I wish that when I had separated from Laura and Nathan's father there had been something like the Foundations Parenting orders program. It may have made all the difference to how the last ten years played out, and continue to play out.
The parenting orders program is ordered by a family court judge when parents are unable to come to an agreement in regards to their children. However, I initiated the process before Aston's father and I had gotten to the stage where we were fighting in court about Aston. Having already been there and done that with Laura and Nathan's father, it was a process I did not wish to repeat.
It involves attending 6 workshop type meetings with a group of 4-6 other people, both male and female. In the group(s) I attended I was the only person there that had NOT been ordered to attend. During the initial introduction, I sat listening to the vitriol pouring out of the other participants, all the time thinking to myself 'I do not want to be like this!'
When it came time for me to introduce myself, I apologised, and said that I was here voluntarily and I didn't want to end up wasting my energy being angry like the other people I had just listened to.
Each workshop focuses on different aspects of being able to keep your child(ren)'s best interest at the fore front when dealing with your ex partner, as well as reinforcing that you as an individual are responsible for your actions and behaviour. If your ex partner chooses to behave Inappropriately and doesn't put your child(ren)s best interests first, it doesn't automatically give you a free pass to behave the same.
Aston's father also participated in these work shops at a different time and venue. I know that it was our mutual participation in this program that has made a monumental difference to how he and I conduct ourselves in regards to Aston and allows us to successfully co-parent him.
I have always tried to remain neutral in regards to Laura and Nathan's father, choosing not to react in front of them when something happened that infuriated or annoyed me about their father. Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, when Aston's father was in their lives he didn't behave that way, and we often argued about him saying things about their father.
Recently, a little boy, the same age as Aston, died 13 weeks after being diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumour. It was sad and tragic, and broke my heart when I heard about it. Unfortunately this little boy's parents were no longer together, and both had set up public facebook pages to honour their son. What disturbed and distressed me though is how they both very publicly wrote about their obvious anger towards each other. Neither of them were able to put aside their own bitterness for the sake of their little boy, and his brothers, even in though one of their children was dying. It left me uneasy, incredibly sad and questioning, but for the grace of god, what would happen if I ever found myself in a similar position with either Laura and Nathan.
I truly believe that the greatest gift I could give any of my children in this situation would be the appearance of a united front between myself and their father. Isn't that what unconditional love is? It's not, sorry you're dying, but I refuse to be in the same room with the other person that made you. Why can't we, as adults, put aside our anger and bitterness at the demise of our relationship with each other, and put our children's needs first?
These are questions I constantly ask myself. When ever I feel anger raising at the situation between Laura and Nathan's father and myself, I ask myself, am I behaving in their best interests? If the answer is no, I modify my behaviour, call a friend and scream down the phone my frustration, rather then engage in a tirade with him. I am not responsible for how he behaves, but I am responsible for my behaviour and reactions, what my children see and hear from me. If he chooses to behave badly, it is also he that will have to deal with how his behaviour affects his relationship with his children. Me... I just have to learn to tame the lioness that roars within when I see how his behaviour affects them.
I am aware that every situation is different, and all that I have said is a moot point in situations where abuse is a factor. Even so, that doesn't give the other parent free reign in degenerating the abusive parent. In the period of time that Aston didn't see his father whenever he asked why, or when was he going to see his daddy, I always responded that daddy wasn't very well at the moment, and that when he was better he would be able to see him. That was the age appropriate response at the time. I still acted in Aston's best interests. It wasn't safe for him to see his father, but it also wasn't appropriate for me to say to him that his father was currently behaving abusively and was mentally unstable.
At the end of the day, a child's relationship with their individual parents is THEIR relationship to navigate. As Children get older, they develop their own ideas about who their parents are. If a child has been fed nothing but vitriol about either parent from the other is that fair, or in the childs best interests? The relationship that an ex partner has with their child may well be very different from the relationship they had with you. Be a grown up, do the right thing, love your child unconditionally - even if it means you have to stand by and watch them have a relationship with someone that caused you pain.