EX-ETIQUETTE: Taking on toddler bonuskids for more than a day is too long
Q. My husband has a son who is 7. We have been married for 5 years. The son's mother (to whom my husband was never married) has gone on to have three more children. She and her current boyfriend want to send the younger kids to visit their older ...
Q. My husband has a son who is 7. We have been married for 5 years. The son's mother (to whom my husband was never married) has gone on to have three more children. She and her current boyfriend want to send the younger kids to visit their older brother for a week or two while he spends the summer with us. Plus, I just found out that they are planning a trip to Hawaii at the same time. I'm having real problems with this! What is proper ex-etiquette?
A. The fact that you are remaining rational and asking for advice is really commendable because most would automatically say, "No way!" and not even think of the alternative. I like it when parents look outside of the box for creative ways to co-parent after a break-up.
My kids went back and forth between homes and were very close to their bonus siblings. All the kids saw each other every day and when it was time to return to the other parent's home and possibly bring a bonus or half sibling with them, we approached it the same as asking if a friend could spend the night -- understanding that it was for one night and there was always lots of one-on-one kid and parent time for each of the kids.
Your situation is different. Your child does not see his father on a regular basis and his visitation with dad is designed to allow them to spend time together and get reacquainted. Although the suggestion of siblings visiting him at his dad's home is a creative one, if you do the math, the kids you are talking about are all younger than 5. Suggesting that nursery school age and toddler-age children accompany their brother to their father's home for a week or two, first, seems incredibly presumptuous, not to mention the liability and lots of work for you. More importantly, however, it's not in the best interest of the toddler-age children to spend that many consecutive days away from the parent who normally takes care of him or her _ especially with someone the child does not know. If you are up for it, a couple of days might be appropriate when the children are older and it can be explained to them where they are going and with whom they are staying, but now, even though creative, it sounds like ex and boyfriend may just want help babysitting. Don't get me wrong, I am very supportive of these siblings staying in touch while brother goes to see his dad. They are babies and probably won't understand why he's going away for two or three months. Breaking up is difficult for all, but what mom and boyfriend propose -- at least for the age of the children concerned -- is impractical.
There's always Skype.
Or, as an afterthought, you could tell ex and boyfriend that you'll be glad to do it -- in Hawaii -- if they supply the tickets.