Let's get real about Co-Parenting
I wake up this morning, the first time i have gone 4 days without seeing my son. He's in Ontario for Christmas with his papa. A trip I wasn't crazy about him making, that took a lot of soul searching to come to terms with. When I was making the decision with my head, it was hard. It seemed harder. When I dropped into my heart to understand the essence of his relationship with his dad and other side of the family, it was a much easier decision to make. A chance for Dad and him to bond and for him to see that both parents are equal in the time they give to their children. This isn't 'babysitting' when Dad has him, it's full on parenting. This is a vital life lesson I want for my son and it seems that this is one of the ways to show it, since we are not together. Compromise. The first lesson of co-parenting.
There are days when people say to me, "I couldn't do it. I absolutely couldn't be away from my children for even a night." I cringe when I hear it, time and time again. I have to stop and breathe in these moments, because without knowing it, this concept of "no way" means there is lack and fear arising. There is a lack of empathy for various situations. And a fear response that if we spend even a day away from our children, they may forget us? It's a lack of trust for the other that they're with. I know as mothers we think we are the only ones that can understand our children, but this simply isn't true. Or do others think this is something I can do because I am more unattached? DO they not understand that one can fiercely love and also let go? Do people understand that controlling the way life unfolds is not up to us. Do they understand how hard it is on days that it is just Onyx and I and that I sometimes welcome the break? That I still have a son at 20 months who is up in the night and that I welcome a 7 hour sleep? Do they understand that I am a woman still, with her own desires and passions and that this time allows me to pursue my biggest life dreams and fill my own cup so that when I am with my son I am full to the brim and can spill over unto him?
And then I stop judging them, for they are not judging me. They are loving mother bears, with very different situations, and I understand that. Fierce love. And thus, I turn to empathy. Empathy, for me, is a huge lesson of co-parenting. Putting myself in other's shoes and understanding that there are all kinds of situations that work for all kinds of people. I do wonder sometimes, what they might say when I respond to "I could never do that," with "I could never not have a break to focus on myself." The issue is, society makes this look selfish. When in reality, I do this so I can be a better mama for my son.
Which brings me to radical self acceptance. One of the largest lessons I am learning through this process is the ability to accept that it actually works for me and THAT IS OKAY. Even if it doesn't or wouldn't work for 1000 other moms, I e-n-j-o-y my time off. I will say that aloud here for the first time. Do I miss Obear? Of course! But do I relish in the nights when I don't have to change every diaper, cook every meal and do all the things? Do I buy chinese food and wine and pick up a book for the first time in a year? Do I finally get to write and blog and pursue the creative fire that burns inside of me? Yes. Sometimes I actually wonder, how did I create this perfect scenario for me? Where I get me time still? Even within the realms of single motherhood? And I laugh. And then it usually is followed by guilt, because other moms wouldn't feel so happy about a situation like this.
Enter radical self acceptance. This is where we stop all of the 'shoulds' that float around outside of us. The way we should be feeling or what others might do in our situation. We allow all of that noise to quiet down, we hold our hand over our heart, and we say, "What is right for me?" And when we are really listening, we follow our own heart. Even if no one else on the earth before us has chosen that path, has been okay with that way. We choose ourselves.
And then the all consuming lesson of forgiveness arises. Forgiveness for beating ourselves up over which way we should go. Forgiveness for the way things turned out. Forgiveness of the other co-parent, always. Everyday forgiveness. And acceptance that just because you forgive someone, doesn't mean you can now be with them. Some relationships are not meant for us. Allowing two opposing forces to be true at once is a gift. Loving someone and letting go.
Letting go. This is probably the biggest lesson and one I've lived a lifetime to learn. Letting go of control. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of what we thought our lives would be so that we can live the presence that our lives are. Letting go of who we believed ourselves to be, and others to be. And I can only imagine that this will make me a better mom down the road, allowing Onyx to become exactly who he is, to embrace his full essence, without trying to control or direct his path. I want to let me son live in his full expression in this world, without my hopes or demands upon his shoulders.
And finally, this all brings me to trust. Learning to trust the village. In a wild time of abuse and neglect, heartbreak and fear, can we learn to trust? Can we place faith in the ones who care for our children like their own and truly learn to trust that however they care for them is right for them? Learn to trust that they will protect them, love them and nourish them in the best way they know how?
I went to a Celebration of Life for a very dear friend yesterday. And looking around, I had a moment of realization. Can you imagine if just the mama was sitting in that room. Alone, with the world on her shoulders? The only one to know her child, to love her child fiercely? That would have been isolating and terrible. Instead, there were dozens of people, if not hundreds, who loved and cared for her son in some way. Our children are not ours alone. They are not brought to this earth for one or two people. Our children are all of our children and we are but a guide for them in this life.
I never saw my life end up this way and yet, it's a richer experience than I can explain. Co-parenting is showing me so many lessons.
Can we allow life to unfold and flow with the river as opposed to swimming against the stream?
Can we find grace in the raw moments?
Can we thrive, not merely survive?