Sharing personal information brings people closer together. But how do you know when you’ve gone too far—or when someone else has ulterior motives?
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Thank you for your kind words. I am sure you are right, that in the long run it is most important that everyone feels the arrangements are fair. But fairness is not always easy to recognise as such by children at very different developmental stages. My 14-months-old baby not only has no understanding of the concept: his needs are also different and much more immediate than those of older children; he does not need sustained "intellectual" engagement, but he needs a parent to drop everything the moment milk is needed, a nappy needs changing or vomit needs cleaning up. Even my four-year old son, who is very calm and mature for his age, can inadvertently torpedo something Jessie wants to do without even realising it. Take one example: he is used to talking when watching a film with us; it is his way of coming to grips with a relatively complex plot, to ask questions and explain it back to us as he is watching it. We, the parents, have encouraged this, as the last thing we want is the couch potato style of don't-really-understand-but-just-letting-it-wash-over-me style of TV watching. But for Jessie, such talking, like the baby's antics, are simply very annoying interruptions to things she wants to do, and is used to doing, uninterrupted: watching a film silently from start to finish, listening to us read a story; drawing together and so on. This relates to my question about how much we should have her stay, and for how long at a time. My four-year old of course is also being interrupted in things he enjoys doing by the baby, and of course, he is also sad if we have to leave the playground early because the baby needs feeding. But that is his life, he is used to it, and it does not seem to affect him adversely in any generalised way. But for Jessie, who is a single child in her main home, all of this is anything but normal. What does fairness mean when the real issue is trying to compensate her for things that children growing up in these routines would not need compensation for? How much of our "normality" can we expect her to ever accept as "normal"?
I'd also be interested in hearing from others who themselves grew up as children of divorced parents, where the Dad started a new family. How much did you want to be involved in your father's and his new family's world? How much do you think a Dad and a stepmum should involve themselves? My own father grew up like this, his father saw him once a year for an afternoon, he is bitterly resentful. In the 1930s, this was probably not unusual. But it seems to me our own times pose different challenges. Instead of preaching at Dads to be more involved (always assuming that they are by inclination irresponsible chauvinists), it now seems more relevant to me to for psychologists to offer some advice on which levels of involvement are likely to be most successful, as in: likely to make the child of the divorce happiest in the long run?
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