Co-parenting in difficult times

To co-parent, we must first begin with a foundation of mutual respect.

“To be honest Winston does have behavioral problems,” I confide in my Doctor friend. The bullying my son has been through in the last few weeks, and which has only just come to light, really troubles me. Why didn’t I see it earlier? Why didn’t I pay more attention?

“He’s always touching people, his friends and they don’t like that,” I go over the facts I am painstakingly piecing together. “He easily gets angry. He’s very pessimistic. Complains a lot. And can be aggressive. He had been better for quite some time. Just this year it has all come back full swing.”

“Is he sensitive to cloth, light, hard sounds?” the Doctor dives in immediately. “Does he keep eye contact when speaks to people? When he touches others, where and what are they doing? Does he speak softly? Can he tie his shoe laces easily. Does he fall asleep quickly? What does he get angry about? How does he interact with his siblings?”

“Not sure about being sensitive. That would apply more to Lilly,” I try to answer his questions as accurately as possible. “No I don’t think he keeps eye contact when talking. I think he tends to look away.”

“Can he remember more than three instructions at one time?” the Doctor questions me more. “Does he forget or guess a lot? Does he bump into things?”

“I think he touches the arms and chest when playing. He will keep rubbing your arm to annoy you. Also been reported to lick arms. There was an episode some months ago where the boys kept touching each other’s privates. Winston of course didn’t know when to stop and kept doing it,” I say to my own annoyance. “No Lilly forgets everything and is clumsy. Winston follows instructions nicely. He speaks normally. He can tie his shoe laces, no problem. He has trouble falling asleep.”

“Does he have very good hearing to the point of distraction?” the Doctor just keeps firing more questions at me.

“He can get angry about lots of things. He takes each comment or joke very personally. Also critique from his coach, or anything really,” I am careful to evaluate each aspect which might give me a hint of how to handle this complex and delicate situation.

“Does he lie a lot?” the Doctor asks again.

“He hears ok. Not distracted,” I am surprised how mundane my answers sound. Nothing wrong with my lad, it seems at first sight. “No Lilly lies a lot. Winston just doesn’t tell you things. But he will be truthful when you ask him things.”

“What does he fantasize about?” the Doctor wants to know. D”oes he have a hero from a game or movie or comic?”

“He is always belittling Lilly,” I evaluate how my first born interacts with his younger siblings. “Always commenting on everything she does. He is very protective and caring of Willem”

“Can he focus for long periods of time?” the Doctor shoots another question at me.

“He likes to watch the Flash on Netflix,” I tell him what I know. I realize this is the limit of what I really know about my little darling. “His hero is a famous hockey player. I wouldn’t know what he fantasizes about. He can focus but not too long. When studying I need to foresee breaks.”

“Ask him,” the Doctor urges me. “Maybe he wants to save the world or be important to others. Or he likes to follow others.”

“Ah ok, I will ask him,” I say with eyes popping. Maybe I am part of the problem and also part of the solution. Maybe more quality time is needed and in a different way than I am doing right now.

“I will be back at 3 pm your time,” the Doctor suddenly looks at his watch. “Can we continue then?”

“Yes,” I smile a little amazed. “Thanks.”

“Ok give me a buzz,” the Doctor says as he gets up to go.

I realize that this moment of crisis is in fact a perfect opportunity to reconnect to my boy truly and remember our place as mother and son in the natural world. Rather than approach my child as an investment of time and energy, I need to take a step back to look at the entire process of co-parenting, from planting the seeds of good behavior and philosophical ideas, to harvesting happiness and achievement in my child, as a way of deepening my conscious relationship with all of my children. I want to shift my intention from not as much controlling, or at least directing his life as I think is best, to co-parenting him with nurturing guidelines instead, I may discover a deep bond and renewed sense of wonder. 

“Hello again,” I smile at my Doctor friend in the webcam that same evening. “I didn’t forget about our call but decided to go for a swim. Hope you enjoyed your afternoon.”

“Hi Fiona,” the Doctor smiles back. “Sorry got caught up in things.”

“That’s ok, don’t worry,” I reassure him. “I am in Mechelen now so will talk tomorrow.”

This last exchange illustrates to me how far I have come. As the child of a narcissistic parent, I used to have a tendency to overly depend on my friends in moments of crisis. Whilst now I rely on myself and my partner to adequately handle each curveball life throws our way.

In parenting, and in friendship, I find it important to first begin with a foundation of mutual respect. As I create my partnerships, be it friendships, intimate relationships or work relations, I make a point of approaching each person with respect. I also like to communicate with the people around me and create a regular practice of stillness whilst talking to people to listen for any messages they may have for me. If I approach people with an open heart, I will always be well received. 

Love,

Fiona

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