Dear Ann Cannon • When your ex-husband remarries, how do you get to that place where you can be happy that your kids have someone else (besides you) in their lives who cares about them? I really, really want to get there, but I’m still angry that this is our family’s new reality.
— Not Happy Yet
Dear Not Happy • Your question speaks to both your maturity and your pain. It takes a mature individual to appreciate the fact that another person can, in fact, care about your children. At the same time it’s completely understandable that you don’t want to share your kids with someone else — particularly with the woman who has taken your place in your ex-husband’s life. You didn’t give birth to your children in hopes that a stepmother would be intimately involved with their upbringing.
So what can you do to get past your justifiable resentment? This: Have faith in the future. Time really does have a way of blunting the sharp edges of pain, especially if you can move forward and rebuild your own life. Meanwhile, here are a few things you can think about doing right now. Sadly, none of them is easy.
1. For your kids’ sakes, communicate as needed with your ex and his spouse.
2. Be as civil as possible when you do communicate.
3. Resist the urge to badmouth your ex and his spouse in front of the kids, especially if it appears they are trying to do right by those kids.
4. Be especially kind to yourself. (That’s an order.)
Your situation is not unusual, which is why I’m inviting readers to email me (email@example.com) with specific suggestions to help you. I hope to run those suggestions in this column at a later date.
Wishing you all the best.
Dear Ann Cannon • How can I convince people that cats are better than dogs?
— Team Cat
Dear Team Cat • I know a man who maintains that if you died in your own house, your pet dog would keep watch over you until the coroner arrives. Your pet cat, on the other hand, would view you as an afternoon snack. Because I have never died in my own house, I have no idea if this man is right. His response, however, demonstrates that you have your work cut out for you. So good luck with that!
Dear Ann Cannon • I know you’re interested in books for kids. How can I get my 10- year-old son to read?
— Striking Out So Far
Dear Striking Out • I have a friend, a former high-school English teacher, who was successful at getting her at-risk students to read. Why? “Because,” she said, “I gave them something they wanted to read.”
OK. I may get some pushback here because I’m going to introduce the subject of gender into this conversation — specifically, the idea that young boys are more likely to be “reluctant readers” than young girls. Fine. Whatever. I’ll risk it.
So how do you encourage a boy to read then? Give him more than one choice. Because I majored in English, I had a natural prejudice in favor of novels. Kids weren’t really reading, in my opinion, unless they were reading chapter books. Our oldest boy, who was a voracious reader, did nothing to change my point of view. But by the time we had our fifth son, I realized not every kid wants to read “Harry Potter” in this life.
Here’s what I learned. Many boys are attracted to nonfiction because it’s “real.” And the nonfiction they read doesn’t have to be in the form of a narrative. A lot of guys like “factoids” — little snippets of information — which makes almanacs and Guinness World Records books a good choice. Same with magazines and newspapers, because PRINT ISN’T DEAD, YOU GUYS. Not yet, anyway.
What else? Comics and graphic novels (which are comics dressed up like books) are also worth considering. The thought of kids reading comic books instead of “Harry Potter” makes some adults nervous. But seriously now — if the point is to get a kid to read, why not? Reading is reading is reading.
I hope this helps.
Do you have a question for Ann? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.