I pull out the well-worn writing notebook I keep in my bedside table. It is in these pages that I find notes from throughout the years, written visions I prepare at the end of one year – forecasting what I would most like to see in the next, and a summary of accomplishments, failures, and events from the years prior. I carve out a purpose filled hour to reflect on the lessons learned and how I want to better show up in the year ahead. I set goals, I chose a word to guide me in the new year (2017 is “calm”), and I take an inventory of what matters most to me at this time in my life.
This year, I opted to be intentional about looking at my parenting. In the year ahead I will be the mother of 13 and 11 year old girls. To say that the start of this transition has been a challenge is an understatement. Ask any parent who has traveled this path if this is normal, and they will nod knowingly and smile sheepishly in the affirmative.
I have observed that over the years, when parenting is particularly difficult, I tend to tell myself (and others) how divorce makes it harder. When I sat in reflection about this, a new truth started to surface. It is not necessarily harder, it just makes it different. I then resolved to look at how I can be a better truth-teller about being a parent – a divorced one at that – in the year ahead.
I resolve that I will not respond to or initiate communication when I am angry, sad, or annoyed.
I have the most regret in my co-parenting relationship when I react out of anger, annoyance, or any other negative feeling. In those moments, I do not allow myself enough time to process, in an objective way, information from my children or my co-parent that stirs an emotional reaction. I resolve to give myself space. I resolve to save message drafts for at least an hour before hitting “send.” I resolve to check-in with a trusted friend to serve as a sounding board and cushion for my emotions.
I resolve that I will be steady and stoic in my reactions to what my children tell me happened at their other parent’s house.
I have found that when I have practiced this resolution, not only am I fulfilling my intention to be supportive of my co-parent’s household and rules, but I find that I am supportive of myself as a parent. Despite a knee-jerk reaction on occasion, to roll my eyes about a situation that I may find silly or pass judgment that my co-parent may have over-reacted in a moment, I observe that maintaining a united front across households nonetheless, supports both of us as parents. I do not give in to wanting to be the “favorite” parent or to being my child’s friend complaining about their dad. That is not my role. My role first and foremost is to be a parent and this means supporting their other parent.
I resolve that in every interaction with my co-parent, I will be mindful that he loves our children.
Co-parenting is unique because we only have a co-parenting relationship with our former spouse through filtered lenses. We no longer have the luxury of being in the same place at the same time when a parenting moment comes up. I no longer have the benefit of being able to see my daughters acting out and seeing that my spouse is just doing his best in those difficult parenting moments. I resolve to focus on what I do know, without doubt, that he is the singular person in this world, who loves my children as much as I do.