And definitely wear lipgloss
One of the things I’ve learned about co-parenting is that you can’t let your feelings get hurt when your kids express a desire to be with their other parent.
It was something I already learned when they were toddlers and went through that “no one but Daddy” stage so many kids go through. But that was back when we were together. Of course they were supposed to love their dad, so it was just a good excuse for me to get out to get an iced coffee and breathe for a few minutes.
But when you separate, even if you don’t want there to be, there’s a competition. Part of that is the adversarial nature of having to sort out custody and support and all the details. When you have to lay out, in crazy detail, who’s going to be where for Thanksgiving for the next 15 years, it’s extremely hard not to want to prove, somehow, that you’re the “better” parent.
And I think part of it is that when you’re going through a divorce, your feelings are constantly hurt. And even though it doesn’t make any sense, and you know intellectually that your kids love you for who you are, it can feel like just one more rejection in a lifetime of rejection (and those of you who made the mistake of Googling past boyfriends/girlfriends during the divorce process know exactly what I mean).
But you have to stand down and remember that they love you. You. And they love the other parent, too, and that’s good. So you can’t give in to competition to validate your feelings, or else it can all snowball and the next thing you know every Friday night is like something out of the “My Super Sweet 16” show.
So I’ve tried to take my own advice about dating and apply it to the (non)competition of co-parenting: Be yourself and smell good.
Only you don’t really have to smell as good for parenting as you do for dating.
It’s been working out pretty well. So I try not to flinch when one of the kids says “Are we going to Dad’s today?” and when I say “No,” he responds, “Aw, man…” Because it’s ok if he wants to see his dad. Or if he just wants to play a Wii game his dad has that I don’t.
I just hope that sometimes it happens the other way, too.