Q: My ex and I share custody (a week with each parent) of our 12- and 14-year-old boys. As they get older, they love to watch football with their dad. I think this is great — on his time — but my ex expects me to give up my time so they can go to his house for Thursday Night Football on my week! Every other week we have this huge blow out and my kids are siding with their dad! What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: This is a great question, and I can tell by the tone of your “voice” this is upsetting, so let’s take a look at what’s really going on.
After a break-up some parents have a hard time accepting that the other parent has equal rights concerning their children. For this reason, each parent’s time with the children becomes an issue. The possibility that their child might want to spend more time with the other parent seems even more unfair.
Although gender roles seem to be more fluid for children between 12 and 15, the fact remains that many boys at that age seem to gravitate toward dad and many girls that age seem to gravitate toward mom. Of course, it’s not always the case, but it’s something to consider. Ask yourself this: If you lived with their father would you be upset that all three of them watched football together? Probably not. It wouldn’t be because they liked dad more, it would be because they liked football and they enjoyed watching it together.
What do you do? First, try to be flexible and don’t take it personally. Thursday Night Football is seasonal. Discuss this with dad. Put some boundaries around it.
And, if “equal time” is the driving force, not “Put the children first,” in all due respect, it’s time for you to take a look at the approach. Get past “my time” and “his time.” It’s the boys time, and when Thursday Night Football is over, consider making some special plans that the boys might enjoy with you. But, more importantly, “put yourself in their shoes.” The back-and-forth life is tough. Do what you can to make it easy on them.