Unchained by Sara Stansberry
The three of us were just sitting there staring at each other. An awkward silence filled the small 12x12 room. The therapist’s office – we’d been there a million times, but this time was different. This time was the beginning of the end. We had just decided – I had just told him – Divorce, I didn’t want to do this anymore – couldn’t do it anymore. He agreed, I think. It’s hard to say, we were both a little in shock.
Our trusted third party broke the silence. “Well, since that’s decided, there is only one question to ever ask one another from this moment forward.” We looked at her with confusion, doe-eyed deer in the headlights. “What’s best for the kids?” And from there, we began our journey of co-parenting.
At first I hated it – the idea of giving up my time and, dare I say, the right to my children for a small percentage of time each week. When it comes to the kids, getting divorced is like experiencing empty nest syndrome about 10 years too early.
There is one simple rule to successful co-parenting. Love your kids more than you hate each other. You have to set good boundaries with your ex, of course. And it helps if at least one party is relatively sane (yes, we all know the sane one is you.) But if you can love your kids more than you hate each other, there is really no reason you and your ex can’t execute a co-parenting strategy that works for you and helps your kids adjust and feel loved.
My ex and I divorced well and now have a really healthy co-parenting relationship. Is everything perfect? Nope. Are we suddenly super BFF’s? Not even remotely. But what we’re doing is working and the fruit of our labor is evident in our kids. Together, we are raising three pretty amazing humans.
What’s best for my kids is to have a good, positive relationship with their father. So, early on I made a decision to help facilitate that as much as possible. This meant I had to deal with my stuff; I had to forgive – or at least learn to put the ‘garbage’ between the two of us aside when it came to making decisions about our children.
I am able to do this through a powerful force called acceptance. Accepting that things didn’t work out the way I had planned, the way I had hoped they would. Acceptance that I cannot control my ex or what the kids are doing while under his care. Accepting that I am going to be ok, regardless of who does what with whom, and when and who pays for it, and all the other logistical garbage that gets in the way of good relationship.
Accepting that all of that crap just – doesn’t – matter.
This Christmas will look like my ex coming over to my house in the morning (along with several extended family and friends) to watch our kids open presents and help them put all the gadgets and gizmos together. Because that’s what my kids need – they need their dad to be there to watch them open gifts and hook up all the wires and do all the other stuff dads do. Then we’ll eat egg casserole and cheese grits.
Will it be a glorious time for the two of us? Probably not. But the point is, I am willing and he is willing. Because that’s what’s best for our children right now. And the reality is, it’s only for one morning and not the rest of my life; which is a mantra you might hear me quietly muttering while stirring up the cheese grits.
Our marriage was broken beyond repair, but our capacity to love our children was not and that’s all that matters.
This co-parenting thing has actually helped increase my capacity to love my children if that’s possible. It has forced me to grow and to learn, which makes me a better person and a better mom every single time.
Happy holidays everyone!
Go hug your kids and make it great.