When our co-parenting counselor–who used to be our couples counselor–broke up with my separated wife and me, she left us an agenda for weekly meetings and wished us good luck.
Unlike marriage, co-parenting can be taken care of in four items or less, because the scope has shrunk so much, down to your child.
Still it’s hard not to be a bit envious of childless couples who break up, four items are still infinitely more than zero.
1. Bragging. We begin with bragging about our child. Our ex-therapist said this part could go on as long as we wanted, but one of the challenges becomes apparent right away. By definition, one of us is always the one who is “on.” One parent is always at a disadvantage because our daughter’s awesomeness is more fresh in his or her mind. This problem persists throughout the meeting, so we tend to try to have them the day after a switch-off, when the ascendant parent has had a day of material and the offsite one hasn’t had time to forget.
The genius of this item is that it is the one time in the week where you get to brag with someone who is as enamored of your kid’s minutia as you are and can reciprocate. I can do this with my mother or sisters, but it is much more of a monologue.
2. Health. Next, it is on to the much more ominous “Medical.” Baruch hashem, my daughter is healthy as the horses that frolic through the credits of her favorite video Free to Be You and Me, so this one tends to be confined to her snuffles. However, we have added sub items in this category for my daughter’s particular preoccupations: namely “Toilet” (how many of her outfits did she pee in?) and “Sleep” (how long and how embattled was her falling asleep, and how torturous was it to awake her?” (See my previous post for the rich history of this item.)
3. Plans. Now that the more loaded issues are out of the way, it’s time to reward ourselves with “Logistics.” This is our more-complicated-than-astrology calendar for who is on when. Our basic principle is that the school week is divided in 2.5 day segments, then the weekend is divided again, taking into account Shabbat meals and weekend days where there is of course no school. If there was a bill to institute an eight-day week, say in honor of the Beatles coming to iTunes, I would totally get behind it.
Also, asking for time off so you can go on a date can be tricky. Fortunately, we’re both dating, so we ‘re more inclined to be generous about these things. When all is well, we can do this up to a month ahead, remember it, and I can score $1 bolt tickets, making my New York love not seem so far away.
When it goes badly, it can feel like an endless preview of a custody battle that is hopefully never to come.
“You’re cutting me off!”
“I was just trying to provide additional info!”
“Well, your additional info is still cutting me off.”
This is also the item where the inequality of breastfeeding comes into play. Ronia still does it, and depending on your point of view this either means I am either privileged to callously abandon her for weeks at a time or disadvantaged by a lack of leverage when I want extra days.
4. Finally, “Kvetches.” Not the most positive note to end on, but left to the end so it will not derail the bragging, medicalizing, or logisitifying, this is the part where you get to ask your child’s other parent to kindly stop doing that thing that infuriates you. We have hung up abruptly at this part at times, and covered such matters as the bachelor odor emanating from my quarters. We have missed meetings, and failed to find a regular time. But we have continued, and will be separated a year next month. And Ronia is still awesome, healthy, and enjoying equal time with both parents.