Successful co-parenting is work!
While I'm admittedly entertained by a little celebrity messiness from time to time, one thing I believe we should take away from singer Ciara and her child's father, Mr. Nayvadius Wilburn's, legal drama is that whether you're happily married and working on baby number three or seven months pregnant and wondering why your ovaries didn’t take THAT day off, co-parenting on its best day is difficult.
On its worst day, it can be just plain painful.
As much as we’d all love to take a trip down messy memory lane about Future’s questionable fatherhood record or Ciara’s debatable dating choices, the fact of the matter is that Future Jr. is here now in the middle of all this. And like all children, he deserves parents who will work tirelessly to find common ground and create a nurturing childhood free from regularly scheduled drama.
Earlier today, a judge denied Ciara's request for sole custody, which means the famous parents will have to work on their struggling co-parenting relationship a little harder under their joint custody agreement.
And I will be the first to tell you that successful co-parenting is work. It’s not just about being on the same page about curfew and taking turns going to the parent-teacher conference, but healthy co-parenting is about regularly humbling yourself, showing empathy for your co-parents’ struggles and staying committed to providing the best for your child even when telling them they came from a cabbage patch seems like a better alternative than dealing with their mother or father.
[easy-tweet tweet="Healthy co-parenting is about regularly humbling yourself."]
Now that Ciara and Future were granted joint custody, here's a few co-parenting essentials that they (and you too) will need to keep stocked if they’re going to get through it together:
You can't think it's sexy if your child's father is talking slick to the valet or popping fly with the waitress, but then decide it's a problem when he gets in his feelings on Facebook the minute you disagree on potty training. Your child is learning to how to treat everyone from the people they pass on the street to their loved ones from your actions. Ideally, the mother or father of your child should be someone you respect, but even if they aren't acting very respectable, that doesn't mean you get to stop being an example and start acting the fool, too.
Healthy communication is just as much about learning what's better not to say as it is what to make perfectly clear. We were all raised in different households with different values and this becomes evident when you’re co-parenting with someone. What is clearly abuse to you could be a good old fashioned arse whoopin’ to your co-parent. Even if it seems awkward or inconvenient, it’s worth having a conversation about so you both can be on the same page for your child, especially if you’re parenting in separate households. And let’s leave out the colorful anecdotes like, “That’s why you’re crazy behind is screwed up now, because you never got a damn hug.” Try to keep communication aimed at what’s best for your child, not who throws the better shade.
The first person you need to be honest with is yourself and your intentions when it comes to your co-parent. When you say, “You can’t see Jr. because you’re two hours late,” are you really thinking, “You can’t see Jr. because you’re two hours late from laying up that corny new chick you’re seeing instead of playing house with me?” You don’t have to confess your unresolved romantic feelings to your co-parent, but you should be clear with yourself about if you’re using your child as a pawn for your personal feelings, even if you aren’t doing it purposely. You should also be up front about what happens in your household. You don’t have to share every detail down to the type of detergent you’re washing school uniforms with, but you probably should share if new bae is picking up your child from school. The more healthy additions you have in your support system, the better, but your co-parent deserves to be informed about who is present their child’s life.
You can’t expect your child to make sense of things if you haven’t. You may want to keep this in mind the next time your child’s father shows up at your door in sweatpants and a fresh cut and the “What ifs” start flowing along with too much wine. The “make-up to break-up” game might be cool to you, but it can be confusing for your child, so it’s important to take a close look at the message you’re sending when it comes to interactions with your co-parent, and more importantly, how your child is receiving it.
Setting boundaries also applies to the unfortunate event that a co-parent is doing more harm to your child’s life than anything and the best thing for them is to keep their distance. Someone has to make tough decisions for your child when they’re unable to do so, and that sometimes means taking a stand in who is allowed in their lives.
Today’s parents have their hands full with deciding what to ban when it comes to social media, when in all actuality some of us need to log out ourselves. It’s all too easy to get a case of Twitter-fingers every time your child’s mother or father tests your patience, but even adults need a little reminder that what goes on-line is there forever through the magic of screen caps and a little option called, “Save As.”
Sometimes I wish all kids were born being 13-years-old. It’s easy to think your twerk videos and sex tapes will have no effect on your bundle of joy who can barely use a spoon, but what about when your pre-teen is tagged in a vid of mom dukes butt naked making her knees touch her elbows? No one is saying you can’t be an adult who engages in adult behavior, but being a parent requires a little foresight into the image you’ll be presenting to your child, and it might be good idea if it’s not your nipple piercings coming up in a Google search for his classmates to see.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a wife and mother is that parenting requires retiring your jersey from #TeamPetty. This means that even if you’ve made dinner the last ten nights in a row while your husband binged on seasons of Ray Donovan, your child can’t starve while you argue and tally up all the ways you’re a better parent. But seriously, if adulting was optional before you have kids, rest assured that it’s a requirement when someone is looking to you to figure out how to deal with life. This means that even when the world (and sometimes your mother-in-law) is working overtime to bring the inner-fool out of you, you have to take a few seconds to remember that you are someone’s role model and put the brakes on your Petty Labelle performance (at least until after bedtime).
There’s more than one way to raise a healthy child, and successful co-parenting is filled with plenty of servings of humble pie. And the most humbling realization of all is that you no longer come first. Your life is now about what’s in the best interest for your child. This where cooperation, compromise and teamwork come in. Co-parenting is about stepping up in the event your co-parent is unable to, purposely or not. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your personality or own wants and needs in the process, but it does mean it’s not about being right or coming out on top if it means your child loses.