I am so ready for the school year to end. I know many areas of the country have already begun their summer break – lucky folks! In my area of the country we still have a couple of weeks to go. As we approach this time, a lot of single moms are dreading the upcoming conversation with their children’s dad(s) about summer vacations.
When my marriage ended and we got divorced, it meant the end of a 19-year contract with my spouse. At that point he was no longer my husband. But because I have two children with the man, I’ve also had to decide how I will deal with him from the perspective of co-parenting our children. As the years have passed, I’ve become much better at handling the subject. However, the first summer after our split, well, you could probably call it an epic fail.
In my defense, we were separated and not yet divorced. I felt we were in a battle at the time. Needless to say, it was obvious that I approached these interactions with him as a foe, an enemy. And now I can see just how wrong I was. I wasn’t concerned about what was best for my sons, I only wanted to use the situation to make my ex see that he was wrong and I was right. That his errors were larger and more damaging than mine to our family and our children. I was concerned with stuff that had nothing to do with how we were going to plan a summer for our sons that included both parents, albeit, at different times and events.
I made what was already a tough time even more unpleasant for everyone involved. But by the end of the summer, I decided I was finished with that role. It just wasn’t making sense anymore. I mean, I am the one who chose him. I am the one that made him my family. And then we created our own family. Now, because we were no longer a couple, did he have to remain an enemy in my life?
I decided he didn’t. Our relationship was over. I needed to be a big girl and get over myself for the sake of my kids. I developed the opinion that although he was no longer legally related to me I needed to find a way to treat him like family. Because he may not be MY family anymore, but he’ll always be the father of my children, so he is THEIR family.
Coming around to this opinion took me a little while. I remember a workshop I did in Portsmouth, Virginia when a woman named Debbie explained that she and her ex are actually friends, 15 years post-divorce. I don’t know if I will ever get to that point with my sons’ dad. But I am proud to say that this year our conversation about summer planning for our 16-year-old was smooth and easy.
People become our family either through blood or love. We treat different family members in different ways. But regardless of whether it’s our mom’s nosey cousin or our crazy uncle we see only at the family reunion, the constant in the interaction is respect and love. I try to treat my ex the same – with respect and love. Not the romantic kind of love, of course. But the family kind of love that shows our sons that THEY are the most important people in our lives and although we might not like each other so much, we truly love them.
How do you and your ex approach summer vacation discussions? Would love to discuss your strategies and suggestions in the comments or on the GEM Facebook page.