There is a saying “little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice” and ain’t that the truth. Kiki certainly is all sugar and spice, sweeter than honey, spicier than Carolina pepper. My dear, kind, sweet, gentle, sensitive, smart, caring, loving five year old in a moment of her anger and crankiness (yup she has those too) told me that I am “Ruining Her Life!”. Yes, you read that correctly. Now imagine my jaw on the floor!
After an amazing weekend in the Keys, total girl power bonding, love, and joy, on Monday night just around her bed time, still the witching hour, we got into argument over her listening skills. Like every good taurus and a rebel, her stubbornness always gets the better of me. So in a heat of the moment of me screaming and telling her what to do and if she doesn’t do it, she will be grounded, she screamed at me “YOU ARE RUNING MY LIFE!”. I knew these words are coming my way one day, after all I am pretty sure I said the same to my mom, but I was hoping it would happen sometimes down the road in teenage land, not at five.
So here I am, standing in her room, completely taken and floored by her comment, not sure if I want to cry or laugh at the same time. I miraculously found some inner strength, dropped my voice about three octaves and in my most stern, polite and quiet way told her “You want to see me ruin your life, you haven’t seen anything yet. You are absolutely grounded – no TV, No iPad, no American Girl doll, no legos, no park, no friends for one week.” and walked out of her room. From the kitchen I could hear her crying, weeping, mumbling and who knows what else…Few minutes later, she walked out of her room and said “I will tell daddy everything and how mean you are! He would never do this to me!”
As a child of divorced parents, I knew these words were most certainly coming my way and always feared them. Again, I was just hoping a little bit later down the road. So here I am and the only question I am asking myself “How did I get here?!?!” I never thought I was gonna swim in the single parent waters. Now, stop feeling sorry for me, I am sure all parents ask themselves at some point “How did I get here?!!!” Parenting is not an easy task, single parenting…it’s a whole new level of complicated, challenging and difficult, so if you have an opportunity, learn how to co-parent. If possible, child needs both of his or her parents in their lives, so learn how to co-parent successfully, and you will be so much happier!
Divorce can bring out the worst in us. Perhaps there’s lingering hurt because one person left, or someone cheated, or someone fell out of love. But whatever the reason that prompted the end of the relationship, it’s never OK to drag kids through that mud. They didn’t ask for it.
One thing I have learned in last five years while navigating single parenthood, is that effective co-parenting does not require friendship, but it does require cooperation. Co-parenting requires empathy, patience and open communication for success. Not an easy thing to achieve but absolutely necessary in raising well adjusted and happy child(ren). The biggest lesson of successful co-parenting involves only one thing: loving your child more than you hate your ex.
Thankfully Kiki’s dad and I get along great. We’ve reached a place of mutual respect and for most part, communicate really well [there are always little things, but in this universe they are completely insignficant]. I can say it with certainty we both have a mindset of cooperation to avoid problems. We’ve adopted the approach of compromise that one of us is asking today, is what the other will need tomorrow. We have an open line of communication about everything and anything that concerns Kiki, and that’s where our “friendship” ends. Sometimes a concept hard to be accepted and understood for those with very different co-parenting situations. We speak positively about each other, despite our differences, and we always stand on the same side of any issue or situation that may arise with Kiki. It’s always a united front, because even a five year old will know how to take advantage of the situation. So when the episode of “You’re ruining my life” occurred, I knew telling him about it, was the right decision. It was important that he gets on the same page of consequences to her behavior as following day she was staying at his house for a few days, and neither of us practices the divorced parent guilt and letting her get away with all the sassiness.
Both her dad and I spent time talking about how words hurt, how we need to use our words carefully and rather than trying to hurt the other person, express our feelings of frustration, anger, being upset, with the right words. Though it might seem hard to accept that the five year old understands it, I know Kiki does. The apologies ensued and she has “happily” accepted her punishment….but in a Kiki, or as I call her my mini adult fashion, she made a countdown calendar of the week to the end of her being grounded and every day she asks me does she deserve to cross the day off.
To all the parents out there…any advice you have, I am always willing to listen and learn…parenting is a marathon…We are in it for the long distances!