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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.

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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stepmom15
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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… Read more »

Lilly
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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… Read more »

Beth G from South Jersey
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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… Read more »

Pierre
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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… Read more »

Grammy
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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… Read more »

Mahea
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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… Read more »

Lrj
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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… Read more »

Carrie
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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… Read more »

Elyse
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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… Read more »