Ever been triggered by an ex? Led right down the garden path to old patterns that make you just as crazy now as they did before? Yep, right here. It is a special kind of hell when you are trying to co-parent kids with an ex. In the midst of all of this coronavirus mess, my kids’ dad and I are trying to help steer our teenagers to act reasonably responsibly. That’s a tall order. Because they are teens and therefore selfish and invincible. Asking them to sacrifice their social lives for the greater good just doesn’t go very far.
I try to be a good parent and stretch their minds to the limits that their developmental stage will allow though. I involve them in discussions in an effort to model good decision-making skills. I’m uncomfortable as a parent (and person) with ultimatums and unilateral authoritarian rules so I always try to give them a “why”. I want them to learn good critical thinking skills now so that they can collect and process information to make good decisions in the future, all on their own.
I thought my ex and I could model that for them jointly, it has been over 5 years since we split up after all. I was wrong. So instead, my kids had a front row seat for a vivid reminder of why their parents are no longer together. He doesn’t like it when I challenge him and I don’t like it when he dismisses my ideas, then our communication degenerates from there. Lesson (re-)learned. I guess maybe it is ok to test the waters periodically to see if things have progressed to a point where productive discussion is possible with your ex. Or maybe I’m just deluding myself! Or painfully naïve.
These be murky waters and I don’t have great advice here. What I take away from my own experience in this situation is that I really don’t like how I feel doing this familiar dance with him again. We ended the relationship for good reasons and we’ve healed and moved on separately to happy lives. However, clearly nothing has magically changed or improved in that intervening time to fix our inability to communicate effectively with each other about difficult things. I’m probably going to wholesale avoid it in the future and not even continue to try. It pains me to say that, but it’s just not worth it, too damaging for all involved. So, I guess we will have to stay stuck, go back to our respective corners, and continue to pleasantly parallel parent to the best of our abilities. I sent a little note apologizing to him for my part in things going wrong this time around and I’ll work on acceptance that our communication problem is not fixable. Until I feel hopeful and misguidedly try again. Ha! I do know myself. Onward and awkward!