Q My 8-year-old stepson and his dad love the Miami Heat. About a month ago, when trying to figure out what to buy him for his birthday, I bought a jersey I knew he would like. In my attempt to coordinate efforts, I called his dad and told him about the jersey. He was nice and thanked me. Three days later his mom and I see dad and child at the mall and the child is wearing the exact jersey I bought him -- and it was new.
I'm trying to support this guy, and he stabbed me in the back. How can I cooperate if he doesn't?
A One of the keys to successful co-parenting is for the bio and bonus parent to establish their niche with the child and not cross over it. The father's niche is basketball with his child. That's what they do together. Without knowing it, you crossed over into dad's niche with his son.
Dad was polite to you, which was commendable, but he also one-upped you, because his perception was that you one-upped him by buying the jersey in the first place -- you entered his territory.
If Mom would have called Dad, told him about the jersey and explained that she was going to give it to support Dad and son's mutual love of the Heat, the response might have been different. You are a different story. Even if you all get along, you're direct competition when it comes to his son.
We all do our best to put our insecurities aside in the best interest of the children, but it isn't easy -- especially if you're sharing custody with an ex who has remarried and your child actually likes the new guy.
Figure out what you like to do with your stepson and make that your niche. Don't pick basketball.
Reach Dr. Jann Blackstone, the author of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," at email@example.com.