Can We Just Not? Belittling Your Child’s Other Parent

We have all done it before. Talking about someone behind their back. It helps us to justify our own vindictive feelings when someone has hurt us. After we go through a divorce or custody battle or BOTH, we tend to have quite a bit of resentment built up. It certainly doesn’t help that friends and family ask questions about it when they come around. In those moments, it is so easy to let negativity slip through our lips, unbeknownst to the little ears that may be listening in.

Some, okay, a lot of the people in my life- family and friends- have harder feelings towards my ex than I do. I only really quite semi-understand why. I know the gist of it is because of the way our relationship ended, the way they feel he had manipulated me during our custody battle, some of the things he has said about me or my son around family/friends since. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, I am the one who has had to go through all of these things first hand, and I have already forgiven him.

Sometimes, I regret not just keeping my big fat mouth shut sooner. In the messy aftermath of our break up, I went to all of my family and friends who would lend me their ear, and I told them every mean and dark injustice I had suffered by his hand. It felt good to have others agree with my opinion. But he stepped up into the role of a good father; he showed up for his visitation, and he paid his child support. Even though he wasn’t a good partner to me, he was still capable of being a good father. My own feelings and the feelings of those around me did not change these facts. Was he always perfect? No, definitely not, but the bigger, more mature me realizes that I have been far from perfect myself.

There are still times when my ex gets brought up around people that I love, and their pain for me causes them to bring shame to his name, for my sake. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the negativity that is brought up, but I don’t necessarily disagree. One thing I do know, is that there are sometimes two little pairs of listening ears present during these conversations. These listening ears go to mommy’s house and to daddy’s house, and the last thing I would want is for our son to feel like he is torn between choosing between mommy or daddy based on what a loved one, myself or my ex said around those little ears, especially as he gets older.

Luckily, when this happens myself, or someone else in the conversation is able to divert it away from negativity about my ex. I won’t lie. There have been situations, conversations, and scenarios that have made me pretty angry towards my ex over the course of the last four years. The last year or so, I have gotten progressively better at keeping my mouth shut, especially when I am around my son.

The truth of the matter is that our past relationship does not matter anymore; it happened how it happened, it is in the past and neither of us can change a single thing. The annoying inconveniences and tit for tat things that make me angry every so often, are honestly not worth holding over any one’s head. (I like to ask myself when I experience an inconvenience of any kind- “will this matter in the next 5 years?” if the answer is no, I try to process quickly and let it go). The past and minor anger certainly aren’t worth smack talking my ex in front of my son to defile my son’s image of his father. Holding a grudge that turns into a burden for our son is not going to do anything but transfer the pain to the next generation.

As my son gets older, I want him to feel comfortable inviting both of his parents and our significant others to events without fear that a fight will break out. I want to have a tranquil dynamic to our relationship, not for my ex’s sake, not (entirely) for my sake, but for the sake of my son. It is so easy for adults to feel like it is mom versus dad (or dad vs. dad/mom vs. mom) when in all reality, custody proceedings are about what is best for the children. It isn’t what is fair for mom or unfair for dad. It is what is fair for the child. Talking bad about your ex in front of your child will do absolutely nothing but cause even more pain; you may inflict a small amount of pain on your ex, but the person you will be hurting the most in the long run is your child.

I’m far from perfect. There are still times when I personally will go and vent to my amazing significant other or my girlfriends. The difference now is that I am aware when my child is present. When he is around, if any negative talk of his father comes up, I quickly change the subject. There is no subject concerning his father that is so important that it can’t wait until my son is not within ear shot. I also have learned not to dwell on the little things; if something upsets me that badly that I need to vent. I vent and get it out, then I let it go; it does me no good to hold on to anything longer than my peace deserves.

The results of this, and keeping our communication professional-without any personal baggage or fights- is that now my ex and I can have a conversation with our son’s amazing step-parents about discipline, events, changes in schedule, vacations, and everything that goes on in our son’s life. We can not only be in the same room as one another, but we can also spend time together without things getting awkward.

My son’s step-mom, brother, myself, Louis, his father and my amazing boyfriend on my son’s first day of school 2018.