Last week something amazing happened. Something I had been waiting to happen for five long years. My boyfriend and my ex boyfriend spoke for the first time. Not only did they speak, they shook hands. I thought I would never see the day those two could stand to be in each other’s company and I had started to believe it would never happen. That’s why this feels like a miracle.
I’ve been waiting to write this because a pessimistic part of me thought things would go back to square one but so far, so good. I don’t speak to my ex much anymore, Ross does that for me. They even shared a little joke about football (Ones a Man U fan and ones a Liverpool supporter – you couldn’t make it up).
Before they had cleared the air things were bad. When I left my ex, I still loved him but I was no longer in love with him. I cared about him dearly and didn’t want harm to come to him but as far as our relationship, we were very much over. But he stuck around for the kids, and for about a year after we split up I was still used to having him around. I worked full time, at the time he didn’t, but we were still very much in each others company a lot.
Then Ross came along, I had dated two other guys before Ross but those relationships didn’t really go anywhere. Most other guys seemed put off I had two children from a previous relationship. It didn’t seem to matter much to Ross. Before long he was my boyfriend, and after about 6 months I introduced him to the boys.
They hit it off straight away. Ross is a big kid and will do anything for a laugh. Leo was very loyal to his father so it took him a while to come round but Charlie had found a new friend in Ross who he absolutely adored. Their bond was beautiful to watch. A year or so later Ross became part of the family.
This couldn’t have been easy for my ex to come to terms with, but instead of trying to be a better father for the boys, he retreated and started to do less and less of his dad duties. He would say things like ‘Why don’t you get their new dad to sort it’. It was very clear from the onset that there was so much resentment there from him, but before the stress he caused me would put other guys off, it didn’t seem to phase Ross one bit.
My ex would make things awkward for us, and Ross would find a way around it – he always stood by my side and helped me pick up the pieces hebwould leave every time he changed his mind, or cancelled plans, or said something nasty to me.
Ross would secretly get frustrated though. He never quite understood how I could let him speak to me the way he did and still want him to be a part of the boys lives. ‘I’ve known people to stop there kids from seeing the dad over less than you’ve put up with’ and what he was saying was definitely true, and still – I maintained I wanted him to have a relationship with them.
Why? Because I think it’s important a child knows who their father is. I never had the chance to spend time with my father growing up. My mum says to me I wouldn’t have liked to, but still to this day I would have liked to have had a choice.
Their father is many things I don’t agree with but he would never harm a hair on their heads, he would never put them in deliberate danger and for that reason, how can I play god in my child’s life? How can I take their father away from them? I can’t. I never could.
So I endured years of snide remarks, years of cancelled plans and let downs. Years of animosity between him and Ross, tension you could cut with a knife. Endless stress. I endured all of that because I knew that one day there would be a breakthrough. One day things would change, I was sure of it.
Ross kept telling me it never would. We had given him chance after chance to prove he could be a good role model in the boys lives, but he seemed to brush off every opportunity. There was a point that I thought Ross must be right. We’re never going to be amicable. It filled me with dread every time I had to make any form of communication with him.
I envied other families that could get on with ex partners and new children and different family dynamics. Families who if nothing else, could be civil for the kids sake. Who could turn up at parties and be in the same room as each other without fighting. I wanted that so badly, not for me, but for my children.
It started to affect my mental health so much that I stopped speaking to him. Ross began speaking to him on my behalf, so that if he did say anything sarcastic or nasty I wouldn’t know about it. Within a day or so of this happening, Ross had gone to pick up the boys from a weekend at their dads. When he arrived back he told me they had made amends. Not only that, they shook hands!!
I didn’t believe him at first. My eyes were filled with happy tears. Finally the two men my children love more than anything in the world are getting on. Five years of pettiness and bitterness finally over with. Before long the boys had started to pick up on it, and they were delighted too. We were so close to having to go to mediation but slowly things were starting to improve.
I was happy about this new development but I was also a bit pissed off. Pissed off it had taken so long for two people to grow up. Pissed off, because everything I said initially they were only just starting to realise and see why I was keeping on so much.
Above all else, it’s important that whoever forms part of our child’s lives are amicable for their sake. Arguing between parents and other guardians can have a severe detrimental effect on children’s mental health. I know, because I went through it myself. I was determined things would be different for my boys.
And fingers crossed, now they are. A part of me always understood why my ex took a step back, but I never respected him for it. Now we have a mutual respect for each other and the children are thankful, I can tell.
Children don’t care for who left who, they don’t care who is right or wrong, who hurt who the most, none of that even matters. What matters is that on the most important days of their lives, they can look around a room and see their Mum, their dad and everyone else that loves them side by side in unison. Your child won’t care about anything else, they will still love you. So make sure the part you play in their lives is a positive one, even if you have to pretend for a while.
Don’t allow your ego to become bigger than your child’s needs, I almost did but we got there in the end. If you’re struggling with co-parenting there is support out there, but the best advice I can give is listen to your child and do the best for them – even if it pains you to do so. Now we have all grown up we owe it to the boys to give them the best time growing up possible.