It’s a death or severe accident in the family. It’s a wedding or a birthday. These are events that your children must have an opportunity to be a part of. Family celebrations are a big deal. Things that will happen only once in a lifetime are not going to get a chance to be rearranged. Grandma just dropped tickets for a trip to Europe. It’s a freebie. They’re going to go to Paris they’re going to go to Barcelona and they’re going to go to Greece. Here’s an opportunity for them to see the world and it’s on your week. Are you going to stop them from doing it with the other parent because it’s on your week? I’m sure hoping not but many parents in high conflict divorce and custody disputes will do that.
These events benefit the child and that’s what it’s about. It’s an opportunity for them and you don’t have to get a week back because you let them go. But you say, “That’s what my ex always does and it’s just not fair.” What isn’t fair is that your children even have to think there is a possibility that they can’t go on such a trip or to an important family event.
You have a choice. You can allow these types of events to happen easily and you can do it without asking for anything in return. In the end, it’s a lot easier on everybody – especially your children.
You don’t have to rearrange a schedule. Your kids can live a week without you. It’s not the end of the world. They’re going to be in your life for the rest of your life. You might actually find that you got a little bit of breathing room and may even remember what silence sounds like. You can get yourself recharged or you could go have some fun (and that’s important as well).
Many times, parents spend too much time focusing on, “I have to have the same amount of time as the other parent. I have to have my piece. I have to have my fair share, my time.” This is a distorted way of thinking.
Once you get this established; once you get this parenting plan established – no changes. You make no changes and you don’t ask any favors of that parenting plan. And unless it falls into one of these categories mentioned, you don’t give any.
You don’t try to balance it out. This is what you do. If you start to make exceptions to the plan, the plan goes to junk and the boundaries get shot. This is your boundary. This is how you get to establish the distance that you need to establish from the other parent. No changes for two years.
Why do I say two years? It takes about that long for the conflict to have an opportunity to really come to rest and if it has that opportunity to come to rest, you might found out that you’re not as angry at the end of those two years, that you’re done fighting about the silverware, and you’re done fighting about the custody and you’re done fighting about whatever it is that you were fighting about.
Your focus has been on your children so much you may find you can try to co-parent. This is the best possible outcome. You can put your toe in the pond and see if the water is okay. And if it is, you go in a little bit further. If it’s still okay, you go in a little bit further and you start to try to co-parent.
If you see the alligators on the other shore start to scramble for the water, get out and go back to the parenting plan because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of the time. Watch what happens both to you and to the other parent when there’s a new spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend that comes into play.
This is one of the big pieces where the conflict will spark, even when things have been calm and cool. If the conflict starts again, it can mean somebody hasn’t fully let go or there’s a control factor and somebody is concerned the other person is going to take time away from their ability to be a mom or a dad.
Ego gets in the way. Junior comes home and says, “My other daddy.” Your kids are your kids. They’re always going to be your kids. You’re always going to be their parent. You’re always going to be their primary. They’re always going to love you – even when they hate you. They’re always going to love you and nobody can take that away from you if you’re doing your job as a parent. So, they say, “Mommy Mary,” or “Daddy David.” Let them. It doesn’t mean anything in the big picture and when you make a fuss, it isn’t about the children – it’s about you.
© Brook Olsen 2009