I am married to a wonderful man, and we have a child together. He loves my oldest son like his own and has been in my son's life since he was 2. After four years, my ex now decides that he wants to see my child and wants me to let my son come over to him. My son never asks about him, ever. He feels like my husband is his father.
I know my husband's reaction will be, "F—- him; he wasn't around. Why is he calling now?" I feel like I would be wrong if I tell the ex, "No, you can't see my child; beat it. Don't you have, like, three other kids somewhere?" He is a deadbeat. I'm so confused and scared to tell my husband. I don't want him to feel disrespected. What should I do? —R.D.
Put your child first. Any woman in your position would be worried about offending her partner, since he is the one who's been doing the heavy lifting to nurture, protect and love the child the two of you have been raising. And surely your confusion about what to do comes from mixed feelings about your son's father, the man who hasn't been there to co-parent your child. But your decision shouldn't be based on how your husband feels, or even how you feel, but what is best in the long run for your child.
It probably somehow seems wrong, if not a little unfair, that your ex can show up out of the blue uninvited like some sort of Adele lyric and expect to be taken seriously. And it's tempting to ignore him, since it's not likely there's much your ex can do to force your hand.
You referred to him as "a deadbeat," which leads me to believe that not only is he not around, but he's also not paying child support. It's not as if he's going to run to the courts asking for visitation if he has an outstanding debt. Still, for all that he hasn't done (or paid), he's still the child's father, and that carries a lot of weight.
My favorite Drake line is "Better late than never, but never late is better." I wish this were the case for your son and for your family so you wouldn't face this hard dilemma. For whatever reason, your ex has decided that it's time to do what he should have been doing all along. If he wants to have a relationship with his child, put aside the discomfort you may have and focus on at least letting the child's father try to forge a bond with his son.
If you do not include your husband in the decision for your ex and your son to meet, you are going to put your marriage in jeopardy. Tell your husband about your ex's request and let him be mad at the unmitigated gall of your son's father. Do not make him feel you've betrayed or disrespected him by not consulting him on an issue that affects the child he has been raising.
As a knee-jerk reaction, your husband is not likely to be supportive of your son meeting his biological father, for all of the reasons you mentioned in your query. As I've encouraged you to put your son first, encourage your husband to do the same. A healthy relationship with his biological father is what is best for your son in the long run. And it's better for you, too.
The last thing you want is for your son to discover someday that you denied him the opportunity to know his father all these years. He won't hate his father for not being there; he's more likely to take his anger out on you and your husband for keeping him from his biological dad.
After you and your husband come to an agreement, you both need to have a conversation with your son about his father. Your son needs a heads-up about what's going on so that he's not traumatized and confused one Saturday morning when you declare, "So, you're going to meet your father today!"
Also, at his young age, he should have some curiosity about who his father is, and he may not be asking because he senses the understandable hostility that you and your husband have toward his dad. Still, he needs to know that it's OK to be interested in his father and to have a relationship with him if, after he meets him, he actually wants one.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.