A: You may enjoy the rejection your kids are handing to your ex, and his distress, but I agree with your family members that your pleasure at his pain is coming at the expense of the children and you should do more to ease their visitations. Transitions are hard for children, especially the one from intact family to warring parents. They feel your home is their home and it's probably more comforting to just continue their routine there, no matter how much they may want to see their daddy. They're probably also picking up that you enjoy it when they don't want to go, so they get the reward of pleasing the parent providing their primary care. You need to get past your anger at your ex and help the kids understand that even if you and Dad aren't living together anymore, you both love them and are always going to be their parents. You could probably use some family counseling to help you help them. For now, you need to explain to the children you know sometimes it's hard to switch houses, but their dad loves them, and going back and forth will get easier. Let them know they can talk to you about their distress—they probably are clamming up to keep you from getting upset—and that you and their father will always want to talk things through with them, even if what they have to say is upsetting. When it's time for them to visit their father, show you're excited for them by helping them pick out the clothes they will take and the stuffed animals they will bring along. You may even suggest they keep some things at their dad's to help make his place feel like home. You will reap the rewards for years to come of making both your homes happy places for them.
Q. My Mother the Hero: My mom (who's not on Facebook) recently looked at my Facebook page and saw that under "heroes" I had listed five famous people ... but not her. And she was deeply offended. I love my mom and we've always been incredibly close, but to be honest I've never thought of her as a "hero." I was very, very fortunate to grow up in a home that didn't want for money, and she was a stay-at-home mom who took care of me— and she did a wonderful job. To me that just means that she's a great mom, though. I don't see anything particularly heroic about it by standard definitions of overcoming adversity. But she won’t let up about this stupid Facebook thing. I could gush (and lie) and go on about how she's really my hero, but I think this whole thing is absurd. I've talked to her about it and reminded her how much I love her, but she won't let it go—I'm afraid that I've really offended her. Any thoughts about how to make this right? Am I in the wrong for not automatically including my parents in that Facebook list to begin with?
A: Maybe you could offer to get her face tattooed on your biceps with the words "My hero!" underneath. It would be one thing if you used your Facebook page to trash your mother. It's another if your mother wants to go searching online for things to be offended about. Obviously, your list is composed of world figures you admire. You've explained this to your mother, and that should have been sufficient. Now you need to tell her that you're sorry she's upset about something she misunderstands about your Facebook page, but after clarifying it for her, you'll now just have to consider this discussion closed.
Q. Pregnant Lady at Wedding: At my wedding, a cousin told everyone she was pregnant. I was unbelievably happy for her, but my mother-in-law, five years later, still brings it up as an unforgivable faux pas that tells her everything she needs to know about my family (and, boy, is she another post—although I take her with a grain of salt). My point is, old-fashioned, crazy people are at weddings, too. When I have big news at weddings, I wait until the after party. Would that be a good compromise?
A: I wouldn't let a rude, even vindictive, mother-in-law intimidate you from having normal conversation at a wedding. I bet your M-I-L could fill an entire column.
Q. Re: Pregnancy at a Wedding: I think it will be pretty clear to your friends that you are expecting if you are drinking water instead of champagne. Someone is bound to ask, and then it is fine to share your news without looking like you are trying to overshadow the bride. But I would not make an announcement at the wedding. Instead, do it before or wait until the after-reception get-together or grab brunch with your friends the next day. Allow the bride to have her day without trying to change the focus on you.
A: Let's clarify what's meant by "announcement." If it means coming up to the mike during the toasts and saying, "By the way, I'm pregnant!" I agree the guest should not do this. If by announcement she means when old friends say, "What's up with you?" and she says, "I'm four months pregnant!" that is not stealing the spotlight from the bride.
Q. Kids Want Downtime Instead of Dad: Cut back on their "busy extracurricular schedule." Having time to spend with their father is far more important than lacrosse or violin.
A: Yes, if the kids are craving downtime, that may mean they're doing too much. Having a good relationship with their father is one of the most important things that should happen during their childhoods.
Q. High-School Protocol: Our daughter, a freshman, joined the golf team at her high school this year. She is an average player but has improved steadily over the year. At the end-of-season tournament last week, she played the best golf she has ever played and qualified to move to the next round of competition. Unfortunately, the best player on the team, a senior, played poorly and missed the cut by one stroke. We have heard from the coach that some of the parents of the other upperclassmen players on the team have suggested he withdraw our daughter from the tournament and let the senior take her place in the next round. Their reasoning is that my daughter will have more chances to play in the finals while this will be the senior's last opportunity. We were taken aback by this but have since learned from other parents that it is expected that our daughter will give up her spot. My daughter wants to step aside because she is concerned that the other kids will turn against her since the senior is a very popular girl at school. I know that this whole situation has put more pressure on our daughter and will make playing difficult, but I believe that since she won the opportunity to play she should take it. My husband thinks we should leave it up to our daughter to decide if she wants to play or not. Am I being insensitive here? We are new to the school and town and we don't want to get off on the wrong foot.
A: My only relationship with golf is that I have a putter in my bedroom in case of burglars, but my impression about this sport, about sports in general, is that you win some and you lose some, and when you lose you don't get to pressure the winners to withdraw because everyone feels you should have won. I don't quite understand the coach's position here. He is conveying the social pressure he's feeling to your daughter? You should talk to him because he's the one who should come forward and say he opposes the suggestion that your daughter withdraw—sportsmanship requires being gracious in defeat. However, if he's a weakling, the more salient information is that your daughter is new in town, and if a consensus has formed about what's “right” (even if it's wrong), then the price your daughter would pay at school is probably not worth it. If your daughter says she'd rather step aside and will play well again, then support her.
Q. Ex-spouse: Unless your ex is abusive, your kids will be far better off and happier in the long run if they have a good relationship with both you and your husband (aka, their DAD). And since they're still young, they don't know what to do and they're looking to you for help. Yes, it is on you to try and help with that. He's still their father and they need him. If parents have a solid relationship, the kids are better off even if the parents are divorced. Unhappy parents, parents who revel in the ex's troubles, bitter parents, angry parents, etc., married or divorced, create serious problems for kids. If you don't drop the anger, it might be you they distance themselves from one day, just as food for thought.
Q. RE: "Pregnant Lady at Wedding": The pregnant lady wasn't planning on making a public announcement of the pregnancy at the wedding, was she? (You know, dinging her spoon on a glass in order to get everyone's attention) My impression was that she was planning just to inform her old friends personally and privately while they were all together, which seems perfectly reasonable.
A: To me, too. But the mail is running in favor of keeping this quiet until after the wedding and waiting for something like brunch the next day. I just don't see how in conversation with friends at the reception it would ruin the bride's day for one person to tell others she's pregnant.
Q. Mother the Hero: Tell your mother to read King Lear.
Emily Yoffe: Great suggestion! Let's hope the letter writer's name is not Cordelia. Although your comment is the last, it is not least. Thanks for the Shakespeare reference, and thanks, everyone, for your questions and comments. I'll creep out of this petty pace and talk to you next week.