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Jan 5, 2011


Tonight I received a text from my daughter saying that her mother had a hair appointment tomorrow. She asked if it was acceptable that she stay at my house until 7 o’clock that evening.
Okay, some quick background. My daughter’s mother and I are divorced, for those new to the blog. We have shared custody, alternative weeks. My daughter rides the bus to my house after school every day regardless of the week, and on her mother’s time, she picks her up at my house shortly after she arrives. It’s mainly a convenience thing for everyone involved, including the school who prefers not to manage where a kid goes on different days.
Back to the story…I text my daughter back and tell her that is perfectly fine, but I need to verify that plan with her mother. I believed what she said was true, and my daughter is not prone to lying and unlikely to be “sneaking around” by creating a false whereabouts – but I operate on a “trust but verify” policy. That way, once she does reach the devious phase, a pattern of “dad is gonna check up on me” has been firmly established.
Anyway, after sending a simple Is-this-the-plan? text to her mother, half an hour passes without a response. I follow up with another text that says to confirm at her convenience; I understand life happens and one can’t always stop to read the phone. Within seconds a response, which I think actually came in a flaming-letters font, arrived explaining that my daughter would be picked up at the normal time and alternate arrangements would be made.
While not stated directly, I have implied that my request for confirmation was perceived as adversarial, inconvenient or unnecessary. Dumbfounded by this response, I went back and re-read my message to be sure I didn’t misspell anything or imply anything that might have elicited such a reply. I am fairly confident I said nothing unreasonable or provoking.
So, I say all this, not to air dirty laundry or humiliate my ex because I too have had those over-reactive moments when dealing with the former spouse. The reason I bring this up is to remind divorced parents what is reasonable and what is not. Not just this example, but I hear quite often a divorced parent (of both genders) complain about how the other one is being controlling, asking questions that are none of his or her concern, and so on…when as I hear their story, the “antagonist-ex” is probably not out of line.
Thus, let me offer this simple test, which has saved me a lot of stress and several ranting of post-divorce entitlement. Here it is: if the kid were someone else’ kid rather than your ex, how would expect the parents to behave?
In this case, which I picked because it’s an example of my level-headed moments, had “Suzy” from down the street asked if she could stay at my house longer than planned, of course I would contact the other parent to confirm. The other parent should expect me to do that and should be happy to confirm the plan (or explain the request isn’t authorized). It’s pretty simple and quite accurate to define what a reasonable and courteous communication is.
One note, however: the door swings both ways. If another parent told me the plan wouldn’t work, even in a huffy way, even implying I shouldn’t have bothered him or her – it would not be proper for me to call or text that other parent and lecture them on what I was trying to do and to explain that gratitude for my effort was expected. No, I would shrug it off and have a few thoughts about “wow, must be a bad day,” then think little more about it. So, guess what? That is how level-headed parent should respond to the contentious ex too. A close second is to write a blog about it under the guise of helping other divorced parents.