When I separated from my first husband, he dated this woman he knew from high school. Once she and her husband had come to our house for a party, but we weren’t friends. I think “acquaintance” might be a better word. Anyway — she arrived at our party tipsy, dressed to kill, wine glass in hand. (They also lived in our neighborhood, in one of the three story townhouses I LOVED.) They were rich (her husband was); she was tall, blond, and beautiful (of course); and my (ex) husband and her shared innocent (but private) jokes since they had known each other for so long. I can’t say that I liked her very much. I actually disliked her a lot. She gave me creepy crawlys up and down my spine and sent my wifey instincts into overdrive.
When they (meaning my ex-husband and the leggy blond) started dating, (she and her husband separated around the same time) — I wanted to yell and argue that my instincts had been right all along. But it was just another argument to add to the list of things we could fight about. There were plenty of real things to fight about so I let this one go.
One morning when it was time to pick my son up from a visit, my (ex) husband asked me to pick my son up from her house. He had to go in to work early and the boy was with her. My face burned when I rang the doorbell. It was early and it occurred to me that maybe they spent the night here? She let me in and escorted me up the stairs and through a beautifully decorated living room. My son and her daughter (they were around the same age) were sitting together at the kitchen counter. She was making a snack for them, did I have a few minutes? Yes of course, I said politely.
The burning in my face spread down to my neck and down through my body. If I could turn red, I’m sure I would have. I had left my home and moved into an apartment with my son — and here she was in the home I wanted. I was struggling to pay my rent and beginning my life as a single mom. I’m sure her (ex) husband didn’t quarrel over paying her bills. I was overwhelmed with the idea of dating and starting all over again. She looked like a model, even at 8 in the morning. I’m sure she didn’t think twice about how and who she would date. I envied her. I wanted to be mad at her. I wanted to dislike her. My head felt like it might explode. Meanwhile, she was poised and graceful as these thoughts rushed through my head — and made herself busy cutting up perfect slices of apples. Then she started to cut the peels off.
I know that this doesn’t seem like a big deal — cutting the peels off the apples. I’m sure that everyone does it — but for me, it was extremely significant. She was making a snack for my son, something she didn’t have to do. She was caring for him the same way she was caring for her own child. She was careful and took her time, even though she was uncomfortable with my standing there. And she was polite and respectful, regardless of how she felt about me.
I was humbled and thankful for her. I softened just a little. And I liked her a little more.
I don’t know whatever happened between the two of them, just that it didn’t work out. But I like to think of this event whenever I get caught up in the volatile emotions that co-parenting sometimes brings to the table. The simplicity of her actions on this morning have stayed with me throughout the years. I had no idea that I would eventually end up co-parenting not just one child, but five — but these basic rules have worked when all else have failed, no matter how unique the co-parenting relationship.
- Doing the extras, even when not necessary.
- Caring for other people’s children exactly the way I care for my own.
- Taking my time to love, care for, and discipline — even when I am uncomfortable.
- Polite and respectful to all parties, no matter how I feel about the other parent.
And that’s the story of how a leggy blond taught me how to be a better co-parent. #YAY