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Permission to Parent Part 5: Betting on Benefits

Permission to Parent Part 5: Betting on Benefits

“It would be so easy.  He deserves it for making this decision without you.  Who does he think he is?  You are their mom!” The snarky and self-satisfied devil sat perched on my shoulder whispering into my ear.

I could firmly press down one of his vulnerability buttons and expose the worry that he would not be an active and fully engaged father.  I could quite successfully play my trump card by dismissing his decision with contempt and judgment and sent a text message that read “If you want to get out of your parenting responsibilities today, I am happy to watch the girls instead of you dropping them off at the mall unsupervised.”

What would be my intention?

A. To make him feel like a terrible parent.

B. To make him see how wrong he was.

C. To dictate his decision-making by shaming him.

Would any of these intentions have served our co-parenting relationship? What would sending this zinger have gotten me:  A high-five from a friend who despises my ex; an uncomfortable laugh from a co-worker who was seeing the nasty side of me being clever; or perhaps, more realistically, a scathing response from my co-parent.

Instead of playing my ace, I bet on different odds.  I shifted my focus to intentions that matched my integrity like my overriding intention to have a harmonious relationship with my daughter’s father to ensure my girls were not subjected to unnecessary conflict between their parents.  I have a strong intention not to have “whiplash” children, those children experiencing their parents’ divorce as the result thereof by perpetually being placed in the middle.

In the end, I allowed in perspective.  I paused.  I was vulnerable.

“It makes me really nervous to think of the girls alone at the mall.  I am scared something will happen to them.”  I said in my message to him.

“I am making sure Anna has her phone fully charged.  The auto shop is right across the street from the mall.  I thought they would have more fun there than being stuck in the waiting room for a half hour. Does that sound okay?”

My built-up breathe slowly released. “Yes.  This sounds fine.”

Regardless of whether your co-parent ultimately agrees with you and changes course on a parenting decision, the bigger benefit is that you are re-establishing trust with your co-parent.  These are the steps to re-building a new relationship with your former spouse based on a premise that you are both making parenting decisions with good intentions and your child’s best interests at heart.

Angela Dunne