One of the hardest things I’ve had to adjust to over the past few years is co-parenting through divorce. Our divorce process took over two years to finalize, during which time we were forced to live in the same house. Once the divorce was final, and we each began our new lives, I looked forward to re-starting my life again.
Then reality set in. I had this idyllic vision that we would work together for the good of our sons. That we would be able to talk and plan and be parents together, even though we were no longer a couple. Things haven’t worked that way.
It’s been a struggle to maintain continuity for my youngest son, who turned 15 a few days ago. We set up a parenting plan, so that we trade weeks. He lives with me one week, his dad the next. It works out well, most of the time. And when needed, we adjust the schedule.
When my boys were little, I did ninety percent of the parenting. He was always at work or working in his shop. I stayed at home to be ‘mom’ and am still very thankful that I did. I made sure that my boys had plenty of play time during each day, plenty of chores, and a good moral foundation.
Fast forward to today. There are now different rules between the houses. I’m big on respect, especially my son’s toward me. That was lacking during our marriage, and I insist on each of my sons showing me a healthy dose of respect. Not only because I’m their mother but because mutual respect is necessary for a decent person.
There is always a period of adjustment when my son returns to my house from his dad’s. A period when he has to get used to my set of rules. Sometimes he needs a reminder of whose house he is living at.
We don’t always agree on which rules need to be enforced, and how strictly they need to be. For example, to make the beds or to not make the beds. I’ve never cared whether or not my sons made their beds in the mornings. Frankly, I think it’s healthier to leave the bedding open and let it air out. I never made my bed as a kid, and I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal to made a bed tight and crisp.
He, on the other hand, was always a stickler about beds. He thought their beds should be made every morning and spent plenty of hours yelling at the boys because they didn’t do that. Which is ironic, since he never made his bed as a kid. His mom normally made it, so that he wouldn’t get in trouble with his dad. So, I’m not sure when a made bed became so important to him.
Another rule in my house is that my son cleans his own bathroom. I started having the boys clean their bathroom when they were about twelve years old. It seemed only fair. If they missed the toilet, then they could clean up the sticky, nasty pee on the floor and the toilet bowl. It was amazing how quickly their aim got better.
In my house, my son has a bathroom that is basically his. Every week, he’s expected to clean the toilet, the sink, and the floor. It may take him five minutes, tops, to accomplish this task. But it’s expected. And if he doesn’t do it, there are consequences. Like I keep his ipod for the week he’s at his dad’s house.
I don’t know what rules he has at his dad’s house. And I don’t want or need to know. All I really care about is that he respects the rules I have in my house. Sometimes, he tries to tell me that I should do things the way his dad does them. Then I remind him that when he’s at my house, my rules are in force. Period.
It’s hard to co-parent well when you feel like you’re still battling with your ex. I do my best to leave my son out of the tug of war. But sometimes that the casualty of divorce.
Add on top of that the pressures of rodeo competition. I feel like I’m parenting in pieces. I get pieces of my son’s time. I get pieces of his days. I get pieces of his activities. But I also miss pieces of his time, and days, and activities. And most days, those pieces don’t add up to a whole of anything.
But I’ll continue to parent as best I can and be the best rodeo mom I can be. My son deserves my best effort, even if I can only achieve pieces.