Q. My ex and I share equal custody of our twin 6-year-old boys. They are close to my father, with whom I recently had a falling out over a business deal. I’m so angry I don’t want the kids around my parents for the holidays, but my ex insisted on taking them there on Thanksgiving. It’s been a tradition and they were with her this year. Although I have them on Christmas Eve, she has them on Christmas Day and says she’s going to take them to my parents home on that day as well. She told me. “It’s your issue, not the kids.” This can’t be good ex-etiquette. What do I do?
A. Actually, it is good ex-etiquette, particularly if she’s doing it for the sake of the children and not to be spiteful. It sounds as if it has been your tradition each year and despite the bad blood between you and your dad, she wants the children to maintain the status quo and keep the relationship with their grandparents in tact, especially around the holidays.
She is going against what you want, and, based on that, I can see why you think there is a bad ex-etiquette component to all this, but it also sounds as if you are letting your anger with your father cloud your judgment, and, as a result, you are being spiteful.
“I’m angry with Dad, so the kids have to stay away from him.” That breaks two primary rules of good ex-etiquette: Rules No. 5 and 6, “Don’t be spiteful” and “Don’t hold grudges.” You make your judgments in the best interest of the kids — not because you’re angry and want everyone to do what you want them to do. Mom seems to see that and is making her decisions accordingly.
I always suggest my readers consult the 10 Rules of Good Ex-etiquette for Parents for direction. Good Ex-etiquette rule No. 1 is, “Put the children first.” Rule No. 7 is, “Be empathetic when problem-solving” or, better said, put yourself in your kids’ shoes.
How do you think your kids will feel about not being allowed to see Grandma and Grandpa around the holidays? Six-year-olds will not understand why you’re angry with Grandpa — nor will they care — even if you are right and Grandpa is wrong.
It is unfortunate that this falling-out happened so close to Christmas. However, use it as an opportunity to rise above anger and resentment in your children’s best interest.
You don’t have to “give in” before you’ve worked it out with your father, but if the children are not in danger at Grandma and Grandpa’s, allowing them to continue the tradition until you can work out your issues with your dad will serve them best.
Finally, it appears Mom is an unbiased third party, even though you are skeptical of her intentions. In the spirit of Christmas and good ex-etiquette, I suggest you follow her lead and support their holiday with Grandma and Grandpa.
While the kids are at their grandparents’ home, remember good ex-etiquette rule No. 3, “No badmouthing.” No matter how angry you are at your father or at your ex, they are your children’s grandfather and mother. Badmouthing them in front of the kids will hurt the kids far more than it will hurt anyone else.
Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families..