General Question

spinner's avatar

Should I help my son out in this situation? (Details inside.)

Asked by spinner (178 points ) February 2nd, 2012

My son started a new middle school this year and one of his new friends invited him to a Super Bowl/birthday party this weekend. The boy is beside himself excited and I am really happy to see him making friends at his school. Here’s the rub: he is with his father this weekend. Whenever one of the kids has had an event on a weekend when they are with their dad, he promises to take them then comes up with an excuse at the last minute not to do it. After one too many very unhappy kids, my husband and I instituted a “No Planning Things with Friends on Weekends with Your Father” policy. Since this is late Sunday (only a couple hours before we would normally pick him up) and it is friends from his new school, we relented and let him attend.

There is a huge blizzard expected this weekend and there is no doubt in my mind that, although the snow is forecast to have stopped long before party time, his father will use it as an excuse not to take him to the party. Not going is really going to the party is really going to crush the boy.

So for the question. On the one hand, I want to tell my son to call me if his father refuses to take him so that I can pick him up and get him to his party. On the other hand I don’t want to bail out his father and have him (my ex) count on me to be the cavalry and save the day whenever he wants to flake out on something. I kind of want to protect the kid from seeing his father’s true colors, but it feels like that might be selling him a bad bill of goods. I kind of want to let him face the heartbreak, but that is tough for the mom in me to even consider.

What is your opinion, take him, or let his father devastate him?

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37 Answers

auhsojsa's avatar

Yes help him. I don’t get it. If the answer is yes already, stop premeditating the whole situation and make sure he goes over there. If you guys don’t want him to go over there due to blizzard conditions that’s fine too. He’ll understand.

chyna's avatar

It’s about your son, not bailing out your ex. Take your son to the party.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Can you trade weekends with the father? Would that solve the problem, maybe give the dad an extra weekend if it comes down to it.

This is primarily about your son not his father, so you may have to go the extra mile. But I would make sure your son got to the party.

Coloma's avatar

I think your sons best interests are what’s important. If his dad is a real jerk he’ll see it soon enough, at least by the time he is a young adult, it is inevitable. I divorced my daughters father when she was 15 and he showed her his crappy side soon enough, broken promises, stealthy manipulations. You know your ex better than your son and if he is likely to pull a slick willy move, I’d rearrange the weekend ahead of time to make sure your son is not disappointed. Don’t set him up for disapointment. This party means a lot to him, get him there, one way or another.

JilltheTooth's avatar

This weekend, this special event, yes, I think you should take him. I also like @WestRiverrat‘s idea, can you trade weekends this time? I see your point about not wanting this to be a regular thing, and you would need to explain to your son that you’re only doing this because it’s a super special one time event.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m going against the grain on this. It’s just a Super Bowl party (unless your son or one of the kids has a particular attachment to one of the participating teams), and it won’t be the end of the world for your son to miss it. And isn’t it about time that he learns the way his dad really is, if he doesn’t know that already? Yeah, he’ll be disappointed and hurt – and your ex might be somewhat resentful of your son’s disappointment, too – but it’s not going to be the end of the world for him, and he’d better start learning – unfortunately – not to depend on his dad.

chyna's avatar

@CWOTUS But the child has just started a new school and is wanting to fit in. I don’t know what the rest of the story is, but no doubt, the divorce has left the child in at least a little emotional turmoil, so it wouldn’t hurt to make a few things all about him. He has a life time to learn his dad is a jerk.

mangeons's avatar

Think about what it means to your son, not what effect it will have on your ex husband. Make it clear to your ex that you’re not going to be doing it regularly, and he can’t depend on you to do it. Explain, as @JilltheTooth said, that you are only doing it because it is a special event, and that this won’t be a regular occurrence. It’s great that your son is making friends at his new school, and you should encourage that as much as possible. Good luck!

CWOTUS's avatar

Whether either of the adults recognizes it or not, they’re still fighting, and using the boy as a proxy for the marriage. She needs to let go, and her ex-husband needs to confront his son and deal with him without his wife running interference for either of them. It’s about time, anyway.

vannie's avatar

Again, it’s about your son, not your ex. And your son will figure out his father’s true colors someday no matter what you do. Stop thinking about the effect on your ex and think about the effect on your son. Being invited to parties when in middle school is a big deal. Unless the blizzard makes it dangerous to go, get him there.

And why should he have to forego making any plans on the weekends when his dad has him? Since when are divorced dads exempted from parental duties (which include getting your kids to events)?

john65pennington's avatar

Take him to the party. What is between you and your ex is just that. Leave your child out of it. No need to have a broken heart, when its not necessary and mainly for your benefit.

Your child comes first. He is only small for a short time, so let him be a boy and do boy things.

janbb's avatar

Getting your son to the party is the most important thing in this situation. Take him. The rest is seocndary.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is a tough question. I see both sides of the discussion. I think in the end your son needs to be taken to the party, and I can also see what @CWOTUS is saying in that the adults are still fighting and that needs to stop. It seems to me that the only way for that to stop will be to follow the strict guidelines of “do not plan events on the weekends the boy is with Dad.”

I like @JilltheTooth‘s idea of trading weekends, but that would have limited value. It might also lead to the problem that if the son wants to attend an event, then the parents always trade so that his mom is available to take him. Does that make sense? In other words, that system might lead to misuse.

I say tell your son to call if his dad is unwilling to take him to the party but make it plain to both father and son that this is the last time.

There’s a bigger issue here: the father-son relationship. That needs to be nurtured. How that can best occur is not for me to say in answer to this question.

prioritymail's avatar

I don’t really understand why you have a no-friends-on-dad-weekends policy. Why is the dad so flaky? Is it because he only gets 2 out of 7 days of the week with his kids and actually wants to see them? If he had more time with them would that solve the problem?

hearkat's avatar

For once, I have to disagree with @janbb… the most important thing is your son’s safety. If the roads are bad from the blizzard then the party will have to be missed. (it’s only a minor disagreement of details, Jan – nothing personal! :-D )

As for the broader issue of letting his dad shoot himself in the foot where his relationship with your son is concerned – which will unquestionably hurt your son – I believe in honesty and reality. Trying to manipulate the situations to shield him only stresses you out more and prolongs the moment of truth; and you risk making yourself look like the ‘bad guy’.

For a very specific and special occasion such as this—as long as the roads are safe—I would go ahead with your idea to have your son call and you pick him up and take him to the party. But for the more routine issues, let your son form his own opinion of what kind of man his dad is.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Take him yourself please. I am in a similiar situation with my kids and ex. Please take him. It’s about your son, fitting in. He really wants to go. If it is safe, take him.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Take him to the party if his father won’t do it (as long as it’s safe). Your son has his whole life to learn about what his father is really like (if he doesn’t already know). I don’t see why he needs to suffer by missing a party he’s really excited about just so you can prove a point about his father. By proving this point about his father, you are also showing your son a few things about yourself. Be there for HIM, not your ex-husband. That’s what’s important.

YARNLADY's avatar

If Dad can’t do it, you do it. Either tell Dad you are going to pick him up early, or have Sonny call you if Dad can’t take him.

Ela's avatar

I wouldn’t ask his father to take him, I would just tell my ex I will be picking him up at whatever time and take him myself. That way neither one of us will have worry about how he will get the party or if he will.

augustlan's avatar

I have not read all the answers here, so sorry if I’m repeating. I’d just arrange to pick your child(ren) up early from dad’s house, and drop your son at the party on the way home.

whitenoise's avatar

You said he could go, while you had an agreement with your ex not to make such commitments. Talk to your ex and make sure your son gets there. Or… Explain that you made a promis outside your scope of control.

spinner's avatar

My ex-husband doesn’t know about our decision not to let them make plans with friends on the weekends they are with their father – that was a rule their step-dad and I made. Not taking him isn’t about the ex-husband, it is more about making a choice to no longer protect him from his father’s shenanigans.

Thanks for all the great input. In the end I plan to tell him that if his dad doesn’t want to take him to the party, to call me and I’ll get him there.

janbb's avatar

@hearkat I wasn’t clear enough about the safety issue – of course that’s primary, but I was assuming that factor would be considered somehow.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@spinner I’m curious, why would you want to no longer protect your son from his father’s shenanigans?

CWOTUS's avatar

First of all (in this third – ? – response), thanks to @Hawaii_Jake for correctly discerning my intent. I hate disappointing kids, and I hate to see them disappointed even when they’re not mine and I had nothing to do with it. But that’s what we’re talking about here, not “devastation” if the boy misses the game. There’ll be another one next year; it ain’ no thang.

But… speaking again to the OP… my other clarification to you is that “your ex may surprise you”. I think that you have been on the wrong end of a lot of passive-aggressive manipulation from him in the past, and he’s still playing you because he can. He may act very differently toward his son (and high time, too!), man up and “be a dad” for a change when it’s just between the two of them without you as a go-between (or willing victim).

It’s really up to you to change the dynamic, and with you still running interference for your ex and trying to make up for (what appears to you as) his shortcomings, then he’s still getting a free ride, especially if your son thinks that he’s the cool one and you’re just some sort of worker bee or drone (the cook, the chauffeur, the housekeeper and laundress, etc.) or disciplinarian, etc.

If your ex really is the shit that you perceive him to be, and if he disappoints your son greatly, well, he’s young. It’s only the SuperBowl and a single weekend; he’ll get over it. Meanwhile, he’ll start to learn to deal with diminished expectations from that individual, evaluate your status differently – for the better, one hopes – and rely on workarounds, alternate plans and his own devices. All of that will be better for him in the long run if you can set aside your own expectation of disappointment in your ex and realize that though your son might be greatly disappointed in the outcome of the weekend, he’ll get over it, and he’ll be better off knowing the truth, too.

janbb's avatar

@CWOTUS I understand what you are saying but I think you may be missing the larger significance of this game to the boy. It’s not the game, it’s that he is a new school and was invited to a party he really wants to go to with new friends. That, I think, is the salient factor and the kid will have many more opportunities to find out what kind of man his father is.

CWOTUS's avatar

No, I did see that, @janbb (thank you), and it does add somewhat more significance to “this particular SuperBowl”, but if it weren’t “this SuperBowl” it would be something else that’s less than once-in-a-lifetime significant.

Maybe part of the issue is that the boy himself needs to learn to call an audible and talk to his father to tell him what is important to him – to run his own plays rather than having Mom direct all the action herself (to follow the football metaphor).

spinner's avatar

@Seaofclouds, @CWOTUS articulated my feelings about not covering up the ex’s shenanigans beautifully. It feels as though if I bail the boy out every time his father lets him down, I arm really just covering up his father’s misdeeds and selling the boy a bad bill of goods. Namely, making him believe that his father is just a great guy who is doing his best and his flubs are ok because someone else will step up.

@CWOTUS I am really, sincerely hoping that his father surprises me and takes him to the party as he promised to do. My son didn’t even mention the party to me until after he had spoken to his father and extracted a promise of a ride from him. Because he has made promises several times in the past and the kids have missed everything from sports practices and games to parties of beloved friends, I have good reason to believe he would do it again.

As an aside, my husband (the boys’ stepfather with whom he has a pretty good relationship) asked my son if he thought he would be able to stand up to his father, remind him of the promise he made, and let him know how important this event is to him, should he refuse to drive him to the party. My son said he believes he will. I know that my husband’s hope in having this talk is to empower the boy to speak up to his father. I was typing this and didn’t read your most recent post until I was done, it seems you and my husband are thinking along the same lines. Two men thinking this way about a father-son relationship, something to take into consideration.

FYI, the blizzard should be long gone by Sunday with plenty of time to clear the streets, so I don’t see safety as an issue – just as a potential excuse.

janbb's avatar

@spinner Well, with that further explanation I am modifying my views a bit. Maybe it is time for you son to stand up for himself with your ex.

CWOTUS's avatar

I wish you and your son much luck, @spinner. Sounds like your current husband is also my kind of guy. He’s (apparently) not making your ex out to be a dick, but he’s helping your son learn how to deal with them, because there is certainly no lack of them to deal with.

SpatzieLover's avatar

As an aside, my husband (the boys’ stepfather with whom he has a pretty good relationship) asked my son if he thought he would be able to stand up to his father, remind him of the promise he made, and let him know how important this event is to him, should he refuse to drive him to the party. My son said he believes he will. I know that my husband’s hope in having this talk was to empower the boy to speak up to his father.

If nothing else happens out of this @spinner, this ^^^move made by your husband is an important one. Empowering your son is a step in the right direction for all future communication between your son & his dad.

As for this particular gathering, I’d make it clear to him that I’d be willing to pick him up and drop him off, if after he talks to his dad directly, dad decides not to follow through on his commitment.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@spinner To me, you aren’t bailing your son out by helping him out when his father is being a bad father. He sees what his father is doing. He sees that you are the one that is taking him to events when his father won’t and whatever else you are doing when his father bails on him. You are not covering up what your ex-husband is doing just by helping your son out. I understand wanting your son to know the truth about his father, but I think you may be surprised by how much he already knows about his father’s true colors.

I can understand why you want your son to stand up to his father, but that’s something that your son has to get to when he’s ready. Part of being ready means being ready to admit to himself that his father is treating him this way. There is more to accepting and understanding that one of your parents is a crappy parent than just realizing it. I hope you are ready to pick up the pieces as you force your son to deal with his father’s shenanigans (as you called it).

I’d feel differently if your son was older, but you said he’s only in middle school. He’s still at an age where he needs to know that you will be there for him when his father isn’t. That’s the main point I was trying to make before. Your son needs to know that if his father won’t be there for him, you will be.

janbb's avatar

And now I agree with @Seaofclouds which was the way I first felt.

JilltheTooth's avatar

So, did he go to the party???

spinner's avatar

I am happy to say his father stepped up, brought him to the party, and the boy had a great time! I spoke to my son before he left for his dad’s and told him I thought he should mention it to his dad straight away upon arriving just as a reminder. I also called to follow up with him on Saturday and followed up with his dad on Sunday. I am sure I was a bit of a helicopter parent n that one, but in the end the boy made it and all is well. As a bonus it gave his step-dad a chance to help the boy feel empowered to speak to his dad which is a good thing.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Yay! Win win all around!

YARNLADY's avatar

* * * Y A Y * * *

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