The problem: My 9-year-old son has gotten friendly with another boy his age at school. He’d like to have this new friend over on Saturdays to hang out. I’m reluctant to ask the dad, though, because he’s a single parent who already has so little time with his son. What do I say to my son about this?
Low road: Tell your son that he needs to find less complicated friends to hang out with.
High road: Your intentions are kind, but you’re projecting onto this father your own fears, and may be unintentionally insulting a modern dad in the process. Don’t assume to know what “so little time” means to him. Ask. Dad will tell you what works and doesn’t work in terms of a playdate, and he’ll be grateful either way for the connection to your welcoming family.
Most divorced moms and dads today share parenting duties, often 50-50, or close to it. That means many parenting hours in the mornings and evenings during the school week, as well as alternating weekends. Dad might really appreciate a few hours to himself on Saturday morning or afternoon. Or he’ll tell you that he and his son are heading off to go camping for the weekend. Another option is for you and your husband to invite the two of them over for dinner together.
If, on the other hand, you find yourself hosting a child for so many hours over the weekend that you wonder if his or her parent has left the country, try not to judge and never let the child know if you feel frustrated. But do practice setting boundaries with the parent. “We need to leave by 5 p.m. for a party. Will you be picking up Sam by then, or should we drop him off at your house?”
And, please remember to extend this generosity of time, snacks and fun to single moms, too. This is very tough work they are doing.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad