BRAVE + GRACE-FILLED CO-PARENTING

There are a lot of us out there. {“Us” being those of us trying to navigate the opportunities of 2 household co-parenting.} It is challenging for sure, but more importantly it is our chance to teach our children about love in impossible circumstance, compromise when there are different opinions, and how not to be unnecessarily difficult when you don’t get your way. I can promise you they are watching and learning.

My children were very young when baby-daddy and I transitioned from the traditional married parent/ same household situation over into divorced co-parenting. It was easier then. Their needs were basic and relatively simple to figure out. Feed, bathe, clothe, potty train, play dates, wipe their snot, wipe their cute butts…

But now they are older and things are infinitely more complicated. Decisions regarding their care and discipline do not usually have easy or obvious answers. And not living in the same household as the other parent does have some inherent challenges.

But guess what, loves… this is parenthood. This is life. Life throws us curve-balls. Yes? Yes indeed. The other day I was complaining to a girlfriend, who is in a more traditional one home family, about my thing being hard. And then I realized that I was full of shit. Their thing is equally hard – even when their spouse/co-parent is sleeping next to them every night. Even when they share bank accounts and chores. We all have issues and we ALL have to find graceful ways to navigate through them.

I have found that, while extremely challenging, co-parenting in a separated family can absolutely be a success. There is ONE KEY FACTOR for that success though and I’m going to share that secret with you now. Are you ready?! Here goes…

You have to get your head out of your ass. AKA you have to stop being an ass. AKA you have to stop assuming your ex is going to be an ass. {sorry for all of the asses, mom. but this is important}

If you can stay with me I think we could make some headway. Don’t walk away with your offenses all hanging out and miss the point.

When things are torn apart, our humanness kicks into high gear self-preservation mode. We build some walls. We set up some land-mines. We dig some traps and cover them up with our flowery progressive words. We are not going to be taken advantage of/lied to/hurt again. They are going to pay. They are going to give up their pound of flesh. They are going to feel just how badly they hurt you.

So let’s have a very real moment right now. Let me tell you what those attitudes accomplish – because it absolutely is the opposite of nothing.

Approaching life after divorce and co-parenting with that kind of outlook is really successful at perpetuating the pain you are trying to shield yourself from. And, more importantly, it is wildly successful at hurting your children.

Apply a band-aid. Rip it off. Pull that scab off with merciless anger. Pour some alcohol all over that wound. Bandage it up again. Repeat.

This is what we do to ourselves and our children every time we choose to hold on to unforgiveness. Every time we assume our ex has it out for us. Every time we decide that they are unworthy of grace and a chance at a new beginning. Every time we diminish and belittle them for their shortcomings. Guess what – you have a mound of them yourself, loves. {and I DO LOVE YOU – but we need to get some things right}

*Quick disclaimer here… I am not talking to victims of physical abuse here. If you are in danger, you take yourself and your babies as far away from that mess as you possibly can.

I had no idea what it was like on this side of divorce. It is HARD. It is painful. It is almost impossible some days. Just like everyone’s life, yea? Yea. I also had no idea how terrible people can be to each other because baby daddy and I made decisions early on to treat each other with respect and honor and love through the process. I didn’t have many divorced friends so I was naive to the culture. And now that I have come in contact with a fair amount of people in this situation I am utterly shocked by how we treat each other. It’s not pretty and we can absolutely do better. 

Now – this forgiveness and grace-filled living is work. It is difficult work. But it is necessary work. Yours and your children’s futures depend on your ability to suck it up, let yourself heal and give the other parent the same space and grace to heal and move forward as well. There are going to be days where you feel completely overwhelmed, buried in guilt or fear, unable to move or breathe or feel. There are going to be days where you feel completely helpless and hopeless. You are going to feel like a failure and say all the “if-only’s” that there ever were ever. That’s ok. It is part of the process.

Just don’t get stuck there. Let yourself grieve the loss and then claw your way out of that pit into life. And then here is the kicker – reach your hand down to them and help. Help them claw their way out of that pit, too. Don’t leave them there to suffer in their mistakes and loneliness. Don’t throw stones at them while they are defenseless and alone… you were once there, too, with arms raised in defense against the merciless stoning. And it sucked, right?  Don’t shovel more dirt on their already lowered head.

Be the grace-giver + life-restorer + heart-mender.

Sound impossible to do? Indeed – it sounds too big of an ask.

But let me put it to you this way. There is no greater abandonment than when we have turned our back on God’s best. There is no greater sin than all of those times that we made choices that were directly against the heart and nature of God… when we have walked away from our purpose and from the word of Creator. We have been the worst of them all and yet He loved us. He called to us. He met us in our filth and made us whole again.

How dare we refuse to extend that grace to others. Yes, I agree that it is not the “normal” thing to extend love and mercy to a former spouse. But who cares. Normal is over-rated. Living a healthy and productive life is the goal here. Creating a safe and loving environment for our children – who are innocent and did not ask for this – is the goal here.

You must find a way to let things go. Make a decision to move forward with grace and mercy and respect for the person you made tiny humans with. At some point you thought they hung the moon. At some point you thought they were THE ONE. The parts of them that made you feel all the feels are still there buried beneath the mess. Yes, they have since disappointed you and hurt you tremendously. Indeed. I bet you did the same to them… and I bet you want them to forgive you as well. So let’s do that together.

If you think what I am asking of you is crazy and maybe even impossible, let me encourage you with this one last thing. You can do the hard things, loves. You are strong and capable and full to the brim with the capacity to do the ridiculous and brave things. YES YOU CAN + YES YOU SHOULD.

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