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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Co-parenting Diaries: Our "Normal"



The house is quiet except for the clicking of my keyboard, the sound of the coffee pot making my first few cups of coffee, and the hum of the washing machine doing a week's worth of dirty clothes.

She left with her dad about 15 minutes ago and I won't see her for the next five days.

And as my little apartment settles into a different kind of feel-the kind of feel that is absent of silliness, kitchen dance parties while we bake cookies, the sound of bedtime stories being read, and Jessie playing over and over again on my TV-I find myself reminiscent of the place we've come to the place we are now.

About 2 1/2 months ago, my ex-husband and I sat down and had a very hard, long conversation about our daughter and the time she's with each of us.

She was out growing the "set" schedule we had agreed to in our parenting agreement, and to be honest, so was I.

Our original "court ordered" agreement that we both signed about 2 1/2 years ago was this: our daughter would spend Wednesdays after school through Fridays with me and she would go to her dad's on Sundays through Wednesday mornings. We alternated Saturdays.

This worked.

For a little over 2 years it worked.

But, then our daughter started picking up on the fact that the days were not always "even"-as she would say.

She started to feel like she was missing out on time with one parent or the other from one week to the next.

She also didn't like that she hardly ever got to go to church with me on Sundays or see my family at our weekly Sunday lunches.

Planning weekend getaways was ALWAYS a headache.

And the hard truth was this: she was starting to feel left out, and it killed me.

I tried to start the dialogue with my ex-husband about changing our parenting plan several times last year.

He was open, but he was also cautious.

He is a man who has always balked a little to hard at change.

But, in his defense, so do I.

We made several attempts to find a happy medium, but all those first attempts failed.

It was juggling act, and I always felt like we were a large group of tight rope walkers trying to maintain a perfect balance without upsetting her "normal" more than we already had.

We fought.

I cried.

He pushed my buttons.

I stomped ALL over his.

It was hard.

And then we got over ourselves, and sat down for a real, honest-to-goodness conversation about our daughter and what was best for her...not for us.

I'll never forget that afternoon in my office as he sat across my desk from me with at least 10 different versions of blank calendars scattered all across my desk that were filled out with all of our thoughts and different scenarios for her new parenting plan.

We talked.

We argued. Civilly. 

And in the end we met.

Right there in the middle. 

And as difficult as it has been for me to adjust to not having my daughter for 5 whole days at a time, it has been totally worth it.

She seems happier and more content.

She sees things as "fair" for the first time in a long time.

She actually has time to get semi-settled at one place and re-adjust to those rules and expectations before we bounce her back.

She LOVES going to church with me and I clear my Sunday afternoons the best I can so that she can just be with my family and enjoy our traditions.

Traditions that are fading, but that I want her-so desperately-to have memories of.

Yes. We are settling into this new "normal".

This "normal" that will continue to evolve and change as she grows older.

We have always said that the day is coming when she will want to decide, and we have always agreed  that when that day comes we will respect her wishes-to an extent-but that we will always encourage her relationship with one another.

Because at the end of the day, we are the parents.

Her relationship with each of us is the most important.

I will always nurture her relationship with her dad even on the hard days.

And I know that even though I drive him nuts, he will always do the same for me.

In addition to her relationship with us, we have each been blessed with wonderful partners and awesome bonus parents for our daughter.

Bonus parents who encourage us to be better parents.

Bonus parents who make each home a place that feels safe and whole.

We both accept and realize that these relationships are crucial.

I am a better mother, because I am loved by a wonderful man who loves me the way I hope someone loves my daughter.

Her dad is a better father, because he is loved by a great woman who loves him in a selfless way that meets all of his needs.

We know that we cannot be the parents we truly want to be without these people.

I no longer worry about her clothes getting washed, or what her hair looks like, and that all she's having for dinner is pizza or that there isn't a soft place to land there on really hard days.

And he no longer has to worry that there isn't a stern voice at my house when I need some back up, or someone to offset my seriousness with his love of silliness, or that I am only filling her head with my "girl power" mantras.

Yes. This is us.

This is what works for us.

Is it perfect?

Absolutely not.

Do we fail in some way?

Just about every single day. 

But, we have found that when we set aside ourselves, our hurts, and our past full of regrets-it is only then that we are truly able to be the parents God is still calling us to be.

Was this the original plan?

Nope. 

But just because we failed miserably at Plan A does not mean that we have to turn Plan B into a huge, whopping, painful mess of screaming, yelling, and "getting even".

Because that isn't going to help anyone, and it's only going to continue to hurt the person we have already put through so much: our daughter.

So, we make the choice every single day.

The choice to be parents who still value each other and the role we play in our daughter's life.

The choice to be grown-ups who respect each other and this season of life that we are walking through.

The choice to live out this type of relationship-this "it's not about me, it's about her" mentality.

We make this choice, even on the days we don't really want too.

And because of our choice to be better, I have watched us come a long way in the last three years.

We have grown so much.

As people. As parents. As ex's.

Has it been easy?

Gosh. No. Not at all.

Have you met me?

I'm about as stubborn as they come.

But, I truly believe with all that I am that we are headed in the right direction.

We just have to keep trying.

We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we take one day at a time, and as we continue to adjust to each new year, each new season, and each new "normal".

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