Dear Annie: I am a single mother of six children, the youngest of whom is 12. I divorced their father 10 years ago. I am the custodial parent and receive child support. I don’t have any issues with my ex’s financial responsibilities. It is visitation that is the problem.
Although he’s never been one to phone the kids, he used to see them every other weekend and had them for a week’s time twice a year. Three years ago, he married a woman with no kids, and that’s when visitation became less frequent. Last year, he and his wife had a baby, and they moved 150 km away into a two-bedroom apartment. When he does have our four minor kids, he arranges a hotel stay.
My ex is a consultant and is currently between jobs. He informed me that he cannot afford the hotels now, so visitation is on hiatus. Then he took a week-long beach vacation.
My kids don’t appear to think there is anything wrong with his behaviour. I think it is abhorrent, but have never said anything to the kids because I don’t want them to resent their father. But I also don’t want my children, especially my sons, to think that if a marriage doesn’t work out, parenting is optional.
I get that my ex is completely smitten with his baby, which is fine. But why should he ignore his other children? Do I talk to them about this and let them know it’s not acceptable behaviour? — Curled
Dear Curled: Please do not criticize your ex-husband to your children. They understand exactly what is going on and can feel how unacceptable it is. Instead, try speaking to your ex-husband. Tell him that his older children still need to be part of his life, and by neglecting them, they absorb the message that he no longer loves them. Perhaps you could work together to find a solution. It also would be in everyone’s best interest if they form a relationship with their new sibling.
Dear Annie: My husband and I were invited to a surprise birthday dinner at a nice restaurant. We certainly were surprised when we were asked to pay our share of the bill. We assumed that when invited, we would be guests. The non-paying kind.
When I hosted a dinner for my husband’s birthday, I asked people to be my guests, and I paid the bill. So what is the proper approach when you invite people and expect them to pay? And how do we find out in advance that we’re not actually guests at these events? — Redondo Beach
Dear Redondo: Too many people these days believe it is OK to issue an invitation and then saddle the guests with an invoice. We call that “fundraising.” Here is the way to ask people to assume hosting duties: “Several of Bill’s friends want to organize a party for him at Lovely Restaurant and split the bill. Would you like to be a part of it?” When you have been invited and the hosting duties are unclear, it is OK to ask questions, such as, “Are we also hosting this event?” or “Do I need to bring my chequebook?”
Dear Annie: I am 16, and when I read the letter from Frustrated in the Midwest, all I could think was, “Are you kidding me?” She has a problem with the grandparents attending the grandkids’ events?
I have an 18-year-old sister and a 13-year-old brother. We’re all involved in various sports and school events. We’re grateful that our grandparents think enough of us to be there. I would feel horrible if they didn’t want to watch me.
It sounds like the mother who wrote this letter is pretty selfish to choose the parents of other schoolkids over her own parents. Saying the grandparents have no friends is all the more reason to invite them to these things. That family sounds a little dysfunctional to me. — Grateful Grandkid
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.