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.
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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