Q: When I had my daughter I looked forward to Mother's Day. Every year she would pick me flowers from the garden and we had a tea party in the back yard. As she grew older it became breakfast, but her dad and I ended up divorcing and he remarried and now Mother's Day is not the same. His wife asks if she can just spend a couple hours with my daughter, now 13, and in order to keep the peace, I say yes, but the truth is, it's my day and I hate sharing it. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Well, thank you for being honest. I think you probably echo many mom's feelings about the day. I have to commend you for looking for a solution rather than making the day a battlefield. You can use that strategy for any day – for the sake of your child who is watching how her parents problem solve in the face of conflict.
That said, just as parenting plans can change because they no longer meet the needs of the children, so can solutions that worked previously. Your daughter is older now and a couple hours that seemed appropriate when she was a youngster, now could feel like an imposition. They split up your day and you can't go on the day or weekend trip together that you would like. On the other hand, Dad is probably saying it's only a couple of hours, her bonusmom looks forward to it and it's what we've always done. ...What's the big deal?
Time to look for another solution.
I can volunteer a story from my own life and I had nothing to do with finding the solution, my bonuskids did.
If you have been reading this column you know that was originally co-written with my bonuskids' mom. We had developed a strong friendship through raising the kids together and just about every holiday was spent together – for 23 years. We are still very good friends, but as the kids grew into adulthood things changed. My bonuskids and their mother started a tradition of going to Capitola, Calif., each year around Mother's Day. My bonuskids anticipated the trip and started setting aside the Sunday prior to Mother's Day to have dinner together. It was never formally discussed, I just realized that is what has been happening for the last five or six years. They love me and that was their solution. It's worked perfectly. That's Bonusmom Day at our house.
Do I require a Bonusmom Day? Absolutely not. This was their solution and I'm grateful they love me enough to look for a compromise that works for them. (Ex-etiquette rule No. 10.)
So, in the interest of good ex-etiquette, consider explaining that you would like the full Mother's Day this year with your daughter, and offer the Sunday prior to her bonusmom (or any other day that works for your family – maybe the Sunday afterwards.) If it works you've got your solution with no stress on your daughter to have to choose. And, at 13, don't forget to check in her take on it. She may have a better solution for all. That's good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at email@example.com.)