By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
3:49 PM EDT, September 25, 2012
Your ex wants to bring his new wife to your daughter's birthday party. Should you discourage this?
(from our panel of staff contributors)
Not necessarily, especially if your daughter knows the new wife and has a cordial relationship with her. Depending on the age of the child, she will be more interested in the cake and ice cream or being with her friends than she will care about any of the adults present — until it comes to presents. I still remember holding a first communion gathering for my step-twins, and their older brother hugged and thanked me for inviting his mom, aunts, uncles, cousins. You don't have to live with her; it's just a couple of hours.
Not unless this woman was the cause of the breakup of the marriage. Then it gets dicey. She is the girl's father's wife. Assuming they are wildly in love, she will be in your daughter's life a long time. Trying to keep her from your daughter's life will eventually force your ex to choose between his daughter and his new wife. No one wins that battle.
Time to be gracious. Here is the first event of many that all the adults will have to be civil and kind for the sake of your daughter. And it will be worth every effort made by all.
It all depends on your daughter's relationship with the new wife. To be clear: Not your relationship with the new wife. Your daughter's.
"The bottom line is: Who's party is it?" says family law mediator Diana Mercer, author of "Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life" (Perigree). "Invitations should be extended from the child's point of view."
If your daughter doesn't object to the new wife's presence, neither should you. If you're worried about appearances or boundaries or some other vague notion that's making you uncomfortable about the new wife's attendance, set that aside. It's not your party.
It's also not your ex-husband's party. So if your daughter is uncomfortable around her dad's wife, you should step in and ask him to reconsider.
"You could suggest they plan a nice dinner or other outing with your daughter, separate from the party," Mercer says. "The wife might prefer that too. Not everyone enjoys a kiddie party."
If your ex insists on his wife's presence, do everything in your power to minimize the awkwardness.
"Take into consideration who else is invited," Mercer suggests. "Maybe you invite a few extra aunts and uncles so there are more adults around and the new wife blends in. Maybe you take advantage of an extra set of hands and give the new wife some tasks."
And remember, above all, that your child is likely to follow your cues.
"If you don't make a scene, your child is not going to make a scene," Mercer says. "This is an excellent chance to be a role model. To step up and be a grown-up and show your child that nothing is going to ruin her birthday.
"You have to set that tone and make sure she knows you are her safe place to come to with her feelings and you're not going to fly off the handle when something doesn't go your way."
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