It’s been some time now since Kristy and I were in our former marriages. Each of our formers have gotten on with their new lives – purchased or built homes, one re-partnered and remarried, with the other enjoying the freedom of global travel. Each of our children have time with their other biological parent which we support and encourage within the boundaries of what preserves their health, safety and general welfare. There’s that word – boundaries.
You see, we also expect the same of those former partners. That they too will encourage and support the children’s time with us within the boundaries of health, safety and welfare. And the trick for all parties involved is to be respectful of the boundaries – that no one person has the right to dictate the function of the other’s home. This is, of course, not to the exclusion of good communication and sharing of information about those things that do cross the barriers of homes (such as toys and electronic devices) as well as the general health, attitudes and demeanour (including fatigue levels) of the children leading into the change over of care and anything that is relevant to their schooling and extra-curricular appointments.
So, what does respect for boundaries look like?
Well, by way of a first example, in June/July last year a one of the biological parent’s houses that was being built was completed and the time had come for the children to stop spending their living time with that parent under the roof their grandparents and to relocate to their new ‘other’ home. Was that parent obliged to tell us about the move? Yes, by the Court Orders. Was it our job to ‘prepare’ the children? No. Was that parent obliged to tell us what the planned sleep/room arrangements were? No. Do we or should we have any say in those sleep and room arrangements? No, so long as it is safe for each of them.
Of course, we have respected this and appreciate, where the Court Orders applied, that the parent involved honoured that requirement. So, what did we do? Well, we encouraged the children to be patient when their beds and furnishings were not automatically assembled for them and put in place. We shared their excitement as they tried to explain in abstract form how they had set up their rooms. And we continue to share in their excitement as they tell us about the ‘less essential’ items that are now finding place in the house as they go through that early year or so of ‘settling in’. Our role was about listening, encouraging and supporting and, where there was angst in the midst of beds being assembled, simply sharing that with the other parent so that they could address it in a manner that suits them and their household.
As a second example, recently one of the other biological parents recent purchased a cat as an addition to the existing pets. Was that parent required to tell us? No. Was it our job to ‘prepare the children’ for it’s arrival? No. Is it our job to determine whether that animal is live mostly inside or outside? No, none of the children have allergies that needed to be accommodated so it is safe either way. Is it our job to tell the children when and how they are to interact or take care of the cat? Also no.
Of course, again, we have respected this change in this other house. Our actions have been hearing about the cat from the individual children as they have raised it. We have shared in their joy as they have described it. We have listened as they have articulated the planned process of introducing the cat to the other pets in the household. We have also heard amazing tales of the cat’s epic journey from a breeder in Sydney to it’s arrival here in Adelaide. We’ve even heard of how, even though the cat is to be a comfort to the parent and belongs to the parent, how the youngest is willingly stepping up to take household responsibility for feeding it whilst they are at the house. Again, listening, encouraging and positively supporting is our sole role.
So, what is this really about? It is about respect. It is about respect for the fact that once those divorce papers were finalised that the cords of control over the life of the other, mutually, were cut and that each party involved needs to be respectful of that. That, in the interests of the children, each parent must respect the other and not involve themselves in the day to day routines of their home where those routines are not actively detrimental to the children. It is kind of simple really but it seems from parenting groups that this simplicity is very hard for a lot of grown adults to grasp.
When the tables have turned.
Of course, this becomes a new matter now that changes are occurring in our home. This change is the addition of a new baby into our family later this year. But let’s look at the precedent that’s been set through our actions:
Well, were we obliged to tell the other parents? No, but it’s not a secret once the children know anyway. Certainly, it in no way has even a thought-life impact on the other parents until that time anyway. Many of you know Kristy and I have journeyed the early stages of pregnancy before without the joy of a baby at the end. Before the time of telling the children, as we journey through that rough early period it is no business of anyone’s but our very nearest and dearest family and friends anyway.
Is it the other households’ of parents job to ‘prepare’ the children for the baby’s arrival? No, that is our job since the baby is going to be living in our home only. Do either of the other biological parents get to dictate the sleeping arrangements of the children in our home, especially as we go through the various incarnations of where a baby sleeps as it grows from newborn to baby, baby to toddler, toddler to preschooler, and so forth? Heck no. Do either of the other parents’ have a say in how the children interact with, love on, spend time with, enjoy the life of the new arrival? Not at all. Not their house, not their life, not their problem and definitely not their place to interfere.
So, that is what we are trusting for in the coming weeks, months and years. Respect for boundaries.
Featured image source: Paul ‘brinzei’ Chiorean – https://www.flickr.com/photos/brinzei/ under Creative Commons license.