Q I'm a single mom, custodial parent of a 3-year-old boy. His father and I never married, and he was not that involved with our son until he married and had a baby last year.
A few months ago, my 3-year-old told me he wanted to live with his dad for five days a week and me for two days. Then I found out that my ex and his wife tell my son to call her Mommy. Their son can't talk yet, but they think it will be easier in the long run. Don't you think she's overstepping her bounds?
A: More than overstepping her bounds, it sounds like your ex and his new wife are having trouble seeing past their own experience. This often happens when the new couple, united in their desire to "do things right this time" make decisions that don't consider the other parent or the basic needs of the child.
And we think it's rather presumptuous to think it's OK for your son to call his bonus mom "mommy" just because it will be easier in the long run. She's probably delighted with the possibility, but most bio-moms we have worked with have a real problem when that happens. We suggest they come up with a special nickname you pick out together that only he calls his bonus mom. The children will easily handle that your ex's wife is called two different names.
Concerning your 3-year-old son talking to you about where he wants to live, it's rare that a child that young understands joint custody and can conceptualize a parenting plan. Preschoolers barely understand "time" or even how many days in a week. So for him to tell you specifics like this means either you have the smartest 3-year-old on the planet or he's been coached. We vote for coached, and it needs to stop. It's far more abusive than you can imagine. Doing so puts this child right in the middle of his parents and he will grow up feeling pulled in two directions.
We suggest all of you hit the Bonus Families website for articles on co-parenting and nip all this in the bud.
Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).