Last night I consoled Harlowe as she went to bed. She is starting to figure out what death is and since, in her little life, she has already lost two people (her Grandparents on her dad’s side) and a dog (my parent’s dog) all of which were advanced in age, she has made the understandable connection that death is directly related to one’s age. As I was putting her to bed, going over the activities of the day, she began to rhyme off the people in her life in chronological order followed by whom would die first to whom would die last.
She then burst into tears, making the connection that her father, in this particular scenario, would be the first to go. You see, Harlowe loves her father. Like most kids, her father has taken on a somewhat mythical role in her personal narrative; also sitting quite nicely in the Daddy’s little girl/Electra complex narratives. She loves her father and in our particular situation, I see this as a major win.
Separation, divorce, breakups, etc are all hard. Adding children to the mix increases the difficulty exponentially. Exponentially because ridding yourself of the other person (unless they’re a threat to you and/or your children) is not an option. Thus keeping your ex in your life is a non-negotiable and having a decent relationship with them, the ultimate goal. Though I can attest to being incredibly lucky with my ex, he has always put Harlowe first, we didn’t get here overnight and struggled finding our way to our new normal. In some darker days I had to relearn how to have love for my ex so that I could parent Harlowe without the baggage that typically comes after a painful breakup.
With that being said, I’ve gotten quite a few messages over the years and thought it might be helpful to share some of the hard learned tips that we’ve come to work with over the years from both myself and Brad (my ex).
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Surround your child with an abundance of love in both homes so that the feelings of acceptance runs through consistently.
- Let nothing supersede the time with your child. I am incredibly busy but nothing comes into my time with my daughter. Catriona has taught me quite a bit about being ‘present.’
- Keep busy with activities other than the iPad or TV. I’ve come to quite enjoy painting and have even gotten a little better with dealing with the stains.
- Be patient and open minded.
- In the words of the great Elsa of Arrandale, Let It GO! I quickly realized that the only way to move forward was to drop the jabs and stop digging in the past. Move forward in peace and keep looking in the direction of the future.
- Your new lives are just that, they’re yours. You may never be ready to be good friends again so try to avoid getting too personal. Your ex’s new partner, where they went last night and who they are hanging with when your child is not around is none of your business anymore so step away. Unfollowing their social pages or even muting them might be advisable.
- In saying that, also be open to the possibility of a new relationship with your ex. If you were able to make something as beautiful as your child, you might be able to make a beautiful new family situation. Eff the norms! Hello, Gwyneth, Chris & Brad (Falchuk)
- Be aligned on a parenting plan. Meaning the rules you have in your house should be the same as the rules in your ex’s. Bedtime, treats, screen time etc. This one can be tough but if you agree to work towards rules that work for both homes it helps achieve the structure and boundaries that though they may fight, they ultimately crave.
- I got this one from an account I love following @MomCrushMonday for inspiration and light (especially when it gets tough). She says: “Never throw dirt on your ex. You have to remember that that’s your child’s father or mother you’re talking about.” At first I had a very tough time with this because I was heartbroken and going through all of the stages of grief and the rumors that were swirling were almost too much to handle. But when I finally came to and took stock of the reality, I remembered that my little girl deserves nothing but the best and I vowed to be the strongest, most mature version of myself always and have found a much happier existence living just so.
So the other night as I consoled Harlowe, as she cried tears over the potential loss of her father, I was able to do so with a genuine feeling of understanding. I don’t want to lose him either. We’ve had a rough go but I can safely say knowing that we created something as magical as our little girl, we wouldn’t go back. In the words of modern day philosopher, Mr Will Smith:
“It didn’t work out with me an your mom
But yo, push come to shove
You was conceived in love”