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Help dealing with upcoming graduation, advice please

Modernworld1011's picture

Step child will be graduating high school. I have a cordial but not warm relationship with my stepchildren. I remain open to warming things up, but I take my cues from them. I know I am fortunate that they are not rude or hostile, but I guess their older age and mother freaking out about me has not helped. Their mother and I have never met. Many years of marriage later, she is still "trying to accept that her ex has a new spouse." I was not involved in the breakdown of their marriage, nor was my present husband unfaithful to her, or the one who suggested ending the marriage.

The ex-wife also moved about five hours away, so there are no run ins. The children are both older, so they have been away at school since our marriage, so they split their holidays between both houses. Birthdays fall during school, so presents and celebrations happen when each is home, but given the distance of parents, never together. So, graduation marks the first major event falling in his children's life within our marriage. My husband is of course worried that his ex will cause a scene, and his children have been very reluctant to give voice to their opinions. So, we have the quandary of my attending the event or parts of the event.

According to his children she was "freaked out and crazy" for the whole summer when she learned we were marrying, after many years of dating. So my spouse understandably is concerned that she will cause a scene, and make the event miserable.

The flip side is that if I skip this event, it sort of sets a standard that me not being there is acceptable, so I fear the same will be expected when the younger child graduates, and into the future. I don't want to be excluded from sharing these events. I like my step kids, and am proud of them, and I don't want to miss all the milestones that will form many memories.

Given the distance, there is no possibility of a run up meeting with his ex, and frankly my husband does not want it. He is civil to his ex, but does not enjoy being around her beyond the back to school dinners when the kids head off each September. so, the first meeting will be at a life cycle event, or it will not happen.

So, parents and stepparents please weigh in, and share your hard earned wisdom. How would you handle this situation?

Modernworld1011's picture

The stepchild does not want to weigh in, and in the past both children have deeply resented their input being requested. The response is usually, "you are the parent, you figure it out."

The event has a few parts, and some have no guest limits, but others do. I would guess that there probably would be some events that there would be room for me, and others where there would only be enough tickets for parents and the two grand parents still living. If I had to guess, I would be attending the general ceremony if I went and the after dinner.

Modernworld1011's picture

No, lunch/dinner would be given by parents, but if just my husband goes they will attend dinner together, so it is more a matter of am I there or not.

Sorry I don't understand the last part of your sentence. I thought that I had clarified that I had no expectation of attending events where there were limited tickets and that this was about attending the general events where there are no guest limits and the dinner or lunch after the event.

Modernworld1011's picture

No,no worries. Yes, of course, I agree that the parents, grandparents and siblings deserve first dibs on tickets where number is limited. So, where do you stand on my attending the other events where no one is excluded by my presence due to lack of space?

Then, there is the bigger picture question of how much does the handling of this event set the stage for the future.

Given geography and the ages of the children, the only biological parent shared events for the foreseeable future will be graduations, weddings, births, so this event seems like it could be the blueprint for the future. In short if I am totally excluded from this event, then when the next event comes it will be very easy for the party line to become "well she did not come to the other graduation, so why should this graduation, wedding, etc. be any different."

Modernworld1011's picture

Obviously we are a long way from grandchildren, I hope :), but when my mother came to meet my daughter at the hospital my stepdad came with her, and I saw nothing wrong with that. Obviously if the new parents request to have that time on their own you respect it, but this is what I am saying if your spouse is going, be it a birth, a graduation whatever, is it your opinion that a stepparent should be there too?

I think his son is not going to want to weigh in, because he knows that his mother is unreasonable (his word not mine), and does not want to condone her behavior, but he also would not want to put up with her outburst either. This goes back to my original question, how much do you respect an adult child's wishes going forward, as I think this event will set a tone. Do you feel that an adult child is entitled to dictate step-parental presence at their life events? I have heard arguments for both views.

I get the sense that there will be one post graduate meal. The parents have civilly dined together before, the question is do I attend? My husband will certainly be paying, and it will probably be in a restaurant. My husband agrees that there is no reason why I should not attend, but he knows his ex spouse and does not relish the potentiality for drama.

Thanks for dialoging back and forth, I appreciate it.

Wifeypoo's picture

"Do you feel that an adult child is entitled to dictate step-parental presence at their life events?"

I replied below but forgot to address this question. In my opinion NO, the skids are not entitled to dictate your presence at a event where your husband is attending. Not just no, but hell no! You are his family. My husband has never allowed anyone to treat me less because I'm his second wife. That's why I trust him so much and I couldn't have it any other way.

Now if you were a troublemaker, who purposely tries to stir the pot, I could at least understand why they wouldn't want your presence at one of their events. That's not the case here and it's not your fault that the EX is the way she is.

Monchichi's picture

If your husband wants you with him, you want to go and your steps have not specifically requested you not go, then go.

Modernworld1011's picture

That's basically the scenario. I just feel terrible that all this worry has to surround my attendance. It has been so many years, and it would venice to be able to just move forward. My husband has such great relationships with my kids, and my ex like him a lot and always makes certain to say hello and converse with him. I wish I enjoyed the same good fortune. Thanks for your support!

Modernworld1011's picture

That's basically the scenario. I just feel terrible that all this worry has to surround my attendance. It has been so many years, and it would venice to be able to just move forward. My husband has such great relationships with my kids, and my ex like him a lot and always makes certain to say hello and converse with him. I wish I enjoyed the same good fortune. Thanks for your support!

LikeMinded's picture

Well, if neither the SKID nor DH has a big opinion about this, then perhaps you should just figure out what you actually want.

I'm reading that you want to be included in family functions (as you should be, you are DH's wife and you belong at his side), but you do not want to set of BM (which is very smart).

Perhaps, if I were you, I would::

1. Skip this ceremony because this is SKID's special day and I wouldn't want the SKID to be worrying about BM flipping out. Or worse, BM flipping out and making it all about her to the detriment of the SKID...


2. Request that DH take the SKID out on a separate celebratory dinner with you and any guests from his family because you are his wife and belong by his side. He belongs by your side, not BM's. If she can't let go, he needs to show her where she stands in his pecking order.

Be sure his pecking order puts you in the Queen's throne.

There is no reason for BM and your DH to go to the dinner together IMHO.

That way you set up a precedent of not creating drama, but keeping your throne. I hope that makes sense.

Modernworld1011's picture

I am thinking that there will not be time for two dinners, so it will be either I am included, or I am not.

We are all in an unfortunate position because one person cannot move to a place of calmness in spite of having her own life and personal relationships. My step kids are both good people. I want to support them in an appropriate manner, and I do want to celebrate their successes and milestones. I have been on all sides of the step circumstance. I have been a stepchild, had step siblings and been a step parent twice, and everyone just always managed to make it work. There was never any of this rancor in any of my prior circumstance. No one ever questioned bringing someone to anything, and there were certainly no ugly scenes. It's just odd to me that someone would want to bring such anger to things so many years after the fact. I can understand if you were the new spouse that broke up the marriage, or if you were trying to alienate the affection of the children or have a say in raising them, but none of that has been part of this circumstance….

Modernworld1011's picture

Hi Like Minded, your scenario makes much sense, but there is already a lengthy precedent about going to a meal together, so him suddenly not going, and us having another meal would be messing with things. The other meals have always just been of the back to school variety, and this is the first one that will revolve around an important occasion. So. much a s two meals could happen it would be more a question of does my husband attend the one with his wife without me.

Your Mom is a wise lady by the way! Smile I wish mine had told me those things. My first marriage would have never happened!

Modernworld1011's picture

I am sure the party you described is the one any child would choose to attend, and I would guess there will be some event like that, but at some point we would all be at a table together.

Modernworld1011's picture

Wow, thank you, what a beautiful and thoughtful post. I agree with all that you write, but sadly so many don't seem to feel the same. I have never blamed my step kids for the issues. It has always emanated from the parents. It seems to be the case with many. One ex is angry, and everyone else gets sucked into the destructive wake. At the end of the day it is horrible that assuming your rightful place, no matter how quietly and calmly you behave can cause epic meltdowns which prove embarrassing to all.

Thank you for such a beautiful vote of confidence and correctness sueu2!

Wifeypoo's picture

I couldn't agree more with what Sue has said here.

Modernworld you are his wife. You belong beside your husband regardless of how anyone feels. No one gets to decide where you go or don't go. Wherever any wife goes with her husband is where you go. Period.

You obviously are not trying to start trouble and will keep it classy. Your motives are in the right place. You don't have a history of fighting with the ex or the skids and you have been respectful thus far. The skids refuse to say anything either way, and the reason they won't is because deep down they know it's not their call to make. That's my take on the situation anyway.

Now you go and take your place beside your husband, right where you belong.

Modernworld1011's picture

imaSmom, thanks, I agree. Sadly though we all know the flipping out part can be horrible. I so wish people could move on. It has been a very long time at this point.

hereiam's picture

Don't let what BM might do, stop you from going. If she makes a scene, she only makes herself look bad. She is an adult and the only one responsible for her actions. It is waaaaay past time for her to get over herself.

Go with your husband and have a great time.

It really is that simple.

Modernworld1011's picture

Hi hereiam , thanks for your thoughts. The voices here seem to be saying go, and if she wants to behave horribly it is on her. Unless something changes dramatically, I will go, and just try to be quiet and low-key.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

If I were you, I would go to the graduation itself, assuming there are enough tickets. You don't have to sit with BM at the graduation.

As far as the "after grad" meal - BM should host one and invite her family and friends. DH should host one and invite his family and friends. He should not attend hers and she should not attend his. In the past they have had a meal together - but the difference is that you were not there. Now is the time to start marking theses occasions in different ways.

I met BM for the first time at the wedding of one of the Skids. It actually worked out well because they felt she was less likely to make a scene at a special occasion. After all my worry it went fine. I do think being in public was helpful.

Modernworld1011's picture

Wow notsurehowtoheal thank you so much for writing. People are always stunned to know how long I have been dating/married to my husband who shares kids with an ex and managed not to meet her at least minimally yet. I agree with the theory that an event like this is good because you hope that for the sake of their own child the parent will not want to make and unhappy scene, but I guess some still choose todo so. I guess that is the most worrying thing, knowing that you are rolling the dice that first time. Hopefully, I would be as fortunate as you.

I am not certain if there will be time for two meals, but you do make a point about it being time to finally factor our multiple year at this point marriage.

SMto2's picture

I've been married to DH for 16 1/2 years, dated about a year before marriage. SSs are now 20 and 22. Before oldest SS's high school graduation, I'd only seen BM at close range maybe once, and maybe a couple dozen times at sporting events from afar, when she seemed civil. We built up a whole lot of anger against her and her family for PAS'ing the SSs, but we don't let that show. When oldest SS graduated, I hadn't seen her in about 6 or 7 years. Initially, we thought there were going to be limited tickets for each graduate, and I was going to stay home so DH and his mom could go.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately, lol), it was moved to a gymnasium with unlimited attendance, so we went with a large group of DH's family--his mom, step-dad, sisters, their husbands and children, and they insulated us and gave me a lot of confidence against BM and her "clan" also in attendance. After the ceremony, DH caught oldest SS (who wasn't really speaking to DH at that time) just as the graduates filed out and they took pics. I'd already left with our youngest, who was having trouble sitting still, and went to a nearby restaurant to save a table for DH's family and the youngest SS. (Oldest SS went to an after graduation party with the graduates, so no one got a "graduation dinner" with him that day, which was fine with us.) Fast forward 2 years when youngest SS graduated, all of us went again, but by that time, things had turned about miraculously with oldest SS, who had gotten married (eloped, so we avoided that!) and had a baby. We all went to dinner with youngest SS PRIOR to graduation and all again attended graduation in the same unlimited seating venue. (I DID make a point to be in the BEST SHAPE of my life leading up to that, and wore a very EXPENSIVE dress and looking my BEST!!) }:) We had basically the same thing for oldest SS's college graduation, and I expect it will be about the same when youngest SS graduates college in a year or so.

I was never really afraid of BM making a scene, as she does have enough couth not to do so--and I bet your BM will do the same when it comes down to it. However, I definitely was worried about being uncomfortable around BM, but that didn't stop me. So, based on my experience, I think you should do just as you're thinking--that you'll go to events that have unlimited seating but stay away from those with limited tickets. Buy yourself a NICE outfit, look your best, and stand back demurely with your DH! Smile

Also, btw, when oldest SS's 1st DD was born, he was estranged from DH, and we learned of her birth on social media, so DH was not there. (DH reached out to SS, and it actually resulted in them ending their estrangement!) When oldest SS's youngest DD was born, even though we were on good terms with him, we did NOT want to be in close quarters with BM and the clan, so we deliberately planned NOT to go to the hospital, but instead, to go see them after they came home from the hospital.

I think you have to play these things by ear.

jumanji's picture

Well, from the Mom side of the aisle.... I would tell you to go. There does not need to be any interaction, and if she causes a scene - that is on her. Not your problem.

I've been through three graduations since our divorce, with a fourth in May.

Dad & his wife came to our oldest's HS grad. I didn't even see them. They took the kids out for dinner after, then dropped them at my parents' where we had a small after party (w/o the ex). Neither came to our daughter's HS graduation.

Dad came to our oldest's college graduation. Didn't see him then, either. Since it was not local (about 1 1/2 hours and the grandparents were with me), kiddo arranged to have dinner w/us, and drinks later with his Dad.

Which brings me to college graduation #2. I don't expect him to show up, but if he does, it will be impossible not to see him, due to the size of the school (really, the graduating class is <100). If he/they do show up, there will be no scene from me - I wouldn't do that to my kid. But.... I would expect him/them to respect that we will already have plans made with the graduate, the fiance and family.

Just food for thought (and some catharsis for me).

z3girl's picture

Sounds somewhat similar to my experience. (Except SDthen17's behavior that brought me to this site.)

BM and SD lived far enough away that we've never run into them. The first time I met BM was at SD's high school graduation. BM is 20 years older than I am, so she had put up a fuss when she found out about me. (She is bi and is only interested in women now, so not sure why it matters who DH is with.) We dated for 2 years before marrying, and were married a year by the time SD graduated.

What I learned was that I would never again sit next to BM at any major event. I somehow ended up between BM and DH and she constantly tried to bicker with DH leaning around me. She held the tickets, so we had to meet up with her, and that was a big mistake. BM brings out the worst in DH, so DH was in a horrible mood and snapping at me as well, which he never did before. I was almost in tears at times, and BM just sneered at me "Get used to it." No, I will not.

We only went for the graduation ceremony. DH refused to attend any dinners for SD because he did not want to be around BM any more than he had to.

I would only change the seating arrangements in hindsight.

Good luck!