Where has the white picket fence family gone?

You did what you thought you were supposed to do. It’s all part of the script – the formula for life, right? You grow up. You go to school. Get a job. You fall madly in love. You marry. You buy the house with or without the white picket fence, get the dog and have babies. You’re living happily ever after, right?

Hopefully, some of you are.

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

Vintage Schwinn Bike & White Picket Fence by csterken

There is nothing more heartwarming than that couple, we all know them, the couple who makes it 50 or 60 years together. The couple that sticks by each other through thick and thin and who remain faithful to one another, always. And they do it despite all of the challenges that a lifetime can bring.

But admit it. Even when our parents parents were young, not everything was rosy. Affairs happened. Folks left each other. Dads, decades ago, were most likely the ones to walk out the door because, well, because mom’s job was to stay at home with the kids.

Times have changed, folks.

Love far too often fades in today’s society. In part, because we’re told, always, that we’re supposed to ‘be happy.’ Few seem to want to put in the work marriages and raising kids together often requires. People grow tired of the same old thing. Couples grow apart. Jobs get in the way. Affairs still happen, on either side. More and more, moms are not only going to work but also becoming the breadwinner. They’re not at home, any more than dad. Depending on the situation then, mom or dad leaves whatever house they’re in because if you’re splitting up, someone has to.

But that means the couple is broken.

The family as a whole, doesn’t have to be, too.

Ask just about any fit (willing, able, wanting, non-abusive, not chemically dependent) parent, and they’ll tell you they love and want to care for their children moving forward whether it be in one or two homes, as much as they have since the day their child was born. Not just the financials of it all. But actually helping raise their child.

And, given it has been shown time and again to be what’s best for kids, we all have some pretty important choices to make in how we handle divorce and custody discussions, decisions and litigation should we (as a family choosing to separate) not be able to reach a workable solution for everyone involved, on our own. North Dakota voters specifically, at this moment in time, have an unbelievable opportunity before them. ND; what you need to know about Measure 6:

  • 110 world experts endorse shared parenting in family law and say current law is based on “flawed science”.
  • Too many children are growing up without one of their parents; usually the dad. There are tremendous, documented physical and emotional consequences to this.  
  • Shared parenting is popular in poll after poll achieving over 70% approval and with equal support of men and women.
  • Lawyers only get paid to draft documents and “argue”, so they have a financial incentive to create conflict.  Who ever wins in this situation? The legal system. Not your family.

I told my ex the entire time we were married and discussing how the marriage wasn’t working, that if we ever separated, I wanted to be that couple. The couple that still gets along, that has holidays together, that invites each other over for whatever. There was no way we were going to be that couple. Not from the get-go. But we still shared everything when it came to our daughter – the responsibility for raising her, time, decisions and when we couldn’t agree, we sought out mediation. While we didn’t always agree on how it looked, we absolutely did our best to do right by her. Not by what one or the other of us wanted. It’s why, when we went through the divorce, we sought out ‘collaborative’ attorneys. What, haven’t heard of it? It’s a common practice in Wisconsin, among other states. But, it’s rarely heard of in states that want to perpetuate the fighting. Like you, North Dakota. Think those attorneys throwing everything they have including 70k of their own money against Measure 6 have your children’s best interest in mind? Think again. Think of all the other good that 70k could do? Or how much of a break they could cut families who do need to litigate? Think of how commonplace Collaborative Divorce would be in your state if they truly wanted what was best for a child? About $3,000 each got us both through the actual divorce process, which was cordial and vetted out one of the most thorough and well defined placement schedules I’ve ever seen, leaving little to question or fight over. How many of you have ever even heard of a collaborative divorce?

For what it’s worth, some thougths – and not just on Measure 6 in North Dakota but for folks in any state or region where #sharedparenting reform is being discussed and on the table:

– Talk with others. Moms and dads. Grandparents. Professionals in the field. If you really want to educate yourself, seek out dads that you specifically you know are good dads – good people, who have gone through divorce and get their first hand account. Be interested in their experience if you truly want to become an educated voter. All sides of this complicated family situation are throwing a lot of statistics around at you and a lot of anecdotes. To know yourself for sure, what is best for families (and every situation will be unique other than this;  when two fit parents are involved and their locations make it physically possible to share custody, shared parenting has been shown to be most effective. Always.) ask questions, do the research and ignore the rhetoric.

– Trust that very few adults are better at raising a child alone, than together. No one’s role as full-time parent should be diminished just because there may now be two homes instead of one.

– Kids do need both parents. Which, when possible, includes equally a mom and a dad. Or in some cases, two moms, or two dads. And grandparents on both sides. And a school that trusts and shares information with all parties. And neighbors wherever they are, helping watch over them. Raising kids well requires a team effort. It does actually take a village. Those who think they can do it alone or that they’re better off shutting out another good parent, your children are simply missing out. You are also putting your child at risk of a whole host of problems proven to arise when good dads, in particular, are absent. Statistics back this up.

– Collaborative divorces are what is best for a child. It requires parents agree to sit down at the table, together, with their attorneys, and work things out. Always, deliberately, with the best interest of the child in mind. Encourage your state bar to promote this kind of law practice.

We now just need the court system and family law to recognize what we, as a society, should already know and value. Kids do need both parents – equally where and when possible – and the best possible alternative otherwise. It shouldn’t be a mandate. It shouldn’t be a ‘no matter what’. It shouldn’t tie judges hands. But it should be a starting point.

Measure 6 lives up to all of this.

Still stuck on that script? Still trying to live that picture perfect life? Those of you with primary placement still feel that less than 82.2% (national average) time with your kids means somehow you’re less of a parent? Or that you’re giving the other parent way more time than they should be given for some unknown reason – or ‘just because’? Let go of that old script. It hasn’t fit the storyline now for decades. You can do it. Figure out a better way for you, your ex and your kids. Appreciate another parent who wants to be a part of your kids lives and work to be inclusive versus the opposite. It may not look or seem easy, but if 110 world experts are right and experience speaks for anything, the rewards can be phenomenal once you let go of the fear, especially that fear of losing control. For your kids. For you. For everyone.

No good parent should be deliberately minimized in the life of their child. Kids love and need both parents. They don’t want to have to pick and choose. Our courts (in any state) shouldn’t be allowed to either.

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Short Course In Human Relations

In the process of looking for something for a client today, I happened to stumble across the following photo. It struck me as something important to share – at the very least, with our kids.

Short Course in Human Relations

Short Course in Human Relations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We may not all agree with the phrases used here, but numbers four through one to me, seem pretty spot on. And while I could be wrong, I don’t think some of these thoughts are shared or these qualities encouraged enough, anymore. We’ve all heard people talking terribly to one another. And, if you talk with just about any business owner, especially in the service industry, they’re hard pressed to come across employees that have great interpersonal skills let alone a strong worth ethic. The above to me, is a great reminder of some important phrases to have in our immediate vocabulary, if nothing else

Imagine if we all got back to genuinely caring about what others thought, asking please, saying thank you and thinking of others more than we thought of ourselves. What would that look like in our lives, our families, our work, even in divorce and matters of shared parenting.

Sure, it would still look very different to different people and situations would still be handled uniquely from person to person. I totally get that. I just can’t help but think perhaps a little more humility might be injected back into our everyday. And that would be a wonderful thing.

On life, divorce, custody and Measure 6.

I’ve been trying to figure out what, if anything, I can write that might make a difference in the war being waged right now in North Dakota over the upcoming ballot measure on Shared Parenting. I don’t know that this is it. But it’s the first of several blogs I’ll probably post this week on the topic, because watching and reading some of the material that’s being perpetuated on the issue by opponents of shared parenting reform, is terribly sad and frustrating. And part of our daily conversations right now. And I can’t sit idle and watch anymore.

We’ve been following Measure 6 closely, as there is still a long way to go in shared parenting reform in most, if not all states. It has countless others across the nation watching as well as the discussion unfolds in North Dakota. Why?

Measure 6 really has the chance to do some things right. And do right, by our kids, should it pass.

Opponents (it appears this is most often lawyers, custodial parents themselves and women who just want to support other women who have custody of their kids because, according to so many of their comments, how could a man possibly care for a child nearly as well as a mother) would have you believe it’s the worst thing ever for any child. That Measure 6 will only hurt children who don’t deserve to be stuck in the middle. I hate to break it to you, but they already are. Can we at least agree to start there?

Measure 6 asks judges to consider before knowing anything else, that the best possible scenario for a child caught in the middle of a family separation or divorce, would be 50/50 time and placement when two fit parents are involved. The final ruling doesn’t need to be 50/50, but Measure 6 encourages judges to use it as a starting point. If 50/50  obviously won’t work for reasons of say, perhaps distance between homes, demanding jobs that require a lot of travel or time away from home or for any other logical and proven reason, that the child be offered the chance to maximize time with both parents, however that may look. Along with this, standards need to be met for both parents to be considered ‘fit’.

This law is asking North Dakota voters to agree to a different future for the children of that state and quite honestly for adults, attorneys and judges in the state’s family law system. It asks that everyone try and play better in the proverbial sandbox that more and more families find themselves in. And it also asks that there finally be some accountability for why good parents are otherwise, often completely or nearly completely, shut out of a child’s life.

Why would I care about a shared parenting measure in another state? Well, because important, relevant and universal issues know no boundaries. The conversations on any broad social issues don’t stop at the state line. (If so, you might want to gather those parenting magazines you have lying around the house offering advice and chuck ’em because chances are they weren’t written by anyone in ND.)

I also care because, our family is a prime example of how shared parenting can work, does work and could work even when parents don’t get along or live in different states. At least on the one side. On the other, is an ongoing reminder of why the system needs to change.

Here’s the deal. I’ve tried to limit the number of parenting/shared parenting/etc posts on this blog because, well, because I don’t want the issue to define our lives. But, I could write a post daily. Stories about the beauty of co-parenting. About the challenges along the way. About how we work through them, or not. About how easily 50/50 can work. And if not 50/50, as close to that as possible when it isn’t possible. About how important it is a child feel they’re able to equally love both parents. About, how when that is their norm, having that taken away from them is what tears them up versus starting from that unequal split and trying to reverse it. And what happens when none of the above is present. About the trials and hurt children face when shut out of one good parents life. About the questions they ask when one parent is minimized and how, as a parent, you struggle to find the right answer without putting the other parent down. About the gut wrenching hurt that’s visible in a good dad’s eyes because every attempt to help raise his children is met with a no, you’re not welcome here, but your money certainly is. (Check please!) And about how the only recourse you know you might have when you are consistently shut out or denied time or phone calls or holidays, is to go back to court, to be told once again there aren’t any issues here, mom is doing her best and oh by the way, because she’s such an upstanding parent and seems totally willing to offer you your six days a month and two phone calls per week, you should pay her attorneys fees.

Doesn’t apply to you? You’re lucky if it doesn’t. But chances are you, a family member, a friend, even one of your own children have gone through it on some level. If not, they will. And when that time comes, should you choose to ignore how flawed the current system is, you had better hope you’re on the right side of the current law if you ever want to see your kids or your grandkids. Especially .. especially if there is a vindictive, self-centered, egotistical, self-righteous or narcissistic custodial parent in the mix.

Measure 6 may not be perfect. Nothing ever is. But it follows the logic of what social science experts studying this issue for decades seem to feel is best for our kids. And given what we’ve seen personally, time and again and not just in our home but countless others – shared parenting can work and works well. Far better than the outcomes I’ve seen in families where there is a desire to equally parent but a hefty imbalance of time available for whichever parent it may be (most often, dads). But two parents have to be willing to be okay with it. And the process shouldn’t just get shut down because mom says, ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘this is terrible for our children’ without any proof that’s the case. When a shared parenting agreement is tough to work through initially, that is when parents need help and a voice of reason the most (chances are, you’re already in court for those who say the state should stay out of such decisions – oh, the irony), and that is where a law like this would step in and encourage what’s truly in the best interest of a child. Besides attorneys knowing that co-parenting reform often leads to less litigation (among the reasons the ND State Bar is fighting this measure tooth and nail whether you care to admit that or not), two adults agreeing to act like two adults in this situation appears the biggest hurdle of all.

#VoteYesOn6

Can’t get along with the other parent? On Shared Parenting…

Chances are you’ve been fighting for awhile and still sharing parenting duties while at home, and still married or ‘together’.

Chances are at some point during your school age years you were assigned a group project with a partner you didn’t like, didn’t hang out with, didn’t care to work with, but you went to school, played nice, got the job done and most likely your grade wasn’t too bad. And then maybe .. just maybe you started to say hello when you’d pass in the hallway and perhaps even become friends at some point.

Chances are, you don’t get along well with someone at work but you both still go in and get the job done everyday.

Chances are as you’ve gotten older, you’ve also gotten wiser. We can only hope. Time has healed old wounds over something you can now hardly recall and you’ve realized there are bigger things in life to worry about than harboring anger over old, insignificant issues.

Chances are, if you can’t figure out a way to get along with someone, you can figure a way around it and still do it well. That is, if you care to try, knowing the reason you’re trying is what’s best for everyone involved.

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I’m rather disgusted and quite frankly tired of hearing adults that I want to think are relatively level headed and well educated, say when it comes to shared parenting, that if the parents can’t get along (this is at the time of divorce – mind you – when custody and placement decisions are being made and emotions are often most high) then shared parenting isn’t possible. Shared parenting meaning maximum time with both parents if not 50/50. Whatever would be in the best interest of the child. And just about every social science study over the past 20 years shows as equal time as possible with both parents is in the best interest of the child, assuming both parents are fit parents.

IMGP0282

I’m not quite sure I get it, and this may just me, because I really don’t see a reason for ongoing conflict. Or despising anyone. Especially when it comes to family situations. If there’s a problem, define and fix it. Get over it. Grow from it. Deal with it. Like an adult. And keep your kids out of it when it comes to what you and your ex still have to work out. While it may be good for kids to see parents sorting through a heated discussion, a debate or a disagreement in a healthy way so they learn emotional intelligence skills as they grow, they don’t need to be put in the middle of your own issues with your own bruised ego, see that you can’t get over being ‘wronged’ or whatever the issue may be.

A question posed by KELO television to its viewers after airing a piece on shared parenting and a bill moving through the South Dakota state legislature right now:

“There is a major push in Pierre this year to pass a law for shared parenting, but can this method of custody work in this state?”

Sincerely, you have to be kidding me. Are parents in South Dakota that unlike parents in other states where this works? Genuine shared parenting – where it’s done, accepted and quite honestly, now promoted – is overall shown to decrease conflict over time and is shown to be better for kids. In any state. This doesn’t somehow stop at the state line of any given state. Unless…  are parents in South Dakota just that much more hard headed and with conviction they don’t want it to work? This conviction not limited to just parents? The comments coming from so called ‘family court’ officials seem unbelievably ignorant to me if you’ve had any conversations or done any research outside the four walls of your respective office. Research done on this topic and covering many families is broad based and not limited to any one state. There seems a deliberate attempt in South Dakota to maintain a system that is alienating of fit, capable and willing parents – most often men but also women. And detrimental to children.

This is nowhere near “in the best interest of any child.”

Bauserman in 2002 and Melli and Brown in 2008 found that inter­parental conflict decreases over time in equal or shared parenting arrangements and increases in sole physical custody arrangements; interparental cooperation increases over time in shared custody arrangements and decreases in sole physical custody arrangements.”

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There is no reason shared parenting can’t work. It does work. In many states. In many places. In many homes. It can work and it does work should two good people choose. Even if one doesn’t choose, without good cause, why should those parents be the one then awarded primary placement? Parents, get over yourself and try. Be open to it. If it doesn’t work.. ?

Worst case scenario: you find yourself in the same situation you’re already in, your kids aren’t doing well and you’re back with family court officials asking for a change in physical placement. Right now this already happens due to any number of reasons – parental alienation, the non-custodial parent fighting for more time. Meantime your kids are confused, not feeling great about their situation in either home and wishing things were different.

Best case scenario: you both, as parents of your children, recognize your kids need something different for them to grow, heal and feel they are getting the best of both of you. And so you work it out. With or without the help of an attorney. It’s civil. It’s cheaper. You all come out better in this situation. You earn trust. Your kids are amazed and find newfound respect for you. And you both get to look in the mirror everyday and feel damn good about the situation you’ve created for your children. That is .. if you genuinely love your children and truly want what is best for them.

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Include the other parent. Allow your children to love their other parent. Share information about school, medical decisions, pictures, the other half of who your child is with the other parent so your children, those beautiful little lives the two of you brought into this world TOGETHER, can somehow still feel whole in a situation you’ve created for them living now, apart. Work together.

It is what’s best.

Chances are … you can make it work. You – and the myriad of family court officials worried more about their matching federal funds for child support shrinking than what is truly in the best interest of the child – just have to be willing to try.

If you’re not, say what you want about anyone else in this situation. But what does that say about you.

#DivorceCorp

Disclaimer: There are lawyers, judges, social workers, guardian ad litem, counselors, psychologists, researchers, etc that work diligently each and every day to genuinely do what is in the best interest of children and families when it comes to divorce and custody decisions. They are not in it for the money. They want to help make things as right as possible in a situation that has sadly gone wrong. Wherever and whenever you find these people, please share their names liberally.

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For those that have been fighting to change a very broken system in many states – the family court system – I’m not sure yet what this may mean. But the mere fact popular culture seems to now be looking at the disgusting under bowels of what can be one of the most underhanded, crooked, lacking of any continuity, back door, rewarding of mean spirited, unethical, say whatever you want to hurt another party, guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, shut the other parent out, full of extortion, family destroying industries versus trying to help mend what’s broken, perhaps there is some small glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

Check this out: #divorcecorp

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We just wrapped up having our kids, both our kids pretty much half of their entire winter break from school. We consider ourselves lucky in that.

Helping trim the tree

But the Cowboy said to me the other day, the five full days we just had them, was the first time in three years he’s been allowed time split down the middle with their mom – despite it’s what their court order states they should do together as parents, for their kids.

It’s also the most consecutive days we’ve had with the Cowboy’s kids since summer. I hadn’t really thought about that until this discussion. 

We were talking about this after the Cowboy was contacted by someone who was thrilled he was allowed 3 hours with his kids Christmas Eve night and for the first time in years, New Years Eve. No reason other than it’s just what he was being allowed by the child’s mother. He doesn’t have money to take her to court when she keeps the kids from what is supposed to be by law, his time with them. 50% of his income is already going to child support. Without spending money on legal help to force the custodial parent into sharing, there is no recourse. None.  He sadly, takes what she will allow. Three hours. He was moved to tears of joy, over just three hours. 

I asked the Cowboy to write something for me on all this because he was visibly upset, continuing to not understand why any parent would prevent the other, male or female, from having time with their kids. Rest assured that in most cases – both parents sincerely are fit parents and want time with their kids and their kids with both parents.

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“I am feeling so grateful for our kids, my wife and family and the time we’ve had recently. I am the administrator of several equal parenting pages on Facebook and I am just feeling terrible for some of these parents and their kids who are not able to see one another due to two things 1) a selfish parent and 2) the courts.

One father over Christmas posted about having plane tickets purchased for his children to come stay for a visit. The custodial parent who moved out of state, simply did not put the children on the plane. The dad and step-mother left waiting at the airport were out $1500 in airline tickets, the bigger cost was missed time spent together over the holidays.

I am saddened and frustrated that this can go on.  Stories like this happen everyday in every state, not just ours. Confused about how and why this further tearing apart of families is allowed to go on is what spurs me to keep fighting for these people. My own situation is nothing compared to this. I actually, for the first time in three years am getting to share equal time during my children’s Christmas vacation. I am so thankful for this, but I know what it’s like to be alienated from your children. It was only for a period of five weeks but honestly it was one of the worst times of my life.

Just viewed another parent posting pictures of his family and his daughter, he was so excited that he and his daughter got to spend 3 hours together on Christmas Eve. These people are amazing, to be so thankful for something so small. How can the other parent, the court systems allow this to continue?  But it does everyday.

The fact that one parent can mess with the other parents time (with no consequences) or that our courts often grant one parent maximum placement – even when both parents request equal time and placement and on every level it would work well for the kids – is beyond my comprehension.

I miss my children. But I know this isn’t about me. It’s about what is best for them and they need time with their mom as well as me to have the best chance at growing up the healthiest, happiest and well adjusted they can be. If the roles were reversed, the guilt would be overwhelming if I did not give my kids that time with her. I believe this is a core issue in many divorces where children are stuck in the middle – many of these parents have no idea how to feel guilt or to put their children’s needs before their own.

If you are a parent who has intentionally kept the other parent out of your child’s life for any reason other than they are abusive to that child, answer me this, why? There is long term damage being done to your child that will eventually surface. You may not notice it now, but when that child becomes a young adult, the relationship they are lacking will surface negatively in any number of ways. That’s not my opinion, that’s well documented. And I can put you in touch with adults now who were children of divorce and can tell you in no uncertain terms what you are doing to your own children and how it will impact them down the road.

But why should you care. It’s not about what’s best for your kids really, is it? This is more about what’s best for you, right? About trying to hurt someone you feel wronged you? About getting maximum monthly payments that your attorney told you was best, which comes with a consequence of less time for the other parent? About being the one ‘in control’, being able to say yes or no to letting the child see their mother or father depending more on your mood that what’s been legally agreed upon or decided? About proving a point you are somehow the better parent? Most would argue any parent keeping a child from the other parent is not a good parent at all.

Most everyone anyway, but the attorneys and/or judges (often former attorneys). But hey, what do they stand to lose other than your money should you choose to actually do what’s best for your kids and come to some easy agreements with the other parent of your child without hours upon hours, sometimes months if not years of their help.

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It is amazing to think of how many other, better things that money could go toward that would genuinely benefit our children.

Thanks to those that are honest in their work, that help to minimize conflict between parties, help moms and dads see the benefits to the kids of working together, communicating, sharing time as best as possible and allowing the kids to freely love the other parent. It’s all such a crazy concept, isn’t it? But one, that when adults can act like adults .. share (isn’t that what we teach our kids is best) and be nice, actually works.

Where has the year gone?

I’m sitting, writing out the last of our holiday cards for the year. It’s the day after Christmas. Actually, it’s the day after the day after Christmas – the wee hours of the morning. I’m the only one awake, the scenario most nights. The dogs are cashed out on the floor. Our one daughter here with us tonight has gone to bed in her new flannel pajamas. The Cowboy crashed hours ago in his chair watching a movie.

It’s a quiet night here on the prairie. The horses, donkey, goat and cats outside are enjoying the evening huddled around the hay bale. The winds are calm and the temperatures are mild. Can’t ask for more this time of year in South Dakota.

Courtesy - TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

Courtesy – TheBungalowNest.squarespace.com

I’ve been wanting to find (make) time to write for weeks now, but so much has been going on and we’ve been on the road quite a bit. With it all, we’ve found so many great conversations to journal. I do know I’m not the only one finding myself wondering where the past month, heck the past year has gone. Happens the older we get, doesn’t it? Still, it is no less shocking each year as the holidays roll around, quickly pass us by and leave us wondering what exactly our plans should be for New Years Eve. The gifts so carefully chosen and put under the tree now for weeks are scattered throughout the house, wrapping paper left on the floor and everyone wondering when the Christmas music can PLEASE be shut off.

The music remains on in my little corner of the house tonight.

I’m milking it for all it’s worth. What’s left of the night. The year. The music. In the meantime, I’m also looking forward to getting caught up on some posts and getting all that has been fun to think about in my head out onto ‘paper’ so to speak.  We’ve had the ‘is Santa really real’ conversation, talked about the value of participating on a sports team and of being in a smaller school as we’re coming up on a year now living in this small corner of South Dakota, we’ve discussed co-parenting issues and divorce best practices and not just amongst ourselves, Las Vegas and the NFR presented some interesting topics for discussion, we caught up with the Dakota 38 + 2 Ride and hope the photos will inspire you to learn more about this time in history and the story behind why this group saddles up in the frigid winter temperatures each year, we’ve enjoyed challenging some in our small South Dakota town to think bigger – good things are happening here that could have a tremendous impact on a bigger audience should a decision ever be made to grow and dream bolder dreams, discussed the value of added insulation and new windows in an old farmhouse as we put both in recently, launched a project I’ve been thinking about for years, weathered food poisoning, the holidays, time with family – the joy and chaos of it all, I’ve been shown how to  care for new leather, been privy to conversations about why Native American beading, languages and other art forms are dying and what’s being done to turn the trend around, seen firsthand the value of stopping in for a visit with an elderly neighbor, family or friend – the conversations the Cowboy and I have had with one of our own neighbors, they have been enlightening. And they are definitely discussions worth sharing.

Speaking of our neighbor, that reminds me. I’ve got one more Christmas card yet to write.

co-par·ent

The Cowboy teases me all the time, “You know how I knew I had found a good woman? I saw what kind of ex-wife you are.” 

..…………

I’m not sure that my ex would agree with the above statement and I’m not trying to blow smoke up anyone’s #*s. Especially my own. I sincerely have tried, from the moment we realized we were going to become parents – to this day – 8 years post our divorce, to be the best possible co-parent that I can be. Which means doing my best to ensure we are both as involved as possibly in raising a healthy child. To always try and do right – by her.

Over the years that’s meant finding a better way when she struggled with direct transitions. To make sure when she’s with me she has the ability to talk with her dad every single night because, well just because if she wanted to she should be able to. To never talk bad about him in front of her or, ever at all if I can help it. Rethinking our 2-2-5 schedule and was that best for her as she got older. Attending school conferences and doctors appointments together so we would both (hopefully) hear the same challenges and accomplishments. Seeking together – advice from a jointly agreed upon 3rd party when we couldn’t agree on something. To make sure she feels safe to love us both equally. The list, as many of you know because you’re in the same boat, goes on.

I’m not saying I’ve always done it well. Or that he has either. In fact, we’ve struggled. A lot. But we try.

…………..

Picking up where I left off the other night .. I would have thrown all this and the kitchen sink into that post about why co-parenting well through and after divorce is critical but I didn’t want it getting too long and it seemed it was already. And it seems perhaps we need to start with the basics because there appears a sincere lack of knowledge this word even exists in many families let alone the current family court system.

co-par·ent
kōˈpe(ə)rənt,-ˈpar-/
verb
gerund or present participle: coparenting
  1. 1.
    (esp. of a separated or unmarried couple) share the duties of parenting (a child).

Here’s the deal.

Co-parenting was most likely important to you in marriage (or family unit). You both had a role. The kids relied on you both to be there for them. If there is anything still worth doing in a family that’s being torn apart, it’s to let those kids have that same access to both parents, assuming both parents are fit, loving, willing and able. At a time when the two adults involved along with their extended families are most likely hurting the most – that is the most important time to try and make this work. It shouldn’t be a forced, last resort for those wanting to get back at any other party for whatever hurt you may be going through. Far too often, it seems, this is the case with little acknowledgement you’re not the only one somehow hurting in this situation. It’s not all about you.

Sharing as equal time possible as well as the decision making with your soon-to-be or long done and over ex, is collectively what most experts in the field will tell you is in a child’s emotional and physical best interest. Again, this is assuming most parents want to be as much a part of their children’s lives as possible and that you are both fit, loving, willing and able (especially in regard to distance). Sharing this model of parenting is increasingly is shown to trump any concerns about a child ‘living out of a suitcase.’

There are incredible resources out there for families going through divorce or struggling with any issues post divorce. Among them, is this really nice co-parenting how-to-perhaps-do-it-well-despite-wanting-to-poke-the-other-parents-eyes-out-with-a-sharp-stick checklist at helpguide.org

If you get a chance, read and seriously consider why co-parenting through divorce is increasingly what is recommended and just extremely important overall when and where possible. What taking that advice to heart could mean for you and your kids.

Other helpful resources (a mix of just a few that can easily be found online) and if you have any you might recommend, please share. Thanks for stopping in.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce

http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/534

http://ourfamilywizard.com/ofw/