Wedding Woes

Keep your daughter's gifts at your house.

Dear Prudence,

I am divorced with one daughter (she’s 9). I live two hours away from her and her mother. My ex immediately remarried a man with two other kids, had twins, and is currently pregnant again. We had had to go to court twice for violations of the custody agreement (she didn’t want to drive to the drop-off point and was constantly late) and other matters. We are trying to get our co-parenting back to a good norm. My family and I are completely focused on my daughter. She gets lost in the shuffle at home—there’s never enough time or attention. I am not blaming my ex, but it is the truth. My ex claims I “spoil” our daughter by taking her to the movies or ice skating or getting her a second winter coat. It makes it hard on her “other” kids; she has put a ban on “excess” gifts for Christmas. She will be the bad guy and get rid of them if she needs to. I don’t want to go back to court again, but I am not telling my parents they can’t give their granddaughter a tablet because her mother will throw it away. How do I get through to my ex?

—Generous Family

Re: Keep your daughter's gifts at your house.

  • I think LW needs to suss out what's a 'valid' complaint and what they need to let go. 

    Not showing up on time for visitation or abandoning it altogether, and worries about his ex discarding or withholding gifts from LW and his parents, valid concerns and should be addressed or mitigated.  The visitation piece is the only thing that the courts will care about.  I don't think LW should try to limit what daughter receives, but if he knows it may never come back, I think keeping it at his house will be the best course. 

    Whether or not daughter is getting 'lost in the shuffle' at her mom's house and his ex-wife's desire to make everything 'even steven' at her home between LW's daughter and her step/half-siblings is not important, or at least cannot be controlled by LW since it's not his house. 

    This is a common issue with people I know who have blended families.  It's not easy from any angle.  LW needs to realize that he needs to let his ex's complaints about how he spends time with and money on their daughter roll off his back.  And he needs to not have anything to say to her about how he feels about what his ex does in her home.  Just focus on his daughter and her best interests.  LW may get remarried one day and maybe realize that there's a lot more to balance when you do start blending your family with someone else and/or other people's kids. 
  • The LW should take the ex to court for custody violations (within reason).  And here's my snarkiness coming out.  Because if she is "too busy" with 6 kids in the house to follow the custody arrangements, then she should give her ex primary custody.

    I'm sure it is a delicate balance.  But the LW should have also have a word with his ex that what he does with his daughter during his visitation is his business.  And he doesn't want to hear her comments about it.  And then, yes, focus on "experience" gifts and/or leave tangible gifts at his house.

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