Tosh's dad and I separated more than three years ago. We've come a long way as friends and sometimes we still have our differences.
But when it comes to Tosh, we've always worked as a team.
According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, between 1970 and 1980 the number of divorces per year increased from 500,000 to almost 1,250,000. It averaged that number until the mid-1990s, and has since steadily fallen to a current rate of about 800,000.
Gen X was the first generation of children to experience widespread divorce rates, and the traumas we experienced still haunt us. I think that's why so many of us are good co-parents. We know first hand how divorce can affect children, and we are doing our best to use our experience to reduce the trauma for our own children.
Tosh's dad and I have stumbled along the way, but there are three key things we have committed to doing in order to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
1. We respect each other's strengths.
I'm a Type A personality, which means I'm good at making money, filling out paperwork and creating the consistent environment kids need. Tosh's dad is a personal trainer and high school basketball coach, and he's done an amazing job improving Tosh's gross motor skills. We're both into natural health and nutrition, but he's more disciplined when it comes to feeding Tosh a clean diet. He'll roast the chicken and steam the veggies when he's tired; I rely too much on my Grubhub app. He also does a good job with the manly stuff - he's the one who potty trained Tosh, taught him to get his hair cut at a barber and has helped him overcome his fear of dogs and cats.
At times we have focused too much on the other's weaknesses. But we always come around to appreciating the other person's strengths. The positive attitude is not only good for Tosh, it's good for the whole family.
2. We don't use Tosh as a weapon.
There have been times we've both attempted to disrupt the other person's custody schedule. We're only human, and humans get mad, get hurt, and lash out. But we've learned to call each other on our bullshit, and after a reasonable cooling off period, we have always realized the other person is right.
This is where the perspective of a child of divorce comes in handy. Kids don't care if one parent inconvenienced the other or the child support is late. All they know is they don't see their Mom or Dad when they want to. And being kids, they assume Mom or Dad doesn't want to see them. Tosh has enough challenges in life. Feeling unloved by a parent is a trauma he will never experience because we rise above our own egos to consider his feelings.
3. We spend time together as a family.
I usually throw Tosh a big birthday party, and include his Dad, Grandma and other relatives from Dad's side of the family each year. We have also both attended family get togethers on his Dad's side (my family doesn't live nearby). With the exception of this last Christmas, Dad also either spends the night or comes over early to be with Tosh when he wakes up and opens his presents.
Recently, we've started eating out together as a family every other week or so. I got this idea from a divorced friend who does the same thing for her son, who is roughly the same age as Tosh. She posted about it in her blog and emphasized that even though she and her ex are no longer married, to her son, they are still his family.
Just because the marriage failed doesn't mean the family has to fail, too. Because look at that happy face! He's worth the effort.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
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