Monday 11 March 2024

A Co-parenting Change

The boy's Mum and I have a positive co-parenting relationship. We fought for a few years, but we maintained a united co-parenting front and eventually acknowledged each other's efforts and pushed forward with mutual respect, something she wrote here in 2015.

A lot has changed. I met Hannah, and all four kids instantly had a bigger family. The boys Mum, Stepdad, Hannah, and I have a WhatsApp group where the stepparents, more organised than the biological parents, maintain necessary communication. Their household has entertained the step-siblings when we've had emergencies. Hannah and the boys Mum, have met for a coffee and chat; there's nothing ominous about your future wife and ex-wife socialising, right? Hannah and her parents socialised with the boys Mum when the step-siblings attended an event. The boys Mum also attends co-parenting meetings and socialised with old mutual friends in our house. I wouldn't say we have a friendship, but it's good. She said in her post, "There were two little ones. And they, whether we liked it or not, had tied our fates together forever. . . There was only "like it or lump it." So, maybe we've moved past the lump-it stage and are at the like-it stage.

A funny fact Hannah commented on that post, congratulating our co-parenting relationship and our love for the boys. Now, 9 years later, she's part of the co-parenting set-up.

Our agreement has mostly been 50/50 access. One parent occasionally has the boys more, but the boys remain happy. So we are too. They can get angry and upset with one household, but it's often when access has lasted longer, and, like most relationships, space is needed and the agreement works for that. It's good for us too. She's finally completing her nursing degree and I'm studying theology. Happy kids, and happy us!

This past year, however, has been a co-parenting rollercoaster. James, for nine months, has resided in another town with his maternal Nan, Grandad, Aunt, and cousins to attend school due to a lack of local spaces. His first secondary school was a disaster; he was physically attacked and bullied daily, and his school lacked preventive action. We pulled him out, but homeschooling secondary-level work is beyond our ability. This school was on his maternal family's doorstep and had spaces, but James' behaviour everywhere rapidly declined. It appeared as a reflection of inconsistent home life and being away from us. From Monday to Friday, he was there. Every weekend or holiday, he came home. He also struggled to adapt. He felt disconnected. Before moving, he was the "fun, humorous, and crazy cousin." Now he was part sibling, part cousin, part nephew, part child, part roommate, and his crazy James-isms became annoyances or behavioural problems. He repeatedly voiced that he was unhappy and wanted to come home. It was horrible, but what could we do?

His mum and stepdad don't drive and had work commitments. Hannah and I can drive, but my medication leaves me feeling intoxicated in the morning, while Hannah hates rush hour traffic, roundabouts, and motorways, which this journey abundantly has, let alone its financial impact. Things improved four weeks ago. James, pursuing his property development dream, wants to join a local engineering and technology school to learn about building, plastering, carpentry, plumbing, and electrics. If accepted, he'll start in September. We saw his problems as a short-term issue, as he could live with us both when going there. Then his maternal family decided to move house. The distance between their new location and ours is minimal. We agreed that he'd come home after Easter and their move, and we'd figure the rest out. His maternal family then went on holiday. Having him for 2 weeks until they're back didn't seem like a problem, but 3 days in, James declared he wanted to live with Hannah and I full time.

It did seem like the right option, but it would change our co-parenting arrangements. I tentatively approached his mum. She was obviously upset, and she'd miss him, but she agreed that it was right. He was happy, finally completing homework; the school was finally supporting him; his behaviour massively improved, so she'll support whatever makes him happy. It must have been extremely difficult. I'm not sure many parents, or even myself, would do it. I'd struggle massively not seeing either boy for a significant amount of time, as I hated the predent school and home set-up with James, but being the amazing mother that she is, she agreed and wanted what's best for James. She would also see him every weekend, which is more than the prior set-up. I shouldn't have been surprised. When this happened, I read her aforementioned post, and she said, "The lives, happiness, and well-being of the boys were so much more important than our feelings." Although, as her ex-husband, it pains me to say it, she's right.

James has been here now for two weeks. He's happy and thriving. I'm sure at some point things will change. I don't mind. As parents and people, we've come such a long way since our marriage broke down 12 years ago. As a united co-parenting group, we're in a better place than we were when she wrote that post. Imagine where we'll be in the future, all for the betterment of the boys.

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