Fond of phrases, I often say: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” But I would be remiss if I were to allow Brendan (my former husband) and I to take credit for being the only members of the “team.”
By the time you read this, Brendan will be on the way to Dallas with our son – dropping him off with my mom to spend Spring Break with our Texas family. My parents do not live in Dallas. My mom and dad are making the four and a half hour drive from Houston to Dallas to pick up their grandson so that they can spend Spring Break with him and chauffeur him around the Lone Star State. I have peace of mind knowing that there won’t be any tense exchanges or daggers thrown with every glance. Instead, grandparents are a vital component of our non-traditional family and they literally go the extra mile. This is true whether its my family or Brendan’s.
I mentioned in my prior post about not wanting our son to be burdened with navigating alliances. Naturally, when people divorce their respective families take sides. Your pain is their pain and they will fight tooth and nail to defend their kin. So, when you have made the decision to amicably co-parent, how do you get the rest of the family on board? You ask them.
I am not saying it’s easy. Whether your parents are themselves divorced or if they have never been divorced, many reflexively take the “us versus them” position. Gladiator suits are donned and suddenly they are telling you that they never really liked that spouse of yours. This is the point where you ask them to lay down their arms and have a conversation about how you want to proceed with your co-parent. I find that more often than not, they will follow your lead.
Both my family and Brendan’s have been an integral part of our co-parenting team. They come to the rescue on sick days, emergencies and those random (and inconvenient) school holidays. They join us on road trips and celebrate holidays together with us. I know I can call on Brendan’s family as easily as he can call on mine. Why? Because we have made clear, and they understand, that we all have a common goal: Our son. Their grandson.
Our respective families are not helping us out so much as they are forging healthy bonds with their grandson and modeling a cooperative and collaborative family structure that responds to life as it is lived in the real world - day in and day out. Our families help us create an atmosphere where all that our son knows is that he is loved by each adult in his life. Because of this, our son can spend time with and enjoy his grandparents without fear of penalty or concern that he is hurting someone else’s feelings because he’s spending “too much” time with one grandparent or the other. He is free to pass between the loving arms of each grandparent as he pleases. Best of all, his grandparents can just simply carry on and enjoy being grandparents, rather than hyper-vigilant family gladiators.
I am eternally grateful that our respective families have embraced our co-parenting style. Without them, life post-divorce would be so much more difficult for all three of us.
No matter whom you decide to include on your co-parenting team, it all starts with you and a conversation about what you expect from your team members. You set the tone and your team will assemble accordingly.