About nine months ago Chuck popped in and decided that since he — at 27 years old — had gotten his 17-year-old girlfriend pregnant, he finally wanted to father our child six years after he was born. Naturally, I wasn’t thrilled since he wouldn’t hold a job or put down the booze before, and especially now that my life was going great; it seemed too convenient that he wanted to jump in, at last. After some petty arguing with Chuck, my fiance and I talked it out and decided to give him a chance. In the last eight months, he has asked about our son maybe ten times and has actually seen him maybe six times. He knows where we live, and unless we aren’t home, he is never unwelcome.
He and his girlfriend had “family pictures” taken while the girl was still pregnant, and now that the baby is born, he has a lovely picture of the boys on his Facebook profile picture, but he still hasn’t provided an ounce of support other than popping in once a month or so. He is out of work again and living in a trailer with five or six other adults, a newborn, and two dogs, and he has recently decided to stay in that living arrangement. I got a text last night asking if he could please keep our son so he could spend time with his brother, but I couldn’t bring myself to reply. I know I’m being petty, but I feel entirely justified in doing so. When I ask my little one how he feels, he doesn’t seem excited or himself at all. I’ve raised my goblin from day one, and I just feel really pissed off that my Chuck wants to take credit now. Your input would be awesome! — Co-Parenting Dilemma
I understand your resentment, and I empathize with how annoyed you must feel that Chuck has “popped” back in and suddenly wants to claim some fatherly role, after years of absence and no real trace of taking any responsibility now. However, I’m not sure I’d call the behavior you’ve described as “taking credit.” It seems he’s trying to make the barest of efforts to form some sort of bond with his son and to help foster a relationship between his two kids. You can argue that it’s too little – I think most of us will agree with that — but is it too late? I hope not. For your son’s sake, I hope you will continue to allow him to spend time with his father — and his half sibling — as long as he’s open to it.
Encouraging time spent between your son and his father doesn’t mean giving up control over how and where the time is spent. Your instinct to protect your son is absolutely right. Not only do you have to try to protect your son as much as you can from the potential heartache of his father disappearing again — which you know as well as anyone is a real possibility — you have to protect his safety and well-being while in the care of his father. That means that until you feel that Chuck’s living situation is better – however you define that — you don’t allow your son to stay at his home. He can come visit your son in your home (and bring his baby) or they can meet in public places. This is the perfect time of year for picnics, visiting playgrounds, parks, and splash pads, and other outdoor activities.
You decide what your comfort level is and then communicate that to Chuck. Let him know that if he wants to see your son, and he wants his kids to spend time together, you’re happy to help make that happen, but there are certain guidelines that have to be followed. If he’s not ok with that, he’s not ok with it. Let him take you to court if he wants to fight for a different custody arrangement; with his virtual absence for the entirety of your son’s life, paying zero child support, not holding down a job, and living in a trailer with a swarm of people, he hardly has a leg to stand on.
No, you’re not wrong to feel excluded because you were. And your boyfriend was wrong to agree to give up your spot in the car without discussing it with you first. But is this really the hill you want to die on? Unless this kind of behavior is typical of your boyfriend, maybe consider it good luck that you got out of going to something you didn’t really want to go to without any guilt involved. If excluding you or making a decision that affects you without your input IS typical of your boyfriend, you need to re-evaluate whether you want to be with someone who has so little regard for you.
At any rate, it would be worth mentioning to your boyfriend that while it wasn’t a big deal this time, your feelings were a little hurt that he excluded you from the graduation at the last minute and that this can’t become a habit. Next time, you need him to discuss with you plans or potential change of plans that affect you/your time together. If he isn’t willing or able to do that, it’s time for you to MOA.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
anonymousse May 28, 2019, 9:54 am
I think Wendy is spot on. Let Chuck visit you at a park or your house. Don’t let him take your son anywhere.
LisforLeslie May 28, 2019, 10:16 am
Actually what I would say is that since he has absolutely no experience parenting a 6 year old, I wouldn’t let him take him anywhere until I was comfortable. This guy is a virtual stranger. This guy has seen his son 6 times in 8 months, that’s less than once a month. I’d want to participate, however uncomfortable, until I had a better sense of who all of these other people are and make sure that my kid was safe.
Does the ex have a car seat for the kid? The right kind of car seat for his height and weight? Does he understand any allergies and medical needs?
Tell your ex that your primary concern is for your son, so you recommend a schedule of play dates where he is welcome to come, with the baby and meet up. Then commit to it. Whether or not your ex shows up, could be afternoon at a park where you bring a picnic lunch, half a day at a trampoline park or something like that. Something fun for your kid to do whether or not the ex shows up.
Record everything. Email the schedule. Note when he shows up. If he starts demanding visitation – drag him to court. Seriously. He hasn’t paid a dime in child support. He barely knows the child. He likely couldn’t even tell the judge the name of his elementary school, let alone his teacher, principal or favorite subject. You control this – you decide what is best.
golfer.gal May 28, 2019, 11:52 am
Lisforleslie makes some good points. Your son still needs a booster seat in the car. Does the bio dad have one? Does he know how to parent a child? We ha’ve zero idea who the people living in that trailer are, and given your ex’s track record i wouldn’t put my faith in them being stand up people. You have no idea what sort of abuse, drugs, etc your son may be exposed to there. I second Wendy’s suggestion to limit their time to your house or a public place, with strict time limits and rules about where your son can be taken (i.e. nowhere but the agreed upon public place)
I get the instinct to protect him, and in many ways this is too little too late. I think allowing him access on your terms, at times that work for you and never, ever in a trailer full of strangers is a good compromise
gr8katch22 May 28, 2019, 3:16 pm
All wonderful things to consider.
I would like to add to that list, look for a Child Physiologist, and have your little guy start going now. That way if things start to get messy or either of you want to go for a Visitation Schedule & Child Support through the courts, this will really help you to have this already established!
saneinca May 28, 2019, 4:02 pm
Do you mean psychologist ?
ele4phant May 28, 2019, 11:15 am
Re: the graduation, I frankly would’ve been happy to let off the hook for this. Some things are BAF, graduations included, unless maybe it’s YOUR child.
And sometimes there are actually limits to how many “tickets” each graduating senior is given, so there is more of a hard line than say, a wedding, where the engaged couple has chosen a particular limit. For my college graduation, I think we got six slots, which was a lot, but that definitely covered just my parents, siblings, grandmother, and then I had one left over (and yep, it did go to a biological aunt).
Not clear to me if that’s the case here – it does seem like you were invited initially, but then again maybe your BF was operating under the assumption you were invited until it was clarified “Actually niece only gets X seats, sorry”. IDK.
Anyways, if this is a one-off, I wouldn’t get worked up about this and just put it down as a miscommunication about who was/wasn’t invited and that your exclusion had more to do with capacity constraints.
If it’s an on-going thing that you feel your BF isn’t including you in life, well, have a broader discussion with him about that, and whether or not he’s serious about building a life with you.
But, if it were me I’d be psyched that I didn’t have to sit through some boring graduation for a kid that wasn’t mine.
ktfran May 28, 2019, 11:19 am
This. While reading, I was thinking there was likely a cap on the amount of tickets available and then possibly some miscommunication. I would have asked why the change as soon as it was brought up instead of stewing about it.
If this isn’t a recurring issue, I’d definitely let it go.
Also, communicate! There’s likely a reasonable explanation of what with down about there graduation.
Poppy May 28, 2019, 11:27 am
Yea, agreeing here. I feel like LW2 has left out details though. Maybe bf/fiance approached her in an apologetic way and explained that they had extra family that needed a ride to an event that means more to these people then obvilously her. I dont feel he straight up cold hearted about it. Enough to be that upset. Esp if you werent really wanting to go.
ele4phant May 28, 2019, 11:33 am
He could even have been a bit straightforward about it and been, like hey, turns out you can’t come.
But, honestly, if her going meant someone else couldn’t go because there are only so many seats (either in the car or in the venue), then she, the non-biological not even legal aunt yet, is kind of a no-brainer to get dropped. Like what, you should go over grandma if choices have to get made? Of course you don’t. This isn’t a wedding, there are always going to be limits on how many people can go and the graduate’s family usually isn’t in charge of those limits.
Perhaps she already has communication issues with him, or routinely is being left out of things a SO *should* be part of, then I can totally get why she feels hurt or she needs more of an explanation.
If my husband was like, hey you don’t have to go to my niece’s graduation, my sole reaction would be “Sweet! Unexpected free time!”
But again, that’s within the context of a relationship in which we have good communication and I have no concerns about my place in his life/his family.
RedBlue May 28, 2019, 11:16 am
I’m surprised you missed the obvious with LW1.
If he wants to continue to play “father” he should start with paying child support. Regardless of his relationship with the child, he should have paid and be paying all along.
See a lawyer ASAP.
AttackKitten June 1, 2019, 6:33 am
I completely agree! He suddenly wants to be Daddy, he needs to start paying support. Obviously he has no money, and won’t, but I think telling him that “That’s great, let’s work out a support arrangement and get it formalized” will let her know just how serious this guy is about fatherhood.
And definitely don’t let the kid go alone to a trailer with multiple adults she probably doesn’t know and doesn’t know how the dogs are with children.
Sapphire May 28, 2019, 1:37 pm
Doesn’t anyone find it weird that Chuck is with a minor? Is that just me? She’s 17 years old when the baby was born. Only 9 months for a pregnancy. Did she dated him at 16 or earlier than that? Maybe it’s because I find it gross and my mind is going into weird places. I’m just imagining this creepy 27 years old man hanging out with high school girls.
anonymousse May 28, 2019, 1:41 pm
No that didn’t escape me at all. It is really gross, but perhaps not illegal. There are states where the age of consent is 16 or 17.
Skyblossom May 28, 2019, 2:22 pm
I’d guess that he is emotionally at about the level of the girlfriend. Most women would have nothing to do with an unemployed, no place of his own, guy. At sixteen a girl might think an older man was great and wouldn’t realize that he shouldn’t be wanting to date someone her age because he should be at a totally different stage of life. If the girlfriend is seventeen now and living with him in the trailer that says that she comes from a rough home or else she’d be living with her parents. I feel sorry for their baby.
LisforLeslie May 28, 2019, 3:44 pm
She might also come from a strict home and got kicked out. Nonetheless, I don’t see this lasting very long. I say overprotective is the best bet here.
Part-time Lurker May 28, 2019, 2:17 pm
LW1 Document, document, document. Keep a record of every phone call and visit along with any other important information you glean from him/his friends/social media/your son. I know it’s expensive and a little scary but you need to get a lawyer or mediator and file for child support and a well defined visitation schedule with supervised visitation before this gets really messy and ugly. In some states a court appointed Guardian Ad Litem can be very helpful. The sooner you take care of this the better. Your ex sounds like he might be the type to cry “parental interference” in court later on if you simply refuse to respond to his requests or disallow any contact now despite the lack of a formal agreement.
Ange May 28, 2019, 5:54 pm
I wouldn’t stress too much about the graduation, though I’d be wondering about that little interaction with his mum there. Was it a genuine misunderstanding or did his mum say ‘jump!’ and he said ‘how high?’ I’d be slightly wary of a guy that’s willing to throw his fiance under the bus to appease his mother, if that’s indeed how it went.