Second Weddings

How to tell a three-year-old that Dad is getting married and other debacles

Hi all! First time poster :)

I suddenly realized that my FI and I (together for two and a half years, engaged for a few weeks) are planning to tell his 3-year-old son that Daddy and I are getting married, and we have no idea how to do that. Unfortunately, tomorrow is the day that makes the most sense to tell him, so a gradual introduction to the idea (if that exists) is out. We really should have planned this better! We also wanted to know if anyone had any experiences around telling the co-parent about remarriage/upcoming marriage- or how other people have told you, as the co-parent, that a step-parent is in the works.

Backstory- sorry it's confusing and complicated: FI and Mommy were engaged, never married, and broke up before the birth of their son. Mommy was engaged again last summer, but they'd only known each other for a few months and it ended weeks later- BUT 2nd fiance and his three kids moved in with her and her son. 

Mommy and 2nd fiance broke up, and he disappeared off the face of the earth. He didn't even say goodbye, but just before leaving he fathered FI's son's half-sister (Mommy's second child), born recently. This wouldn't be relevant, except that FI's son spent a lot of time looking for former-future-stepdad (and former-future-stepsiblings) and asking why they'd left him, so I'm afraid that he might have some issues around the idea of "engaged."

I've known FI's son since he was one. We've always gotten along and liked each other- sounds silly, but true :) I was introduced as a friend, and it was gradually explained that his daddy and I love each other very much (and love him very much too!) so I think we've formed a good foundation. 

Unfortunately, Mommy has stated in the past few months that she feels that I'm "too confusing" to be around their son, and I've had to stay away a lot recently. I understand why she feels that way, but I don't think it's an appropriate thing to actually say, and it's just not fair to anyone, her son included. 

It would take pages to describe, but I have been so respectful of her feelings and I have NEVER portrayed myself as FI's son's mom or even stepmom- more of a babysitter who's extra affectionate with his Daddy and says "I love you" before he gets in the car to go back to Mommy's house.

FI and I really don't want to have Mommy tell their son, but she will probably refuse to let him go with FI if she knows he's planning to tell their son about the upcoming marriage. Is it sneaky to tell her after we tell their son? Is sneaky wrong in this case? 

There is currently no visitation/custody agreement (changing soon) so it's a concern that he'll be cut off from his child unless this is timed right- and in recent months she's refused to let their son go with Daddy, just because she thought I MIGHT be there. 

I want to get this done, so I can go back to being overjoyed at marrying the love of my life, and stop being terrified a friend or relative will let it slip on Facebook and blow this whole thing up. 

Any advice on how to tell a three-year-old about (re)marriage? Especially one who might have some trauma around the subject? Or how to tell an ex that it's not a threat to her status as a parent, but that Daddy's getting remarried? 

...Or that maybe it's time to stop trying to keep me away, and time to accept that I am genuinely not a threat to her and only trying to build a strong relationship with a great kid whose life I'll be involved in?

Re: How to tell a three-year-old that Dad is getting married and other debacles

  • Oh, God, what a wall of text. Sorry! If anyone would be willing to help me out, even in the face of that behemoth, I'd be very grateful!
  • Okay to boil this down.  You are newly engaged to man who has a 3 year old son. The child is the product of a relationship that went south before there was a marriage.  You have been with this man for 2 years, and there has been drama with the son's mother because she hasn't been successful at moving on; other than to have another child.  There aren't any legal custodial agreements as of yet so she can withhold visitation at any time. You want to tell the child that daddy will be getting married to you but don't want to tell the mother just yet.  Is that more or less it? 

    The boy is 3 years old, not to sound cruel or anything but he probably won't remember that you told him this when he's 8 or 9 he'll just know that you are married. I think it is great that you want to explain this to him but given that most 3 year-olds really don't understand the magnitude of what you are planning you may very well end up confusing him. So why tell him and not his mother when at 3 secrets aren't something that children keep? It would be best to tell the mom so that she knows what is up.  She's going to continue to cause drama regardless of how the news gets broken. 

    The only other piece of advice would be to get court orders done so that visitation, custody and child support are clear and concise. 
  • MikesAngie's points are good ones.

    The father of my now 18 y/o daughter left our home when she was 5. About 3 years later he got engaged at his family's annual Xmas Eve party. The woman he got engaged to (and has since married and had a child together) is a real biatch. My daughter has never liked her. (Lucky for her, now at 18, she decides when to see her and how much time to spend around her.)

    She came home a couple of days later,upset after this engagement. She was 8, and simply knew that they had made some sort of big deal about this ring. There was no warning to me beforehand, I knew he'd been dating this woman, but not that there were definite plans in place until she came home after this. He called me beforehand and told me she was upset. I sat down with her and we talked about it. At one point, I mentioned "engaged" meant they were going to get married. She started bawling her eyes out. In all the hubbub beforehand, it had never been explained to her what "engaged" meant.

    The point I'm trying to make is that symantics matter, but if an 8 year old didn't understand the word "engaged" and it's tie to marriage, I sincerely doubt your fiance's 3 year old son is going to grasp what all this means. He may be the brightest boy on the world (I also have a genius son who is 7 years older than my daughter), but to him it's all going to be words. My genius level son barely remembers things from that far back. A 3 year old is not going to be traumatized by the announcement that his dad is marrying a nice lady he's known for 2 years.

    Having said all that, the thing he WILL be conscious of is what sort of deal his mother makes about all this, and things she's been telling him up to this point. The reason my then-8 year old daughter was so upset was because she hoped her dad and I would get back together at some point. I doubt a 3 year old harbors such strong hopes, but his mother may be feeding them.

    It is obviously important to you that this all goes well. Hopefully it will. You need to get the legal issues resolved and then get her to stick with the visitation agreements. Calmly and consistently talk to your fiance's son about the future, his place in it, and that he can talk to you about anything and you will answer him honestly. Chances are at some point his mother will find the right guy and he'll go through this again. Your fiance needs to "set the table" for that inevitability with her now, explaining that how well this goes will impact how well it goes down the road for her. She sounds unreasonable and is also probably hoping to get back together as a "family". Legal issues need to be resolved, and perhaps you and your fiance get counseling to know how to deal with this with his son.

    Good luck dear.  

  • Ditto to what the pp's have said.  Also - I really encourage you guys to get the custody agreement hammered out and signed by the courts BEFORE you tell the child and his mother about the engagement.  I foresee your FI not seeing his son much if his ex takes this badly (as is expected) and stress and anger will escalate as he then starts working with the courts.  Children get caught up in that stress and anger.

    Please consider getting all the legal work done first.
  • I agree that you should get the formal visitation done before you tell the mom about the engagement.  It might not solve everything, but it'll give your FI some recourse if his ex refuses to let son visit him.

    I also think it's best if she hears about the engagement from your FI rather than from the 3 yo.

    Lots of second relationships have complicated back stories.  My FI's ex hated me - she thought that if I hadn't gotten involved with him, she could have convinced him to come back to her and she used to tell their daughter that all the time.  Daughter was told all sorts of crazy things about me and her dad - mom was mentally unstable and was an addict, so that didn't help matters either.  And even though they had a custody agreement, mom would randomly refuse to let daughter spend time with dad because I was there.  As daughter got older it got easier for her to figure out what was real and what was in mom's mind, but the first few years were really stressful for her (and for us). 

    I'm rambling, but I guess my point is that all the adults in your FIs son's life need to consider what's best for him.  And even if his mom isn't capable of doing that, it's all the more reason that the rest of the grown-ups should do it.   

    Good luck!


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