Waa...waaa....waaa. Ok, now that I've got that out of my system, I really am interested in feedback/advice.
DH has 3 sons (7, 10, 13) and I have 2 (6, 8) and we have a daughter (8 months) together. We've been married for a year in April so we're VERY new to this. DH grew up with divorce and remarriage (and divorce and remarriage ad nauseum) but my parents are still together so I've never experienced ANY of this. My boys are with us most of the time. They go to their dad's EOW when he has nothing better to do. His boys are technically 50/50 but they're actually with us about 75% of the time. Week-on/week-off but they go to school in our district so they come here after school every day and their mom or her husband picks them up at dinner time on her weeks. If they have a birthday party or other event on her weekend, she'll take them to the event and then we pick them up and keep them for the rest of the weekend.
She's been playing up the disneyland parent thing bigtime since we got married a year ago. She bought the 7 year old an iPod Touch for his birthday 3 weeks before Christmas. She gave the 13 year old her old iPhone just because. She's threatening to move the kids out of our school district and closer to her because she supposedly can't afford gas to come pick them up on her weeks, but she can afford the gas to go to school and have lunch with them when it's our week.
Now, here's where I'm torn. On one hand, I'm glad she's even pretending to try to be involved. I mean, going to lunch with them is all about making a show (the school knows who the "real" parents are...who checks their homework every night and bakes cookies and donates supplies and volunteers in the classroom and all that) but at least it's something. My kids' dad is nowhere to be found....he doesn't even talk on the phone to them between visits! On the other hand, it's extremely disruptive for all of them.
She goes to school and takes McDonald's for her kids, while my kids are in the cafeteria, even at the same table sometimes, doing nothing special. When it's time for her to leave, every single time, at least one of the kids gets weepy and has a tummy ache (McDonald's? :P) If she makes him stay at school, then he comes home whiny and cranky and out of sorts. If she checks him out, she brings him to us in the middle of the afternoon knowing he's not really sick. So he "wins" because he got checked out of school but he didn't get any extra time with Mom and the other kids know as well as he does that he wasn't really sick so then they're all cranky and whiny and out of sorts.
DH and I go and have lunch with the kids from time to time but we have the rule that if anyone whines or pitches a fit when we leave, then we just won't do it any more. It's a special treat for us to have lunch with you, but we still have to work and you still have to go to school and if you can't handle that, then we won't bend the routine at all. We sometimes take a special treat for all the kids at lunch (cookies or something) but we don't do fast food and I'm not taking a special meal for all five of them so for the most part, our presence is the treat. That sounds bad doesn't it?
But my kids are asking why I never come and bring a treat for just them and not the other boys. I mean, their mom brings them treats and leaves my boys out. Or why their dad never does anything special with them.
When the 13 year old was playing football, we ALL went to all the games. We took snacks to the game for the kids when they were with us but whether they were with us or not, she would show up with pizza and soda or buy them nachos and candy from the snack bar. My feeling is that when it's her week, if she wants to do that stuff, then fine, but when it's our week, they're with us and we'll take care of them. Because if she bought her kids something from the concession stand, my kids got jealous. But then if I bought something for my kids, then her kids saw it as their dad doing something for my boys and expected him to do something for them too. And I REFUSE to get in that kind of battle with her.
I have a cousin in FL and in the past, my boys and I have always gone to visit them in the summer. We stay in their guest bedroom so it doesn't cost much and everybody has a good time. Last summer, we didn't go because I was pregnant. This summer, we won't be going because all 8 of us can't stay in their guest room and a hotel is not really practical for all 8 of us, and a 12 hour drive is not really practical with all 8 of us. My boys are really disappointed, but they understand...as much as little kids can understand this kind of thing. But today, my stepsons came in bragging that their mom is taking them to Disneyworld this summer. They're going to FL for a week and stay in a hotel with a pool and eat in restaurants every day and do all kinds of fun stuff. They're not really *trying* to rub it in my boys' faces....not any more than you'd expect out of little kids anyway...but my boys are very jealous. If they can go on vacation without us, why can't we go on vacation without them? If their mom can bring them fast food at lunchtime and then check them out of school early, why can't our mom bring us fast food and check us out early? Their mom takes them to the movies and amusement parks and all that when they're not with us, but we don't do anything fun when they're not here....we always wait till they're home to do fun stuff.
I don't want his boys to feel left out because we're doing fun stuff without them. I don't want to go on vacation with my boys without 3/8 of our FAMILY. But as it is, my boys are being left out because they're doing all kinds of fun stuff with their mom and we make a point of doing NOTHING when they're not here. How do you balance that when the schedules are different? How do you explain to his kids that oh well, you missed out on something we did while you were with your mom, but you do all kinds of special stuff when you're with her too? How do I make my kids not feel jealous and left out when his kids do special stuff with their mom? And I assume, that as our daughter grows, it will eventually become an issue for her too (maybe not as much since she won't know anything different) but she'll be with us all the time and only have one family while all the others come and go and have two families. It's something I NEVER wanted my kids to have to deal with or understand. So maybe I'm the problem. I don't WANT them to understand it and accept it. I don't want it to be that way. How do I let go of what I wanted for them and accept all of this myself so that I CAN help them to understand?