My Long Journey Into Co-Parenting
One of my life goals is to run a marathon. I’m slowly building myself up for it and planning on running my first 5k this summer, or at least power walking for most of it. (I’ve had a random desire for pancakes all this week which has slowed me down some, but that’s a different article for a different day!). According to my father and sister, who consistently run marathons and half-marathons, at the end you’re tired, sore, sweaty, accomplished and just want to lie in a tub of ice for a few hours.
I can mentally relate. That’s the same way I feel now, after years of finally getting to a nice space with my soon-to-be ex-husband.
Trying to co-parent with someone who you are also currently divorcing can be so mentally draining. However, just like running a marathon, it’s mind over matter. If you stay consistent, you can reach the finish line.
While looking back at the progress and feeling satisfied that we finally worked our way to a place where we can do this, I realized that there were a few mental blocks I had to overcome.
The first one was separating the identity of my ex-husband from the identity of my daughter’s father. Yes, he is the same person; which can sometimes be the most irritating thing in the world. However, I realized that in order for her to have a fulfilling relationship with him, I had to completely remove all of the negative things that happened between us so they could have a good relationship.
The second thing I had to do was to learn to see him for who he is, not for who I wanted him to be. You sometimes have an idea of how you would like the other parent to be involved in your child’s life, and if that person doesn’t adhere, it can be very frustrating and disappointing. But I realized that by focusing on his shortcomings, instead of recognizing his successes as a father, I was making the void between us larger.
I learned to be constructive and not to condemn him. It’s very easy to tell someone what they’re doing wrong. When you’re saying it to someone you used to be romantically involved with, it can be even easier to allow emotions to get the best of you. However, I realized that the best way to communicate with my ex-husband was to say things in a way that was constructive, non-confrontational and full of facts.
When I told my ex that I wanted to sign our daughter up for a summer soccer league, he was against it. But when I reminded him that she’s an only child and that this would not only allow her to socialize more, but also help her learn the importance of teamwork, sharing, and community, he eventually came around.
Each person has their own different preferred form of communication, and I had to go to the form that I knew he would be the most receptive to.
Finally, we agreed to leave the past in the past and focus solely on our daughter’s future.
He and I didn’t work out the way we thought we would, but our daughter is happy, thriving, and feels loved by both her parents.
I’m not saying that it’s perfect and that I don’t sometimes feel like soaking in a tub of ice each time he leaves. I’m saying there is a new sense of accomplishment that comes about each time we peacefully coexist and it reminds me that staying focused and consistent could lead to other successes in the future.
Will Kendra Koger run her way to success this summer at the 5K? She’ll keep you posted on her twitter @kkoger.