It’s a Friday night, and I’m sautéing squash while he is making Velveeta macaroni and cheese on the stove next to me. He let himself into the house after picking the kids up from school while I was still on my way home from work. There was time to spare before meeting up with some friends at a concert in the city, so he stayed to help cook dinner for the kids. He is my ex-husband, and father to Jackson and Lucy.
Yes, you read that correctly.
For about 45 minutes my ex-husband and I chatted it up. He showed me his progress on his new fitbit, filled me in on what’s going on with work, and we exchanged stories about recent happenings all while cooking a meal for our kids. Because no matter what has happened to us as a couple, Jackson and Lucy will always be our kids. We will always be a family. And even though we haven’t always agreed on everything, you can be sure as shit we see eye-to-eye on our family dynamic. Of course we worried at first whether it would be too confusing for the kids if we still did family stuff together, but it really has been quite successful.
This, my friends, is what you call “Co-Parenting.” For us, this has included (but not limited to):
Having family dinner together
Getting breakfast together
Having a shared Google Calendar with the detailed schedules (and constantly updating/discussing over the phone)
Attending our kids’ extracurricular activities together
It’s implementing the same house rules
Giving him a ride somewhere
Feeding my dog when I can’t make it home on time
Going Trick-or-Treating together
Opening Christmas presents together
Going shopping for the kids on the other’s behalf
It’s celebrating the kids’ birthdays together instead of having separate birthday parties
It’s a lot of compromise and accommodation.
It’s saying, “sure, I’ll take them tonight so you can go out.”
It’s asking, “hey, I would like to go on this trip. Can we work something out so I can go?”
It’s offering to take the kids a bit longer on a Sunday morning because we both know how rough it is to watch kids while hungover. (Fellow parents: am I right or am I right?)
It’s apologizing for forgetting something and offering many thanks to the other for picking up the slack.
It’s knowing the other person is having a shit day and asking if there’s anything we can do to help.
It’s constantly showing our appreciation.
It’s saying, “thank you for (this) and (that).”
It’s sending a message on Mother’s Day/Father’s Day and saying how great of a parent they are.
It’s texting our frustrations about how the kids are acting up, but then days later marveling at the two little people we created and saying, “we have great children. we did good.”
What all this translates to is that we still have each other’s back. His success is my success. My success is his success. Our success is our family’s success – even if we’re in separate households.
See, there are these mythical lands called Maturity and Adulthood. You might have heard of them. When it comes to divorced couples it can be rather difficult to experience these fantasy-like places. People seem to take a lot of detours on the way there and never quite actually make it. They get too distracted by things of trivial nature…
I know what you’re probably thinking. “Look at this self-righteous bitch…” Well, let me stop you there. In the beginning it wasn’t always easy to be so nice and accommodating. And if we were, it was probably behind fake smiles and uttered offenses. But I can honestly say that we are in a place now where favors are returned with genuine intent. We still vent to each other about our daily frustrations, we share good news with each other, and we collaborate on our shared kid responsibilities.
Why? Because we have to be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives. Hatred and pettiness is exhausting. We have nothing to gain from it. But this is also our story and personal experience. I’m not going to sit here on a high horse and tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do in whatever similar situation they’re in. But for us, being the best parents we can be means getting along. It’s a strange dynamic, because I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily friends (I mean, maybe?), but we’re certainly not enemies. We’re not indifferent to each other; in fact, we care very much about the other’s well-being and happiness.
It really took a lot of work and soul-searching on our parts to get to this point. At almost 31, this isn’t where I saw myself in life. Divorced with 2 kids isn’t usually on the life trajectory but I will say that I am thankful every day for the relationship I have with Jackson and Lucy’s father. Divorce just plain sucks, and co-parenting can be hard sometimes but you know what’s even harder? A life full of hate and negativity. My kids are not going to know that life. We refuse to let that be their reality.
There are, I believe, 5 or 6 types of love described by the Greeks and one of them is Agape. If I break it down enough, I think this is the kind of love that he and I have for each other. It’s a love that wants nothing but the best for the other person. When he has gone through some rough situations I am still the person he calls or texts, and vice versa. When I have been down, he has checked in on me to make sure I’m ok. If he has needed help with anything, I have been there to support him to ease up whatever is burdening him. Sure, there have been times we felt inconvenienced by the other but we both know that any problem either of us experiences can have a ripple effect to other, and most importantly the kids. We can’t just throw our hands in the air and say, “not my problem.” For us, this doesn’t work and it shouldn’t for anyone who has created a family together. We are still a unit; it’s just that the dynamics have changed a bit.
I don’t know if I would say we’re necessarily “lucky” for the type of relationship we have as divorced parents, or if it’s that we consciously choose to be this way, or even better: it just comes naturally to us. But in either case, my number one priorities are those awesome little humans who simultaneously drive me bat-shit crazy and make my heart burst with love. And I know that is a sentiment he and I agree on unequivocally.