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And definitely wear lipgloss

March 7, 2011

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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. MomPlusKid permalink
    March 7, 2011 9:37 pm

    I’ve learned to ask “Why do you want to see your dad right now?” and frequently it is because his dad typically has candy and/or video games that I don’t have at my house. Sometimes it is a legitimate missing-of-dad, so I say “I know you miss your daddy but you will see him *insert upcoming visitation here*”. But I’m still working on it. And despite myself, sometimes I miss his dad too.

  2. Celeste permalink
    March 7, 2011 10:39 pm

    Most Favored Parent status is conferred without rhyme nor reason, shifting sand beneath our feet. Mostly I tell myself that it’s good they can love someone so fiercely at times, rather than just have sort of a half-assed liking for all. The pendulum always swings back.

  3. March 9, 2011 12:05 am

    For some, the parent that is best loved is the one they’re not with right then. The way that their favorite dessert is the one that they’re not eating.

  4. maxzmama permalink
    March 9, 2011 10:43 am

    I feel the competition stuff a bit lately but it’s me that’s doing it to myself. I know I will never be able to do the kind of things with my son that his dad will (trips, some intense sport activities that I am prohibited from doing) which I find frustrating and humbling.

    Otherwise, right now at 4, he’s still very much “mummy, mummy”.

  5. March 12, 2011 4:16 am

    Not divorced, but my husband travels *all* the time. He always brings treats, and is frankly not around for most of the harder stuff (my kids are about the same age as Moxie’s). I am totally, totally the bad cop in our house. But the way I look at it is, I am the one doing the raising; the children will become high functioning, independent adults because of the time, energy and effort I put into raising them. They get treats and a lot of great time with their dad when we can travel together, but I’m the one making sure that they are growing up straight and true. So, they don’t like me *best.* Believe me when I say, I don’t care.

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