One of the first things we had to encounter as recently-divorced parents was the school system. Ian entered kindergarten about 2 months after we separated. You would have thought divorce was a brand new concept. Everything from emergency information forms to grade cards was designed to accommodate parents that lived at the same residence. And this was the year 1999!
As I was designated as the residential parent in our arrangement, everything school related was based on my address. Nothing was ever mailed to Bob. And this is where demonstrating kindness begins. I know plenty of divorced parents who struggle with this most basic right. I never hesitated for a second. I assumed Bob was entitled to all the same information about Ian’s education as I was. How could I expect him to otherwise be a good parent. I had to remember what I wanted my son to have and what I wanted in a father for him. I always made sure Bob was offered the opportunity to purchase school pictures. And I made sure he got a copy of every grade card. The school didn’t do this. I did! They, it seemed, never even thought of it as a service they should offer. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Nor do the women who refuse to consider how they might feel if they weren’t even given the opportunity to get school pictures from one year of grade school. All too frequently, divorced fathers miss out on a lot. And this benefits no one. The father suffers. The child and father connection is weakened as the father receives less and less ongoing information about the child’s evolution. And ladies, if you think you get out of this unscathed, you’re absolutely wrong. Have you heard of karma? Ever wish people would treat you better? Well maybe you should practice the golden rule. Also, ask yourself how it could possibly be of benefit to your child for their other parent to be denied information and experiences with them.
I remember the first night conference during which we met Ian’s kindergarten teacher. We had separated about 6 weeks before. Of course, we both wanted to be there. So we did this crazy thing. We talked about it. Then we did another crazy thing. We agreed to both go and let the teacher know that even though we were divorced, we weren’t one of those dysfunctional couples that hate each other and yell all the time. Kind of an interesting evolution since one of the reasons we split up was because of our incessant arguing. We argued about everything from life philosophies to how to play a Euchre hand. God forbid I stray from Hoyle. Yep divorce, or at least living separately, seemed to fix our dysfunction as a couple (and as Euchre partners). Oh the irony!
As we squeezed ourselves into tiny little kindergartener desks, I made my pronouncement to the new teacher, Mrs. Joseph that we had recently divorced but that we get along and she would not have any problems with us. As it turned out, this was Mrs. Joseph’s first year teaching anywhere. So she was probably simultaneously concerned, skeptical, and relieved. Disbelieving or not, Ian had this teacher for two years and as we approached the end of the second year, Mrs. Joseph pulled me aside to tell me not only how special our little boy is (yep, Mom already knows that) but also how lucky he is to have two parents who work so hard to make this whole divorce thing into a positive experience for him. Now there’s two words that don’t normally appear in the same sentence. “Divorce” and “positive”. See the pattern that is starting to develop?