Co-Parenting 101

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Divorce can be really daunting. Our divorce seemed to take an eternity to complete. The negotiations on the million little things you wouldn’t have thought about. The things my brain worried about for months- details that seemed to take Moose’s father off guard. Priorities. Compromises. It’s a lot. The contrast between the end of a marriage and the beginning of one is almost humorous. But there are aspects that are the same. A fact I never would have expected.

The beginning of my marriage began with anticipation, anxiety, copious amounts of planning, compromising, tears, fear, relief, and a party.

It ended about the same.

I think what has taken me off guard is the metamorphosis of my emotions. When I got married, my identity changed. I went from an individual to a partner. I was half of a whole. I was married- a wife. And that change in identity I adorned as a badge of honor. I wanted the world to see my wedding ring.

I wanted them to know that I was part of something bigger than myself. I was proud of being a wife.

My ring became a talisman, of sorts. During an unexpected job loss- which brought on feelings of shame and failure- I couldn’t bring myself to take my wedding ring off. It was the reminder that I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t a failure in the entirety of my life. That even if I lost everything else, I had my husband. Thank God I didn’t know what the future held. That my ring would reside in a tin lunchbox, hidden away, awaiting it’s own transformation.

The end of my marriage was concrete. There was no grey area. No begging. No counseling. Just his words- “I don’t even want to try”. His car packed with all of the essentials he could fit. He drove away, never looking back.

With an end that leaves no room for hope- no room for bargaining- the next steps are clear. The regard I had held for my ring immediately turned to disdain. The overpowering need to remove it from my finger. Erase the talisman from my memory.

I faced my new identity with angst. Divorced.  The description of failure, in one word. A term I didn’t want to add to my narrative. But I didn’t have a choice.  The journey had been initiated on my behalf. There was no turning back. No altering the circumstances.

The time between taillights illuminating in my driveway and the conclusion of my marriage- I wasn’t sure what words to use. What descriptions to make. It made healing more difficult. Moose’s father wasn’t my ex-husband. But he wasn’t my husband either. We were floating in murky water. And I had no control of how quickly the train would move forward. No expectation of when my life would be my own again. When my identity would make sense again. When I would be able to stop holding my breath, unclench my fists, lay down my armor.

We finally reached the other side. We detailed visitation schedules, child support, division of assets. Paperwork was signed. The conclusion of our marriage set in stone. We are both now just individuals. Two people that were married once, but are no longer halves to a whole. We have gone through the complete cycle of strangers to lovers, and back to strangers again. And I can finally exhale. The shame I predicted isn’t a reality. I do not flagellate myself. I don’t feel shame for my new identity as a divorced woman.

I didn’t fail.

I wasn’t a perfect wife. I am not a perfect woman or friend. But I did my best. I strived to right any wrongs. To heal all hurts. To learn. To grow. At this moment, I want to type that I wasn’t enough. Those are the words scrolling through my head- not allowing passage until they travel from my brain to my fingers, typing them on this screen. As loud as the voice yells at me- insists that I wasn’t enough- another yells back. A kinder voice that says I couldn’t make him love me. That isn’t my failing. I couldn’t do anything but to love with empathy and compassion. Everything else out of my control. I am not a failure. I took the risk of love. And though it did not last a lifetime- the embodiment will. Our son.

He is the best parts of whatever our union was. He is the best parts of me.

We scrawled our signatures on paperwork a little over a month ago. Nearly a year after we sat in a therapists office sitting on opposite sides of a sofa- the space between us feeling like a chasm. The day I no longer recognized the man that shared a face with the man I exchanged rings with nine years ago. The day my heart seized inside my chest.

My heart is beating again. My breath comes easily- no longer jagged. Relief washed over me the day the conclusion became real. The day I knew what words to use. What titles were appropriate. The day my life became mine again.

We had one last task to complete. One last court order. A co-parenting class. A requirement that probably makes many people roll their eyes. A course, I imagine, most people either find silly or irritating. A nuisance. Not me.

Don’t get me wrong, having to miss four hours of work to sit in the auditorium of a courthouse wasn’t on the top of my list of fun activities. It isn’t something I looked forward to with excitement. But it is something I saw the immense merit to. Especially now that I have experienced said class.

I have my certificate of completion to prove to the court that I did what I was ordered to do. Moose’s father has his as well. I cannot speak for how he perceived the course- but I am clear in my thoughts. I am glad that the state requires all parents to endure the lessons given. I am glad that we are reminded how to treat one another- how to interact with our kids in regards to their other parent. I am delighted that we are reminded that our kids emotional health is the focus- the imperative objective throughout this entire journey. A journey that will last a lifetime. But mostly, I am glad that I didn’t need it.

Moose’s father and I no longer desire to be together. We are both moving on with our lives- with the search for companionship. But we co-parent remarkably well. Even in the beginning when emotions ran high and wounds were exposed. Time has made us better at it. Wounds have healed over. And we have kept the priority of our son in the forefront. Even last night, we discussed routines at each others homes, ensuring that we are keeping nightly patterns similar. We exchanged videos of our son. We laughed with one another as our son played at our feet.

I never thought I would utter these words- I am glad that I have the divorced relationship that I do. I am glad that my ex-husband and I are comfortable around each other and can give the best environment possible for our son. And now that I have steeped in the finality of my divorce for a little over a month, I have realized I am experiencing something I never would have believed to be possible. I am glad I am divorced. Sometimes happiness comes in the most unexpected of paths.

 

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