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Don't push too hard in relationship with boyfriend's kids

DEAR AMY: I've been dating a father of three children for about six months. I love him and his children, and I am moving in with him. I really want us to become a family. I get along with his kids, and I feel like they have accepted me, but I feel a little left out sometimes. He has nightly routines with his kids, and I would like to be a part of that, but I'm not sure if that's overstepping my bounds. There are PTA meetings that I would like to attend, but he goes with the kids' mother (understandably). I'm not sure if I have a right to ask to be a part of them. Some matters are complicated due to his rocky relationship with his ex. What would you suggest?

-- Eager to Succeed

DEAR EAGER: My main suggestion is for you to slow down, way down. Integrating your life with this dad and his children should be a process that happens in stages. Your eagerness to dive into these child-centered routines will backfire unless the children more or less welcome you. After six months of dating, you don't become an instant family. Be patient while everyone (including you) finds their way.

It is challenging to conduct a gradual integration while you are living in the household, and it is confusing for kids if you move in without getting married. There is an implied impermanence to living together that children perceive, even if they don't express it.

Talk to your partner about this now. Realize that at the outset, your best role is to be your guy's advocate, sounding board and helpmate.

He should make an effort to fold you into some of these routines and you two should develop new child-centered rituals. Eventually, you'll move into a co-parenting role as you take on more practical chores, such as picking the kids up after school. Don't dive into PTA meetings until his ex has a chance to adjust to your presence in the household, but cheer on the kids at all games and after-school events.

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