Adapted from a recent online discussion.
For child's sake, forge a relationship with the ex's HNG
A Parent: This is for ''Shot Nerves'' from yesterday, who worried about leaving her child with her ex and his "horrible new girlfriend" (HNG). I have a toddler son who, despite being the product of a short-lived, ill-advised relationship, is my absolute favorite person; I, too, agonize about leaving him with his paternal family.
Here's what I try to remember: He is going to figure out that his father is a loser, and it's going to hurt. I would like to be the person he comes to for support when this realization occurs. If I demonize his father, or act uncomfortable every time his father's name is mentioned, this will not happen.
I'm still anxious, but at least I'm fairly certain my son will feel comfortable telling me if something unpleasant happens while he is there.
Try try try to keep the lines of communication open with your child about the father and HNG. They are a real part of your child's life and pretending they don't exist or acting like they're a death sentence every other weekend will not help the child's adjustment.
Carolyn: I would have shared this just for the "absolute favorite person" reference. Oddly refreshing language.
But I also like that the advice passes the what-if-the-father-isn't-really-a-loser? test; you're choosing not to poison your son's opinion of his father.
An Observer: More re: Shot Nerves: Alternative outcome to "my son will feel comfortable telling me if something unpleasant happens": You develop a relationship in which your child is rewarded with attention from you when he delivers stories of how awful Dad and HNG are; even though child spends only every other weekend with Dad, much time and energy is expended the rest of the month reviewing what a jerk Dad is, instead of just enjoying time with child.
I work in a family law practice and I see this all the time. So sad. Don't become this parent.
Carolyn: Ack, yes, I've seen this play out among adults, too — where the warmest attention goes to the one who is willing to trash a rival. It's insidious.
An HNG: Re: Shot Nerves: I was dating a divorced man with two kids and was with them almost every weekend for two years before I met their mother. I was surprised she didn't get to know me as much as possible; I'd get to know the new girlfriend, only to know who my child spends time with while I'm not around.
I later learned that she didn't want to meet someone her ex fell in love with (her own words). I thought her rejection of me was selfish, because she considered only her own feelings and didn't do what was best for her child.
The new girlfriends should be treated as the new babysitters or elementary school teachers. Methinks.
Carolyn: Great point, thanks. It also illustrates my point that parents themselves leave smudgy fingerprints on their kids. It's so easy to slip from wanting to raise your child well, to thinking you're the only one capable of doing it. Whether you like a caregiver is less important than the quality of the care. And, as always, children can never have too many people who love them.