games, we take turns with bathroom breaks and snack bar trips, etc.–regardless of which one of us the kids are “there with.” It can’t always be avoided but wherever it can be, I want to eliminate any situation in which my kids feel required to “choose” one of us over the other.

        • Wow- it sounds like you and your ex are doing a marvelous job, especially considering the circumstances. I don’t know that Birthmom would be willing to be that “nice”. I think the best I can do is find out how the boys feel and proceed in the manner which makes them most comfortable.

  3. KT says:

    It’s a shame these kids feel this way. The divorce is not their battle to fight. The only thing they should deal with is getting love from both of their parents. I honestly feel that with kids honesty is the best policy. Sit down with those kids and tell them that NEVER should they feel they can’t interact with the other parent. That both parents love the kids and neither of them wants them to not love or not be loved by the other parent. I tell my kids all the time not to worry about me or their daddy. I tell them it’s our problem and not theirs. I tell them that we both love them and I’m so glad they have such a good daddy. Then I would sit down with the other parent and discuss the situation and how to resolve it for the kids. No pointing fingers or trying to blame someone for who caused this situation. IT doesn’t matter anymore, just fix it. Maybe they could start by interacting themselves at events, showing the kids it’s ok. Good luck.

    • At the heart of the matter, it really is that simple. Divorce doesn’t have to be agonizing for kids… suffering by the children is directly related to the attitudes and actions of their parents. Congrats on taking the high road in your own situation. If more people were as thoughtful, our society would be a much better place.

  4. Jessica Bram says:

    It might have been a good opportunity for you to amble over there and say congratulations on her recent remarriage. The only way the boys will be comfortable in the presence of both of their parents (and you)simultaneously is after they witness you all being gracious and relaxed together. It will do them a world of good, too. Even if they don’t like you, you can act “as if”. Someone has to make the first move. Why not you?

  5. Mandy says:

    I like Jessica’s suggestion. The lesson I learned from you is not to do something because you’re supposed to … maybe you’re not supposed to get on with your boyfriend’s ex, but you can break those rules and reach out to her.

  6. […] co-parents, divorce, loyalty conflict, partners of co-parents If anyone is curious about how my complicated conundrum about the chair at the baseball game turned out, here’s the […]

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