Q: My child’s mother is constantly signing our 10-year-old son up for extracurricular activities on my time. I have very little time as it is, and he often cannot come on his scheduled visits because of practices and games. He owes me so many weekends and I would like the opportunity to schedule things on my time! We only live five miles away and I rarely see him. What’s good Ex-Etiquette?
Answer: Good Ex-Etiquette would be for your ex to consult you prior to signing your child up for extracurricular activities — not so you can say, “Not on my time!” but so you can coordinate efforts and both attend your son’s games and practices. Truth be told, it’s not Mom’s time nor Dad’s time, but your son’s time. He’s only one kid trying to split his time between two parents.
Your problem is actually quite common, but I always find it curious why both parents might be supportive of their child’s sports activities while they are living together, then have a problem when the same child participates in extracurricular activities once they divorce. Children are still interested in their extracurricular activities even though their parents are not together. As a matter of fact, it might be their saving grace.
A child who has battling parents probably looks forward to playing soccer or cheerleading — anything to get his or her mind off of parental antics.
Bottom line, it isn’t the kids who should make the change in schedule, it’s the parents. It was their idea to divorce.
This means, Dad, your son does not owe you weekends because he goes to practices and games. It’s your job to get him to those practices and games when he is with you. Go to his games! Cheer him on! Your private time can easily start once those practices and games are over. Or, better yet, why not coach or ask the existing coach if he or she needs help? That’s extra time you can spend with your child while he is doing something that he loves, and a built-in topic for conversation.
Good Ex-Etiquette rule No. 1 is “Put the children first.” If you are having trouble juggling the schedule and want to see your child more often, look to good Ex-Etiquette rule No. 2, “Ask for help if you need it.” That means coordinate efforts with your child’s other parent — for the sake of the child. You are still parents even though you are no longer together and should coordinate efforts when it comes to your child’s activities. He shouldn’t have to stop what he loves doing because his parents couldn’t make a go of it.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.