Carmen M. Colon believed in the concept of shared parenting long before she even knew what it meant.
I smile and laugh when I think about my childhood. Oh how I thought I was in some “prison” of my dad’s making, only now to see just how wrong I was. He created an invisible bubble of protection for me, that not only kept harm out but my interests safely within.
Let me explain, he made sure that I had all that I needed, and he made sure I understood the difference between needs and wants. Even in the 60s my dad had the wherewithal to understand that distractions kept one from achieving their goals and to have the answers to the more critical questions of life for a child was something a parent should always have at the ready.
All those jokes about kids asking “why?”. Well he answered every single one of them and he kept repeating over and over like a mantra that my main concern should be school. Now, for a child of the 70s and 80s, living on a block of children who seemed to be free to wander at all hours and go where they please, I couldn’t understand this, as well as the fact that many had both parents, or just a mom. Well, I had a dad and a mom who visited often and one I could see whenever I wanted.
Now, I belonged to an extended family so I wasn’t missing out in any regard to attention in the household but a child wonders why they are different from other children. Children can even get bogged down by those differences if left unchecked. Well, my father made sure all of my time was being used toward one specific end; that I graduate from school with good grades.
So, I was different in many ways from other kids as I am sure all children are every bit as unique as a snowflake, but in this bubble he made me feel safe and comfortable enough to ask questions, respected my limited yet burgeoning intelligence to answer me as truthfully as he felt he could and in the end, even after puberty and falling in love makes a mockery of parents, I am forever grateful.
Fast forward twenty five years and I have sons of my own. I didn’t understand then what I do now, about how important it is to be as forthcoming as possible with your children. Teaching them about humanity and most of all that being human simply means that no one, not even their parents, are perfect. I wanted more for my sons that I had but not to the degree where they wouldn’t appreciate what they had earned; another wonderful lesson learned from my father.
Their father and I divorced as many couples do, along with the emotional turmoil that sometimes comes with such a life altering event. It is the most difficult thing to extract yourself from a life you once felt you knew to begin a journey into an unknown territory with kids in tow. Lashing out, releasing your fears and anger out on your spouse is the easiest thing to do but it can be the worst thing for your children as well. You barely even realize there are little human beings right there watching with amazement, fear and anxiety at the unraveling of what once might have been a calmer union. You have to make it work for THE CHILDREN first.
No one can tell any parent how long it takes before the pain, anger, fear and resentment dissipates. The only thing I can speak to is that when I wanted to inflict pain just seeing the pain in the eyes of my sons kept me from doing anything too crazy. Those boys were my responsibility (a conversation I believe my ex-husband also had with himself) and I needed to get my act together or they were going to be lost. This world is big and cruel and unless I created that bubble for them, they would truly be lost. I couldn’t have that, no matter how much I hurt or wanted to lash out at their father at the time.
Moving on emotionally is every parent’s own trial by fire; some can put it aside and only see their kids’ needs and some need real professional outside help to do it.
NOTE: The first step, is recognizing that regardless of where the relationship was and now has found itself, it’s those children who need taking care of and by all of the adults in their lives. That means, Fathers, Mothers, aunts, uncles, Grandparents. Whoever was in their life as they grew up, as long as they have a real desire to still be in the lives of those children, should make sure they still are.
Step One was etched in my brain: What do my children need first? Peace of mind. Don’t take away their whole world simply because yours has changed. Don’t keep them from their other parent if that parent wants to remain in the lives of those children. That’s child abuse and it’s formally called Parental Alienation. That’s your journey to take and if their daily rituals change then so be it but don’t instill in them the pain and suffering based on an adult relationship. To be the parent is to take on the brunt of the responsibility and sacrifice. Relationships come and go, but the children: they are the forever in those vows once made.
For all we hold dear, from the minds of our young, comes the adults of our present and our future.
Beware of how you parent, for a child will remember everything. If this doesn’t move people, what will?
The Hole an Absent Father Leaves His Son:
Originally published on carmenmcolon.blogspot.com
photo: Tobyotter / flickr