Co-parenting with your Ex: Getting it Together

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I’ve never piloted an airplane before, but I’ve travelled in them enough times to realize that raising a child or children requires the same structured effort. One parent is in charge, and the other, while equally as capable, is mostly responsible for support.
Recently, I had a somewhat heated telephone discussion with my ex-husband about our 13-year-old son. This happens at least twice a week. We co-parent, and do it long distance. So sometimes being on the same page about our preferences can involve tense, often R-rated language.
It is obvious that one parent can be more dominant than the other in terms of strictness and discipline. Usually, that parent is the father. But when a divorce or separation is involved, most times it is the parent with whom the child lives. In my storybook, I am the big dog, the chief, the head honcho in charge. My son lives with me, and his father is the co-parent. How do I know I’m the head honcho? Simple; it’s my house, and my rules. You live here; you abide by them.
So far, this set up has worked. But when that blueprint gets threatened by a weekend visit, or a vacation spent at dad’s house, co-parenting gets strained. This is where different rules and different parenting styles come into play, creating tension. And when it boils over, who really has the last say?
Many times, our adult discussion about our son’s daily upbringing can be cordial. Yet, there are times, like with this phone call, when we battle to the death over who has the final say. Now, imagine two pilots doing that on a flight from New York to Trinidad for Carnival. We cyah have dat. Nothing could be THAT serious to derail a flight in progress. The two pilots have to remain on the same page. They have to know each other’s moves, and when to have the other’s back, in case something goes wrong. And that’s how I view parenting. It’s a collaborated effort to steer our child’s life safely until they can ‘fly’ on their own.
I can hear you saying, “A child ain’t a plane, wha’ you really talkin’ bout?” It’s the best analogy I can give to show how intense the concentration should be, when it comes to raising a child. It’s a joint effort, and neither parent should be more demanding than the other. Easier said than done, but it’s an effort many parents need to take.
In many cases, exes aren’t on that level of concentration. It’s not easy raising a child alone, and it’s no easier doing it with someone else. Tensions flare, values tend to clash, and punishments that should be administered tend to be undermined and overridden because of the parent’s inability to communicate well.
Is the child the source of the discord? No. Most of the time the source is simply the left over anger the parents carry between them, and, the main focus, the child, falls into the background. I’m sure many of you who are separated go to drop off your child or children to the other parent, and end up fighting over something that has NOTHING to do with the child. Face-to-face meetings are an open opportunity to cuss about an unpaid bill, or not picking up little Junior on time, or boldfaced questions about “who is dat woman/ man car yuh was in”. I can go on about the mindless banter, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Both parents simply aren’t on the same page.
Since we’re on the topic of the ‘other man or woman’, let us address a few issues.
Number one, it is understood that the relationship that created the child is over. One parent may move on before the other parent, which will leave some sort of bitter taste in the mouth. Sometimes flaunting and ‘rubbin it in the face’ occurs, which naturally dredges up some anger. It’s not necessary.
Many times it’s a threat for the mother. Another woman means less time being spent with the child. Or even the mother just doesn’t want their child around another woman. I see that as a maternal instinct of protection. No woman truly wants to know that another woman is trying to step in to raise her child. But it is the reality of the situation. So either you prepare to fight a poor fight, or get to know the other woman enough to say that you’re comfortable knowing your child is around them, and feel confident that they will be treated well. Fellas, the same goes for you when your child’s mother is in a relationship with a new man.  Again, easier said than done, but it’s one of the more adult moves to make when co-parenting.
It takes a lot for co-parenting to go smoothly, or close to being smooth. The best qualities that both parents should maintain are open communication, respect, and a main focus on what benefits the child positively. Seven times out of ten, my ex-husband and I are on that page. The other three times indicates that we’re a work in progress. Nobody is perfect. But we have come a long way from wanting to throw bricks through car windows, and from disregarding each other.
There are things you may not like about the other parent, but for a better, child-rearing experience, a constant battle must be maintained until that level of togetherness is attained. No one is saying you have to be together to raise the child, but respecting the fact that co-parenting is much more than just the title, is an act that is necessary to ensure the child is being raised in the healthiest environment.

I’ve never piloted an airplane before, but I’ve travelled in them enough times to realize that raising a child or children requires the same structured effort. One parent is in charge, and the other, while equally as capable, is mostly responsible for support.

Recently, I had a somewhat heated telephone discussion with my ex-husband about our 13-year-old son. This happens at least twice a week. We co-parent, and do it long distance. So sometimes being on the same page about our preferences can involve tense, often R-rated language.

I had a somewhat heated telephone discussion with my ex-husband about our 13-year-old son.

It is obvious that one parent can be more dominant than the other in terms of strictness and discipline. Usually, that parent is the father. But when a divorce or separation is involved, most times it is the parent with whom the child lives. In my storybook, I am the big dog, the chief, the head honcho in charge. My son lives with me, and his father is the co-parent. How do I know I’m the head honcho? Simple; it’s my house, and my rules. You live here; you abide by them.

So far, this set up has worked. But when that blueprint gets threatened by a weekend visit, or a vacation spent at dad’s house, co-parenting gets strained. This is where different rules and different parenting styles come into play, creating tension. And when it boils over, who really has the last say?

They have to know each other’s moves, and when to have the other’s back, in case something goes wrong.

Many times, our adult discussion about our son’s daily upbringing can be cordial. Yet, there are times, like with this phone call, when we battle to the death over who has the final say. Now, imagine two pilots doing that on a flight from New York to Trinidad for Carnival. We cyah have dat. Nothing could be THAT serious to derail a flight in progress. The two pilots have to remain on the same page. They have to know each other’s moves, and when to have the other’s back, in case something goes wrong. And that’s how I view parenting. It’s a collaborative effort to steer our child’s life safely until they can ‘fly’ on their own.

I can hear you saying, “A child ain’t a plane, wha’ you really talkin’ bout?” It’s the best analogy I can give to show how intense the concentration should be, when it comes to raising a child. It’s a joint effort, and neither parent should be more demanding than the other. Easier said than done, but it’s an effort many parents need to take.

In many cases, exes aren’t on that level of concentration. It’s not easy raising a child alone, and it’s no easier doing it with someone else. Tensions flare, values tend to clash, and punishments that should be administered tend to be undermined and overridden because of the parent’s inability to communicate well.

I’m sure many of you who are separated go to drop off your child or children to the other parent, and end up fighting over something that has NOTHING to do with the child. 

Is the child the source of the discord? No. Most of the time the source is simply the left-over anger the parents carry between them, and, the main focus, the child, falls into the background. I’m sure many of you who are separated go to drop off your child or children to the other parent, and end up fighting over something that has NOTHING to do with the child. Face-to-face meetings are an open opportunity to cuss about an unpaid bill, or not picking up little Junior on time, or boldfaced questions about “who is dat woman/ man car yuh was in”. I can go on about the mindless banter, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Both parents simply aren’t on the same page.

Since we’re on the topic of the ‘other man or woman’, let us address a few issues.

Number one, it is understood that the relationship that created the child is over. One parent may move on before the other parent, which will leave some sort of bitter taste in the mouth. Sometimes flaunting and ‘rubbin it in the face’ occurs, which naturally dredges up some anger. It’s not necessary.

Many times it’s a threat for the mother. Another woman means less time being spent with the child. Or even the mother just doesn’t want their child around another woman. I see that as a maternal instinct of protection. No woman truly wants to know that another woman is trying to step in to raise her child. But it is the reality of the situation. So either you prepare to fight a poor fight, or get to know the other woman enough to say that you’re comfortable knowing your child is around them, and feel confident that they will be treated well. Fellas, the same goes for you when your child’s mother is in a relationship with a new man.  Again, easier said than done, but it’s one of the more adult moves to make when co-parenting.

It takes a lot for co-parenting to go smoothly, or close to being smooth. The best qualities that both parents should maintain are open communication, respect, and a main focus on what benefits the child positively. Seven times out of ten, my ex-husband and I are on that page. The other three times indicates that we’re a work in progress. Nobody is perfect. But we have come a long way from wanting to throw bricks through car windows, and from disregarding each other.

There are things you may not like about the other parent, but for a better, child-rearing experience, a constant battle must be maintained until that level of togetherness is attained. No one is saying you have to be together to raise the child, but respecting the fact that co-parenting is much more than just the title, is an act that is necessary to ensure the child is being raised in the healthiest environment.

Onika Pascal

Onika Pascal is a Trini living in New York, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is a single mom, author of two published collections of poetry, aspiring novelist ,and lover of all things purposeful.

1 Comment

  1. Nyasha S. O'Connor

    April 4, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Focus on the children, not your issues (easier said than done however putting into practice…perfects this). Communicate and focus on the present situation. Respect each other’s time and space

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