Emotion Monopoly

•July 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

One of the hardest parts of co-parenting for me is the relationship.  We both love our kids.  We both love (on some level) each other.  We both drive each other crazy (on many levels).  We both have habits and hang-ups in our lives that need elimination or at least rehabilitation.  All these in between, festering feelings that aren’t so easily summed up but ruminate between us when we are all together as a family is the hard part.  I don’t want to expose any extras (you know, additional human life forms such as children, extended family, alley cats) to our arguments, especially when they get heated and regretful words go flying.

Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO or collect $200.

There were times in the past when we lived together that this was unavoidable.  I also hated getting upset in front of my son when he was young because it seemed to affect him.  Protecting our children from getting hurt is tricky in non-traditional families.  Deciding the best course for the future is like solving a rubix cube.  Defending the same person that makes you cry, while you are crying, is paradoxical.

The Naz Stare

You can’t hide your heart from me, Mom!

Throughout our relationship, as customary for my entire life, I have written both poetry and prose.  When I left over two years ago with my son safely in the car seat of my sea green Altima crammed with our favorite stuff, I had no clue how difficult the road ahead would be.

Pass GO.  Collect $200.

I was so nervous I would cave and go back that I had to put a thousand miles between us.  We took a three-week road trip up the East coast with my brother trying to get my legs (and heart) strong.  During that time I kept practicing writing therapy hoping I would write through the mire and write out THE ANSWER.  You know, the exact right path I  should go in, the one with the spotlight and singing angels.  Apparently my stage hand and angels ran away together.   In a traditional break-up sans children, you can walk away. No questions asked and your collective future erases.

You inherit $100.

With children, you keep seeing that face you don’t even want to pop up in dreams.  Old feelings that would fizzle out over time never get any necessary ingredients (namely time and separation) for fizzling– and in moments of high emotion, which happens often when you are talking about a child you share, attraction and passion rises back to the top.  You either want to fist fight or wrestle naked.

Go back three spaces.

Current Journals- 2012

My NightlyWrite Therapy

Nothing complicates co-parenting like sex. Trust me.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  It’s one of the times when I REALLY needed a co-parenting manual-so I could hit myself over the head with it.  Emotional attachment gets stronger but you both still feel mutually frustrated.  So for days you wonder why not just get back together.  It puts progress in reverse. I read this book called How to Sleep Alone In a King-Sized Bed and the author mentions that the best way to get through separation  (so I infer it would help a co-parenting relationship) is with a boyfriend/girlfriend.  Weeding out the emotion and planting it in an adult-only (i.e. phone call, e-mail, coffee without kids) context helps protect our children.  We both want to move forward. We don’t know how to move forward still tied to the past through each other.  It’s like a potato-sack race gone bad.  I’m still performing my write therapy, hoping to weed through all the garbage and find that shiny fool’s gold disguising the right answer.

 

 

 

Anticipating our Firstborn Hybrid

•July 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We blended our colors

to paint your skin

We smoothed together

our faces-

lips first-

to find your fine features

Our spirits braided

together to help

Creator

form your soul

Bursting with prenatal hormones, I did a slight amount of poetic waxing during my 27 (ahh!) day hiatus at a coastal hospital awaiting our son.  Slight meaning more hours spent writing than sleeping, and for a bored pregnant woman that means a lot.  That city has bridges featured in all the local landscapes.  I took a bridge to get to my island home.  I took another arch to get to my university, and still another yet larger overpass to work.  I never tire of all the bridge travel though.  I love being surrounded by water.  My heart knows that place as home, submerged in peace.   So it makes total sense that I would give birth to a bridge-a smiling, immaculate bridge right in the middle of two stubborn people and two strong-willed families.

Even his name bridges our traditions and cultures together.  His first name has sacred meaning for us both and links together spiritual texts of the past with hypnotic lyrics of the present.  It’s Old Testament origins didn’t keep the unique name from re-appearing in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame.  After months of deliberations we both found a solid link.

Nazyr Israel Dancing

I am amazed at this little being who sees the world in watercolor, but doesn’t realize that our region may try to sting his vision.  He was born in the least progressive, most right-winged judgmental part of the United States: the deep South.  My tigress within roars at certain looks he gets in homogenous settings, but he is oblivious.   He is the same at toddler stage as he was when newborn, doling out a smile to the closest face.  His heart sings full of love and compassion for all people, aware that he has family every shade of skin.  A bridge daring old Southern stereotypes to forget that fear of “the other” and embrace the part of self seen in him, because he’s got a tinge of something for everyone.

Just like water or soul, my son has malleability that enables him to blend into any environment.  A natural mediator, he takes what many would consider a social stigma and transforms it into a gift that opens doors even in pre-kindergarden classrooms and playgroups.  These characteristics that nature wisely instills, when nurtured through loving and supportive parenting, can sustain him throughout obstacles during turbulent times.  Whether he is the lightest or darkest child on the playground, his heart and character outweigh all generational prejudice.  When friends ask how my son’s multiracial identity affects his childhood, I tell them it makes him a bridge between many vibrant cultures and lands but doesn’t slow him down a bit.

Co-Parenting Resources

•July 16, 2012 • 6 Comments

If you have read my article “DISCOVERY”, then you already know that I have never married.  Unmarried co-parents make up a large, silent minority currently parenting.  While trying to create us a path, I have shone my flashlight around bookshelves, libraries and the blogosphere seeking wisdom and narratives from fellow co-parents.  I have found a few witty and informative voices out there who are formerly divorced.  While their journey has different twists, common ground abounds. No matter what your personal situation, some of the information here will be for you.  Every resource I list, I have either laughed and cried to, been challenged by or consulted during some stage of my personal process.  When I started seriously considering turning my writing passion into a blog, these writers welcomed me with their transparency.  Here is an evolving list of helpful hints along your co-parenting journey:

Co-Parenting Tool Belt:

Family Wizard

We Can Parent Together

I like these blogs because they are hosted by both parties (Mom and Dad, ex and ex):

Co-Parenting 101

When The Flames Go Up

Helpful Hints

Extreme Circumstances (Or a great way to end a pity party–it could be worse):

Lovefraud on Co-Parenting with Sociopaths

*This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have sites are articles you love, please share.

DISCOVERY

•June 20, 2012 • 1 Comment
    I used to doodle poetry in the margins of my college-ruled notebook paper when I was in elementary school.  Then in middle school I felt like margins were a waste of space and money, so I started ignoring the little faded magenta line and writing from the way-too-perfect cut on one side until my words fell off the other end of the page.  My teachers didn’t like this.  In most cases it resulted in a forced re-do, and in my Advanced English class it affected a few grades until finally I returned to forced status quo conformity.

In life, that isn’t always an option.  I can’t change my gender.  What is in my pants puts me in the margin of our society which, despite attempts at advancement and fancy lip service, still operates by patriarchy or in plain English the ‘Good Old Boy System’.  If you dispute this, look at politics and paychecks.  Where your heart is, there your treasure lies.  Power and wealth still rest firmly in the hands of men.  I can’t change the shade of my skin or that of my children, nor do I want to.  We are not currently a part of the majority in this country, though in the winding lineage of all three of us a few of our fine lines weave white, more of them have unique untraceable colors like those new shades of Crayola such as tumbleweed or mauvelous.  All my life my olive complexion and curly hair have created a buzz of curiosity around me over my origins: Is she mixed? Are you Jewish? What is that girl? Where are your parents from?  Is she Indian? Is your hair naturally that curly?  The inquisition has variations but you get the drift.

The point is, both on paper, in the virtual almost-world and in realfeel life, what’s going on in the margins is important.  What’s going on in the margins has to make its way into the center or truth becomes linear instead of circular-and that’s not the way progress or unity work. It’s not the way time, space, DNA or community work, either.  We wrap around each other, swirling into a symphony of truth and understanding, blending into and out of our minds and experiences, realities both seen and unseen.  Too many voices, stories, families, communities and lives are left in the margins of our current social norms and never get examined, much less accepted.

Women are not just subjects sexualized and then silenced.  Multiracial families are not just commodities to bring diversity to the college, firm, country club or church.  They are a part of humanity, not trophies for a display case.  Not every couple who gets pregnant found Mr. or Mrs. Right first.  And when they choose “no” to abortion, they don’t automatically choose a marriage certificate.  It’s funny that the same pro-lifers that scream the loudest have no involvement, or even outright disdain, for those children they fight so hard to save.  These marginalized children deserve the same love and acceptance in school, and if you teach hate and segregation at home then send your child to public school, they mimic your behavior through bullying and exclusion.

The occupants of this world are cruel with word and action, but there is another way.  We can embrace all that written word and vibrant life in the margins.  Learning to love what is different from us expands our ability to appreciate our own families and lives.  It gives us new friends and births new experiences.

My margins read like this:  I am a woman.  I have never been married.  I have two children with a man I love and have been in love with.  I left that man.  We don’t live together.  I still want my children to have their dad in their lives no matter what.  On any given day I may like or hate him, but I still want to respect him as the other half of what makes our babies who they are-amazing and inspiring.  I love to write and dream.  I will never stop either.  My roar is my own.

Don’t conform to what the cacophony of voices keeps screaming.  Seek peace and pursue it perpetually.  Love yourself and all your experiences because they make you who you are.  Love everyone regardless of their lifestyle.   Tell your story while you can because you are the only one who will.  Don’t get so busy you forget to take care of yourself.  Take at least an hour every day to do something you love.  This is what I love-writing about the margin-where I live.

Classy Co-parenting

•June 17, 2012 • 2 Comments
Equal Parenting Alliance

Equal Parenting Alliance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is what happens when Happily Ever After meets the shredder.  I’m not talking about the dreaded D word-Divorce.  Many of us don’t even get that far in the alphabet.  That threatening C word, Commitment, is often enough.  When marriage is not part of the equation, a new game plan hatches, either by design or chance.  Co-parenting requires some well-negotiated ground rules and better communication than best childhood friends at sleepover.  When I began on this path of co-parenting a few years back, I started to search for some wisdom.  I hoped that the local bookstore would give me a few fun fiction reads to bring humor to a tense, frustrating and confusing situation.  I didn’t have any luck besides a couple of pages strategically wedged in a how-to book for new moms (which I devoured like a wolf).  The only books I found that even touched on the subject were for divorced parents, and that glass slipper doesn’t fit.  Disappointed but still hopeful, I headed to my local library and discovered to my amazement there were “No results found.”

Even online, the only blog I have found on co-parenting thus far is written by a couple who divorced.  While I find it amazing and admirable that they can even share the same virtual address, I am shocked there is so little written on a subject that affects over 11 million people in the US alone (according to the 2010 Census).  Whether it be a couple never married still living together, two people who broke up and hate each other, an expecting couple who split but both still want to be parents, a LGTB couple or a fling that turned out to be part of the .01%  (yeah right) of ineffective birth control, there are a myriad of couples co-parenting our there both in and out of monogamous relationships.  The big question here is: what are some basic rules for co-parenting?  My operating instructions continue to evolve, but over the last four years I have created a four-sided, simple foundation.

First, respect that you can not fill both parenting roles and acknowledge that your child(ren) need you both.  You both conceived, adopted or inherited your child/children together.  No matter how much we may want to control every move our baby makes, one day this will surely come back to bite us-with teeth.  If you are reading this article, you seek advice for co-parenting because you don’t know how to deal with your other–so they must still be in the picture.  Just because you want the other parent sucked into the sky tonight and swallowed by a black hole does not mean that you can ignore them.  Your child has most likely already bonded with you both.  So suck it up, take five to ten deep breaths (depending on how much you hate them at the time) and try to see your partner as your child sees her/him.  If you are no longer involved, try to see the relationship as a business relationship.  Put your child first with every decision you make about the other parent.

Second, listen more than you speak.  This does not come naturally for me, as you can probably already guess.  I think I know the best way to do most everything involving anything, and I am usually right (except for when I am not).  For instance, I often realize I should have shut up five minutes (or more) before I finally do, and by that time I have usually said something hurtful.  Rather than have to take it back, it would be better if I never said it at all.  Another note on this point:  hearing your partner is not listening to them.  If you are going to co-parent, you have to respect the other person enough to believe that the words coming out of their mouth are as valuable and true as the ones you are waiting (patiently for your turn if they ever stop talking-yes dads, Moms do repeat things a bit. It comes from long conversations with toddlers) to say.

Once you have listened to each other, it’s time to find consensus.  This third step is not always easy but compromising so that you both get a little of what you want, but you neither get all of what you want will give you the ability to have a united front and stay on the same page regarding rules about discipline, bed times, transfers (when your time begins and his/hers ends and vice versa) and all the daily routines that constantly evolve based on your lives.  When things flow smoothly in this department, everyone involved has less stress and life in general is enjoyed without nitpicking about the same things over and over.  If you see a fight coming, try to avoid it with concessions that give you both a break.  Since the goal for you both is raising healthy, happy children, you are a team working together.

Contracts

Contracts (Photo credit: NobMouse)

Finally, both parents need to clearly define your boundaries.  I recommend writing these out in the form of a contract and having both people sign them, along with a third party.  If you feel it is necessary, they can also be notarized.  Remember to date the original document and any amendments you may add as you go along.  Here are a few things to consider:  Who has which holidays?  What are the rules about boyfriends/girlfriends around the kid(s)?  Who pays for what?  Are overnight visits out of town allowed without notice?  Also, through in a communication clause with such agreements as:  we will only call each other between 9am – 9pm.  Both parties should get a copy of the final draft.  Check your emotions before you start this process.  It’s not a thing to write in anger or when tired.

Co-parenting is rough terrain but well-worth the tense feelings and swallowed emotions because your little people deserve to have a relationship with both parents.  Each state and country has different laws.  Some favor the mother, while others reward sole custody to the father in most cases.  By agreeing to co-parent and keep your family (however disjointed) out of court, you save each other emotional pain, trauma, time and money.  Not to mention, it’s a great example of conflict resolution for your child to see you roll up your sleeves and work together to make the best life possible for them.  The most important thing is for him/her/them to know that no matter how you feel about each other, you both love and support them and always will.  Co-parenting is a constant work in progress.  Make sure to laugh and forgive yourself along the way.  Like most of life, it’s a process that runs smoothest with a lot of laughter, grace and forgiveness.