There are very few things I know for sure. Of them, this is one of the most important: every experience is different. It doesn’t matter if we use the same words to describe life events—marriage and wedding, breakup and divorce, for example—our individual experiences will be different than the experience anyone else has. Heck—our individual experiences might even be different than the other person in said relationship/breakup.
Yes, we can categorize things: some single parents have zero help from the other parent; other single parents receive child support; other divorced or otherwise-no-longer-together parents are true co-parents. But even in those categories, there are nuances. That’s part of being human and it’s these relationships—partners and exes, parents and children—that make us most messy—I mean human.
I tell you all of that because I was asked if—as a single parent—I’d share VProud’s video about co-parenting during the holidays. Because the person who reached out to me is one of my favorite-even-though-I’ve-not-yet-met-her-in-person-people and because I know her to be kind and good and always looking for the best in every person, I told her I would; but I also told her that I also couldn’t pretend that the video is spot on for my situation. She encouraged me to share not only the video, but my own perspective because that’s what VProud is all about—honest and transparent conversations, even when situations get sticky.
Because here’s the thing—not every divorced or otherwise-no-longer-together parents are co-parents. Not every parent wants to spend time with his or her kids, which means that some single parents never get that coveted time alone (Tip #4). Not every parent will be willing to sit down with a divorced or otherwise-no-longer-together former partner to discuss events (Tip #2). Not every parent or otherwise-no-longer-together former partner will agree to not bury the kids under a pile of presents (Tip #6).
So know that when I share this video, it’s because I think the advice starts in the right place: Tip #1 is at the core of my parenting philosophy. You’re the adult. And as an adult, it’s up to you to make the decisions. It’s up to you to not make your child(ren) choose between time with you or time his/her/their other parent. I’ve always believed that the greatest gift a parent can give a child is structure. It doesn’t mean you’ll be popular (which, by the way, shouldn’t be a parenting goal IMO) and your child(ren) might even be unhappy—and vocal–about not being given a choice. That’s ok. It’s still your job to make the decisions so they don’t have to.
I also really like Tip #3: don’t worry about the date. This one is important in my home for a variety of reasons, and has become more and more important as my kids have grown. Now that one is away at school, we juggle so many different schedules; refusing to focus on only one day as THE day means everyone can celebrate.
So, I’m sharing this video with the hope that you’ll find a nugget that helps you, or that you’ll pass it on to someone who needs to know that there’s hope, even when things seem less-than-perfect.