Communication In Lieu Of Resentment

Communication Crowd

Communication can be a pain. Imagine you need something or have to make a decision for your child.  Whether you have to choose a doctor, agree on an extracurricular activity, make a medical decision, decide on which school to send them to, whether you should buy them a pony so they like you better, whatever it is….

Now imagine that your child has one to three other parents, and you have to discuss every decision with this overwhelming crowd of people.  The correct, legal, moral, non-dick move is to include them all in decisions and come to an agreement among two to four people. Now imagine that you have done the research, gone to whatever tours, appointments, orientations, etc., which no other parent attends, and yet they all get to weigh in.  Worse, they can suddenly decide they no longer want to switch visitation, allow an activity, or transport during their visitation. Now, you’ve wasted your time doing the research only to be outvoted because one to three others decided they no longer want to do it. This is especially infuriating after being asked to “look into it,” and when every reason given could have ruled it out prior to the research and legwork.

This happens to so many co-parents.  It is incredibly frustrating when one parent has spent time researching an extracurricular activity — that you’ve all agreed upon — and after all the research is done, the parent is told that another parent doesn’t have time to <insert excuse>.  Further, they are told that they are welcome to pay for it and do all the driving if they want to enroll the child.  The child of course, who they’ve already said yes to, because everyone agreed prior, is now super excited — and your head wants to explode.  When I go to doctor’s appointments and then have to give a full report to one to three people who were too busy to come, but still they argue about what tests to agree to and get annoyed about questions I should have asked, I restrain myself from saying, “you could have come!”

Flames, flames on the side of my face….

Flames Communication

I use myself as an example because so many of you say how “zen” I am about our family dynamics.  Usually, that is true, but every now and then…not so much.  I have my freak-outs, and the girls’ dad handles many gracefully and comes up with a solution, which makes me less stabby, head explody, throat punchy.  Well, most of the time….

So, what do we do about this?  No, lighting his car on fire is not a viable option (come on ladies, we all know you do that when he cheats on you, and you, my dear, are already divorced).

Basset Car Fire Communication

Here’s the deal…this is painful for me to write because, while pissed, I still have to admit it’s mostly my fault that this happens.  While it sucks that I don’t have help, I also told them, “I’ve got it” or “I’ll let you know how it goes.”  Why should anyone step up if you will do it all for them?  Is it still shitty? Sure.  Mostly, because you end up doing all the work.  Make no mistake, having two to four parents does not split the workload two to four ways.  It often times just means more people to confer with.

Before resentment builds, ask for help.

Tell them what you are planning and say (which I swear I have done), “I’m going to look this up and do the legwork but I need to be sure we agree, because if I waste my time and it’s a flat ‘no’, I will hurt someone.”  Parents (especially moms) feel the need to “do it all.”  Doing it all means resentment and burnout.  Being overwhelmed isn’t failure, it’s recognizing you need to reevaluate your priorities.  

Alternately, you can split up the workload.  I make my own schedule, so I handle appointments that are scheduled in advance.  Their step-mother has offered to take them on some days off and split up the amount of work missed.  Their dad researched the last extra-curricular, because I was getting overwhelmed.  All three of us rotate when a kid is sick so none of us are missing too much work.  Is this easy to work out?  Hell no.  It also means you have to communicate.  I know communication with your ex and/or their new spouse can be tough, but the tone of your relationship depends on it.  That tone bleeds over to the sidelines at a game, or awkwardness at a school function, which isn’t fair to your children.

Every time you must have one of these discussions, have a glass of wine first, take a deep breath, and discuss calmly.  Be honest because open and honest communication is just as essential to co-parenting as it is to anything else.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told my ex, “between the girls, work, and the house, I just don’t have time to figure out ____________”, and he picks it up.  Come on, if people can be “sister wives,” we should be able to figure out football practice.

Worries Are Inflated When My Kids Are Away

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Every parent has been there.  Your kid coughs during the day and it’s allergies and you tell them to go play.  Kid coughs at 3:00AM and they must have the Bubonic Plague and you start searching for boils.  Anyone who says they haven’t overreacted, is lying.

My youngest had to have an Endoscopy recently.  I kid you not, when asked what we are dealing with, the Pediatric Gastroenterologist responded, “we could be dealing with anything from heartburn to cancer, I won’t know what until I get in there”.  I almost turned his testicles into a bow tie.  So her parents, Aunt and Uncle, and grandparents spent the next 2 weeks practicing deep breathing exercises and sitting on the edge of our seats while awaiting biopsy results.  I never again want to have to say “biopsy” when discussing my child.  And you wonder why I drink?  Needless to say she got lots of Popsicles (I would’ve gotten her a damn pony had she asked).  Turns out it was just a little inflammation but seriously, who the hell says that?

Every summer my girls go away with their grandparents for anywhere for 2-4 weeks.  I miss them terribly and I never want them to go but I let them because it would be wrong to deny them these memories with their grandparents just because I’ll miss them.

That being said, I spend that time constantly telling myself that just because I haven’t gotten an update does not mean a band of rednecks has found them in the woods and is systematically torturing them.  Most likely, they just don’t have signal…..spaz.

Past years have been tough because the girls weren’t old enough to contact me on their own and ex-daughter-in-law, is not high on their grandmother’s list of priorities.  Therefore, I sometimes go for extended periods without hearing how they are doing (one summer was 10 days and I made sure it was clear that if that ever happened again, they would no longer be going on these trips – boundaries folks).  Recently though, they have iPads and can FaceTime me (how is that a verb?) regularly so it has been better.

What does all this mean for you?  It sucks being away from your kids and as divorced parents, we have to do it regularly.  It’s never fun and it’s easy to overreact when you aren’t there, or you only have half of the story.  Sidenote: Don’t listen to stories from a kid and take it as Gospel.  Ask the other parent before getting upset because let’s face it, kids are idiots.  Don’t look at me like that, when we were kids we were idiots too (some of us didn’t grow out of it) and yes, yes, your child is brilliant.  Can we move on?

The chances of them being dead on the side of the road or contracting the Bubonic Plague is slim, so simmer down.  Take a deep breath and calm yourself.  If it has been excessive (like 10 freaking days), then speak up and set boundaries – they are still your children too.  Otherwise remember that you don’t want to be tethered to your ex either (which is why you’re divorced), so let them do their thing and talk yourself off the ledge.

Self-care goes a long way here.  Take a bath, get some exercise (yes, I’m one of those crazy people who believe that exercise induced endorphins can keep you from being homicidal), do the shit that gets put aside when your kids are with you (or just freaking sleep in because yay! the kids are gone), or whatever you need to do for YOU.  Take care of yourself and your psychotic symptoms will lessen.  After all, your kids are fine and they still love and miss you.

Be Honest With Your Children – Even When It Sucks

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We’ve all been there, it’s 3:00AM and the baby starts screaming.  He or she cares not that your alarm is going to go off in 3 hours and you are going to have to guzzle gallons of coffee to make it through your day.  Babies don’t care, they can’t care, because they lack the tools.  They lack empathy and they lack perspective.  They believe they are the only player….the only actor in everyone’s play (hell, I know some adults like that).  It takes years for children to realize that what they see, may not be what everyone else sees.  Years to go before they realize that everyone is the leading role in their own play.

Children operate under the “egocentric fallacy”.  Babies learn, “if I cry, they feed me”.  As they grow, this turns into, “if something bad happens, I must have caused it”.  As parents, it is our job to teach our children that they are not responsible for things that are beyond their control.  Further, children make things bigger than they actually are and they know more than you think they do.  This is a bad combination.  A white lie can turn disastrous in a child’s mind should it be left to fester.  They will believe that everything from divorce, to death, to mom’s crappy day at work was caused by them.

How can you help?  Be honest with your children, even when it sucks.  I’m not saying you need to explain things above their comprehension level.  You don’t have to explain infidelity or that their other parent was a terrible spouse.  A simple explanation of, “there are different types of love and the type you need for marriage just went away for us”.  If they get into specifics (usually from a parent who shares too much or from a conversation they overheard), just tell them that “those things happen when that love disappears.  People behave differently when they are not happy”.  It’s not an excuse, but it is a graceful way of not disclosing things that are either too old for them to understand, something that is simply none of their business, OR something that’s not true because someone is running his or her mouth.  This protects everyone.  It is often extended family that does the most gossiping and therefore, the most damage.

By the time people I knew played telephone, the version of why my ex and I split up was very freaking creative (and much more adventurous than I am), by the time it got back to me.  There were so many versions, I couldn’t keep track.  Kids hear these versions.  People are hurt, and they talk.  I promise the kids are listening.

We forget how much is going on in those little minds or how much they understand.  My girls are often processing something profound while I’m in the front seat craving chocolate, and thinking how I like the color yellow and kittens.

Just the other morning I come into the kitchen and said, “how are my two favorite people today?”  My oldest took on an astonished tone and asked, “what about daddy?”  I calmly explained that he is my friend and always will be, but my kids are my favorites and they have to be my priority.  She seemed satisfied with that answer, but let me tell you I wasn’t expecting to have that conversation at 6:30AM before my tea.  After this, why don’t you ask me where babies come from and what my net worth is?  

When I was a kid, my mom was super reserved and didn’t like talking about things that made her uncomfortable.  From telling me she didn’t know what tampons were (when asked while watching a commercial), to telling my sister that gay only meant happy when someone called her that in school.  Needless to say, she was not a huge source of information.  

Allow me to demonstrate:  I once went camping with my dad and his girlfriend.  I started my period for the first time and I thought I was dying.  I thought I was bleeding to death and since my mom had had a hysterectomy a few years prior, I assumed I had caught Ovarian Cancer, and was actually dying.  

Tumor

So, his girlfriend, (this nice lady who was effectively a stranger), had to explain to me what was happening and while in a campground bathroom, I had to figure out how to use feminine products….thanks for that.  I learned very quickly to go elsewhere for information than to ask my mother.  As a result, I heard plenty of colorful explanations for everything, much of which I cannot unknow.  Someone is going to teach your children.  Do not give away that opportunity.

I am always honest with my kids and have been from day one.  I don’t need to tell them adult versions but when my kids ask how you physically make a baby, I am honest and open with them.  Even when I’m uncomfortable, they deserve to know what’s going on.  I don’t have this kid:

Kindergarten Cop

because no one wants the weird kid (don’t lie, everyone loved Kindergarten Cop).  But still, they know the basics and therefore, they don’t run around asking other people.  So be honest with your kids, even when it sucks.

People Don’t Change, Except When They Do….

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Some say that people don’t change.  Some say you can do anything you put your mind to and people can change if they really want to.  So which is true?

Both.

The person someone is, at their core, doesn’t change.  Some things are simply set.  However, as people experience life and survive struggles, their outlook changes and they learn different coping mechanisms (some good, some….not so much).

As parents we learn that our children change in some ways, but not others.  My oldest has always been the most fearless person I know.  My youngest is cautious and thinks things through.  The fussy baby in need of constant stimulation is still ridiculously active.  The one who played with her feet for hours in the infant swing, still prefers to be alone and do her own thing.  Most parents call bullshit on tabula rasa once you have more than one child and realize that you did the same crap and they are completely different.  These things will remain because they have been this way since they were born.  On the other hand, my oldest who once loved everything pink now chooses blue because “pink is a baby color, mom”.  My youngest has learned to make people laugh when they are mad at her (which makes discipline a challenge), instead of crying.  When we are dealing with adults though, we forget that they change too.

I am often surprised by my ex.  The man I knew who survived on Skittles and Dr. Pepper and who considered exercise to be the hand movements necessary to play video games, suddenly shuns carbs, runs, cycles, and consumes sushi?  I don’t know why I’m surprised, I’ve changed as well.

For various reasons during my formative years (I will not bore you with the details), I developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms.  My sister and I were constantly thrown curve balls (generally in the form of a screaming parent that you had no idea you upset).  As a result, I learned to plan ahead of time for everything (even insignificant things), to try to gain control and head off problems.  In addition to this neurotic habit, the younger version of me didn’t like rocking the boat.  I would hold things in until I lost…my…shit.  This left the recipient assuming I was having a bad day instead of an understanding that they had been an asshole for an extended period.  So I ended up with a reputation for having a bad temper while they were left confused because of all the times I had said nothing.  Wasn’t that nice of me?  No.  I wasn’t giving them an opportunity to change the behavior.  Keeping shit in while planning every moment of your life is a horrible combination.

These things are rarely an issue now.  Sure, I have my mental health lapses, but these are cured with deep breathing and wine (sometimes it requires more wine than breathing).  I am now more direct and explain what I need before I’m ready to twist someone’s head off.  While I still plan events in advance (mostly because I’m responsible for juggling several people and their associated responsibilities), I’m no longer as frazzled when plans change.

This isn’t because I reached some magical state of enlightenment.  It’s because my life is different.  My kids are older (I really don’t miss wiping butts), I enjoy my work, I’ve earned my degrees, I have more stable friendships, etc.

I didn’t always handle things well and therefore people who have known me prior to these changes rely on what they used to know about me.  When childcare falls through and the girls suddenly need to go to day-camp at the rate of $140 per day, my ex will assume it’s my need to plan or that I’m freaking out.  When I say, “I need to budget because I don’t have the funds to not plan for these expenses”, I mean just that.  I’m saying what I need, and why.  It’s not because I always have to plan.  It’s because I have to budget as well as make transportation arrangements, because I don’t want to get shit-canned by my job.  I’m being direct so this doesn’t keep happening (which eventually leads to an explosion).  I cannot work with this, means just that.  It does not mean I’m having a panic attack over it or blaming anyone.

When dealing with your ex (or anyone for that matter), don’t assume you know them.  People actually do adjust their coping mechanisms and their outlook.  I know it’s hard but when your ex speaks to you, simply listen to the words and remember you don’t know them like you did.  Even if they haven’t changed, the dynamic has.  The other thing to remember….if you understood them so well, you probably wouldn’t be divorced.  Take a deep breath, take things at face value, and remember that people change.

Refusing to Argue Doesn’t Make You Enlightened, It Makes You A Controlling Bitch

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I know several, “I don’t argue” people.  I thought these were the exceptions but more and more, readers have mentioned being frustrated with people in their lives who refuse to discuss issues and never hear what the other party is saying.

For all of you who refuse to discuss issues, who think they already know what the other person is going to say, or simply don’t like being uncomfy having a tough talk, refusing to argue does not make you enlightened or superior, it makes you a controlling bitch.  Stop it.  No one likes it and it makes you look like a prick.

There are going to be disagreements in life and people are not always going to share your views or feelings.  It would be pretty boring if this were not the case.  If this person is important to you or in the case of co-parenting, important to your kids and a general fixture in your life whether you like it or not (because suck it up, you slept with them), you are required as an adult to deal with issues and work through them even when it isn’t fun.  Life’s tough and it doesn’t get any easier.  Do it anyway.

For the person trying to discuss and being shot down by, “I’m more enlightened than you and do not lower myself by ever getting upset about anything”, (hear, “it makes my tummy hurt and I don’t want you having the satisfaction of knowing I’m upset too because I’m an emotional 12-year-old”), there are ways to deal with this.

  1. Remember that people who “don’t fight”, are actually controlling.  This type of control is hard to identify but if you know what to look for, it’s there.  Control monsters have learned they can actually hurt and control sometimes, by doing nothing.  Sometimes it can be by simply ignoring you to let you know how unimportant your existence is to them (but what they really are, is threatened).  Other times, they make comments, stir up shit, and then fade into the crowd leaving you pissed off, issues unresolved, and then they get the satisfaction of you coming to them to resolve it.  If you can identify this, it will go a long way in preserving your sanity.
  2. Write it out. When a topic is sensitive and you are afraid a discussion will be too heated or the other party is ignoring you, this gives you the opportunity to get your thoughts and feelings out in total without the other person inflaming you further.  Additionally, this gives you the added benefit of not having to keeping playing out this argument in the shower and in the mirror while getting ready for work because the asshole won’t talk to you about it.  Not looking like a mental patient is always positive.  They may not read it but at least you get to say what you need to say and hope that some tiny piece may have been understood.  If it is about your kids, sometimes even if you want to let it go, it still has to be said because these are your children and it’s your job.
  3. Let it go when you can.  I am definitely NOT a proponent of talking out every issue.  This will drive everyone crazy because moods change and chances are it wasn’t that big of a deal.  If this issue is not a safety concern or threatening to end your relationship (whatever that may be), try to let it go.  If this is your ex, you are not a couple for a reason and you are not going to agree.  If this is anyone else, they have no power over you.  Let them go on feeling superior, who gives a shit?  The answer is no one, because 9 times out of 10, the person who does this has a constant stream of friends and/or romantic partners that come and go because they can only be tolerated in small doses and since they don’t work through issues like an adult, long-term relationships are all but impossible with this person.
  4. Drink wine and say “fuck ’em”.  You are trying to keep your head above water like everyone else and their immature version of communication or lack there of, is always going to be a much bigger problem for them than it is for you.

I know this is frustrating and dealing with these people makes you want to pull your hair out but don’t.  If they ever want to be an adult and talk, you’ll want to look your best.

Parents Are People And They Have Feelings Too

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No one is happy all the time and that’s OK.  My children and yours need to know you have feelings.  They also need to learn the correct responses to events and their associated emotions.

I’m sad that people get sick.  I’m sad that in the US people owned people and it still happens elsewhere.  That working in criminal defense taught me that minorities are not treated the same, or fairly, and we pretend it doesn’t happen.  That women make less than men even if they do equal and/or superior work.  That rich white men say things like, “Those 99% people need to go get jobs.  I hate hippies”, which then begs the question, does he know what “we are the 99%” means or what a hippie even is?  I’m sad that animals are put down in astounding numbers because we cannot control the population and there is no other way to handle it other than to make us all “cat people”.

It is our job to protect our children and let them be children.  But it is also our job to teach them that things are not fair.  It’s not fair and it’s OK to be sad and angry about it.  It’s what we DO about it that matters.  Anger is the easiest emotion to portray.  Teach them the rest of them.  Not everything should elicit an angry response any more than always pretending to be happy and playing a “Stepford wife”, is an accurate portrayal.  If you are pretending to be happy all the time, you are doing your child a disservice.  Children need to learn that how they feel is acceptable and normal.

Your children need to know that their actions can also affect your feelings.  If they say something insensitive or hurtful, explain the following things:

  1. Why it was inappropriate
  2. How it made you feel
  3. What they should have said instead

Number three is the most important.  Always teach your kids an alternative behavior.  Simply saying “no”, does not teach them how to conduct themselves in the future.

What does this mean for you?  You need to talk to your children.  Explain how you feel and why.  You don’t need to discuss all the big world issues but if you’re having a rough day, tell them.  Teach them the full range of emotions above and beyond happiness and anger.  Teach them what feelings are appropriate for which circumstances.  And most of all, teach them that parents are people, and therefore, they have feelings too.

Stepping Into Their Shoes

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We talk a lot about how hard it is to be a single parent, a parent in general, and how kids have it tough but they have to be responsible anyway.  I know it appears as if everyone should suck it up.  However, as my sister tells our friends, “Don’t let her fool you.  You mess with her family and she becomes a mama bear.”  She’s right.  Sometimes, transitions are hard and my girls just need a damn break.  This is perfectly normal and I try to give it to them.  Your kids need to understand that they are understood and not in fact, surrounded by asshole adults who don’t have a clue how they are feeling.  Validation is key in almost every relationship, especially with your children.

You should cut your ex and yourself some slack.  Please take a moment and think about how hard this is on your kids.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t think having divorced parents is an excuse for bad behavior, and adults who still blame their parents failed marriage for their relationship issues, need to grow up.  More than half the population is divorced, stop making excuses.  You are not unique.

All that said, having two homes fucking sucks.  Sure, you get two of every holiday and many times, two of everything.  But they also have to constantly keep track of whose home their belongings are located.  They do without things they forget.  They have to remember things other kids don’t, because they can miss school deadlines if what they need is at the other house.  They struggle with stability and remembering what rules apply at which home.  They miss out on events depending on what weekend they fall on.  Most importantly, sometimes they just want mom while at dad’s house, or vice versa.

Think about the last vacation you went on.  Trying to remember what to pack and get where you needed to go.  Having to stop somewhere because you forgot something and cannot be without it for the duration of the trip.  The stress of being out of sorts and having to “settle in”, when you arrive.  And this is for VACATION.  Your children have to do this every week while attending school, meeting deadlines, practicing their instrument or sport, etc.

I am not saying that your kids don’t need to figure it out, or that they don’t need to be responsible.  But remember that sometimes, they didn’t want to leave dad and that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  Sometimes, they have a bad day and wanted to sleep with their smelly, faded, well-loved, teddy bear, and they forgot it.  They don’t have our adult freedoms and cannot simply go out and pick up what they forgot or feel they need.  Step into their shoes and see things from their point of view.  Your kids will really appreciate it and you’ll be a better parent for it.

No They Aren’t Lying, Kids Act Different in Different Places

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It’s all about perspective folks.  I know you’re ex repeats stories back and you wonder if that’s actually what happened.  Maybe your ex thinks one child does no wrong while the other child cannot seem to do anything right.  Maybe your ex exaggerates or understates.  Maybe you are told a story and you think “that never happens when they are with me, I call bullshit”.

There are a few things at play here.  Your ex is going to actually see things differently than you, interpret them differently, and relay them accordingly.  If you two agreed on everything, you wouldn’t be divorced remember?  Additionally, your kids act different in their other home.  It’s a different parent, different family members, different rules, and different dynamics.  They are going to act differently and they will do things that perhaps you haven’t seen.

Two examples off of the top of my head for you.  I picked up my daughter from daycare one day and her teacher asks me in passing, “How do you handle temper tantrums at home? You know, when she throws herself on the floor.”  I, do not have an answer for this.  I finally respond in my usual tactless way, “I have no idea because she doesn’t do that shit at home.  That is absolutely unacceptable.”  I’m sure she thought I was full of crap because apparently, my then three-year old had DAILY temper tantrums complete with biting her peers.  On one hand, I desperately wanted to help and on the other, how do I assist with a behavior I do not see and I am not present for?

Fast forward one year.  Same kid, different teacher.  I hug her goodbye as she is about to leave.  She bursts into hysterical tears and clings to me.  She says, “I forget what you look like when I’m at school.  I want to stay with you Mommy.”  We go together and find a picture of myself and both girls.  We put it in her lunchbox so she doesn’t “forget what we look like”.  This appeases her and she goes off to school.  I shoot a text to her teacher and explain so she knows she is having an “off” day.  Both the teacher and her father have never seen this behavior.  While they were both polite, they both had the vague tone of, “that’s weird we’ve never seen this, perhaps you’re full of shit”.

Your kids act differently in different places.  This is just the way it is.  Just think of yourself.  How you act at home vs. work.  Or at work before the boss gets there and after he or she arrives.  How you act at Thanksgiving with family or in the absence or presence of a certain family member.  Remember your kids are people too.  You cannot let it hurt your feelings or feel like you are doing anything wrong.  Our kids are very well-behaved and we are complimented often.  But, sometimes they are terrorists, and we do not negotiate with terrorists.

Sure, I thought it was weird that she was throwing tantrums at school.  I even had a “and what would you like me to do about that”, moment.  However, I also know my kid.  She gets overwhelmed easily and hates chaos and excessive noise.  Hmmm, let’s send her to a brightly colored room, with a ton of screaming, snot filled monsters, and then just for fun, try and talk over each other all day.  I would be rocking and singing to myself in the corner.  She comes by it honestly.  My youngest is VERY attached to me.  She follows me everywhere.  I mean, wants to do laundry and scrub the floor if it means being with me, attached.  It is not strange that she would want to stay with me and I would be the one to see this behavior.

When your ex relays something that seems strange, listen attentively, and respond kindly.  You may not see the behavior but if it wasn’t there do you think they would feel the overwhelming desire to call their ex to explain it in the first place?  Or even better, to explain something only to be treated like they are stupid or lying?  No, they wouldn’t.  Hey, I know what would be fun today!  I should call my ex and talk about the kids so they can treat me like an idiot!  That sounds fun.  After that, I’ll strip down naked and roll in broken glass.  Hooray!

They are calling/emailing/texting because they love their child and want to deal with something and that means they have to deal with you and vice versa.  So, what to do?  Go back and forth with ideas of what works in your individual houses.  Alternately, go over well-I-haven’t-seen-that-but-here’s-something-similar-and-what-I-tried.  Not there yet?  Then, try the smile and nod.  Lastly, if none of that works,  explore how much you could get for a really cute kid on the black market.

Your Kids’ Path

Path Edited

When babies are born, it’s hard to fathom that this, is a person.  It’s not just “your baby”.  It is a human being, with a name and everything.  A future, likes, dislikes, etc.  This is not a puppy, it will grow up and fly away (at least if you do it right).

New parents have all sorts of ideas about what “their kids” will and will not do.  That’s wonderful in theory (I had them too) until the little bundle of joy learns that dropping the sippy cup from the highchair is funny because they made you retrieve it.  What a fun game!  The toddler that spouts off to your mother-in-law that “her food is disgusting”, is not a child you will want to claim.  This of course escalates as they get older.  “I can’t wear blue mom, it’s a boy color.”  A year later, “Why are all my clothes pink mom?  Pink is for babies.”  Seriously, I will smother you in your sleep….  This is a person who has feelings, likes, and dislikes.  Surprise!  They are not the same as yours.

Your kids have their own path.  They have relationships with people completely independent of yours, even if you know the person.  This is especially true for their relationship with their other parent.  What you find annoying, they love about that parent.  What you once found charming, they find embarrassing.  This person is not their ex, it’s their parent.

When they go to the other parent’s house, they are following their path with one of the most important people in their entire world.  Good, bad, or otherwise, this is their path and you cannot follow them.  If they hate that mom makes them go bed an hour earlier than you do, well, “mom has different rules, honey”.  It’s up to them to discuss it with their mom.  If dad has a habit of blurting out “private” stuff they didn’t want everyone at dinner to know, the kids will have to learn to speak up and tell him.  It’s simply not you place anymore.

Whatever you think is the other parent’s transgression, you’ve done something equally annoying.  Oh you haven’t?  Think harder…..I’ll wait.  Yep, there it is.  Glass houses and shit folks….  No one gets it all right.  It’s their parent to be dealt with either now, or later in therapy.

It’s hard, but this is their family, even if it isn’t yours anymore.  These are people too and they love their parents.  Both of them.