First- if anyone has a better title suggestion after reading this feel free to edit. I had a hard time formulating a brief description.
My oldest son is the result of a failed relationship that ended when he was an infant. I started dating my husband seriously when he was about 15 months old and then remarried when he was 4. I have always had full custody. He visits his dad more or less every other weekend, less so when he was a baby. All this time, I have been in a monogamous, stable relationship that produced two more children. We have a happy, healthy home that is grounded by a happy, healthy marriage.
On the other hand...my son's father is a womanizer. (Hence, we are no longer together, amongst other reasons.) He had several relationships when we first split; he was often staying with one girl one month and then with another the next month, which resulted in very little visitation due to his reluctance to "freak out" his gf's by bringing a baby home. Eventually, he found a girl that had a kid the same age as our boy and he married her. Kinda all of a sudden. They played house: since she had a kid it was now convenient for him to have his son over, so he went over there a LOT and grew close to his step mom and brother (reluctantly-this boy was not very nice to my son physically or emotionally.) Two years later it was over. On Christmas Day, when my son was FINALLY going to spend Christmas with his dad. Within weeks of his divorce, he showed up at my house with a new gf to take my son to the zoo. I guess the play date with the kid wasn't her thing because he showed up a month later with a different girl. This girl moved in with him after about a month and now they are engaged. My son was devastated when his dad got divorced before. He still misses his step mom and step brother (it's all I can do to be sympathetic. Only because I love him I manage-they were nearly intolerably awful people). He asked me upon return from the zoo-date if he should call dad's date "mom" or her first name. Now, he's getting amped up for the wedding and a new step mom. I'm happy that at least this girl is nice and she seems to truly care for my son (unlike the other one playing house) but I'm concerned that all these relationships are damaging him. He asks me all the time how come daddy gets to get married all the time and I only got married once. When he was young, first of all, he didn't hardly notice, and if he did notice the "frequency of turnover" of his dad's partners I was able to provide fairly "light" and pre-school friendly answers like: "daddy is still practicing making friends-those girls aren't mommies" or when he got divorced I managed the explanation: "everybody is like a puzzle. There are lots of pieces and you have to try different things to see if they fit. The last piece of everyone's puzzle is a special piece that actually fits in two people's puzzles. One piece fits perfectly into both to join them together to make one big picture (our family). Daddy thought he found a fit (like you do when you do puzzles) but it turned out the picture was mixed up and it wasn't the right piece." That explanation was satisfying for him but, I can't help but wonder, how else, besides the strong example we have set in our home, can we teach him the value and seriousness of making good relationship choices? He idolizes his father, so I fear that he gives his father's life choices equal weight. I am not so obtuse that I don't see that equalization is logical in his mind, and in other instances an advantage (in the sense his good experiences are doubled.) But as a mother I can't help but want to mitigate or prevent harm though.
Without preaching, or criticizing his father, how can I teach my son to choose healthy relationships over lust based flings, and ultimately, the value of a marriage? The upcoming wedding is a very very big deal. I want him to have fun, and be happy for his dad, but I wish he could understand that for now, it's his dad's big day not his.
Btw-my son will be entering middle school next year. He's 10.
I realize marriage is often a religious topic, so I should mention that we are not religious, but have taught the children the basics of a few of the major world religions and about spirituality in general, so answers based in any faith (or lack thereof) are welcome.