I learned something very important in court parenting class. Something I didn't expect.
I was sitting in a large nondescript room that looked something like a school cafeteria or a VFW, about to listen to a court parenting class. They offered cheap snacks like peanuts and granola bars, along with water bottles. I grabbed some snacks and looked around. As I scanned the crowd I saw newly separated people with the mark of divorce on their faces. The exhaustion, fear and defeat showed on almost everyone. I had already been separated for 2 years at this point so it wasn't new to me. Yet as "old" as it was to me, sitting in that class taught me a lot.
I learned a lot about what the court deals with in regards to children and divorce. I learned a lot about what the court expects from me and other divorced parents.
But the one thing that stuck with me was when the court social worker told us we should never call our "ex" our "ex" in front of our children or to other people we are speaking to in front of the kids.
"Ex has a bad connotation. Ex is something that is no longer part of you. Ex is the past. But to your kids, your "ex" is their father or mother. A good person. A part of them. Their present and future."
We were told to always call our "ex" our child's father or mother.
Sounds easy, right?
Nope. It's not.
It's difficult because it's not a habit. When we break up with someone, that person is known as the "ex" for life. Think about it? Even your high school boyfriend you don't call your former high school boyfriend. You most likely say it's an "ex."
But when you divorce, whether you like it or not, the two of you are stuck together for life through children. I have a young child so I am told by parents who are divorced with older kids that it gets easier as you need less daily interaction, but the fact is: you are joined to your child's other mother or child's father for life. And your children, our children, always belong to us— "ex" or not.
This is a habit that is hard to make stick. I find myself reverting between the two terms. Even more so, how do you get other people to adopt that phrase? All the family and friends in your life? Very hard. Thankfully, my family always refers to him as daddy in front of her and so do the majority of my friends. Still— you can't control what others say.
Why does it really matter?
It seems so small — almost insignificant, but it is not.
Every word or phrase that surrounds the divorce is something your children absorb. Kids love even parents who are absent or neglectful, and so remembering how much and how deeply our kids love ourselves and our former partners that may not like us or vice versa, it should be obvious that speaking about and towards a former partner in a kind or more positive way is helpful for kids.
Sometimes I feel like I am constantly looking through a divorce lens when it comes to parenting, but as specific and small as this may seem, I think avoiding calling an "ex" an "ex" is a smart thing to do.
Your child's father. Your child's mother. Your former partner. Your coparent.
Even if you don't like the person— it must be put aside for the kids.
Divorce is the hardest thing I have had to endure but having a child is the best thing to happen to me yet. It may be hard parenting after divorce— combining the best and most difficult parts of my life, but if I can do a better job as a mom each day, I will keep on trying!