"The judge came to a decision. Your parenting time will begin Fridays after school and end before school on Monday mornings."
My heart sank. I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. Oh my god. I was the weekend parent. Of my own child. That wasn't enough. Not enough time to raise my child. Not enough time to enjoy watching him grow up. Nothing could fill the void that I felt. I had lost my boy. My baby.
Like many of you, I too understand the gut-wrenching heartache that often comes with sharing custody of your children. After 10 years of co-parenting, I finally have it mastered....I think. For me the first 10 years were brutal trial-and-error lessons that tested my very essence, patience, sanity, strength and resilience. It challenged everything I thought I knew about what it really means to be a loving parent.
From sippy cups and footsie jammies to band practice and Elementary School - the years quickly flew by and somehow we found our own, unique stride. There were, of course, many bumps along the way. What I found made it most difficult at the beginning was having such a young child that didn't understand the new parenting schedule. How can you expect a toddler to understand that a judge, a stranger, now dictates how often he can see each of his parents? Despite explaining many times and in many different iterations that "...both Mommy and Daddy love you so much, that we've decided to share time with you....etc.", he was still very much confused by the new parenting routine. Tortured even, starting each and every day unsure of which house he would reside in, which parent he would be with, or when to expect the stressful transfer/exchange days.
My son's confusion around the new parenting schedule was evident in his demeanor. I noticed that he seemed very anxious and stressed, which made his ability to relax into his current home difficult for him. Being too young to read or be able to interpret events on a typical written calendar, I created a Parenting Time Calendar just for him - with the use of "Mommy" and "Daddy" icons to represent which day was a "Mommy" day for him and which day was a "Daddy" day. Almost immediately, he took to the calendar and seemed liberated by finally knowing what was coming up for him. His little Parenting Time Calendar quickly became a mainstay in our home, and I noticed that when he would look up at his calendar and see that it was a "Mommy" day, he could relax into my home that day knowing that there wouldn't be a stressful transfer that would interrupt the comforts of home and play for him that day. Even transfer days seemed a little less stressful for him, since he could see those days coming up for him in his week on the calendar. Since then, I've been on a mission to develop a lovingly enlightened line of tools and toys to help 'littles' understand big things. Our "My Two Homes" Co-Parenting Calendar has been invaluable to my child, and it is my greatest hope that your family can benefit from them as well.