Don't flip out on me just yet. There are times when using the word "my" about your kiddos is perfectly acceptable. If Mama Ex is sitting at a restaurant with the kids and someone says, "Oh, who are these little darlings?" it's only natural for her to reply, "These are my daughters, M and T."
I mean, duh.
The problem arises when Mama Ex (or Hubs) uses that nasty little bugger of a word when it implies possession. In my own experience, Mama Ex loves using this word when she
Me: What time should I pick up the girls up tonight? Hubs is running late from work.
Mama Ex: You can pick up my girls at 6:00 at their Aunt Jane's..
No, no, no, no, no, no. Look, I get it. They're YOUR children. Did you honestly think I forgot for one split second I forgot? One problem, though. They also belong to my Hubs. We are a family. All of us are in this together. Drop the "my" and just say "the". I can pick up "the" girls at 6:00 at their Aunt Jane's.
(Using the "my" word is the emotional equivalent of a dog peeing all over his brand new chew toy. It's just unnecessary.)
You may notice that Mama Ex brings out this word does this when she's feeling particularly vulnerable, or if she feels her parenting style is being attacked. I can remember one time when Hubs mentioned that one of the girls had an infected cut on her foot and he was going to buy something to clean it up. The response was something to the effect of:
"My girls are plenty clean! I make sure they have baths and clean clothes always!"
Clearly, Mama Ex assumed that Hubs was asserting that she wasn't doing a #1 Mom job of parenting (this is a problem we face often). Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth, but she went on the defensive and started using that word to show that the children are HERS, and he's just visiting. Not a great way to encourage a happy dynamic.
Another instance of "my" that is far more damaging than spoken between exes, is when a parent uses the word within earshot of the kids.
Example: "I'm sorry, Mrs. 3rd Grade Teacher, Mama Ex never tells me when my kids have homework so I didn't know she had a paper due."
Using "my" like this indicates to the kids that one parent has more responsibilities or rights than the other. It also just comes off as a lousy excuse for one parent not pulling their weight. Sorry peeps, but parenting is a 50/50 responsibility, even if one parent has more physical custody. Both parents must make an effort to show that they are equally responsible for the health and well-being of the kids. And every time someone uses the "my" language, it undermines that effort.
The hard truth is, you're not going to stop Mama Ex from using "me me me, mine mine mine, my my my" anytime soon if your darlin' Hubs doesn't lead by example. Talk with him and ask that he make a concerted effort to use the term "our" when he's referring to the kids in conversation with Mama Ex. After some time has passed, if she's still doing it, he may actually have to sit down and ask outright.
So the next time you hear Hubs breaking out the "my" bomb, calmly remind him that if he expects Mama Ex to be accepting of blending the families, he has to as well. And soon, all the kids will know is that their family, though broken in many ways, is united in the most important thing of all: love and respect.