Before my oldest child was born, we attended pre-natal classes. We learned all about childbirth, what we could expect, and what to anticipate in the first few months of life with our new bundle. As my kids grew, I have attended classes to help navigate through the baby years, the toddler tantrums, the preschools pouts, and so on and so on.
It seems that mom-culture is ever more and more open about the struggles of raising human beings and finding creative ways to support each other.
Then there are the middle school years. These years are wrapped in a shroud of hormones and we just don’t talk about them.
As moms, we tend to internalize the behaviors. We take it on our shoulders that if the child is acting out, there must have been a mistake that we made along the way. We don’t ask our friends to share their struggles and secrets like we did with potty training. We just suffer alone.
Just to make these silent years even more confusing, let’s throw in a divorce.
What do we do then?
There are no classes at the local library on navigating the middle school years with a child of divorce.
Not a single one.
So we make it up as we go along.
The questions are many, and the clear answers are few.
When a child chooses to stay predominantly at one parent’s home over the other, what is the protocol? What is the other parent supposed to do?
Some follow the “Always Available” logic, and answer to the child’s every beck and call, wanting to show that they love the child and are there for them, even if they do not cohabitate.
Some follow a “Tough Love” plan, and stick with the “you don’t live with me” logic and tell the child that they need to rely solely on the parent they live with.
The problem is that the middle school years are not black and white, and the emotions of our children range drastically from day to day, moment to moment.
There is something to be said for teaching the child to live with the choices they have made, both good and bad. Such as, if you choose to live with one parent, and you blow out your shoes, the other parent may not feel the need to drop everything to go buy you new ones. You just may have to take that up with the parent that you live with.
We are still their parents, no matter where they choose to lay their head, and with that responsibility, there are some topics that cannot be ignored. Grades, behavior, participation in activities, and more. These all transcend where the child may be staying that day, that week, or even that year.
It is so hard. The fact that there are no clear-cut answers only makes it more so.
Through it all, they need to know we love them.
For those not going through this situation, or who never will, the only request is to not pass judgment too quickly. Rest assured that the non-custodial parent just may be doing all that they can, while silently crying over the situation.
Sometimes the kids need to experience one home over the other, based on personality, structure, or season of life. I’m not talking about the situations where the child’s safety is in question, but the situation that on the surface appears amicable.
Oh, how an instructional class at the local library would be so helpful.