I’m happy that John finally has a healthy relationship with his father, and it’s good to see them spending quality time together. However, I’m beginning to grow concerned about Sam’s influence in John’s life. Sam has been texting John constantly, and he has been lying to me about who is texting him. She wants to know what he’s doing every day, and a few times she has said things like, “I’m sorry I yelled at you last night.” Or she’ll put undue pressure on him by asking questions like, “Well, why can’t you spend the night on Sunday?” Additionally, Sam has been buying clothes or gifts for John but insisting that he cannot take them home with him and must leave them at her house.
The straw that broke the camel’s back here happened when John had to write an essay to read aloud at an awards ceremony. He wrote the essay at Mike and Sam’s house and had asked for my opinion on it, but, when he requested that Sam print the essay so that he could show me, she refused and told him I had to wait to hear it just like everyone else and that she would print him a copy only when he really needed it.
My heart is breaking. I love my little boy and I feel like I am being pushed out of his life. At first, I thought I was just jealous, but my parents as well as Mike’s parents seem to share my concern. Mike’s parents recently told me that they were afraid that Sam was too controlling with John and that she has a very short temper. I don’t know what to do in this situation. Mike and I aren’t exactly close, so I don’t feel like it would be appropriate to critique his girlfriend. But I feel like we need to start setting some boundaries. Is this normal? Am I overreacting? How should I proceed? — Tired Mom
Um, it is COMPLETELY appropriate for you to critique your ex’s girlfriend as her behavior relates to your son. You are John’s mother and, as uncomfortable as it may feel to go to your ex and discuss the way his girlfriend is acting, it’s your job to protect your son. Please, please express your concerns to Mike and demand that some rules be set in place. (Examples: no more texting John — if Sam needs to contact him, she can call him through your phone; John is free to bring lightweight items, such as clothes and books, etc., freely between both of his parents’ homes despite who purchased them for him; HIS MOTHER IS ALLOWED TO LOOK AT HIS HOMEWORK, Jesus). While you’re talking with Mike, it might be a good time to revisit your child support arrangement as well as your (and John’s) personal expenses. If you have to work seven days a week to keep you and John afloat, it seems like his father could/should be helping out a little more financially. You may also want to meet with a financial advisor to formulate a financial plan. You can’t sustain a 7-days-a-week work schedule AND be a present mother. As much as John needs time with his dad, he needs time with you, too. And if you had even had a day a week to devote to him, your anxiety about his well-being would likely ease up a bit.
If Mike won’t work with you to set some boundaries, or if the boundaries don’t work, I’d suggest meeting with a family attorney to discuss your rights. You say both sets of grandparents have mentioned concerns about Sam. If you don’t have these comments in writing (maybe through an email), try soliciting them so that you can share them with a judge should it come to that. You may also want to talk to John’s teachers, or any other adults who are in regular contact with him, about any changes they’ve noticed since he began spending more time with his father and Sam. Any documentation you can get in writing will help your case.
Above all, know that you are NOT overreacting and that this is NOT normal. Sam is way out of bounds and she needs to be stopped. Perhaps she really does have the best intentions at heart and simply needs some direction (and boundaries). But there may also be other issues at play that you aren’t aware of because you don’t know her well and aren’t privy to the inner-workings of her mind and relationships. John is YOUR son. Sam isn’t even a stepmother. You have every right and every reason to do whatever you need to do to protect your son, keep him safe, and remove from his (and your) life anything that interferes with your ability to parent him to the best of your ability.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.