"I Think I'm More of a Father to the Boys Than He Is." the Problems in Remarriage

By Schleifer, Maxwell J. | The Exceptional Parent, January-February 1992 | Go to article overview

"I Think I'm More of a Father to the Boys Than He Is." the Problems in Remarriage


Schleifer, Maxwell J., The Exceptional Parent


"Elaine and I have had a lot of arguments recently and we can't seem to resolve them." James Craig, a tall, slender man in his early 40s spoke quickly "Elaine has two sons from her first marriage. Last week we were discussing with Tom, the oldest who is 17, a special trip he takes each year with his father. I asked why Ross, her first husband, shouldn't take the younger boy, Bobby, along with them. Bobby, who is 14 and has cerebral palsy, is a very bright boy who has done exceptionally well in school and has really maintained a remarkable life considering the physical limits he has.

"I married Elaine when the boys were nine and six. I think I have been a good stepfather to them. I'm a teacher so I've spent a lot of time working with them on their schoolwork and hobbies. Elaine and I have been with the boys through happy events and illnesses. Elaine was working full-time when we met and still does. Her former husband, Ross, does very well but the amount of money he gives to the children or Elaine is minimal. He's been generous when it comes to doing things together with Tom but he very rarely includes Bobby-When I discussed this with Tom, he acted annoyed. Elaine got upset and said that I was just trying to spoil everything for Tom. Elaine may have been right. From time to time, I do get annoyed at Ross for doing so little with Bobby. Sometimes I think I'm more of a father to the boys than he is - even though he is their biological father.

"Tom goes to college next year. It's up in the air right now because there are certain schools he'd like to apply to but they depend on his father's willingness to pay the tuition. Although Ross has promised to, the question is -- will it be like all his other promises? There's only so much Elaine and I can do. Whenever Tom goes to Ross to talk about it, I guess I resent it.

"Lately I've also been talking about what kind of future we should help Bobby plan for. Whenever this has come up in the last several months, Elaine starts shouting at me, then heads for our bedroom. There's no conversation at all after that.

"Another topic that leads to arguments is having a child of our own. When we first met, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to have children or not. Elaine herself felt it was something we could talk about later. She had so much to do just handling her two sons. I liked the boys right off - they were just so nice to be with. Since I'd been a bachelor so long, they brought a lot of excitement to my life. We've had our ups and downs but, over the years, decisions about what role I had in their lives and particularly, my right to make demands upon them, have been things we have been able to discuss. Now that my own life and career is settled, I wanted to discuss having a child. All these things together have really made for a fairly unhappy period in our lives. But the thing that concerns me most is that we can't seem to discuss it at all.

"I know Elaine is concerned about it herself. After the last argument, she thought we ought to meet with somebody to see if we can understand what's going on. I know how I feel, which is unsettled and bewildered. I also know we have to learn how to talk about these things'

"I guess there are some things that we had on our minds that we should have talked about before we got married," Elaine Craig, a short, dark-haired woman looking younger than her age, spoke softly.

"I met Jim through friends of ours. I really didn't have much free time - I was working so many hours just to support my children. I was still trying to figure out what my life was going to be like when I took my kids on a picnic with my friends who have children about the same age. They brought Jim along. From the beginning, he got along wonderfully with my kids. It was clear that he liked to play with kids and he seemed to be interested in children of all ages. In some ways, I also found him to be a great listener - no matter what I worried about he was always very helpful.

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