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Ex-etiquette: Let mom know how you feel about combined Mother's Day brunch

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. My husband has two children, ages 6 and 8. They live with us every few days. The back and forth is crazy, but they are young, and I know it’s probably not a good idea for them to be away from either parent for very long. The kids usually stay with their mother on Mother’s Day, but this year she asked if we would like to join her and her husband for Mother’s Day brunch. I am a little uncomfortable with it, but I’m afraid I’ll insult her if I say no. Plus, she’s already mentioned something to the kids, and they are excited that we are all going out together. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. We have a few things to discuss here.

First, that your bonuskids’ mother has offered to share her day with you is a huge step. It means she sees you as part of the village — as in, “it takes a village” to raise kids these days, and that is a huge compliment. It’s usually the moms who are intimidated by the children’s affection for their bonusmom. If mom is reaching out, you have done something right. Congratulations.

However, it sounds like her gesture may be moving too fast for you. If that’s true, take a look at it. The last thing you want the kids to see is how uncomfortable you are. They may perceive your discomfort as a dislike for their mommy. Never do something like this before you are ready. It will backfire.


Second, that she didn’t wait for a reply to her invitation and just assumed you would want to go. Use your voice. Privately and tactfully, let her know how you feel. If this was the little shove you needed to initiate this sort of get-together, embrace it, but tactfully let mom know your boundaries. You may welcome a combined Mother’s Day and possibly a kid’s birthday party, but for now you’d like to keep big holidays, like Thanksgiving, private. Communicate whatever feels right and be open to change as your families learn to trust each other.

Third, that she mentioned it to the kids before there was an acknowledgment of the invitation. In a perfect world, we all know it’s best that the parent figures get on the same page and then present whatever it is to the kids as a united front. So it would have been great if she called you first and suggested it and let you agree or decline without the kids being privy to the decision.

However, you don’t really know how the information was passed, so let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. She could have been in the other room having a quiet conversation with her husband about the idea and the kids overheard. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me. I’ve been on the phone, talking to my sister and noticed little ears in the other room listening to everything said. Let that register. Parents control the flow of information, not the kids. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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