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Co-Parenting: Focus On The Child
Happy Days Bore Trifling Ways
So things didn't work out so well with your designated other, special friend or wife. Or maybe your one night stand turned into a liability. Whatever the circumstance, a child was produced from this communal adventure. An innocent soul who should be able to rely on both parties for the next 18 years of survival. Whether blessed event or an unintentional mishap, the seed has been planted and the crop shall grow.
At the end of any committed relationship is a myriad of emotions. The custodial parent is left alone to manage the child. However, those emotions keep getting in the way. You say things and act out without thinking. You forget the part you play in the overall picture; not to mention your captive audience. Right now, it's all about how you've been wronged.
What should be handled first; emotions or the well-being of your child? Let me start with the damaged. So he/she didn't want to try any longer to make the relationship work. The decision to "go our separate ways" will be extremely hard for the one who would rather soldier the war than see the ship sail. Those emotions and created perceptions are your own private battle. That monkey should not be shared with the one who calls you mommy or daddy. The child should not see it, in any type of display, or hear it. This wasn't a request, such as signing a permission slip.
I am not suggesting to allow it to consume you; not at all. You have to grieve over your past move forward. Create a time and space to succumb to your emotions. Unfortunately, you don't have the luxury of waiting. Someone else is depending on you. After putting the child to bed, have a good cry. Writing down all of your dismal thoughts on a piece of paper. Once you have finished, read it over. It's still going to hurt for a while, but you need to realize every item on the list will do nothing but hold you back. Fold the paper to make an airplane. Look at it one more time and let it go. Allow it to remain where it lands and don't pick it up for a while. It's okay, you can dust around it. Prepare for bed, say a prayer, look in the mirror and say: "I'm better than that! This will be the best for me!"
Understand, anyone who can continue to upset your world after walking away is not only controlling their new world, but also controlling you. This is no longer about you. It's about the little boy who looks at you and says: "Mommy, I love you!" It's about the little girl who says: "Daddy, I love you!" And if you have more than one child, it's about a whole bunch of "I love you."
From here on, the primary custodial parent will be referred as PCP while the non-custodial parent is NCP
Testing The Water
Morals and considerations are tested when obligations exist in an undesirable territory. Many situations can be created based on the temperament of the primary custodial parent. The PCP:
- disagrees with the separation and causes a disturbance any time possible. This person doesn't have their child's welfare as a first priority. More concerned with their emotions and making the NCP miserable, they totally ignore how the interactions are affecting the child.
- agrees with the separation but doesn't want the NCP to be successful. Again, this "adult" is more concerned about retribution than the child's perspective.
- is angry for being in this situation because it was just a one night they stand. These two people are like two strangers on a deserted island. Although they may not like each other, concentration should easily fall on the child.
- is frustrated because the NCP is either mostly or totally absent. Absence of NCP presents additional complications. NCP is likely not providing support or is flying in and out of the child's life as they see fit. The child must depend on the PCP to be consistent and provide the needed security. The defined effort can be overwhelming for the MCP. Keeping things stable for the child is the main focus.
- disagrees with the separation, but has the child as the controlling concern. The details of the NCP's life is of no concern. Every effort is made for self control. These two parents are determined to give their child the best of their ability. This is the way it should be with every situation.
Infected By The Affected
A virus has infected your body. You don't realize it until the virus first affects your throat and nose.
Your child can be infected by the poison in their home life. The affects may or may not be visible to either parent. Take notice to how your child plays with others. How does your child respond to their own frustrations? Are they productive and mostly on good behavior in school? Have you ever tried to sneak up on your child to see how they are playing by themselves? Are they talking to their toys like you talk to the NCP?
By the time you realize what you have done, your child is an unruly teenager. Most serial killers and sex offenders have grown out of abusive childhoods. And again, you may not hit or yell at your child. You may be a loving parent. But, when you and the NCP get together or talk over the phone, you become a different person. Your child sees it, feels it and doesn't like it.
There is a video on YouTube in which a young boy is mimicking the interactions of, what I am assuming, his parents. Do a search on YouTube entitled "why you should not argue in front of your kids" to view the video. It was too intense to include in my blog.
Who is it going to hurt to corrupt a child with negative thoughts of the NCP? Are you trying to get back at the NCP? You are actually hurting your child. Yes, you can create a child who is opposed to the NCP. Why put the burden on the child? Try this:
- Do this at night, after all the chores are finished and all you are ready for bed.
- Watch a HORROR movie; one you are afraid to watch alone.
- Yes, you can keep the lights on.
- After the movie, turn off all lights in your home and leave the closet door cracked in your bedroom (and the bathroom door to if applicable).
Do the shadows move? Did you hear something like someone else was in the house? Are you sure no one in your closet or bathroom? Look at the crack in the door; just beyond the darkness. Feel the chill of fright spread over you as if a sheet had been draped on top of your body. When a spirit is near, you will feel it. The tiny hairs on your body will rise. Explore what you are feeling. Remember it!
Next morning you wake to find everything is okay. You are relieved.
That feeling of fear and fright is exactly what your child feels when allowed to witness your negative affection (oxymoron) for the NCP. Why would you want someone who loves you, to feel that type of fear? Your child is your legacy; the only evidence of your existence.
- First and foremost, we all have the ability to make choices. You chose to have a child with the NCP. Even if it was an accident, it's not like there was a big pothole in the street where you didn't see it and fell into it. The results of your choices are your responsibility.
- Each parent should make a deliberately effort to put the negativity aside for the well-being of the child. Remember, your children didn't request to be born.
- Plan a time and place to meet where you can discuss how this is going to work moving forward for the best possible outcome for the child.
- Agree the lives are separate is not the concern of the other. Although curiosity may strike, you agree to respect each others space.
- Any disagreements or concerns will be addressed directly to each other and not in the presence of your child.
- No degrading remarks to the child about the other.
- Child support should discussed and handled in a positive manner. You can agree to what venue the child support will be guaranteed; through court or signed commitment (keep receipts).
- Make a permanent schedule for visitation and stick to it.
- Things can happen, therefore, be flexible. If something comes up, the responsible parent should talk to the child, informing them of crisis. Let the child know when you will next see them. Tell them you are looking forward to seeing them on a specific day.
- Discuss who will make choices concerning the child's education, leisure activity and general up bringing. Will it be a joint effort? Will the PCP make the decisions and just inform the NPC? If possible, both parents should have a part in their child's activities.
- Always place focus on the child rather than your emotions. If you get frustrated, talk to each other. The need to scream can be done in your car. Yes, it's a facade, but it's a facade for your child.
- If the other starts to argue or ask questions about your personal life, do not respond. Many times people will say things to get your reaction. And, if it gets too bad, walk away until the opposed is able to control themselves.
- If there is a concern for the type of environment the NCP will expose to your child, talk about it. When the child returns, ask if they felt comfortable and had fun.
- If you need a mediator, find someone who will be objective.
- If this doesn't work, settle it in court.
A Short True Story
It was Sunday, the end of a great weekend I had spent with my father. He played his belching game as he drove me back to my mother's house. When we arrived, he pulled over to the curb and blew the horn a few times. He told me to "come on out this way" so I could get out on his side of the car. He looked down smiling at me, said, "I love you" and kissed me on the forehead.
He took my hand and led me to the back of the car. There he opened the trunk to get my bag. As he lifted the bag from the trunk, my mother suddenly appeared and snatched the bag from my father's hands. She angrily said something to him and grabbed my hand as we walked to the apartment. This episode took place, somewhere, between 6-8 years old. I just remember I wasn't tall enough to see the top of the trunk, but I could see inside.
Over 40 years later, this memory is just as clear as if it happened yesterday. This and other incidents between my mother and father have remained in my memory for a lifetime.
I loved both my parents dearly. Privy to the negative feelings my mother had for my father, I was confused by what I saw, heard and felt. I didn't understand my mother's reactions to my father, but later learned they were well deserved.
Childhood experiences can be a snapshot stored in their memory for a lifetime. No matter the situation, PCP should always remain objective in regards to the NCP. This will allow your child to form their own opinions of the other parent. As they grow older, they will learn who contributed to their well-being. Let them decided how to respond to the NCP without your influence.
How do I know all this? I am both a product and participate of co-parenting. I told myself I would never allow my children to feel the way I felt. I've never degraded or displayed negative behaviors to my children regarding their father. The times when he let them down, I picked them up. I was there for them unconditionally. When they got older, they placed judgement upon him. I didn't have say a word.
Reminds me of an old song, "Cats In The Cradle" by Cat Stevens. Take a listen below.
Cats In The Cradle
Do negative emotions of the primary custodial parent cause difficulty for you to have a relationship with your child?