Single-Parent woes
December 6, 2005 8:29 AM   Subscribe

SingleParentFilter: I am a single dad with primary custody of my son. His mother has a live in boyfriend who she met and moved out for while we were still married. I am having trouble dealing with my feelings towards this man as I see him becoming a bigger part of my son's life. What are strategies I should know?

Other than being the man my ex left me for, I can't find a lot to like about this man. He is eight years younger than my ex, lived with his mother until he moved in with my ex, has a crap job and the few times I've met him he seemed spineless. He has taken to giving my son 'allowance' every time he goes over and has now taken to spending the night at their apartment when my son is there.

Last night, after my son returned for another weekend at his mother's (the third weekend in a row due to Thanksgiving), he asked me if I could be his brother or Grandfather. I asked him why and he told me that he wants his mother's boyfriend to be his new Dad because he is 'nicer' than me.

After my son went to bed it took me an hour to get a grip on myself. My emotions ranged from deep sadness to plotting revenge. Even now I'm still sad from what he said even though I know that a six year-old's wishes are easily swayed.

How should I respond to his feelings about this other man? What can I say to my son to explain my feelings without coming across as the bitter one in the divorce. I refuse to speak poorly about his mother, but I'm having a hard time waiting for him to figure out what a slut whore skank kind of person she has become.
posted by DragonBoy to Human Relations (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh honey, that sounds awful- I'm sorry you're in this situation.

I would explain to your son that you're his Daddy, and you'll always be his Daddy because you love him so much that you always want to take care of him, but that Mommy's new "friend" can be his friend, because you can never have too many people who love you. And then keep on being Daddy- you're never gonna win the "cool" contest with people who don't have the responsibility of parenting your child. But he's only six- he's not gonna feel the way he feels now forever. Hang in there :-D
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Wow. Unfortunately, I don't have a really good answer to your questions, but I have to just express how badly I feel for you -- someone who is clearly trying to do the right thing. I can feel the sting of your son's question.

Although I think trying not to put down your ex (or her boyfriend) is a noble goal, you may need to realize that you're in a fight for your son's loyalty, whether you're playing or not. If you don't play, you may lose.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:47 AM on December 6, 2005

Jeez, man. I can't pretend to know what you're going through, but you probably need to talk to his mom about this. Remind her that kids do figure it out when one parent tries to buy love, and will cynically exploit it, not to mention resenting it when they hit about 18. Come to think of it, that may be some solace.

Good luck.

On preview, TPS has great advice as far as talking to your boy goes.
posted by notsnot at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2005

No solid advice here, but man that sounds awful. Any chance you could ask your son what he likes about the "new friend"? If it's straightforward bribing, then even 6 year olds can learn that money can't buy you love...
posted by handee at 8:52 AM on December 6, 2005

Given that you said nothing to indicate that you had ever been married to this woman, that means you probably had extramarital sex with her. (I apologize and please correct me if you were married to her and never had sex with her before that union).

That said, it's pretty rich of you to call her a slut/skank/whore under the circumstances. What makes her a whore now? Is it because the sex isn't with *you*?

*end derail*

It sounds like this new fellow is purposely trying to ingratiate himself with your son (possibly to spite you). Show your son love and give him quality time. In all likelihood, this dude will be one of many. Soon your son will see that mommy's boyfriends come and go, but you will be there for him forever.
posted by skjønn at 8:55 AM on December 6, 2005

You know, you are coming to this question with a lot of preconceived notions which your son almost certainly doesn't have. He asked you if this other guy could be Dad.

Why did he ask you? Because he didn't know the answer, and because he loves and respects you. Let him know that the answer's no - tell him that you love him more than any other person could, and that being nice is only part of what being Dad is all about. You don't have to get upset about it - just calmly explain how it's going to be.

You're Dad, after all. To a six-year-old, that puts you up there with God and Vishnu. He'll listen to what you say.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Skjonn: he did say they were married. Read it again.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:58 AM on December 6, 2005

Oh man, this sounds like a really tough situation to be in. I applaud your refusal to speak poorly of your child's mother. No matter your opinion of her, the two of you will be interacting on a regular basis for the rest of your child's life (which probably means the rest of your natural life.)

Would you consider going to see a counselor to vent some of your frustrations about the divorce? Sometimes it really helps to be able to rant to someone who's on your side, and a therapist might be able to give you some good suggestions on how to forge a cordial relationship with your ex and strengthen your bond with your son as he grows.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and had joint custody of my brother and me. Even though trash-talking was rare, the tension between them during the "hand-off" was palpable--and upsetting! to me as a kid.

One last thing: You say you're waiting for the day your son realizes what a bad person his mom has become. Tread v.v. carefully here. All kids will at some point become annoyed or angry at one or the other parents. If they then vent that anger to the other parent, and that parent piles on with "Yes! Your mother IS a huge bitch. She IS manipulative and horrible, you're completely right, I'm glad you finally realized it!" Well, that might feel good at the moment but I think it's ultimately damaging. Your kid only has one mom. Half of his DNA comes from her. You really don't want your kid to end up in a situation where he complains about dad to mom and mom to dad. Kids are so savvy, they pick up on positive feedback from their parents so easily. If he gets the idea that you like it when he bashes her, he'll do it more and more. Try to stick to your "no bad-mouthing" plan, even if your kid starts it.
posted by bonheur at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2005

Hey Skjonn,
His mother has a live in boyfriend who she met and moved out for while we were still married
Time to appologize.
posted by leapingsheep at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2005

Love your son and stand firm. Bribes and candy might earn your son's attention, but they won't earn his respect.
posted by Loudmax at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2005

I have a son that age.

Kids that age are trying out different things - they might punch another kid not because they're bad, but because they simply don't know any better. They're still learning about, well, about everything. Sometimes they say things that are hurtful because they're still trying to figure things out themselves. So I wouldn't take it too hard - not that I think it didn't hurt, but from knowing boys that age, I don't think he meant it to be hurtful. You have mixed feelings about things sometimes and so does he. He'll figure things out in time.

And, on preview, what ikkyu2 said too.
posted by GuyZero at 9:02 AM on December 6, 2005

DragonBoy, I'm sorry you're dealing with this, and please do continue your policy of not speaking ill of the boy's mother. I suggest you check the phone book for support groups in your area -- you're in Houston, it's a big city, there are bound to be some single-parent groups in your area. Don't limit yourself to single-father groups only. Plenty of women out there are dealing with the same situation you are with their ex-husbands.

I'd also suggest looking into counseling. Seek out a counselor who specializes in families with young children.

Good luck to you.
posted by Gator at 9:03 AM on December 6, 2005

Skjonn-- Whoa there, way out of line. Yes, the "whore" comment was a little over the top, but the rest of the question fleshes out the very dificult situation that DragonBoy is in right now. He deserves to be frustrated.

Also, you might want to actually *read* the question before leaping into attack mode-- DragonBoy mentions both marriage and divorce. Whether or not your comment gets deleted (and it very well may, I flagged it), you owe DragonBoy an immediate apology.
posted by bonheur at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2005

Talking to the mother may not help. When my gf moved in with me, my ex had a hard time constantly hearing my gf's name and hearing about the fun things the kids were doing with her. My ex talked to me, and frankly, I secretly relished her jealousy over the kids fond feelings for my gf.

Of course, now she has a bf, and I get the opportunity to feel what she'd been feeling.

I think it's best to maintain a civil relationship with your ex and with her bf, but keep it to parenting only. Talk to your ex about what kind of messages you want to send to your kids, so that you each be consistent.

Tell your son that you love him, and be consistent with him. If at all possible, communicate to him that you're comfortable with your ex's new bf, that the family is changing but that you will always be his father.
posted by indigo4963 at 9:08 AM on December 6, 2005

I asked him why and he told me that he wants his mother's boyfriend to be his new Dad because he is 'nicer' than me.

When I was 7 and doing shared custody between my separated parents, I was fully aware of the strategic potential for playing one off the other to try to get more from both. Don't discount the possibility that he's doing the same thing. I'd expect a 6-year-old to understand what brothers and fathers and grandfathers are enough to know you don't shift the titles around, so it struck me that maybe he's trying to get a reaction.

Of course I eventually got called on it and cut it out, but it took coordinated effort between both of my parents to make it so I'd stop getting away with it.
posted by mendel at 9:14 AM on December 6, 2005

Man. That is a super rough and painful situation and I don't envy you. Big ups to you for being such an awesome father to your son and realizing how important it is to not put your child in the middle of what you're experiencing with your hosebeast of an ex.

Although I think trying not to put down your ex (or her boyfriend) is a noble goal, you may need to realize that you're in a fight for your son's loyalty, whether you're playing or not. If you don't play, you may lose.

Please don't go that route. I'm not a parent, but I grew up in the midst of painful and childish divorces in my family left and right. Being a pawn in a loyalty game as a child is incredibly damaging to a child's psyche, and you are so right to tough it out while your son has these very normal but hurtful feelings. You could win his loyalty in the very short term by trying to be the fun dad, or badmouthing this guy to your son, but in the very long run when he is older, and remembers feeling beholden to your emotions, he will resent you. You have to be the grown up in this situation, not your son.

I don't think there's anything wrong with telling your son that you are his daddy, you are proud to be his daddy, and you will never give that up. But his feelings are normal, it's hard for a six year old to parse and understand a new family structure.

Good luck to you, your son is very lucky to have such a good father. Keep doing what you're doing, and make sure you have a good and strong support system to vent to when you're frustrated. Maybe a therapist once a month? A therapist could help you see how these things could affect your son in the very long term.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:16 AM on December 6, 2005

Keep telling your son that your his Dad and that you love him with all you are. Let him know that being a parent is not the same thing as being a friend or sibling. Acknowledge that you see he wants you as part of his life. However, your role as his father will not change simply because Mom has a new friend.

I know it is hard, but keep your promise to not speak ill about his mother. My mom did this when my parents divorced. Through all the years of my father ignoring us and not paying child support and even acknowledging us as our kids, she never spoke ill of him. When we were adults and had a chance to meet him, we were able to form our own opinions of him and what type of person he is. Your son's relationship with his mother should not be swayed by your feelings about her behavior.

No matter what happens in your ex's house, continue providing your son with a loving, stable home with consistent rules and expectations and lots of love. As your son gets older, he'll find your house to be the better home, the safer place.

Finally, speak with your ex about what the new friend is doing and clearly voice your opinion about the allowance if you don't like it. The new friend clearly knows that for peace in the house with your ex, he needs the good favor of your son. He's clearly willing to be the cool grown-up and buy your son's favor.

Good luck.
posted by onhazier at 9:18 AM on December 6, 2005

Given that you said nothing to indicate that you had ever been married to this woman, that means you probably had extramarital sex with her. (I apologize and please correct me if you were married to her and never had sex with her before that union).

That said, it's pretty rich of you to call her a slut/skank/whore under the circumstances. What makes her a whore now? Is it because the sex isn't with *you*?
posted by skjønn at 8:55 AM PST on December 6

You should probably stop posting forever.

On-topic: DragonBoy: kids are really dumb and incredibly perceptive. If you are a good father, he will love you. If the new guy is a loser asshole, he will figure it out. It's hard because you have to be the disciplinarian and help him grow into a man; the new guy probably isn't yet a man himself. Loudmax and ikkyu2 are dead on.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2005

Once again, I feel like PinkSuperHero nailed this.

To add - kids are incredibly perceptive, and they start figuring things out instinctively long before they're able to fully articulate it as an adult would. If things progress with your ex and her new bf, it's (from what we can tell here) incumbent upon you to keep lines of communication open with her and provide a unified front and consistent ruleset for your son.

Love him. Ultimately, he will be a better man for it. So will you.

And I understand your anger and emotional rollercoaster - it's an incredibly tough road. Good luck to you.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

My immediate thought was, "Fine, he's nicer, but I'll always love you and be there for you. That's what a DAD does." My parents divorced when I was young and my mom never spoke badly about my father, who had visitation rights but never used them. I have a great "Dad" who supported me financially, emotionally, and every other way that may count (and still does). He is a DAD. You earn it, you don't buy it.

Being part of a new family is hard. The new guy may not be trying to take your place (unless he asked your son to call him "Dad", in which case a sit down with the mom and boyfriend would definitely be in order), he may be searching for a place to fit in and Older Male Friend/Big Brother seem a lot like Dad to small children.
posted by blackkar at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2005

I'm having a hard time waiting for him to figure out what a slut whore skank kind of person she has become

Lots of good advice in here already, but I wanted to focus on this sentence in particular. Don't hold your breath waiting for your son to figure out that you're the "good" parent and his mom is the rotten cheater who destroyed your happy family. Virtue is its own reward; you can't expect a cookie from your 6 year old for being a faithful husband. She'll always be his mommy, and he'll always love her no matter what she did to you. Try to let go of some of that resentment, and take comfort in the fact that you have primary custody, and can enjoy watching him grow up every day for the next 12 years.
posted by junkbox at 9:31 AM on December 6, 2005

That's a tough one DragonBoy. From my experience, the parents with primary or sole custody many times get stuck in the "bad guy" role, trying to make the kids eat their veggies and go to bed on time. When they go off for the weekend it's McDonalds and video games till 3 a.m. But GuyZero has it right. Over time, he will figure things out. My stepson has lived with us since he was two and he is now ten. Over that time, his emotions have run the gamut. He's screamed about not wanting to go away for visitation; he's also cried about having to come back. Eventually your son will figure things out. It just takes time.

it's hard for a six year old to parse and understand a new family structure.

posted by Otis at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2005

I'm having a hard time waiting for him to figure out what a slut whore skank kind of person she has become

I hear the (understandable) pain and feelings of betrayal behind this, but please realize that for your son's health as a grown man someday, you need to hope that he NEVER views her as a "slut/whore/skank".

You're hurting, but this is deadly serious: boys who think this way about their mothers can have grave problems with relationships with women further down the line. Anything from, "emotionally distant/suspicious" to, "assault and battery." (Ask any woman who has dated a man who harbors feelings of bitterness and disrespect over his mother's perceived "sluttiness".)

Make sure you are separating your own pain from the job of making sure your son grows up to be a healthy man who is capable of a loving and respectful relationship with a woman (assuming he is hetero, of course).
posted by availablelight at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2005

You could also tell your son how proud you are to be his father, and that he is a part of you. You don't have to get into the whole where-babies-come-from bit, but tell him that he's around because Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much (even if that's in the past) and he was a result of that love, and that he's made up of little bits of both of you...

Are there hobbies/activities you have that could share with your son? It could make him proud to be your son if he sees some of himself in you, and vice versa. Like 'Dad collects stamps, and I like stamps, too!'

My parents divorced when I was very young (3), and because they didn't want my routines to be upset, they rented an apartment down the block and traded off living spaces, Mom and me in the house and Dad in the apartment for one week, then Dad and me in the house and Mom in the apartment the next. I greatly benefited from their committment to keep my childhood free of their relationship drama. There were tense moments, to be sure, but overall they worked well together to raise me seperately. My dad introduced me to reading and crosswords, activities that we shared, and my mom showed me the world of theater and performing. I bonded with my parents during these activities, and realized that I was the sum of these two different people.

Your boy is young, I know, but he is old enough to be proud of being his father's son. The new guy may have easy fun and fast cash, but you are the reason the little man is here in the world. Don't forget that, and hang in there.
posted by inging at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2005

Lots of good advice here. Early in my divorce, someone taught me that part of my job as a parent is to model good behavior, and to teach my child how to treat other people, including his (cheating, lying, irresponsible, jackass) Dad. So I always took my son out to help him get Christmas, birthday and Father's Day gifts for his Dad, and taught him to get his Stepmother a Mother's Day card when his dad remarried.

The new guy has a role: Stepdad. You can't control the Mom, or the Stepdad. Letting go of that is really hard, but it's part of divorce. You can teach him your values. Respect and love for his mom is one of the values you should teach him, because it's the right thing to do.

Even if your son is doing okay, bitterness and anger between his parents is really hard on a child. Get a therapist, so there's someone you can rant to about how awful she is.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on December 6, 2005

"you may need to realize that you're in a fight for your son's loyalty, whether you're playing or not. If you don't play, you may lose."


I'm in a not dissimilar situation. We have shared custody; my daughter spends one week with me, one week with my ex and her new husband. I believe very, very strongly that you need to allow your child to maintain its love and respect for its other parent, otherwise you are stealing that from the child. Futhermore, you're a parent, and you need to demonstrate good behaviour. If you know which way the high road goes, you need to take it.

As to figuring out what his mother has become: sorry dude, it's not going to happen. Or it may not happen. He will love his Mummy and be blind to her faults for a long, long time. On the upside, that goes for you too.

Moralising aside, from your description it sounds like Mr Dweeb is a temporary fixture. You'll be around forever; just be cool, and in time DragonBoy Jr will start to become well aware of that. I think getting into a competition will be fatal to your dignity and position as a father, and real bad for your son if it escalates.

Don't forget that one day you may be getting together with someone else who might arouse strong feelings in your ex and your son. Pave the way for that day by being cool now.

One reason you're getting such disturbing questions is that small children don't understand what's happening or share the depth of your language skills. Probably in his mind he's thinking "guy who lives with mum = dad", and he doesn't know what "biological father" is, nor what it means for you to be his "real dad". And no doubt he's been filled with the same images of happy nuclear families as all the other kids. So he's asking you what the right labels are for a situation that doesn't fit the words or the models he has for families. I doubt very much that he realises what this means, and he would be heartbroken if he could know how you felt.

It's been five years in our family now. My ex remarried Mr Wedge as soon as she could. And you know, we're all mellow now. I don't feel threatened any more (and you can bet I did then) and our daughter is a very happy child who loves me to bits.

One thing I have learned is that practising tolerance and good-feeling has over time been like that Oscar Wilde story about the bad guy who wears a mask. Eventually, you really don't feel bad towards anyone. If you can do this then your feelings are no longer at the mercy of other people. Never mind your son, this is an important thing to do for yourself.

Parting words: stay cool, take the long view. Be a philosopher.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:57 AM on December 6, 2005

Dragonboy, kudos for taking the courageous route here. I echo the excellent advice other posters have told you: Continue to speak highly of his mom and don't ever betray your true feelings of her. Be there for your kid, tell him you love him and that it's OK for him to like mom's new friend but that you'll always be his dad.

It's posts like these that make me put minor problems in perspective. Good luck. I'll be praying for you.
posted by Happydaz at 11:01 AM on December 6, 2005

No direct advice, but I did want to add in my good wishes and kudos to you, dragonboy, and to make note of the excellent advice in this thread. I have a friend going through a similar situation (except the genders are reversed -- husband left her for another woman, leaving behind a 4-year-old son), and she's struggling too with how not to speak ill of her ex, despite his jackass behavior, so that her son can maintain a positive, healthy relationship with him. I'll definitely be showing this thread to her to see if it can help her, as well.
posted by scody at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2005

Amazing advice on this thread.

I just wanted toa dd something that might lessen the sting a wee bit. Kids that age don't understand that Daddy=person who impregnated female who gave birth to me. When I was a camp counselor for kids about that age, I got called mommy all the time, even when I was only seven or eight years older than them. I was a female who was friendly, caring, but wielded power over them, therefore I was a 'mommy'. Cold comfort, probably, but he'll get it sorted out in his head soon enough, and you'll be Daddy-one-and-only-who-loves-me. Believe me, that'll count for more than bribery soon.
posted by kalimac at 11:38 AM on December 6, 2005

We have shared custody; my daughter spends one week with me, one week with my ex and her new husband. I believe very, very strongly that you need to allow your child to maintain its love and respect for its other parent, otherwise you are stealing that from the child.

I do too, in an ideal world. But that assumes both sides are acting accordingly. If the "other side" is actively trying to turn your child against you (not saying that is, or isn't happening in this case; just a "what if"), and you're staying on the high road, you may lose. If an "ex" of mine and her new boyfriend engaged in a deliberate campaign to turn my son against me, and I "lost" my son because I refused to say anything bad about them, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I think many of you are downplaying the susceptibility of a six-year-old, and are minimizing the damage that could be done by the ex and her boyfriend. But I guess I'm a pessimist.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2005

I have never been in this situation, either from a parental perspective or a child's but I can offer you this from the short road to 40.

When I take a minute to look back on the biggest influences my immediate family members have had on me I can think of very few that were the result of an answer to a question I asked or something I was told. Mostly they are all the result of the things my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles DID (or did not). I think if you work at being the man you want your son to look to as an inspirational figure, you will be.
posted by phearlez at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2005

My ex's new partner is a better dad than I am because he gets to spend about 20 days a month with my 6 year old compared to the 4-5 days I am lucky enough to string together. It's a question of how you spend your time with your kid in my view. You don't want to spoil him - dad is not synonymous with "person who gives you presents" but you do want to create memorable times together - whatever he likes - go do it. My boy likes science and nature so we go out to parks and collect leaves and feathers and rocks and then we go identify them and write it up in a journal. It stays at my place and he always has loads of new things to add when he does come to stay.

It just about breaks my heart when I accidentally get called grandpa or something other than "daddy" but I know that the time we spend together is precious and worthwhile.

Wish I could write more but I am at work right now so just let me add that you have my sympathy.
posted by longbaugh at 11:58 AM on December 6, 2005

Damn. Been there, still doing that. My husband's ex divorced him to move in with and subsequently marry the man she had been seeing while they were still married. This was about 11 years ago, when his boys were 4 and 2. He was just *replaced* by this guy one day. Drove over to pick the boys up, and there he was, mowing the lawn.

I came on the scene a few years later, and have been observing the hell these two like to put my husband through. Although "the consort" (as we call him) wants the boys to call him dad, my dh explained that HE is their dad. They can call the other dude "pops" or something, but HE is dad. Now that I'm their stepmom, they can appreciate that their mom certainly wouldn't like it if they called me "mommy." (In fact, they started calling me "Mamy" this year, all on their own, which tickled me to no end.)

My dh has always resisted being the Disneyland dad, and I think that over the years that has helped. He has maintained a solid, secure home for the boys and kept his mouth shut about their mother and her flying monkey. Now that the boys are in their teens, we are a little more likely to comment on things that happen at their mom's house. For instance, just a few weeks ago the step-dad told me I wasn't allowed in the house when I came to pick up the boys, and yelled at the 15 year old for letting me in. We let my stepson know we appreciated that he had been polite and invited me and his half-brothers inside.

Basically, over the years these two have tried to use the boys and manipulate them and get them to hate us and it's backfired every time. They love us and consider us family despite...or maybe because of... the weird things they have heard over the years.

Good luck.
posted by Biblio at 12:50 PM on December 6, 2005

Remember that you are not your kid's "friend" - you're his parent. It's not a popularity contest, and you can't always expect gratitude.

Make sure you're taking care of yourself and doing whatever it takes to keep yourself well mentally and physically. You have a tough row to hoe and still need to be a source of stability for your son.

Tell the ex and step that you want more equal weekend time - it's not fair that you have to do the day to day stuff and they get all your son's fun time.

I would lean towards not trying to explain this to the son, but working it out with the other adults or just trying to have more fun with him to counteract the discipline / schoolwork, etc. He might not understand your feelings, and it's not really his problem how you feel. He's just a kid. Ideally you and your ex could work together to be consistent parents and good role models - and the step could reinforce this. But if that's impossible just try not to burden your son with a situation that's not his fault.

It's not easy and you're doing great.
posted by Marnie at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2005

Wow. Ouch. What a kick in the taco. All I can add is that you need to remember that little kids can be very mean, in a very deliberate way. The other night I was feeding my four year old nephew dinner and I was telling how something made me happy, and he said "Well, I'm going to make you feel sad. I don't love you." Word for word quote. Little kids often don't have a sense of what's appropriate, what's hurtful. They're going to say unkind things. That's their nature. Remember grade school?
You, on the other hand, are apparently a grown-up who knows when to keep his mouth shut, even in the face of you son's childish disloyalty. Good. There are appropriate venues for venting though (MeFi I think was a good place to start), but I hope that you don't stay stuck in the anger. A good counsellor can help you deal with this constructively.
In short, don't take what he said too personally, but try to see this as an opportunity to address your own lingering rage and disappointment.
posted by Sara Anne at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2005

Really sorry. :-( I saw the part where you called her a whore and went into attack mode without thinking. I missed the part where she cheated on you. It was stupid of me, and I should've read the question better. You seem like a good guy, and I'm sure your son will eventually be able to see past any saccharine attempts of the jerk who broke your family up. Best wishes.
posted by skjønn at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2005

pardonyou?, I think kids are smart enough to draw their own conclusions. Also, I think casting this as a war is way to dramatic, given that the offence thus far seems to be slipping the kid some cash every now and then. It seems far more plausible to me that rather than engaging in a war for the kid's affections, the stepdad is just trying to curry favour with the mother and maybe forestall resentment from the boy. Stepdad is a young guy who's probably clueless around kids; I wouldn't be attributing malice where stupidity is an adequate explanation.

Even accepting your framing of this situation as a war with the boy as a prize to be lost, how is it in the boy's best interests to fight such a war?

A couple of things I thought about on the way to work.

1. We're all hectoring the poor poster on what to do. I just want to pull back a sec and say brother, I felt what you feel, and you would have to be made of stone not to. So while we may urge you to behave in certain ways, cut yourself plenty of slack.

2. If you have primary custody, you are way, way ahead of the average male bear in this situation.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:41 PM on December 6, 2005

Stepdad is a young guy who's probably clueless around kids; I wouldn't be attributing malice where stupidity is an adequate explanation.

Given that the stepdad was willing to break up the marriage even though he knew there was a kid involved, I'd say attributing malice is only logical, if not the best course of action as far as the son is concerned.
posted by skjønn at 1:44 PM on December 6, 2005

skjønn, when my ex and i broke up, I had a lot of well-meant but vengeful advice from my friends that sounded like you and pardonyou?. It was bad advice that would have put everyone through the grinder in the name of protecting my rights as paterfamilias.

It does not follow that because stepdad has behaved immorally or unethically that he bears malice towards Dragonboy. He can be a twat and a dolt rather than a bad man, and I think that's much more likely.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2005

Every time you get angry I would think about how lucky you are to have primary custody. I would just tell your six year old that you are his Dad and always will be.
posted by xammerboy at 3:19 PM on December 6, 2005

skjønn writes "Given that the stepdad was willing to break up the marriage even though he knew there was a kid involved..."

I'm pretty sure the ex-wife was part of the breaking up of the marriage too. Stepdad didn't just come in and drag her out by her hair caveman-style.
posted by chiababe at 3:44 PM on December 6, 2005


Thank you all for the advice. It has been, for the most part very helpful. A couple of things to clear up, the boyfriend is not a stepdad and I don't think he will be. After being married for ten years I just can't see him lasting with my ex. Still, I wish him all the misery in the world for his part in the break-up of my marriage (and he did play a role in it).

I will talk to my son this weekend about being his father and put things right with him. I think that a lot of what happened last night had to do with stress and sleepiness. He certainly doesn't seem to feel the same way today.

I know I am lucky to have custody as a father. Believe me I know this, and don't think it was easy to get custody.

Thanks for all the advice. I really do appreciate your thoughts.
posted by DragonBoy at 5:17 PM on December 6, 2005

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