The aftercare director at my daughters’ school told me that she wishes all her parents acted the way my ex and I do. We discussed as we waited for the girls to get their crap together and say goodbye to their friends for the 10th time, since they won’t see them again until tomorrow (which is apparently very long when your little). I thanked her and left.
Later that day, what she had said really started to sink in. Why, I’m not sure, as I’ve been told this so many times over the years. Maybe because I feel like people are getting worse not better? Maybe because I value her opinion? No idea. Either way it occurred to me that if I’m considered a good example of anything: we…are…all…fucking…screwed.
When not screaming at each other in front of the school, not having to explain what a whore is to your 7 year-old because that’s “Daddy’s nickname for you” (seriously, I couldn’t make this shit up), when not having the entire planet be aware of your marital status becomes the standard, we are doomed.
“I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.” ~Billy Joel
Co-parents are told they are different from “regular” families, that they are not the “norm”, and the like. At divorce rates of 53% of first marriages and 65% of second marriages, dare I say that is the norm? As such, I’m thinking we need some ground rules so I’m not the example:
- No yelling in public (also wear shoes). Not only does this make you look like an ass, it embarrasses your children, and can bite you later in court. A public argument can quickly lead to witness testimony that he is “scary, intimidating, or dangerous”.
- Watch name calling. I don’t mean avoid calling him a lying-cheating-dirtbag-who-stole-all-your-family’s-money-and-left-you-with-several-children-he-never-sees-and-you-hope-he-gets-untreatable-syphilis-so-when-he-goes-crazy-you-can-get-a-restraining-order-because-he-doesn’t-pay-child support-anyway in front of the kids (OK, so don’t do that either). What I mean though is don’t call him “my ex asshole” and the like. It makes people uncomfortable. “My child’s father or mother” is sufficient. Little Timmy’s parents that you aren’t friends with, but see regularly at school functions, don’t care that you were married and now divorced. They get it.
- Don’t make your divorce other people’s problem. It is not up to the soccer coach to know your visitation schedule, nor the school’s job to know who pays for what. If an administrator hands you a delinquent bill, the correct response is, “I apologize, I didn’t know there was a balance. I will contact their father, work this out, and get back to you.” An incorrect response would be, “I paid my half so you can contact his useless ass and figure it out.” Again, you look like the jerk, they don’t care, and if only half the bill is paid, your child is going to be kicked out of whatever wasn’t paid as owed. They have absolutely no obligation to figure out who is responsible for what. They have a bill, it gets paid, or your child doesn’t participate. End of story.
- Make all the parents equal. The school doesn’t care if you don’t like your children’s new slut step-mother. All step-parents are to be respected and if there is an issue, work it out amongst yourselves. Do not get others involved. You do not remove the other parent’s emergency contacts from school lists or doctor’s offices. They are allowed to choose their own contacts and the businesses they are related to do not need to be in the middle of your bullshit. Figure it out.
There are only 4 rules there and they seem like common sense. However, if they were common, I wouldn’t be the example (I can barely work our oven for God’s sake). I use reuseable bags, recycle, and support animal organizations, but now and then PETA does something fucking ridiculous and makes all of us “tree huggers” look like lunatics. Being raised Catholic, I don’t necessarily like being associated with all that messy Inquisition stuff. Since divorced individuals are no longer the minority (depending on which study you read), we need to be an example to our newcomers and more importantly, not make school staff cringe. Let’s not make each other embarrassed to be a co-parent, because Lord knows I should not be the example.