Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Adventures in Co-parenting: Its. Not. About. You.

*First written for The Pushback blog*

This post was inspired by my friend Deesha Philyaw of Co-parenting101.org and her new book Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce.

When my seven year old daughter comes home from visiting her Father’s house she’s either overjoyed to see me, and ready to cuddle and share with me all the fun she had that day. Or, she walks by me without saying a word, throws herself on her bed and tells me how much she wants to live with her Dad. My daughter, the drama queen, usually reacts the negative way.

The thing that gets me is that I never thought she’d react like this. Why would she when she’s got me? I give her everything she could ever ask for. I sacrificed my anxiety (and some of our savings) to take her to Disney dammit! I’m the incognito tooth fairy who gently places a dollar underneath her pillow as she sleeps. I’m the one taking her to see the movies she wants, visit the parks she wants, making smores with her. I’m front row in school performances. I’m the one breaking my damn back to provide a roof over her head, good food in her stomach, and an abundance of toys and books. And SHE wants to live with HIM?

See what I just did there? Me, me, me. Though only seven, I find myself at times dumbfounded that she doesn’t see how dysfunctional and unsupportive her Father is and how much pain he causes her. The uncontained rage I feel when she tells me she wants to live with her Father frightens me. My body tenses. When her big brown eyes full of sorrow and despair look up to me, and her toothless mouth tells me she wants him not me, I crumble. Wait, you don’t want me? After all I’ve done for you? I feel defeated, as if all I’ve done to build a life for her has just blown away with the wind.

Co-parenting over the past six years has been the most horrifying and enlightening experience I’ve ever had. It’s no secret that my daughter’s Father and I are not co-parenting seamlessly. I’ve felt hurt, pain, disappointment, loneliness, and anger. I feel ever so protective of my child, even trying to shield her from her own Father.

But, it’s not about me.

Encouraging my daughter to talk about and engage with her co-parent was at one time impossible for me to do. Over my dead body would I let him infect her with his lies and instability. He was going to mess everything up, I was sure of it. It has been a rocky journey to stop feeling like the victim, to stop thinking it’s all about me. Because it’s all about her. My daughter. Our daughter. I needed to give her wings and allow her to love her co-parent and his family. She needed me to support those relationships, and I’m trying. I’m learning. Children are incredibly resilient creatures, and as most parents know, pick up on so much, even when words are not spoken.

The bottom line is: she loves her Dad. I want her to love her Dad. Her Dad loves her. And I love my daughter, so I will continue doing my best to support their relationship and provide a judgment free zone where she is able to talk freely and openly about how she is feeling in regards to him, because I love my daughter.

And because it’s not about me and my feelings.



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Pursuing an Education while Parenting Young

Walking across the stage last September to accept my diploma was the 2nd happiest day in my life. The first being the day my daughter was born J Few people truly understand the struggle it was to complete my education, work full-time, and be the best parent I could be – alone. Prior to having my daughter at 19 I had completed a year of college, but was convinced it wasn’t for me and waited until my daughter was around a 1½ before returning back to school. Sacrifice doesn’t even begin to explain it. When I first re-enrolled my life was a mess, I was living in an illegal apartment, and then I moved over two hours away. I woke up at 5am with my young daughter and commuted over two hours each morning and afternoon with her to fulfill my responsibilities at work and school. Many mornings she cried the whole train ride. Many mornings I cried along with her. But, I was not meant to break, I was meant to succeed. So I stuck with it, often with no support, and never once did I think I would actually make it to graduation day.

So when I was approached by my friend Natasha from STEPPS Boston about hosting one of their weekly Twitter chats on pursuing an education while parenting young, I was nervous! STEPPS (Summit for Teen Empowerment, Progress, and Parenting Success) is a phenomenal organization in Boston working with teen parents with the goal of increasing the communication between young parents and the organizations and agencies that serve them. Reflecting back on my challenging education road, I didn’t think there was much I could share with young parents, why would they listen to me? Then I thought about myself during the six years I struggled being a student. I thought of the countless nights and weekends spent studying, shutting down from the world, wishing I had someone to talk with, someone who understood. I thought of going to bed late after an all-night cram session and seeing my daughter sleeping so peacefully, reminding me of my purpose, of my mission. I thought of my daughter’s face as I nervously walked past her on the way to the stage to get my diploma, saw her million dollar smile. I remembered her telling me how proud she was of me. I then realized I had something to share with other young parents.

There is no motivation but you when considering higher education being a young parent. You can want it, can dream about it, but if you are unwilling to put in the work you won’t ever get what you want. What was really important to me during the chat was to be REAL, it ain’t all roses, it’s hard and you are going to want to give up, just like I did. I felt extremely guilty not being with my daughter the days and nights I was at school, thought I was a terrible mother. But, you’ve got to stay focused on the bigger picture. What do you want for you and your family in the future?

I was so thrilled to hear so many people taking in what I was saying in the chat, they asked questions, they shared, and I think hope they felt inspired. The same frustrations that were shared about juggling and financial aid felt so familiar to me, because I felt the same, but by even having the opportunity to come together over twitter and talk and build community is crucial, and something I wish I had while in college.

Thank you to all of the wonderful young parents who joined the chat and were so open about sharing their experiences. Click HERE to learn more about STEPPS Boston. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter. And if you are in the Boston area be sure to check out their Summit on June 27th!



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Bracing For Impact

One of the wonderful and unexpected joys of motherhood I have experienced is the wisdom I pick up on from my daughter. That’s right, I learn from my 6 year old daughter. I learn that timeouts are good for relaxing and that farting gives you energy! Lol. But, really, I am so taken by her imagination, her creativity, and her amazingly giving heart. She inspires me daily.
This weekend I took her roller-skates out for some fun. I wouldn’t let her leave the house without the proper safety precautions – helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves. Once she was strapped in we set off. She held my hand for most of our time outside (even though she didn’t want too) but I did let her skate on her own as I stood back and almost had a heart attack. That was my baby, and my responsibility was to protect her from harm. If I could help her avoid hurting herself then I had too…right? Instead I took a step back. Even though she was nervous, she skated (not too fast) and flashed her million dollar smile as she was becoming more confident on her skates. And off she went. She wobbled and even fell once, but she got back up, dusted herself off, and skated some more.
I *knew* she could skate on her own, but I wanted to do everything I could to ensure she was safe. This got me thinking how much I spend my life bracing for impact, just waiting for something to happen. As a single parent, I don’t have much room to spread my wings and fly. The amount of responsibility I have is enormous, I have a child who needs and depends on me, and me only. So because of this, there is little room for error in my eyes. But, my precious daughter taught me another important lesson, one that I may have known, but have forgotten. As much as you try to protect yourself, and avoid potentially unsafe situations, there are some things you cannot avoid. When you choose to live your life always bracing for impact, you miss these crucial experiences that help shape you. No one is perfect, and I am sure far from it. You may fall, you may hurt yourself, but you don’t have to stay there. You get back up and go forward, you keep trying, you keep living.



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