Q & A: How should we deal with my stepson's birthday?


Background Information:  We seem to be stuck in a situation that we're not sure how to deal with now.

We are fairly sure that Laura (stepson's biomother) has put the idea of a "family" birthday party into Ricky's (my stepson's) head. He is now all excited about all six of us getting together somewhere and having everyone together.  Laura is claiming now that this is his birthday wish for us to all be together. Would Ricky (who is only six years old) be able to put this kind of thing together himself, or is this something that would have to be suggested??

Weeks ago my partner, Kent, (who is Ricky's biofather), told Laura (his Ex) that he didn't want to do that, and told her not to mention anything more of it to Ricky.  Well, the last time Kent talked to Ricky on the phone, Ricky was the one that brought it up again. Kent told him we would talk about it, but that hasn't happened.

So now, if we don't follow through on this, Ricky will be the one hurt and we look like the bad guys because we don't give in.  But if we do give in and go, what good does that do for Ricky to see us all pretending to get along when we all know it's a lie, and that we don't get along?

How do we explain to him that our not wanting to do this has nothing to do with loving him?  I have visions of him saying: "Well, if you loved me, you'd do this", and Kent giving in because he is feeling guilty. 

I don't want to be putting on this show for Ricky's sake, because to me that would be just as bad as the parents staying together for the kids. With the relationship as stressful as it is, I just cannot justify doing that to him, and giving him that false sense that well, if I do this...and behave... and everything... then maybe mom and dad will get back together.


Help!! We want to do what is best for Ricky, but at the same time don't want to be bullied into something that we don't have any part in either. 


Disclaimer: The comments and suggestions that follow are based only upon the limited information you have provided and must be seen as subject to all the limitations this entails.

This is a tough one to sort through for sure! Following are our thoughts, based upon the info you provided.

1. Whether the idea of a large gathering was his own creation or not, he is clearly invested in it--so we can conclude that it is important to him.

2. Therefore, if the large gathering doesn't come to pass, he will be hurt--not the 'end of the world' kind of hurt--but he will be hurt nevertheless.

3. Unfortunately, should you decide against attending, your failure to attend may very well end up on the back burner--just waiting to be used as "proof" about your intensions/character/spitefulness, etc.

4. You are absolutely right, if we focus our thoughts upon which parent wins/loses/caves in etc., there is no "right" or "best" course of action. They all have big drawbacks. So a different approach is probably necessary. Following is one way that you might be able to "view" it in a "different light". 

5. Ask: Whose day is it? This is an important question to ask around special occasions. Clearly, it belongs to Ricky.

6. As you know, kids often "act up" in order to get the adults in their lives to come together and figure out how to manage the kid's misbehaviour.

7. Assume that Ricky is taking charge of a situation where he does have a little more control and influence (i.e., his birthday) to bring the adults in his life together--but around a positive event (the anniversary of his birth) rather than an episode of misbehaviour.

8. Even though it's totally understandable to be asking yourself: "How appropriate is it to be showing Ricky how phony we can be by attending and putting on an act of civility?", ask yourself instead: Will Ricky see our presence as clear "proof" that our positive feelings towards him are stronger than any negative feelings we might have towards his mom?

We hope those thoughts help.


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