“Hi. Can you pick up the kids from my place at 2:30? Thanks. xoxo”
This is the text message I received from my ex-husband earlier today. Typical really. Except for the hugs and the kisses. Usually, my ex refrains from adding hugs and kisses to the texts he sends to me. (I’m pretty confident that he meant to send them to his girlfriend and not to his ex-wife.) There would have been a time when I would have been deeply traumatized by even the thought of a hug or a kiss from my ex-husband, but today the message just made me laugh. This is how far we’ve come, I thought to myself, that I can see the humour in the misguided x’s and o’s. And so I sent him a text back: “2:30 is fine. And I’ll even do it without the hugs and kisses.” It pleases me to know that he and I have arrived at this place.
There is no question that there have been bumps along the way, and no question that he can send me off into orbit faster than anyone, even now. But for the most part, the relationship between us is amicable and respectful. It was something we committed to as we were splitting up: for the greater good of our children, we would both work on preserving a strong relationship as parents. Our vision, even deep in the misery of an impending divorce, was that we could show up together to parent-teacher interviews, to band concerts and soccer games, to awards ceremonies and graduations, and – somewhere down the line – to weddings. And so far, we’ve pulled it off. It hasn’t always been easy, but I absolutely believe that, for our boys, it’s been worth it.
Our secret? Starbucks. Every couple of months, my ex and I meet at the local Starbucks Coffee, and hash out a schedule for when each of us will have the boys. It’s also the time we talk about any other issues either of us is concerned about, from allowances to attitude. The great value of these coffee meetings is that they are face to face. It’s hard to demonize someone when you sit down for coffee with him regularly.
And those meetings keep us on the same page as parents. It means that the rules, for the most part, are the same at Mom’s house as at Dad’s house. It means that the expectations are the same. It means that when our 15 year old son recently said something disrespectful to me in front of his dad, it was his dad who called him on it and reminded him about how we treat one another. And it means that our boys don’t get away with very much.
At dinner tonight, the subject of text messages came up, and I started to tell the boys about the text from their dad. They all started laughing. “He told us about it! That was hilarious!” I am so glad that these are the kinds of stories my ex-husband and I share about each other with our guys. I might not be sending any xoxo messages to my ex, but I’m absolutely prepared to say that he is a good dad and a good ex-husband. And that’s as much as any of us can wish for.