Written by, Brad Kearns (DaDMuM), a 28yo husband to Sarah and father to Knox and Finn from the Central Coast of NSW.
We grew up in a custody dispute. It went on for our entire childhood and we never really found stability.
I remember the court dates;
the weekend access handovers in a public place;
getting changed into my other clothes because this parent bought that;
But the one thing I’ll always remember above all else is the slander... the snide remarks at family luncheons, the not nice conversations and the inappropriate banter on either side.
For years I tried not to mention one parent around the other.
I tried not to talk about my time at one house because it would only get questioned by the other.
I hated it. We hated it.
The day we were old enough to put a stop to it was the day it never happened again.
And my family have swung so far the other way that they literally all have lunch together without me now.
It’s so great to see and it’s the best outcome for my boys to have a relationship with their grandparents.
The one thing becoming a parent taught me is that it’s never the kids' fault.
Five tips for co-parents
If you’re struggling to navigate a messy break-up, here’s a few hot tips that a kid who became a parent wants you to know:
If you know they’re safe, don’t ask them to tell you they’re not.
Don’t slag off their parents; even if you are one yourself.
Don’t make your maintenance bill your kids problem. They really don’t want to hear how they’re not worth the few hundred bucks a month.
Don’t make their business public business, even if it is the extended family.
And the most important one of all...
5. If you only see them as pawns in your game of chess, you should be handing them over... not having fucking children.
Comments on the original post
The comments from readers of the original post are honest, heartfelt and reflect that with time, most families sort their shit out to the point that they can at least be civil.
Part of me doesn’t want my parents to read this in case they get upset. The other part wants them to know that I’m proud and can see how far we’ve come as a family!
Word. My ex and I are best friends for our little guy. Best thing a counsellor told us was always remember your kiddo knows he’s half you and half him, so don’t criticise either. Because, it hurts him.
Whilst I wasn’t in a custody battle by the time my folks split (I just turned 18) the bitterness I had to listen and deal with from my very hurt mother was tough. For years I had secret meetings with my dad and his new partner because I didn’t want to hurt my mum. This went on for years and when I lost my son to cot death, they both realised they needed to get along. Many years later my Mum was in palliative care after a 3yr battle with breast cancer and my dad and his wife were by her side each day as her friend and as her power of attorney. Dad and step mum paid for mums funeral and I will never forget the true meaning of forgiveness and moving on that they showed me and my sister
Im 29 and still have to watch what i mention about a parent to the other.
Its deep psychological damage done to a human being growing up walking on egg shells and be half of 2 different families.
My thoughts on the post
I couldn't agree more with the content of this post.
I would also be hesitant to read what my kids would write if they had to comment on their experience
I know from lived experience that it is so difficult to stick to all of the tips, all of the time, but please do try. If you don't manage it one day, just get up the next day, give everyone a clean slate and try again.
I remember the mediator telling me at the outset of our separation that it would get better and we would be able to be civil to each other. I didn't expect that to ever be the case but like so many others commenting on Brad's post, ten years on, my ex and I are civil and fully invested in the wellbeing of our children. The kids have a good relationship with each of us and are happy and healthy. My ex can comfortably sit in my home and share a cup of tea and a chat about our kids with my new partner and me. That means the boys, who are young adults now, don't have to fear the two of us and our new partners in the same room for anything that crops up ... birthdays, graduations etc.
When I am coaching and mediating with couples who are at the beginning of the separation process, I make a point to tell them the same thing I was told and I watch with empathy as their faces reflect exactly my thoughts when I was in their position.
Several of them have come back to confirm though, that once one or both of them dropped the rope and the tug of war stopped, they were able to focus on their kids and from that point, their parenting relation improved and they have invariably noticed an improvement in their child's overall happiness and security.
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