When I mediated in Superior Court, working with about 3000 moms and dads battling over custody arrangements, the one puzzling issue I came across consistently was parents’ fears. They were afraid to give their child over to the other parent because they worried about what was going to happen behind closed doors at that other home. Was the other parent drinking alcohol? Was he feeding the children properly? Was he making sure they were always in situations where they were safe?
Think about it. They had been 24/7 parents and now they not only had to relinquish their child for way too long of a time, but they were unable to control what was happening at the other address. When I would bring up the novel idea that they have a walk through each others place they liked the idea. This open door policy of allowing the other parent to have a look at where their child was staying was very comforting to the custodial parent, and also relieved the “visiting” parent of many phone calls.
Often, after the tour, mothers would tell me that now they could visualize the home where their child was staying and could breathe easier, knowing the inside area. The child, too, became less anxious about the parents, since mom and dad were actually having conversations about his welfare.
Separations in the parenting arena are difficult. The very same person you slept with and made a baby with, is now a sort of “enemy,” but it doesn’t have to be this way. Your child just wants peaceful coexistence. His first choice is to have you two together, but if that train has already left, they all say they would like their parents to get along. Getting along means no stabbing remarks and a fairly cordial exchange when their child is dropped off.
By visiting the other home, the child is shown two people cooperating about his life. No child should have to keep secrets between houses. He should be able to say whatever comes to mind within reason. Just knowing that you saw his other room at dad’s house or mom’s room at her new digs was looked at by dad, is an endorsement that each parent gets to live their separate life now with the blessing of the other parent. That shows class, it shows acceptance and it actually brings more reality of the situation to light. When mom denies that dad is actually living with the new woman in his life, when dad refuses to accept that mom isn’t coming back home, the child is stuck between two unreal worlds.
You are the creator of your new single life as a parent who shares your child. You can ask for more communication with your child’s other parent. The way you can get more communication is by smiling once in awhile, talking about the child together in a positive way and sticking to the plan you too have set up. Too many changes isn’t good for the child. Acting worried when the child starts getting ready to go to the other parent’s home isn’t helpful for your child, and quizzing your child when they arrive back at your house isn’t real healthy either. A quick, did you have a good time? is about all your child can handle.
It is stressful enough to be residing with a mom who doesn’t like a dad or a dad who is angry at his mom. Think about a tense work situation you have ever been in. We get really uncomfortable when people are fighting with each other. No one feels safe because of the explosions. It is the same scenerio for your child. A five minute call to the ex to ask lightly for a tour of his new home shouldn’t be refused. Make sure to tell your child’s parent you are just doing it so you can visualize them in the home when you are talking on the phone. “You know me, a worrier. Can you humor me and let me see his room?” Most parents deep down do want peace for their child. Why not give it a try?