Family

Ex-etiquette: Should 4-year-old son attend estranged father’s wedding?

Involving children from a previous marriage in a new wedding can be a delicate situation. (Leslie Caldwell/Dreamstime/TNS)
Involving children from a previous marriage in a new wedding can be a delicate situation. (Leslie Caldwell/Dreamstime/TNS) TNS

Q: My child’s father has only been present upon his own whim. He comes around every so often for an hour or two to make sure our 4-year-old son remembers who he is. He has a girlfriend who is now supposedly his fiance. Ironically, last week he was asking me to go back with him and if I said no he vowed to go through with the marriage. Evidently, she is planning and paying for everything. Now he wants my son, who has never met his fiance, to be at his wedding – this weekend. My son also does not interact with his father’s relatives, so he will be alone at this fiasco. I can’t help thinking this is merely a photo op and I want to tell his father no, but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: Normally I really get on parents who don’t include their children in their wedding plans, but this one is definitely questionable, and I can see why you’re considering, “no.” My first thought was, if your son doesn’t know his father’s fiance and doesn’t interact with his father’s extended family, who’ll be watching him at this affair? He’s 4. He’ll be frightened not knowing anyone and dad won’t be able to be at his side. Besides all that, Dad is asking you to go back with him a week before his wedding and then threatening to go forward with the marriage if you say no? What is this guy thinking? I smell doom all over the place – and he’s involving his child.

Ideally, your son should have met his father’s fiance long ago – and developed a relationship with her – but since this marriage has no real foundation and built on what sounds like desperation, I predict another break-up in the very near future. It might be in your son’s best interest to have been kept on the sidelines.

Considering the history you have told me, think about the following before you go forward:

Your child should meet his father’s fiance BEFORE the wedding day.

Dad must map out what he envisions for the day of the wedding and let you know in no uncertain terms. Who will deliver the child and who will be watching him? When will he be returned to you? If he can’t give you clear cut answers with his child’s best interest in mind, rather than out and out say, “no,” at first, may I suggest that you redirect his request to after the wedding. “Maybe Jeremy shouldn’t go to the wedding, but I really want you to be happy. Let’s figure out how he can get to know your new wife comfortably once you are married.” Then make some suggestions and secure a plan. Now your son can slowly and comfortably be introduced to his father’s wife and they can hopefully develop a rapport without his being distracted by a huge celebration he really won’t understand.

I would like to go on record by saying this whole thing sounds pretty ridiculous.

And, finally, if Dad can’t give you a concerted plan based on his child, not him or his fiance, I would have no problem saying no. That’s in the best interest of your child (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 1) – and that’s good ex-etiquette.

(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at dr.jann@exetiquette.com.)

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