My daughters, Sophia and Anna (from left to right), went back to school this week. Sophia shyly, but excitedly, went to her 1st grade line and Anna confidently strode into her 3rd grade classroom with ease. For me, I would consider it a personal best in terms of emotion control. I actually applied mascara in the morning feeling the likelihood of tears was fairly non-existent as I technically no longer have babies going off to school. They are big girls now. I was relieved that when it came time to watch them go, I only felt happy and proud of my girls for being so enthused about returning to school. I did not shed a tear.
Another proud moment occurred for me about a half hour before taking their pictures in the school yard. My former spouse brought the girls to my house before the start of school so that I could slip in hairbows and snap some pictures. A couple of weeks earlier, when I realized that I would not have them the morning of the 1st day of school, I made this request. This meant I wouldn’t have to compete with the many friend reunions the girls would have and I could fulfill my desire to have perfectly posed pictures to remind me of this special day. I am ridiculously proud that he said “yes” without hesitation, that the girls were happy to have both parents share, and that we have maintained a respect for each other that empowers us to be around each other with ease.
I realized that he and I had gone “back to school,” if you will in the last year. We had relearned, or learned anew – I am not sure which – our entire relationship. We had to learn new boundaries, new communication, new decision-making patterns, and new expectations. We built from prior knowledge, the way my Sophia will this year in first grade as she builds from the ABC’s she mastered in kindergarten to soon reading full paragraphs and then books.
Eric and I did the same. We purposefully built from the parenting strengths we knew we had and we intentionally focused on how we work best together. We kept, top of mind, during the hard transitions we had to redefining our relationship, the good intentions that were underlying our separate approaches. We remembered and consistently acknowledged each other how grateful we were that we could continue to co-parent in a way that we each got to see for ourselves, our daughters excelling and happy – despite all of the literature out there that would tell us we were bad parents for divorcing. We acknowledged each other for not sweating the small stuff. We acknowledged each other for keeping communication open.
I have had a lot of people in the last year comment on how Eric and I worked through our parenting arrangements and how we managed in a remarkable way to have our girls feel safe, happy and secure through all of this. And how did we do it? In addition to acknowledging one another, we remembered that we each love our daughters just as much as the other and that the number one priority was always to keep the girls feeling loved and secure. I doubt I will ever be more proud of myself or Eric as parents in how we showed up to our daughters in the face of this tremendous change. And I think if given the opportunity, our daughters would give us an A+.