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Ex-etiquette: Mother should attend kids' games

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. Why does my boyfriend’s ex have to be everywhere we go? She even goes to his kids’ games when they are scheduled to be with him. I tell him she’s not supposed to be around if the kids aren’t scheduled to be with her, but he disagrees. I told him I was writing to you so he can hear how wrong this is. So, what’s good ex-etiquette?

A. I get the impression you are using my opinion to end an argument — that in itself is a huge red flag. But your attitude also makes me wonder if you have ever read this column before.

Keeping your lives completely separate when kids go back and forth between their parents' homes is extremely difficult. If not handled properly, it can be detrimental to the kids' emotional well-being.

The challenge we all face after a breakup is how to calmly collaborate while continuing to be two autonomous separate families.

The fact that mom ends up at the kids’ games when the kids are scheduled to be with dad is completely understandable. Truth is, I’m surprised dad isn’t at the kids’ games when they are scheduled to be with mom. He should be.

It sounds like you are thinking that when the kids are with their dad, that’s his private time with them and therefore, you shouldn’t have to deal with her. To a degree, that’s true. But not when they have a milestone or an event that both mom and dad should attend to support their children.


Things like graduations and sports games are events that kids want both their parents to attend. Birthdays may even have some overlap, though many parents who are no longer together opt for two parties.

Good ex-etiquette starts with, “Put the children first" (Good ex-etiquette for parents rule #1). Don’t you think the kids want both of their parents to cheer them on at a game? See, it’s not mom’s time/dad’s time. It’s the kids’ time with their parents, no matter where they are scheduled to sleep.

One of the biggest problems I run into when advising parents on how to combine families is overzealous bonusparents who want to dictate policy now that they are in the picture. Of course, they should have a voice if they have their own children. Then extra coordination and communication is imperative.

But you are implying you came in after all this was decided and don’t have biological children. If that is the case, you must understand this is not the same as a first-time relationship. Although I’m sure your boyfriend loves you very much, the kids come first, and that means there are times their mother will be present. Join the club, support dad in his effort to be a present father, and your relationship will progress nicely. Fight him, dictate policy, make it difficult to settle in when it’s time for him to see his kids and you are making a huge mistake — if you want to stay with him.

Bottom line, this is not about mom being around all the time. It’s about how well they co-parent. Change your attitude. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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