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True Colors

True Colors

By Kristen Chase

A letter came home from my daughter’s therapist with all sorts of things we needed to do to help provide her with consistency and stability between our two homes even though she’s at mine 95% of the time.

Co-parenting: It’s nice if you can get it to work. 

I’d been waiting for this letter for months now, anticipating what the therapist would recommend. Not surprisingly, there’s nothing in that letter that’s mindblowingly original or different or even anything I didn’t already know or am already trying to do.

Though trust me, I’m not reading through the letter patting myself on the back because I’m so awesome.

It’s all common sense. At least, one would think.

But really, the letter is more like a reminder of how it could be if things were better between me and my ex, which is not something I anticipate ever happening, at least in the near future anyway.

Co-parenting, whether it’s in a marriage or a divorce, isn’t an easy thing because even people who are similar and actually get along well can have wildly different thoughts and opinions about how children should be raised.

Sure, two brains and four hands can be better than one, but they can also be more opinions to entertain and manage and disagree with and fight about.

And it’s not necessarily something you’d ever talk before you got married.

“How do you plan on handling the privacy of your tween?” 

Uh…

You might cover the big stuff, like religion and education, both of you not knowing that it’s always the little things that screw with you, all of which come into play when your kids get older.

When your kids are little, it’s all fun and games and teething and “when should we ditch the binky?” (awwwww!) but as they get older it’s pretty damn challenging to navigate.

Even harder when you just don’t agree with the parenting values and approaches of the person you decided to procreate with. Or like, you pretty much don’t agree with any part of how that person lives their life (and never really did except you didn’t actually figure that out until it was too late).

And as much as I’d like to co-parent, is it really possible when only one person is actually making an effort to do it? When there’s no communication, no respect, no consideration, well, what do you do then?

I know that so much of parenting, especially when it’s your first headed into the teen years not too far in the future, is a lot of trial and error. But some people will never see their errors. And they will never learn from them.

That’s just how it is.

I will never stop making an effort. I will be cordial. And straightforward. No trash talk, now or ever, especially in front of the kids.

But I certainly will not go out of my way to be extra nice or overly pleasant or ridiculously accommodating towards my ex, unless it’s for the true benefit and well-being of the kids.

Because in the end, some people, some situations, well, they are never going to change. I need to preserve my own sanity so I can actually parent these amazing kids.

And true colors will always shine through, beautiful or ugly.

Cyndi Lauper said it.

And so do I.

Kristen Chase
About the Author

Kristen Chase

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of

Kristen Chase is a writer, author, and a single mom of four. It’s as exhausting as it sounds (at least the mom part). Also, awesome.

Kristen is also co-founder of Cool Mom Picks and author of The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex.

 

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Comments

  • stepmom15

    You say you won’t go out of your way to be pleasant and accommodating, which means that you are setting yourself up for failure. My fiance and I deal every day with our daughter’s mom, who basically insists that we be accommodating and is not herself. But we do it, because it is ALL for the well-being of our daughter. Her mom’s boyfriend’s grandmother’s 90th birthday party? Ok we can cut our weekend a little short because that may be her future grandmother and she doesn’t have a huge amount of time left to spend with our little girl. You want to move your night to spend with your boyfriend? Not a problem, we would love the extra time with our girl. She idolizes her mom, but she has started missing our house so much when she is gone. In reality she is a totally different kid at her mom’s house. Way more wild, way more disobedient. She is plenty sassy at our house, but when it comes right down to it she knows the rules and abides by them in a way that she just doesn’t at her mom’s. And she’s 3 1/2. Kids know way more than you give them credit for, and even the littlest ones know who have their best interests at heart. I deal with a crazy mom who resents me being in her daughter’s life every day–but we have gotten to the point where she will actually acknowledge how much her daughter loves me and how much I love her. Just being patient with her and letting her take her time to come around to the idea has gone a long way. Because, and I’m totally judging here, your true colors shone through a little bit in that letter. My daughter’s mom drives me crazy, but she’s still her mom, and I respect her for that, even if almost all of her parenting decisions aren’t ones I would make (and I’m not making them for my own daughter).

    • You sound like a really awesome stepmom! How lucky your stepdaughter is to have you in her life. 

  • Lilly

    I agree with the previous poster. I understand this is an incredibly hard time for you. It sounds like a very bitter divorce, and having four children, and an uncooperative ex-husband sounds incredibly difficult. I also see the value in talking about this perspective, which is under-represented in the media. But I do hope that you realize what you are putting out there, which is a scathing criticism of your ex-husband, one that is coming out of fresh hurt and anger, and that I believe would pain your children to read (not to mention, would create extra problems with your ex and his family). I have read a couple of your columns before, and I came away with the same feeling before. I am a product of divorced parents, so I can tell you how heartbreaking it is for a child to hear one parent speak ill of the other one. I have also met people who come from divorced parents and seem balanced, and they tell me their mothers never bad-mouthed the other parent. These people saw the truth themselves with no prompting. You deserve a hug and a big glass of wine, and tender care. You are in pain. But be careful not to compound your kids’ pain and yours by acting on your hurt and anger. I know it is none of my business, and feel free to not publish my comment, but I put myself in your shoes (as best I could), and I thought I would want to know. All the best to you and your kids. May your pain lessen and your blessings increase.

    • I really appreciate your thoughts, Lilly. It’s clear that you do care!

      Just know that I’d never speak ill about their dad in front of them, and I’m always thinking about what will happen when they read my work later in life before I write anything here. Thank you. 

  • Beth G from South Jersey

    Kudos to you, Kristen for being honest and sharing your experience with divorce. I have to politely disagree with the above commenters because I didn’t take it as you saying you would not cooperate – you just stated you wouldn’t go out of your way to be “extra” nice or accommodating. I take that as you following the guidelines per the court and therapist which is what is important…and it seems to be that when/if you do go out of the way to accommodate your ex you end up getting it up the @ss in the long run. As for the future and your kids reading your blogs I think it’s a good thing. You are honest, fact based but not mean spirited. When older your children will be able to (if they want) read what you were feeling, why you reacted to and handled certain situations during the divorce which I think is a great thing. As a child of divorce I wish I could go back and read what was going on in my mom’s mom mind or my dad’s for that matter. Hang in there!

  • Pierre

    Co-parenting is hard enough when you’re happily married. When you’re divorced? Even under the best of circumstances, it can be challenging. Under bad circumstances? It can be a living nightmare. 

    My situation is different from yours. While there is communication, respect, and consideration between me and my ex, I find the challenges lie when the two divorced parents have completely different perspectives on life. One practically needs the skill sets of a diplomat schooled in conflict resolution and a zen buddhist. 

    Eventually you try to find a wavelength or a way of dealing with things that works on a semi-decent basis. If not, you just start counting the years until your kid turns 18 and you never have to see or speak to your ex again!!!

    • Grammy

      Sorry to tell you this, Pierre, but it doesn’t happen that way — “…your kid turns 18 and you never have to see or speak to your ex again!!!” I know whereof I speak, having been a stepmother for almost 40 years now.

      Just because you don’t have to interact with visitation schedules and child-support doesn’t mean you don’t have to both do something to let your adult kid have a good life. Graduations. Weddings. Grandchildren. All kinds of things occur in adulthood that will make the young adult exceedingly happy to be able to share with all of his/her family, including parents that aren’t such great ones.

      So instead of counting down to “18” (and believe me, I did it, too!” you’re better off to count down to when it just doesn’t make you sick any more. Hopefully that’s before the kid is that old.

  • Mahea

    Lilly, honey, did you maybe drink a bit too much of that wine that you claim Kristen “deserves” because that may explain how you are seeing things that are not there.

    What “scathing criticism” is Kristen putting out there?

    Show me. Please.

    The only “scathing criticism” I saw on the entire page is from the poster you “agree with.” Stepmom 15 writes: “Kids know way more than you give them credit for.” Then, in the very next sentence, writes that she has to “deal with a crazy mom who resents me being in her daughter’s life every day.” Correct me if I am wrong, but writing about your stepdaughter’s “crazy mom” online for the entire world to read isn’t exactly what I’d call taking the high road. If that’s what you are publishing for the world to read, God only knows what you are saying in the privacy of your own home… one that you claim to share with an impressionable preschooler.

    Stepmom15: “Because, and I’m totally judging here, your true colors shone through a little bit in that” comment.

    Crazy stuff.

    Lilly, clearly you have suffered quite a bit as a result of your parents’ divorce given how often you refer to “pain” in your comments. I feel for you. However, you do yourself a disservice by insinuating that Kristen is attempting to “compound” her “kids’ pain” by acting on “hurt and anger.” Displacing the pain you carry from your parents’ divorce on someone simply sharing her perspective on her unique and individual situation makes your comments highly hypocritical.      
    Kristen, we’ve never met, never spoken, and I’ve never made a comment on any of your posts. However, I couldn’t sit this one out. I’ve walked your walk, run your marathon. Keep writing exactly what you’re writing. Those of us who share equally challenging (if not worse) situations get the point you are making.

  • Lrj

    I co parent. How you choose to go about things with your ex is entirely up to you. If you want to be “cordial” and not go out of your way that is your prerogative. Your children will feel that period. You are teaching them how to navigate people they don’t get along with. If at the end of the day you are proud of the example you are setting then I suppose it matters little what other think.

    During my lengthy divorice from my ex and various legal drama not to mention the crazy making from his side I made a decision that changed my life ultimately for the better. If anyone else chooses this path is immaterial to me as my life is soooo much better because of it.
    I made the decision I would be the bigger person until… 

    Yep until… I ALWAYS take the high road. I have gone out of my way and bent over backwards. I have not said “see I was right” or “remember when you did this” . I take my ego out of it. What truly benefits my daughter here? Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it stings. Ultimately though I can handle it. I am an adult. I made the mistake of procreating with someone I was not compatible with. That is solely on my shoulders. If I am being honest and I feel like if most people are one sees these things years out. I dont let my ex abuse me or get taken advantage of but right fighting is just unnecessary. It’s taken years but my positive attitude and willingness to just be there to pad the situation for my daughter has garnered some great results. We have a great relationship and my daughter feels amazingly loved and supported. I am remarried with another child now and I adore the woman my ex is dating. Maybe you never get to this place maybe it’s not possible. However there is contempt visible so is your pain regarding your children’s father. Like said maybe it’s not possible but damn I can’t imagine just not trying. Good luck 

  • Carrie

    Hi, I’m a little late to the party, but would like so share some thoughts, based on many years of perspective. My divorce will be 21 (old enough for a legal beer) next month. I always chose to “be the bigger person”. I did everything I could to bend over backwards, and although I’ll continue to own those decisions as the best I knew at the time, there were some unintended consequences. What I was effectively doing at times was demonstrating to my children that my needs were always inconsequential, and as they became adults, there were some tough interactions that occurred to correct their interpretation of my former decisions. There’s nothing wrong with doing as you state above… being cordial, but not excessive with it. There’s no award for being the biggest martyr.

  • Elyse

    Hello Kristen, 

    I do not see where you wrote anything scathing? I agree with “Mahea”
    Divorce is hard but hardest on our kids. However, will an already difficult ex-spouse ever make a fantastic ex?? Will I ever be the dream ex-wife?? No. Who has a fantastic ex-husband?? A fantastic ex-wife?? 

    I read somewhere: Only bad marriages end in divorce. 

    Depending on what exactly when on in your marriage is how you should handle your ex? Putting on a halo and confusing your kids with an impersonation of a doormat will confuse your children. Acting as a sane, respectful person is all you have to do.