Dear Dr. Jann: My ex and I have been divorced for eight years. After a few growing pains, we’ve done pretty well in the co-parenting department. My 17-year-old son is graduating from a special school and would like to have one big family celebration. I, however, do not want a joint celebration. My family cannot tolerate the day with my ex-husband. Personally, I’m fine with it, but my father who has been ill over the last few years, still holds a grudge. One day I would like to have one celebration for other events, but my dad and mother can’t move past things done and said years ago. This is upsetting my son and his father (my ex). What do I do?
Dr. Jann says: Of course you always try to be sensitive to other’s feelings when planning a special occasion, but when you start to omit guests or alter the guest of honor’s wishes to compensate for what extended family and friends want, that’s a warning that it’s time to take a look at your reasoning and consider making changes.
I’m not surprised your parents’ suggest you shun your ex. Celebrating together after a divorce is not the way they were raised. In their day, once divorced, Mom got custody, Dad paid child support and received visitation. Divorced parents fought for years. No one talked or they certainly never made decisions together. But, that is their life, not yours. You tell us you coparent, “pretty well.” Can’t use old rules for new ways, it doesn’t work. You have to match the parenting plan you have chosen for your son with the rules you live by. That means you may have to stand up to Mom and Dad and explain that you love them and you appreciate their allegiance, but your son has been brought up to respect his father, (your son may not even know why your parents hate his dad)and you’re doing what he has requested for his celebration. Time for grandma and grandpa to join the program for the sake of their grandchild.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Grandpa’s been ill, and like your son, you respect your father, but he’s also been holding a grudge for years and that’s really unhealthy. Plus, according to just about every study you can read, grudges cause stress. Stress can make you sick, and grandpa’s ability to hold this grudge might very well be why he is so ill today. So, as much as you would like to respect grandpa’s wishes, the child for whom the celebration is planned has obviously moved past all the drama and wants a stress-free life that includes all his loved ones. As the host and hostess, your ex and you have the final say.