Q: My ex married a surgeon and now has a ton of money. Her husband buys my kid “new” everything and I just can’t compete. My son is constantly talking about him. Father’s Day is coming up and I have to admit I dread it. I’m afraid my son will rather be with him instead of me. Should I make him come see me or let him stay with his bonus dad?
A: When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day roll around I always get questions about the proper way to share the day. The big question is always how to acknowledge the bonus parent without slighting the mom or dad.
The problems begin when adults let their insecurities take over and they worry that their kid may not like them best. There is someone else in their child’s life who cooks them dinner or helps them with their homework and that becomes a threat. They may be working parents and the bonus parent has more time, or the bonus parent may be more organized or clever or thinner or stronger or make more money — and of course, none of those things makes a child prefer to be with a bonus parent. Children go where they feel loved and can be themselves.
When a child feels unsafe or overlooked, that’s when he or she may prefer to be at one home over the other — but it doesn’t make them feel better when they are there. They wish their parent would put in the time.
But I didn’t hear you say you don’t put in the time. I hear you saying you’re feeling insecure because you can’t buy “stuff” and your son talks about his bonus dad all the time. The truth is, if he’s talking that’s actually a good sign. He’s sharing his other life with you. He doesn’t realize it makes you feel inadequate. Don’t make your insecurities your child’s problems. There are lots of things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money. Go fishing, hiking, to a movie, throw the ball around — that’s what he’ll remember.
Finally, you should “make him come see you.” Father’s Day can be shared with his bonus dad, but backing out completely will send the wrong message. When kids tell their parents that they don’t want to see them on their scheduled day and their parent says, “No problem,” that sometimes translates into, “My parent doesn’t care if I go or not.” That is certainly not the case, so tell him so.
Jann Blackstone is founder of bonusfamilies.com.