“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.