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The truth about my daughters going to the mall, as I describe in Part 1 of this series, was that I wasn’t ready. Not only was I not ready, I wasn’t consulted in advance or even at the time. I was just told. And worst for me, I was not prepared. If he had asked me, I would have been able to provide (hopefully) a measured response. I would have had time to process the pros and cons. Instead, when I was taken off guard and forced to react to the news an hour before they were leaving, it felt scary, urgent, and threatening. I was reacting in survival mode.
Let your co-parent prepare. All I needed was time to prepare. If he had sent me a message on the Friday evening prior, asking if I had an objection to the girls being at the mall for 40 minutes or so while he took his car to get an oil change, I would have been in the right frame of mind to offer a response.
Think about how you would react to information coming at you with little or no warning. Pay homage to the golden rule to treat your co-parent as you would have them treat you.
Try these to start:
“What do you think about Lily getting her ears pierced?”
“I think Emma and Jacob are old enough now to ride their bikes to the neighborhood park alone, what are your thoughts?”
“I’ve been considering getting Charlie the new gaming system, these are the pros and cons I have come up with. Do you have anything to offer?”
Let your co-parent be heard. What is the worst thing about asking your co-parent for their opinion? Are you afraid it will result in legal action? That he/she will not agree with you and it will cause a fight? You feel like it is none of their business how you decide to parent when your children are with you?
All may be true.
What would happen if you responded to whatever their response with:
“Thank you for telling me. I see we disagree, but it was important to me to get your feedback first.”
“I hear that you are (worried, apprehensive, concerned) about this for Emma and Jacob. Is there anything I can do to ease this worry?”
“I hear you. It is frustrating that we do not see eye-to-eye on this issue. It frustrates me too because I like it best when we are on the same page. I am going to stick with my decision for now. Do you want me to keep you updated on the outcome?”
Let your co-parent be acknowledged. Our desire to be acknowledged by our co-parent does not disappear with divorce. In some cases, I happen to know from personal experience, it may even become more pronounced. We want to know that they see us as the loving, capable, and competent parents we are trying so hard every day to be. We all know parenting is hard. Even harder, when we do not receive affirmation.
Imagine how my mood would have shifted and my reaction differed, had my daughters’ dad let me prepare for the decision that was being made, let me provide input and let me know that I had been heard, and then went so far as to acknowledge my concern and my care for our children.