Playing Nice: Why You Need To Learn To Communicate Instead Of Simply Arguing With The Father Of Your Child
A good friend called me the other day and right away, I could tell that something was wrong. She sounded very irritated.
“I forwarded you an email from Stephanie’s dad. I want you to read it and tell me if my response was out of line.” Known for being a straight-shooter, my friends always call me to get the unbridled truth about any situation.
After reading her email, not only was her response out of line but it was a classic example of the ways in which men can become estranged from their children. Sure, one can argue that a man cannot be alienated from their child’s life unless he so chooses to be, but let’s face the facts: Who likes to argue all the time? Everyone is not built for battle, and some people automatically retreat when faced with confrontation.
Going over the email string, I discovered that she called her ex everything but a child of God because she thought he failed to call their daughter on her birthday. Despite all of the name calling, he was still being cordial and explained that he did call her cell phone, but it went to voicemail. She then proceeded to drudge up all of his past mistakes and to that he’d had enough. He replied that he would just leave his daughter alone altogether so that he would not have to deal with her, and she would not have to deal with him. Case closed.
“Play nice,” I told her.
My friend was dumbfounded by my response. She did not understand my feedback and right as she was set to get defensive I broke it down for her:
“I get that you’re pissed, but if you want different results you’re going to have to find a different approach. By now, you should know that you’re dealing with a man who runs at the first sight of confrontation. This is whom you chose to have a child with so you have to deal with him for Stephanie’s sake. Your anger will only cause him to continue to be a non-factor in your daughter’s life if you berate him every chance you get. Allow him to redeem himself and quit reminding him of his past mistakes all of the time.”
In my friend’s defense, she is dealing with a man who has not had much involvement in his child’s life for the first seven years of it, so she automatically expects him to drop the ball. She is tired of having to play damage control when Stephanie’s father disappoints her. She is tired of playing the mother and the father. Her anger is valid. Her frustration is warranted. No one wants to see their child in pain from yet another broken promise. However, her approach clearly isn’t helping.
What my friend could have done differently was accept his explanation and then verify it later. It doesn’t hurt to get all of your ducks in a row before hurling accusations around, especially when dealing with your child’s father. You have to tread lightly because ultimately, it is not about YOU. It was and will always be about the child. Okay, so you cursed him out. Now, what? While letting off steam can make you feel better, you are just bringing more drama into an already difficult situation. Think before you speak.
I also told her that just because she felt that he did not deserve her respect, doesn’t mean she has a license to disrespect him. No matter what, he is still her child’s father, and even though she did not feel like he was behaving like a man, every attack on a man is an attack on his manhood. This is exaggerated when dealing with a man who cannot stand the tension, like her ex.
As it turns out, a few hours later, my friend’s mother called and confirmed that Stephanie’s dad did in fact call, but Stephanie was asleep at the time. When my friend shared the news with me, I told her that an apology was in order, even if she did not want to give one. After resisting for a bit, she finally sent an apologetic email. They spoke and resolved a few of their many issues. Stephanie is now scheduled to spend the summer with her dad in Ohio. And hopefully, as Stephanie’s relationship with her father grows, the co-parenting relationship between these two will grow as well.