November 28th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Here at Fathers and Families, we’e dedicated to shared parenting. We’re trying to make the world a better place by eliminating the need for children to lose one parent when they divorce or separate. Against the teachings of virtually all social science on the subject, courts continue to act as though fathers are disposable, as though the loss of a father by a child somehow doesn’t adversely impact the child’s best interests.
There is so much wrong with our legislatures and courts when it comes to families, fathers and children, it’s easy to lose sight of cases in which things go right. To that end, I link you to this website entitled “Black Girl in Maine.”
BGIM writes candidly about her experiences with shared parenting, and all should pay heed. She’s been at this a long time and, at least regarding her own personal situation, she’s an expert. Unsurprisingly, she has some things to teach others.
BGIM has a 21-year-old son in his third year in college. She and her ex split up when their son was a mere 13 months old. In short, they’ve been co-parenting him for almost 20 years. That means that, through infancy, as a toddler, a young child, a pre-adolescent, a teenager and as a young adult, they’ve made their relationship work well enough. BGIM doesn’t let on that it’s been easy.
I doubt you will ever meet a person who co-parents a child with a partner who they are no longer with, who doesn’t occasionally wonder either out loud or silently when will this end?
…I won’t lie, there were many years when I wondered, how much longer?
Of course that’s partly because they split up very early in the boy’s life and kept up their shared parenting arrangement for almost 20 years. Parents who break up when their child is 14 likely won’t experience the same Sisyphean anguish that BGIM does.
She lives in Maine and her ex lives somewhere in the Mid-West, facts which can only make cooperation more difficult. But ultimately BGIM comes to the same conclusion we’ve seen many times before from exes who truly acknowledge and honor a child’s need for both parents after divorce.
Funny thing is co-parenting never really ends because in most healthy situations, each parent still wants to share important moments with their kid.
I assured the college boy that whenever he returns back to my house it will be fine and that by all means, he should spend time with his father. The funny thing is I meant it; it wasn’t me putting on my game face. In recent years I have come to see my ex-husband as no longer “the ex” but as a part of my family, no matter what we are always connected through our son. We last saw each other at my son’s high school graduation and rather than holding two separate celebrations, we held one big bash put on by the ex and his wife where both of our families came together. I imagine we will both be there when he graduates from college and all the other major milestones that may happen in our son’s life.
Joint parenting, shared parenting or whatever you call it doesn’t end; it simply changes once your child hits 18. In our case many of the long standing tensions have disappeared in recent years and while we still share our son and our time with him, I like to think that our son has taught us how to be better at sharing. Love is not limited and there is more than enough to go around.
Family Doesn’t End When Mom and Dad Divorce
I find that not only true, but, in a gentle sort of way, profound. The wisdom that the family doesn’t end just because the spouses choose a different living arrangement should be emblazoned on the doors of every family court in the country. Divorcing parents should have to recite it and prove they understand what it means before the judge issues a divorce decree. Because they have a child in common, because, until they die, they will always be that child’s parents and because the child will always be their son or daughter, they are a family. The relationships will always be there. That doesn’t change. Husband and wife have become ex-husband and ex-wife, that’s all.
BGIM also sees that it was their son who taught the two adults about sharing. He shares them and they’re forced to share him. He travels between the two, often expending considerable energy to do so. As he ages and matures, he’ll continue to do so because they’ll always be his father and mother. By now, neither of them believes that he/she is or should be the only one to have time with their son. The shared parenting situation they’ve been in for so many years has taught them to put themselves and their desires second in line behind him and his.
It’s true that only parents with big enough hearts and sound enough minds can do what BGIM and her ex have done. But what she shows her readers is the goal for which parents should strive. Read what she says and know that her calmness and generosity of spirit are infinitely better than the small, mean, hateful things we read about from the front lines of family courts every day. They and their son are better off for what they’ve done – make shared parenting work over a child’s lifetime.