Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Talking to the other parent

A friend of mine did a very thoughtful blog, in which he suggested that we have parents refer to one another as the co-parent rather than the ex.  Nate Riggs had some very good insight into this issue: http://nateriggs.com/2011/01/23/the-thing-about-ex/  Nate is a very smart guy and has some excellent insight into the situation.  Also, I recommend you follow him if you are interested in learning about marketing and social media.

So I have really been thinking about this idea lately as I try to help clients navigate the difficult waters of custody and visitation.  So today, when I was grabbing lunch at my favorite Subway, I was nearly brought to tears as the man sitting at the table across from me got into a very hostile confrontation over the phone with what is to apparently be his ex-wife.  I felt bad for him, because I think he originally called just to confirm or change a pick up time for the kids, and he was probably not expecting this battle.  But the whole thing escalated to the point that they seemed to be arguing over when to have the exchange for the children - 7:30 or 8:00.  I couldn't believe it!  He was saying, "I will do this," and "You will do that."  I was afraid he was going to his something, as his face turned redder and redder.  Obviously, communication was not going well.  If I had known him, I would have tried to take his hand and give him a reassuring look to help him calm down.  But then, as if he was suddenly aware that people could hear this going on, he stormed out of the place, but only to step out onto the sidewalk.  We could still hear him, but could not make out the words.  Then I thought, how can we change this system?  And I realized we can only do it one step at a time.  So I decided to pack out and head out to talk to him.  I did not have very far to go, and he had just wrapped up the call.  So I said to him, "I understand if you want to tell me to shut up, but I couldn't help from overhearing and I just wanted to share something with you."  He was more than willing to listen.  I told him about Nate's post, about co-parenting, and about saying things like "Can we exchange the kids?"  instead of "I" will do this and "you" will do that.  I told him that I was sure that they knew how to push each others buttons, which used to be a good thing, but now is a terrible thing.  We chatted a bit about the situation.

After we parted, I felt hopeful that those kids might have a chance at having both of their parents parent them.  The man seemed very sincere and earnest and really willing to try to make it work, but he was very frustrated because he could not get himself out of the pattern of the relationship he had with his wife, which was obviously not good.  I still want to cry about this, but I am feeling hopeful.

What do you think?  What do you think we need to do to change the system?  How can we make this work and really start co-parenting practices in the best interests of the children?  Let's get a dialogue going, shall we?