COPARENTING AND THE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS

HOW TO NAVIGATE CO-RAISING A CHILD WHEN YOU CAN BARELY HOLD A CONVERSATION WITH THAT PERSON, AND WHAT IT ULTIMATELY MEANS FOR ALL OF US AND THE RELATIONSHIPS WE FOSTER

coparenting.JPG

This one sucks. Just being real. It sucks because there is nothing in the world that I would want more for Margot than for her to have love and respect modeled for her by the two people she cares the most about. It sucks because it represents an ongoing tension that doesn't have a clear expiration date or hope for reconciliation. And it sucks because what's at stake is the holistic well being of the sweetest tiny human to ever walk the planet. But it's real. And I've had enough others mention the same tension that I think someone should say something about it. Not only is it real life for co-parenting, I think it holds a few truths about the nature of all the relationships we foster -- whether it be a significant other or just a friendship. Here's one key that I'm learning and re-learning...

LET GO

Duh. Of course. That's something we all talk about... letting go... moving on... etc... but how do you let go when you still have to engage with that other person constantly? How do you heal? How do you reach a place of personal freedom and release when the "go" part is impossible and you know that they'll actually "stay" a part of your life? Answer: you release your personal expectation of them, not the human themselves. We all carry a set of expectations into just about every relationship we have. And that's not inherently a bad thing. Expectations are simply what we believe will transpire based on our previous history or knowledge of that person or circumstance. It's a tool that we employ without even realizing we're doing it. And we employ it because it is a form of self-protection. It's saying, "I know I am safe because my history with this person is safe", or conversely, "I must keep my guard up because my history with this person is volatile." The darker side of having expectations is this: it leverages the past to determine our posture towards that other person in a way that might not actually be helpful in the present. For me and my ex, there is a lot of lingering pain, even these years later. I hurt her deeply, and she has hurt me as well. And even still there are verbal arrows that are fired. What I cannot change is our history. But I do have complete power over today and the current moment. If I don't let go of my expectation (that the interaction will be difficult and I'll have to dodge verbal arrows), it might just hijack everything. The more I'm able to release any expectation of how I think we "should" interact, the more I am free to treat her with respect and engage from a healthier posture. I believe this is true with every meaningful relationship we have. There are seasons where things are great, and there are seasons that are challenging. The only way to make it through is to let go. And when a tiny human is watching and listening, I'd sure better take it seriously.

Here's how I release expectation and "let go". I take a moment to pause and reflect on what I know to be true about the nature of our dynamic. I don't dwell on what I wish it were, I simply acknowledge what it really is. I then ask myself if I want to allow that narrative to continue, or do I want to create a new narrative? And if it's a new narrative, what must I do differently to see that come to life. Some things might include not responding if verbal arrows are hurled. Or perhaps it's choosing to say something kind, or, just not say anything at all and simply carry a spirit of peace. After I take this moment and make this mental shift, I pause to express thanks for what is good. MARGOT is good. There is much about LIFE that is good. The neuroscientific research behind what our brains do when we are grateful is pretty incredible. It releases "happy chemicals", and it causes our brains to fire. And they say "what fires wires"  -- in other words, the more we exercise certain parts of our brain, the more natural it becomes to do that, and the more it becomes our norm. When we choose to let go and when we choose a better way, it rewires us for better outcomes in the future as well. 

Life is hard. Relationships can be too. But the choices we make today will affect our right now, as well as our tomorrow. Cheers to making good ones and loving well, dear ones.

SINGLE FATHERHOOD

THE CURSE OF SPLIT HOLIDAYS

2E5564BC-044D-4AC4-8EF7-0A50BF5028D5.JPG

This one stings. Many who read this don't know much about my story, and that will largely be saved for another day. Margot's mamma and myself are not together. And if there is one thing that no one can accurately prepare you for when it comes to co-parenting, it's holidays. Holidays take on a new shape and a new flavor when you now have the looming question of whether they will be spent with that precious tiny human, or spent apart. They can go from the sweetest moments with those you hold dear, to being apart from that one little person who somehow holds the keys to your heart. You're left wondering what they're doing, what their holiday outfit looks like, and wishing you could scoop them up and, in this case, help them chow down on a couple of disgusting peeps then run around the lawn on a sugar high.

Up to this point, I have not spent a single major holiday with Margot. She has always been with her mother for them. To be clear - I've allowed this to happen. (Allowed is such a strange word to use there. Agreed? Permissed? Nothing really works because it all sucks. Real bad.) The best I've been afforded is moments of Facetime with her, playing peek-a-boo through the phone and drawing pictures of shapes and mountains on my tablet and holding my phone above it so she can watch as she tells me what colors to use. (Which is usually pink or purple.) 

It can feel suffocating. Downright hell. To be apart and left wishing. To feel distant and wish I were squeezing her till she squeals. It can be crippling! But the key word is CAN. Because the only way it happens is if I allow it to be that way. What I mean is this:

Our moments are only what we choose to make of them.

If I choose to focus on things I cannot change, it will always leave me feeling powerless. But the reality is -- I am not. And neither are you. I have the choice of how to filter those moments. Rather than longing for her physical presence, I can choose to find peace in knowing she is loved and cared for by both me and her mother. Rather than selfishly wish I always had things "my way" I can release that and recognize that while I don't have her next to me this exact moment, I will see her very soon -- and she will know how much she is loved by the way I display it in THAT moment. 

A book I've been reading describes it as this: you have the choice between two postures: that of a victim, or that of a creator. I can choose to posture myself as a victim. A victim of circumstance... of a failed marriage... of the pain of distance from those I love... the list is endless. OR I can choose to change my mindset and set my mind on a better outcome and a future vision. I am not a victim of a calendar day where I'm not with my daughter. I'm the creator of a better tomorrow when I AM with her. That small shift in my mindset is the linchpin for a cascade of empowerment. A catalyst for living from a place of passion. And that passion translates into fuel for actions.

Single fatherhood can really suck. But only if I choose that posture. Whatever YOUR circumstance is might also really suck -- but only if you choose that posture. Perhaps it's time we all choose to create together. 

Cheers, dear ones.