By Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe
Contra Costa Times (MCT)
Q: My ex-wife and I have two children. I recently married a woman with three young children. My wife insists on going to all of my biological children's doctor and dentist appointments, which causes my ex-wife to become extremely territorial and recently caused a confrontation at a doctor's office in front of the kids. My wife still insists on going even after that took place and says it's my ex's issue to deal with and not ours. Any advice on how to resolve that issue?
A: We have to say, your wife's out of line. Ex Etiquette Rule No. 4, "Bioparents make the rules, bonusparents uphold them," makes it very clear: Bonusparents should not interfere in an already established coparenting plan -- unless, of course, he or she has children of their own in the home. Then it's a carefully orchestrated dance combining past and present rules, and using the kids' best interest as the criteria for decision-making.
Better for your wife to work on building a cordial rapport with your ex-wife so they can keep communication open and problem-solve in the best interest of the children. If not, you see what happens: Mom gets offended and feels that bonusmom is overstepping her bounds _ and the truth is, she is.
Unless your wife's children have appointments on the same day and at the same office, there's no reason she should attend the appointments. And, since it's highly unlikely that appointments are the same, we can only think Stepmom is there to make her position known. It's time to make the boundaries clear, Dad. Initiate a conversation so that everyone -- you included -- understands their responsibilities to all the children. Truth is, you should have had that conversation before you got married.
When we first started this bonusfamily experiment, both of us would make appointments for the kids when they were scheduled to spend time with us, and then not tell the other. Information is power, and that meant whichever parent or bonusparent knew more about what the kids were doing, had more of it. So everyone was jockeying for position, secretly making doctor and dentist appointments. The kids had the cleanest teeth in town.
We finally came to our senses when we realized we needed each other's help. Too many kids, too many working parents going in too many directions. As a result, there were many times Sharyl was stuck in traffic and asked Jann or the kids' father to take the kids to a previously scheduled appointment -- and vice versa. The difference is when parents ask each other for help under the umbrella of cooperation and compromise, the other parents are grateful rather than offended.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at email@example.com.
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