Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't say no — or yes — just to avoid cliche
Shotgun Weddings: As a rule, do you feel that shotgun weddings are doomed? My boyfriend and I had never talked seriously about marriage, but when we found out I was pregnant (four weeks ago), he mentioned it and asked if I was interested.
I am, but I don't want to feel like we're only doing it because of a baby — which was a surprise, but a happy one. At this stage, though, there doesn't seem to be any way to figure out whether he would have ever wanted to marry me if I hadn't gotten pregnant, though, eh?
By the way, he's 35 and I'm 32, and this would be my first marriage, his second.
Carolyn: I don't believe in many rules. The circumstances of your marriage don't really matter. What matters is, are you two happy about these developments? If you are, then don't be afraid to surrender to them.
Know of which you speak, before you open your mouth
Stepmom-Ville: My 8-year-old stepson lives with his mother two states away, so we don't see him all that often — a long weekend here and there, a week or two in the summer, a week over the holidays.
He's a nice kid, but there's one issue that I have a difficult time dealing with: He still wears Pull-Ups to bed every night.
He's not with us long enough to be able to do anything about it, so my husband says to get over it. It doesn't seem to bother him, but I think this is akin to child abuse that his mother hasn't made an effort to fully potty train him — he's in third grade for goodness sake! Is he still going to be wearing diapers to bed when he's in high school? Am I overreacting or is this really ridiculous?
Carolyn: You're accusing the mom of negligence — yet I don't see signs of your doing even basic research. According to Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness, by Renee Mercer, one in 20 10-year-olds still wets the bed. It's physiological, can be inherited, and can last into the teens.
There are ways to approach it, but I don't think it's fair to say the mother "hasn't made an effort to fully potty train him." There could be a good deal of thought and effort going into the way she's dealing with it.
If you want to help, find out what approach she's using, if any, by saying you're willing to keep things consistent during your stepson's visits. If there's too much tension between you and the mom for you to come across as genuinely interested in helping — I'll get to that in a second — then have your husband deliver the message of cooperation.
About your making a convincing case for wanting to help: Maybe not everyone has in their family library a handy book on bedwetting, but I typed "bedwetting in older children" into a browser, and the first page that popped up offered accurate information and warnings against the harmful myths that persist. Hm.
So, two unsolicited pieces of advice on being an effective stepmother to this "nice kid," a.k.a. vulnerable little boy: (1) Compassion; (2) Information. You're welcome.