She says: “We pay child support – that’s enough.”
Nicki says: Paul’s ex-wife gets generous child support from us, but doesn’t appear to use it to provide for the children. They show up with old clothes and worn-out shoes when they come for visitation. I don’t think we should spring for new winter coats and boots while they are with us – it’s costing a fortune.
Paul says: I understand Nicki’s concerns, but these are my children, and I am not going to have them wandering in the snow with holes in their boots. Yes, the child support should be covering that, but I can’t control my ex. I want to give my kids whatever they need.
What do THEY do?
Children deserve to have their basic needs met, and providing for them is our responsibility as parents and adults. When a man and woman decide to marry and they bring children into the marriage from a previous relationship, often there are unanticipated dynamics within the blended family unit that need to be addressed. In a perfect world, Nicki, Paul and his former spouse would be cordial toward each other, communicate well and have the children’s best interests at heart. The reality, however, is often very different and the children get caught between warring parents. Children of divorced parents are often treated as pawns and bear the brunt of parents lashing out against each other.
In this case, it appears only Paul is bringing children into this new union with Nicki. Consequently, it is up to Paul to prepare Nicki by explaining what his responsibilities are to his children. Not just what the courts may have ordered, but that he still has responsibilities to his children in this new arrangement. Sharing feelings about “parent responsibilities” is not a one-way street; in fact, this is at least a three-way intersection – Paul, the children’s biological mother and Nicki. All three have a stake in the welfare of the children and all three will have a great impact on the health and welfare of the children. The greatest gift all three (or more) adults can give the children is to be civil toward each other, respect boundaries and keep the welfare of the children paramount in their communications. Children are not pawns – they are human persons with dignity too!
Even though Paul pays support to his children’s mother, he is right in saying he cannot directly control how she uses the support she receives. Regardless, no responsible parent likes to see children improperly dressed and poorly cared for. This situation, however, is more about the communications between Paul and Nicki than it is about the actions of the children’s biological mother, which neither can control.
It would do Paul and Nicki’s relationship well if they are able to share their innermost feelings and expectations with each other; describing and exploring each other’s wants and desires for the children. We don’t believe either Nicki or Paul wants the children to suffer, but want only the best for them. However, Nicki needs to understand Paul’s urgency and actions and Paul needs to understand Nicki’s frustration over this situation. Paul has a responsibility not only toward his children but, to Nicki as well.
Paul’s prayer for wisdom in this delicate situation – “For the Lord gives Wisdom (Proverbs 2:6)” – will help him articulate his feelings in private to Nick. He should not speak of this in front of the children. Young children do not have the maturity to distinguish the nuances associated with feelings and should not be made to feel “they” are a problem between parents and step-parents. Paul and Nicki, on the other hand, should rationally discern what the best solution for this issue is in relation to their marriage and immediate family.
We recommend Paul and Nicki come together in the privacy of their home, hold hands and openly pray to the Holy Spirit, asking God for wisdom and guidance. Praying in this manner will bring the two of them comfort, understanding and peace.
Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.