A child of divorce herself, Victoria B. had very few photographs of her childhood at all, let alone pictures that included both of her parents. After her own divorce, she was determined not to let that happen to her son Bruce.
So, when she was scheduling a family photography session a couple of years ago, she decided to give her ex-husband a call. He agreed to participate, and he came along again last year. They believe it sends the message that, while they may not be together anymore, they are still “loving their son together.”
“We go above and beyond to include one another because we are not simply ex-husband and ex-wife ― we are parents to Bruce, first, foremost, and most importantly,” Victoria told The Huffington Post. “We hope that Bruce learns that you can still have someone in your life, even if they aren’t romantic any more, and especially if they are the parent of your child.”
It hasn’t been easy. Both Victoria and her ex-husband Adam have entered new relationships since the divorce — and they no longer live in the same state. Bruce is spending long periods with each parent — with the corresponding long periods alone for the other parent. However, the pair took time during their divorce to think about how best to co-parent their child.
Furthermore, they made extra effort even when times were at their most stressful — just before the divorce was finalized. They agreed on the importance of spending holidays and birthdays together, at least for a few hours. Living so far apart now, that isn’t possible anymore, which makes the shared family photograph even more important.
“Adam and I are not perfect co-parents, but we made a deal when we got divorced, to put our son first and to value the richness that we each bring to his life, for different reasons,” says Victoria. “So yes, we still have a family portrait taken, and I still pay good money to have the images printed, framed, and placed in our son’s bedroom; he may not grow up with parents who live in the same house… but he will grow up to see respect, kindness, empathy, compassion, perseverance, flexibility, and even sacrifice being modeled by both of his parents and he will know it is possible to fall out of love but never fall apart.”
One thing that helps them keep on track is to put their relationships with Bruce first, instead of focusing on the hurt feelings or misunderstandings that crop up in any co-parenting relationship. It’s just as important to teach Bruce how to move on with grace as it is to see the parental relationship valued.
An annual, joint family photo may be something you and your ex could do to support your children. Do you have it in you to spend at least some time together on important holidays and birthdays? For example, could you continue with the tradition of spending the night in one house on Christmas Eve and waking up together in the morning to see what Santa has brought?
That kind of cooperation may be challenging, especially once you and your ex are in new relationships. However, sitting down with your ex — as partners — on a regular basis promote communication and help you remember to honor your parental role.
Also, remember that Victoria and Adam kept their intentions clear from the time of the divorce process. The right attorney can help you clarify your own goals and intentions so that your divorce doesn’t become a battleground.
Life is short. Do you really want to be in permanent conflict with your ex? Consider Victoria and Adam’s idea and see if there’s a tradition you could both support. What ideas can you think of?