A few months ago, I felt led to co-write a blog with my daughter’s father, David, about reconciliation. We were able to make it happen on May 22, 2014.
So, “Who that is? That’s just my baby’s daddy.”
Yeah, these are the lyrics to a chart topping song from the late 90’s. –As ignorant as this song was, it did speak to the core of how a lot of young mothers and fathers felt at that time. ‘Oh, him, girl-l-l that’s just my baby daddy!?’ Blame it on apathy, urbanomics or just a timely hook, but that song had a little bit of everyone using the words, “baby daddy” and “baby momma.” Did one song have the power to contribute to the breakdown of how parents related to one another in hoods and burbs throughout the U.S.?
Of course, there are a myriad of complex and deep issues that feed into the breakdown of relationships, and this blog can’t possibly try to address every systemic issue. However, it is meant to speak to the hearts of parents like us that allowed our personal conflicts and unresolved feelings to supersede our ability to co-parent well. This unresolved combustion of mixed emotions and feelings has caused some parents to be vindictive, unbearable or just plain disengaged to their role as a parent.
Iyanla Vanzant’s “Fix My Life” episode with Erica Jean and Saigon from the reality tv show Love & Hip Hop is a great example of the struggles and uphill climb that can result from trying to co-parent when unresolved feelings and issues are present. David made a good point, “we were fortunate to meet up at the right time in our lives, when we both were ready to put the past behind us and reconcile.” Some people don’t ever get over the disappointment, resentment or heartache, which he and I totally get. When I was young and delusional, I wanted David and I to work out, but we just didn’t have enough to sustain a relationship. I had to decide to do a lot of personal development work in order to get me to a place where I could really say, “I forgive you and I’m over you.” With God’s help, I finally learned the right thing to do (James 4:17), make peace within myself and with him, not war.
Okay, so we continued to dig deeper into why some parents have so much drama and disrespect towards one another?
David mentioned how some people “just so happen” to have children together. It wasn’t an intention to get pregnant, but it happened, so when these people (who are often strangers) have children, when they come around one another –it’s now an uncomfortable space to be in. He also said some men are thinking, “You’re just a girl I had sex with without a condom and now we have a child.” Can you see how disastrous this can be –ladies? As I reflect on David and I, back in the day, we were wearing matching Members Only jackets and were known as the cute teenage couple, but we didn’t have a clue about how the emotional, physical and spiritual strain of our so called “teenage love” (in my Slick Rick voice) would impact our lives. David was 17 and I was 15 when our daughter was born. Unfortunately, our “relationship” ended before our daughter could walk. So, we had a relationship for 226 seconds or so, but we were suddenly tied to each other for a lifetime. Our new role as teen-parents was to relate to one another cordially and responsibly for the sake of our child, –yikes! We were so in over our heads.
I will forever proclaim that being a young single mom was incredibly overwhelming for me. Therefore, I could never glorify it. However, it’s also what helped me be who I am.
David did chime in about how he and I defied the odds, though, since we both are in the midst of receiving our Masters degrees, but for me, I’m mostly grateful that I didn’t drown in my vulnerability and my sorrows of raising a child, mostly on my own. There were times when I just wanted him to feel the same day-to-day pressure I dealt with raising our daughter. Yes! David did commend me on gathering up the strength to “make it through” during his neglectful episodes and admitted shortcomings as a parent, but I am confident, God was guarding our daughter and I through it all. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.
Despite David’s shortcomings, I knew he loved our daughter and was giving what he had to give at that time, but when he didn’t do his share, I definitely had to take it to another level. Yep! We both made mistakes. I know some young moms and women that are trying to take vengeance into their own hands, by not allowing the father visitations or slandering his name. It seems wise in the moment, but ultimately it will hurt you and your child. Instead of fighting in your own power and reasoning in your own mind (James 1:5), focus on being the parent your child needs and give your pain, your frustration, to God.
Now, I don’t want you to think David and I see eye-to-eye, we don’t and we don’t have to. Nowadays, it’s more about respect, and whenever he does say something rude or ridiculous, I just hit him with a blank stare. 😐 For instance, at one point during our chat, David mentioned, “for what it’s worth, it’s not like me and you have gotten on better terms and my quality of life has improved.” See, blank stare! This comment struck me on a few levels. First, you must not worry about what reconciliation means for the other party. If God or your gut is nudging you to reconcile, do it! Despite David’s arrogant comment, I know that for me, reconciling with him was more about forgiveness and doing what’s best for our daughter. It was an all around win. (I will say, he did note that he is constantly evolving and growing and doesn’t want to have discourse with anyone either.) Second, don’t let your ego or differences keep you from making peace or coming to an agreement to co-parent. Allow your love for your child to build a healthy co-parenting bridge. Third, don’t live in the land of regret. The other parent may be unbearable or difficult at times, but your child is no mistake, so ignore the foolishness, like I do. 🙂
Seriously though, David and I are friendly, but we are very different people, therefore we needed some divine help along the way to get to this point. I know that if he and I can be on this blog together after chunks and chunks of ridiculousness over the years, then reconciliation is possible for many of you.
If you’re tired of being at odds and would prefer to co-parent in peace: Here are 5 things that can help you move towards reconciliation now.
1. You must desire to have peace and reconciliation with the other parent. It starts with a thought, but acting on it can be hard, ask God to help you reconcile through constant prayer.
2. You have to communicate, but it must be an uninterrupted safe time to really talk. Eventually, someone has to take the first step to apologize, compromise or forgive.
3. Your timing has to be right. David and I bumped into each other at a bbq, ah–that wasn’t the right time to talk about reconciliation. It took us a year or so later to make the time to talk privately. We were ready and it worked!!
4. You have to be real and accountable for your part in the breakdown of the relationship or communication. Just because you didn’t intend to have a baby, doesn’t give you the right to treat your child’s mother with disdain. If you weren’t paying child support or if you took the other parent to court without first negotiating, then take ownership for what you did or didn’t do. Also, if you still have feelings for the other parent and are just acting cruel out of your hurt, please, please, please be honest with yourself and address your emotions.
5. You can and should seek outside help if you just don’t have the language or strength to reconcile. Here’s a short list of organizations that can help, www.fathers.com www.ecparenting.org www.childreninthemiddle.com and www.fathersmakingadifference.com
I know this was a longer blog post than usual, but this topic hits home. It’s my hope that we as a community face what’s really holding us back from reconciliation and co-parenting well. I know it’s not easy, but it’s definitely doable. What do you think?
With Love, (oh & David)