Q: My ex-husband has asked to have our four kids on an overnight that should be during the weekend they spend with me. I have agreed because he has done the same for me.
He has told me that during this time that he and his new much-younger girlfriend are planning on hosting our 6-year-old's soccer team party. Since we both attend the games, many of the team moms, who are my friends, have asked if I will be attending. It appears they have received formal invitations, and I have not.
I don't want to put my kids in the middle of what may be an uncomfortable situation. What is the proper ex-etiquette in this situation?
A: It sounds like now that Dad has a new girlfriend he's under the impression that the two of you can lead very separate lives. But in this day of shared parenting plans, it's rarely possible. You all don't have to be buddies, but if you have progressed to the point that you're openly trading weekends and you both attend soccer games without incident, this attitude of not inviting the other parent to the end-of-the-year soccer party just seems like backtracking.
In your ex's defense, he may be getting pressure from his new "much younger" girlfriend, whom, I suspect, has never been married nor had children. New girlfriends want to start fresh, and although they may openly accept children from previous marriages, to control their jealousy and insecurity about the past, they often tell themselves that those kids really sprouted from under a cabbage leaf somewhere. You being around is just too much reality.
The first rule of good Ex-Etiquette is put the children first. So, the question of what is the right thing to do has already been answered. How you do the right thing is the big question.
First, hold the party some place other than a parent's home. Find a skating rink, a pizza parlor, a bowling alley, a neutral place. Then you can both attend, be cordial for the sake of your child, and leave when you want.
In this case, your ex has chosen to have this party in his home. Give him the benefit of the doubt when bringing up the subject. Try something like, "I realize it must have been an oversight, but the other parents have mentioned that they received a formal invitation to the soccer party, and I'm just checking if you would like some help." Or, "Just checking to see what you would like me to bring to the soccer party." If he comes out and says, "You're not invited," respond with something like, "To our son's soccer party? Do you really think that is in his best interest?" Hopefully, he will see the mistake.
Further explain that your intent is not to make your ex feel uncomfortable, but to help your child feel more comfortable, and end the conversation with the following question, "Isn't there some way we can put our animosity behind us for the sake of our son and give his team the soccer party they really deserve?"
E-mail Jann Blackstone at firstname.lastname@example.org.