Parallel Parenting Part Pooh. Oops, I Mean, Part Two: Crossing the Line

These boots were made for walking...all over your parallel lines. Because some lines are meant to be crossed...

So let’s recap, shall we? In Part 1 of Parallel Parenting, we learned the following:

  1. Coraline’s “Other Mother” looks eerily like Marilyn Manson, and some have said Marilyn Manson looks eerily like the “Other Mother” of my children. Therefore, by the transitive property, Coraline’s “Other Mother” may just be my children’s “Other Mother.” I’m awaiting buttons for proof.
  2. Mediator Man, who just may be a tool of a mediator, gave my tool of an ex a tool in the form of a parenting style called parallel parenting. Confetti exploded, balloons fell from the rafters and blog posts were penned by Marilyn celebrating their shiny new term.
  3. Buttons didn’t appear. Instead, feathers did. Affixed to my daughter’s hair. Without nary a word of consultation with me, mom of the now-feathered, non-avian 8-year-old.

Ahhh, parallel parenting: a sexy new sociological theory giving parents who don’t get along their very own excuse for living selfishly instead of considering the best interests of the children. This trendy parenting paradigm suggests that parents live in a vacuum and can do whatever the hell they want in one house, regardless of the rules in the other — suggesting the kids are better off living in said vacuum. Consistency between the two homes? Who needs it…

But before we get all caught up in judgment, let’s see what the experts say. Here’s the definition according to Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D., who shall henceforth be known as the Proud Papa of Parallel Parenting:

“Parallel parenting is a process of parenting next to one another because you are unable to parent together…The first step of parallel parenting is disengagement. This means that you will not communicate about minor things regarding your child…You will give the other parent important information about your child, but you will not get into debates about the parenting plan or about each other’s parenting style.

‘Important information means the health, welfare, and interests of your child.”

OK, good enough. The wacky thing is: According to Papa Stahl’s definition, parallel parenting is the term that most precisely describes exactly what we’ve been doing for the last three years. We only communicate in writing about important information pertaining to the health, welfare and interests of the child.

But guess what: It’s not working! And ‘scuse me Mr. Mediator Man, but you’d know all this if you — oh, I don’t know — read the case! (If you’ll recall, Mediator Man glibly admitted in TWO sessions that he hadn’t had time to read a single word of our cases. Not-a-one…)

Parallel parenting looks great and totally doable on paper. But here’s how it looks when employed in real life. These, my friends, are snapshots of actual situations in my bat-shit crazy parallel parenting reality:

A holier-than-thou parent’s justifications in the guise of parallel parenting: A sane parent’s concerns regarding the holier-than-thou parent’s alleged parallel parenting:
Of course the children can play for long expanses of time in our Creepy Neighbor’s garage, unsupervised. So what if he has a toy box so the neighborhood children come play with him, alone? Sure he doesn’t have small kids of his own to justify the toy box or the desire to play with young children — he’s just young at heart. And a really cool guy. And super-duper trustworthy. Trust me Um. Yeah. I have a wee bit (read: HUGE) problem with my daughter relating that she spent 45 minutes of unsupervised time with aforementioned Creepy Neighbor. How many red flags do we need here? Older man, unrelated to my kids, no small kids of his own, toy box, garage, long periods of time with small children, unsupervised. I’m counting like — a gazillion! So you’d better be prepared for the email expressing safety concerns.
The “doctor” who stitched our son’s chin together was clearly being “dramatic” and “overly cautious” when ordering that we as the parents ensure the area not get wet. What does “wet” mean, anyhow? You can totally tell by the “air quotes” that I do not believe what this “doctor” said. Thus I can choose to ignore his “recommendation.” I stood at the door of your home. I explained the doctor’s orders to Marilyn. She nodded her head. I sent you a text, which you acknowledged So you can imagine my surprise a week later, when my son returned to my care describing the not once, but FOUR TIMES he went swimming. Three times in an un-chlorinated SWIMMING HOLE. Plus, last time I checked, the letters “MD” (in air quotes or actual quotes) do not follow your name. Not cool. Email sent.
I have every right to irreversibly change my children’s appearance however I see fit during my time in my home. If I want my daughter’s hair to look just like my new wife’s hair, if I want to adhere feathers to every inch of their bodies — hell, if I want to tattoo “Marilyn+John Forever” on both children’s biceps, it’s my right. After all, it happened on my time, and you cannot speak to what happens on my time in my home. If you’re planning to alter the physical appearance of a child I pushed out of my nether-regions, or if there’s anything that says “permanent” or “semi-permanent” in the description of a service you’re seeking for our children, I must be consulted. No email sent, because there’s no health or safety concerns. But it’s clearly crossing a line, nonetheless…
…but our daughter likes to sleep in the same bed with her step-brother. Good for her. But parents determine boundaries, and last I checked, encouraging children who are not related by blood to sleep in the same bed may not be the best idea. Hackles appropriately raised, email appropriately sent.

Of course, these are just a few examples among a laundry list. And while individually each may not inspire concern, taken together, perhaps you can see my distaste for the concept? They justify it as parallel parenting; I call it brazen, self-righteous and egregious ignorance of the health, safety and well being of my children. And it does not fit the definition of “parallel parenting” that the experts purport to support.

I am not expressing concerns over silly daily items, like the kids not eating enough green leafy veggies, not wearing gloves to school or taking enough showers. And I am not attempting to exert control over parental judgment, but rather questioning those judgments when I fear my children are at risk.

What is in the best interest of the children? Certainly, for us, disengagement is part of it, and trust me when I say that I’d rather have someone individually pluck my eyelashes with tweezers than to interact with my ex. But that pain is an unintended but necessary consequence of my reality. I endure so my children can have some semblance of normalcy. My children need parents who can interact, when it’s important — and only when it’s important.

And guess what? I even found evidence to support that parallel parenting as a paradigm doesn’t work for everyone. According to Lewis R. Bigler, this guy who has a shitload of letters following his name and calls himself a Family and Marriage Counselor/Mediator:

“Parallel parenting is contra-indicated in those cases where parents continue to undermine each other’s authority, cannot resist conflict or engage in behavior that may be harmful to the children.”

BOOYAH, baby. Cutting my daughter’s hair to exactly match the then-new girlfriend? Adding feathers to my daughter’s hair? An “other mother” who calls my children “her children” at every turn? Parallel parenting is clearly contra-indicated in this situation. Even Papa Stahl would concede.

But I’m all for a label — some happy little box that we can put our parenting style in for all the world to see. And since I’m clearly skilled at understanding the nuance of why parallel parenting may not always work, let’s try something that does.

With all of my collective and advanced sociological knowledge (primarily gleaned through observations in restaurants, public restrooms, personal online dating experiences and watching copious episodes of Ally McBeal), my master’s coursework in conflict resolution and my whole hour-point-five of reading about parallel parenting, I’m now unveiling my own new trendy term.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Parallel(ogram) parenting! It’s all the rage…or at least it should be.

And here’s why:

1. Let’s think of geometry. You take the quadrangle below, and while parallel lines KF and CU are all happy on their own parallel paths, there are times when something must interrupt their singular trajectory. We’ll call it, serious concerns about the health, safety and well being of the children. This creates a new line that must cross the line of the other line, which geometrically is called Line FU. And I like that.

 

See points F, U, C and K. See line FU. Any questions?

2. When written like “parallel-o-gram,” it might just be a parenting technique that combines parallel parenting with a happy little telegram cheerily warning of potential harms to the health, safety and well being of my children.

Remember when you were in high school and sent “Candy grams” to your secret crush? Or “Friendship grams” to your BFF? Parallel-o-grams are the exact same…but totally different.

An example of a parallel-o-gram I might send in my specific instance:

“Dear Ex and Marilyn: You totally rock. Except I’m not crazy about the buttons you’ve chosen to replace my daughter’s eyes. Please send her back next week with her beautiful blue eyes, k? Thanks so much.

XOXO, Mikalee”

3. The imagery of the parallelogram totally rocks. Graphically, it’s almost akin to a boxing ring, inside of which I can knock the shit out of you for making stupid decisions on behalf of my kids. Just sayin’…

Well there you have it. The bottom line is, I’ve been picking my battles for years now, but I’m growing tired of taking that lonely high road. Yes, feathers in her hair don’t impact her health, safety or well being, so this is a battle I won’t be picking. Instead, I’ve decided to go this route with the feathers:

My feather philosophy? Go big or go home.

OK, dear friends: Your turn. Any experiences out there with parallel parenting? With crazy exes who put your children in harm’s way then ignore your concerns? How would you handle the ex and Marilyn in these situations? Thoughts on parallel(ogram) parenting? What do you think of my pretty plumage?

You won’t ruffle my feathers — unless you don’t leave a comment.

;)

About Mikalee Byerman

How can a sometimes bitter, definitely jaded, no longer trusting blindsided ex-wife still believe in happy endings? (not that kind of happy endings...sheesh, people...) By channeling her scary internal dialogue through a controversial blog/future book, swearing like a drunken sailor and spending all her spare time focused on helping others people heal. Oh, and wine...lots of good, red wine. Join me as I embrace my next best self (and help you discover yours) with Me 2.0!
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96 Responses to Parallel Parenting Part Pooh. Oops, I Mean, Part Two: Crossing the Line

  1. I am in a situation in whcih “now” only am able to get some information out of my 4 year old as to what happens when she is at dad’s house. Up until now, I haven’t asked too many questions, because I don’t really want to have the same response back. BUT now, my princess voluntEers information….. It would seem like her dad let’s her do whatever the hell she wants when she has there. And now she clearly states it. So…..
    But we just keep going!
    Xx

    • That absolutely sucks. I can so relate to the idea of not wanting to ask…yet as a mom, you have an intense need to know that your child is safe and happy and healthy. It’s a fine line, that’s for sure.

      I wish you tons of luck with your situation. As Dory famously said in Finding Nemo, clearly alluding to those of us in bat-shit crazy custodial nightmares: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming…”

      • charlywalker says:

        Parallel Parenting? I’m not sure If I understood the definition correctly, but I think that’s what transpires in a marriage with children…anyway. Unless the Wife is on top…….badda-bing!

        Tell these experts who want to place the kids in a vacuum to “suck it up”. At least Dyson contains a see through canister…..

        I can’t speak for all Blogger’s, but I’m here for you.

  2. salmart says:

    Oh dear. Where to start? I haven’t laughed out loud at anything in a long while. (Even tho I write LOL all the time.) But a shriek of laughter came from my room when I saw the feathers!! But then it changed to a sadness, even tears, at what you are being subjected too. It’s wierd how my belly laugh changed into such sadness in a nano second. Maybe some clever psychologist or doctor or psychiatrist has named it something clever & technical like ‘parallel emotions’ giving it, of course, huge not-to-be-questioned validity.

    A very funny and clever post, but sadly not a laughing matter. It’s so against all human nature & instinct for a parent to allow an eight year old innocent, impressionable child to be sent ‘out there’ and be subjected to what ever whims someone else (especially someone intent on infuriating & irritating you) decides. Which animal in the wild just ‘sends’ their dependant offspring ‘out’ without watching and protecting them? It must numb you, beyond words, to see them off on the bus on Mondays, not knowing what’s ahead and there’s not a damn thing you can do to protect them.

    I LOVE the Parallel(ogram) . Could a big fat ‘U’ be put in the middle, as a prize once you’ve got around the F U C K corners?? Which answers your next question, as well, – what to say to Marilyn & the ex. That’s all I can offer there. I can’t see anything else working for you, until mediator man actually takes an interest in the case and researches the goings on & well, MEDIATES, in the children’s best interests. But until that happens then it’s back to the parallelogram.

    And what did I think of your pretty plumage? It’s my new screensaver! Classic!!

    • Parallel emotions?!?! Love it!

      Yes, I feel absolutely helpless as my children leave my home, and I count the seconds until their safe return. As I type, they are home for the week, slumbering soundly in their rooms — and I am at peace. Until next Monday, that is…

      Great idea on the giant “U.” And no hope for the mediator — that ship has sailed. Now I await our court date in a few short weeks.

      Glad you like the feathers. Perhaps I should hold a contest and give some away? ;)

      Thank you as always for the great comment!

  3. woldham says:

    Hi Mikalee,

    Once again you have just about said it all. There is nothing that I can add to your post other than you are a great writer.

    I am going to use the parallelogram communication tomorrow in my Year 11 class to try to get a message across.

    Regards, Bill

    • Thank you so much for the supportive and wonderful comment.

      Hope the parallelogram works for you — I think it’s a far happier and more successful parenting paradigm than the endless parallel lines!

  4. Carrie says:

    OMG!!!! This whole situation of yours sounds horribly familiar. Ive had the same situations with my ex and my children. He has had my daughter sleeping in the same bed as his gf’s kids, but heaven help me if she ever touches my daughter’s lucious locks!!! The parallel parenting is a crock of shit! Trust me, he will be parallel to the ground if I find out he is taking my kids in the car AGAIN without the proper and state mandated carseats!!! Its unbelievable how these men think (or actually dont think). I always look forward to reading your blog posts. I hate to hear the crap that you have to go through but there is something comforting about not being the only one!

    • kadja1 says:

      If he gets pulled over by the cops and they aren’t belted in, he can be charged with child endangerment nowdays. As for this “other mother’ term–that is nothing more than bovine fecal matter designed to enforce a peace by the mediatior…Anyone dealing with that should be demanding a new mediator from the judge and go on to court with it. They already had cases where step parents overstep their bounds and CPS doesn’t even like sleeping arrangements and such that have been described here–especially when kids are the opposite sex. Wonder what the mediator would do with that?

    • Carrie, we absolutely MUST stick together. Those of us who have been through these situations are the only ones who completely understand the torture you feel as a parent, the sadness, the anger…I don’t know about you, but being empowered to share the experience helps me get through the day!

      Thanks for reading…as always. Best of luck in your situation as well — I will continue to send good juju your way.

    • Cat says:

      Gee I thought my Ex was the only one who let my kids sleep together with his gf’s kids. I had to put an end to that here in Canada with the CAS (Children’s Aid Society) but he just moved and started lying and misrepresented his living and sleeping arrangements. It was like I EDUCATED him about it instead!

  5. Kudos for being able to have a sense of humor about the crap you are going through.

    • Thank you so much! The humor helps, though it often serves as just a Band-Aid covering some very real pain. But I’m so glad to have a voice, an engaged community of mutual support — and an occasional glass of very good wine! ;)

  6. RK says:

    Oh hell no. That was my response after reading your recent scenarios, including Mr. Candyman next door and bunking down with step siblings of the opposite sex. Oh hell yes to your hair flair.

    • Even my (situational) dingleberry of an old man knew better than to leave the Precious Only Male Child anywhere near a potential pedophile. We really had to emphasize the “Stranger Danger” rules to him because he was one of those kids who would wander off with anyone and never knew a stranger. His outgoing nature is a beautiful quality in a 20 year old, 6’1″ 200# man that he is today, but a scary as hell trait in a vulnerable young boy. I say if in doubt, keep your kids out! And NO sleeping with the opposite gender, blood relative or not- that’s just inviting trouble!

    • That’s crazy shit, right? I’m sure hoping the judge believes as much, at least…

      Thanks for the thumbs-up on the feathers. Although I think I’m molting. Is that normal? ;)

  7. Laura says:

    Parallel parenting works great….if there are actually TWO adults acting as parents. I bet your ex-husband thinks your crazyjealous and nothing you say has anything to do with the kids (even though your emails and texts to him are peppered with your babies’ names.) I believe your ex and mine were classmates at Asshole University because it seems you and I have been through similar, if not the same, headaches and heartaches.
    There is sooooooo much foul play I can talk about, I might just have to start my own blog.
    Keep your head up, girlfriend! I hope those feathers keep you soaring high.

    • kadja1 says:

      I don’t remember how old the daughter is, but if Mom has custody during the school year, I’d be taking a copy of the school dress code with a letter from her principal that extreme hairstyles are NOT acceptable at her school in front of a judge so that judge can tell the “other mother” to shove that parallel parenting BS up her booty and tell the mediator to mediate disputes instead of trying to use the kid for psychological experimenting when it flies against the authority of the custodial parent…

    • PLEASE start a blog! It’ll help me in my quest to find kindred spirits and stories. I’m so grateful to realize I’m not alone in this battle!

      And yes, during mediation, my very self-satisfied ex reported to Mediator Man that the kids constantly report that I’m just waiting for him and Marilyn to divorce so he’ll come back to me. Um. Ewwww… ‘Nuff said.

  8. I have said it before and must say it again…

    Your ex is a dink and there is no way around that.

    I had actually never heard of the term ‘parallel parenting’ before reading here.

    I can’t see how it could possibly do anything but confuse a child.

    So – now – I will add that not only is your ex a dink – he is a selfish dink.

    I think that about covers it.

    Oh – and I LOVED the feathers

    M.L.

    • Thanks for once again affirming his dinkishness. It’s epic these days.

      I totally agree about the parallel parenting concept. We’re the adults, and we have to be the ones to “suffer” based on our choices — and by suffer, I mean communicate. The kids would be the ones to suffer in a parallel parenting paradigm operated by an “other” household that constantly breeds contempt toward me. Not a good or fair situation for the kiddos.

  9. markp427 says:

    Meet up with a peacock and you two are destined to have some very colorful children! Who hopefully won’t end up parallel parented. Parallelogram parenting, on the other hand, is an awesome concept. The only way your image might be improved would be the addition, in the background, of a saddled horse tethered to a hitching post. That way your diagram incorporates not only the FU line but also includes the proverbial “horse you rode in on.”

  10. Harold says:

    Your plumage brings out the color of your eyes and lips! Or is it the other way around? ;)

    Doesn’t NV have guys that carry knee-whackers, I mean baseball bats, in the trunk of their cars? Just a question! No meaning behind it, really! It’s that time of the year.

  11. Ashley says:

    Found Marilyn’s idotic “Homes and Gardens” type website, and your physical description of her was accurate. She really strikes me as a self-absorbed idiot who cannot do any wrong in her own mind….perhaps she got some of Charlie Sheen’s Tiger Blood? I truly hope that things work out for you. Your blogs are wonderful:)

  12. Oh. Dear. Lord. Were these people raised by wolves? And I thought it was bad that my husband (yes, still married to him) decided to get our son a BB gun for his ninth birthday- he got to see the wisdom of that gift himself as we were both picking what seemed to be thousands of BBs out of the walls the last time we painted. Even better, I will give you fair warning that (same husband, still a dingleberry) a Zippo lighter is not an appropriate twelfth birthday gift. Especially when said twelve year old thinks a Zippo is a suitable substitute for a flashlight and manages to catch his box spring on fire with it… If I were to make sole parenting decisions the BB guns and Zippos would remain under lock and key until the boy is thirty, but maybe I’m just not very fun.

    • Well, you may not be very “fun” to a 9- or 12-year old…but you’re clearly a capable Mom who is just trying to protect her child! I hope you don’t mind that I laughed out loud at your story — the image of the Zippo to the box spring was just too much… ;)

      Dingleberry indeed. I think I must use that term in a future blog post…

      • Please do. Dingleberry is such a lovely visual (and olfactory) metaphor for stupidity!

        I can still smell the acrid odor of burning box spring frame, dry-chemical fire extinguisher and the flames rising from the top of the Dingleberry’s head when he discovered the Precious Only Male Child came close to burning down the house. The boy is 20 now, (not really a “boy” anymore) in college and none the worse for wear except for a bad decision to gauge his ear holes to 7/8″ (he and his buds did that to each other!) There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have gotten two out of the three goals of successful parenting completed. The POMC is potty trained and literate. Now we are working on the third goal: Gainful employment and financial independence from the parental units!

        I love your writing, and yes recording one’s plight for posterity is cathartic!

  13. dtrasler says:

    That whole list just makes me shudder. Please say someone took note of your concerns….

    • Mediator Man was completely indifferent. Essentially, his recommendation is that I should accept such “situations” as simply the result of our parallel universes. He understood that I may not agree with the idea of non-blood-related sibling co-sleeping arrangements, or the ex’s ignorance of doc’s orders or my daughter being left unsupervised with the Creepy Neighbor. But he suggested that these are just realities I must accept.

      Um. Nope. And that is why mediation is over, and our court date is in three weeks.

      • Phouka says:

        The mediator suggested you just ACCEPT those things? *falls to the ground, flummoxed*

        Does he not listen to the news? Read the “Justice” section on CNN.com? The world is a creepy-@ss place! You have every right to be concerned–and those behaviors are pretty darned creepy (except maybe the water on the chin, although I’d fillet my hubby if he ever did that with our son, so I totally understand your reaction there).

        • Mediator Man seemed totally detached. Like he couldn’t really care less. And I just have to deal with the scary reality and possibilities inherent to such crazy decisions.

          And I agree: I don’t think he watches TV. Or has an imagination. Or could possibly be human…

  14. Michele says:

    LOVE THE BOOTS!!!

  15. Jonathan says:

    If you lived in the UK, the authorities would probably be involved by now…

  16. Lynn says:

    Ohhhh Mikalee! I couldn’t stop myself! I had to find her! I believe I did and all I can say is: My eyes! My eyes! They are burning!
    A. You have the better blog, by far!
    B. Blech! How do you deal with that on the daily (or the every other weekend-ly)?
    I could go on, but I refuse to waste a moment more of my time on that.
    Umm…good luck and all that!

  17. I just adore your feathers. You wear them with such panache! But seriously, you are so right about knowing when to pick your fights. Given time, your daughter will see who was right and who was oh so wrong! But what’s this other blog I keep hearing about? The flip side, the under the rabbit hole side? Where the buttoned eyed people live? How do I find this “hidden treasure”? Any hints?

    • How about I tell you how NOT to find it: Don’t Google “Marilyn Byerman.” I swear, people are so funny … I’m constantly getting search engine term results directed to my site from people looking up “Marilyn Byerman” or “Mikalee’s ex’s new wife’s blog” or “Marilyn blog” or “blog in response to Mikalee.” These crack me up!

      First, of course her name is NOT Marilyn, and I have not included her name or my ex’s name on my site. Second, do people really think that her blog would be tagged “blog in response to Mikalee’s blog?” I do adore the innocence of it all, though…

      I’m glad you can appreciate my plumage — and my approach to the situation. Thanks for the support, as always!

  18. Looks to me like you got some legitimate worries. Is nobody thinking or what? You must dread not being in some sort of control over your kids…and yep, you have that right.

    • Thank you for acknowledging that I do have the right to worry…it’s crazy-making being told that I should just “let it go” and be all “que sera sera” about these situations. I mean, these are my CHILDREN!

      I am truly grateful for the support, Mr. Monkey. :)

  19. kadja1 says:

    I still say get copies of the school dress code, letters from a principal saying the hairstyles that are extreme are unacceptable, tell the mediator to take a hike and take your chances in front of a judge with a decent social worker to back you up on the sleeping arrangement and the creepy neighbor bit. Mediators are only to mediate disputes–NOT try to use children for psychological experiments and instill parenting skills. The latter job belongs to CPS–not a mediator. I think the judge will agree with you, but document everything, take pictures, make sure you have copies of school policies because judges hate it when step parents (SHE’S NOT THE “OTHER MOTHER and has no legal standing) pull that crap to undermine the custodial parent. Most judges don’t like those sleeping arrangements with opposite sex kids either.

  20. kadja1 says:

    Sorry but I went through it.;..I won the battle and the war. I had 3 boys and an ex’s girlfriend who let them stay up as late as they want, would tell them they shouldn’t have to eat what they didn’t like on a particular day, and all kinds of crap. When the judge got wind–I got sole custody because I proved she tried to deliberately undermine me.

    • I’m so grateful for your perspective, kadja1…I have already said “adios” to Mediator Man and elected to allow a judge to make the final decision. Our court date is in a few short weeks.

      Here’s hoping it goes the way of your war!

      I’m truly sorry for what you endured as well. It’s truly crazy how common these situations seem to be…

      • Good for you! I hope and pray the judge is a sane and reasonable person- for your kids’ sake.

      • kadja1 says:

        I hope it does go your way, and if that principal at the school says the hairstyle is totally unacceptable and you had to pay to get it fixed in a way that IS acceptable, those judges don’t take that lightly. It sounds to some like a silly thing to argue to some, but when a school code mandates specific appearences, then the judges usually side with the custodial parent and the school policy that is shown.

        The argument would be that it could cause the child psychological harm if she were to be picked on at school for such a hairstyle, and/or could be suspended if it is not corrected. I don’t think a judge WOULDN’T back that up–unless they are smoking something that is NOT legal…

        • Sadly, we’re not dealing with a school policy here, as feathers are becoming more and more mainstream. Bizarre, yes … but not unacceptable. Except in my book, when the bio parent is not consulted, that is.

  21. groovyrick says:

    As always, I find your entry very entertaining, yet infuriating at the same time. An expression I often use is “Christ, if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry”. Some situations are just ridiculous, and terribly unfair. When you started your beautiful family, I’m sure that bullshit like this was the farthest thing from your mind. Never being in a similar situation, the only advice I can give is to document everything (which it seems like you’ve done) and never give up, never give in. It may be a difficult road, but I’m sincerely hoping that one day you’ll be able to relax a bit and know that you’ve been successful as a parent. Now picture yourself as Rocky Balboa in ROCKY III, and your ex-husband and girlfriend as Mister T…every blow to the head you take, just stare ‘em down and say “ain’t so BAD!”…and boyfriend Brett can be Burgess Meredith…”Yer a wreckin’ machine!” Go get ‘em!

    • Get out of my head, groovyrick: I always tell Boyfriend Brett, “If I didn’t laugh about it, I’d be crying…”

      Though don’t get me wrong: There have been an occasional few tears.

      It is bizarre to be at this point, three years post-divorce. I would have thought the worst was in the devastating aftermath of the brick. Not true at all: This is the worst, because this is about my children and only my children. My emotions are no longer tied up with him at all — it’s just about protecting my innocent, amazing children, who deserve every chance at a wonderful life.

      I love the Rocky imagery…totally appreciated, as is your support! :)

  22. Richard says:

    Aside from a previous comment about how asinine and “non-judgemental” the term Parallel Parenting is, it’s a topic out of my realm. I do, however, agree with everything YOU said! :-)

    You do realize (of course) that you managed to incorporate relationships, offspring, child-rearing, pop-culture, asinine psychology, avian studies, math, spelling, sarcasm, irony, AND humor into this single post — my blogging hero!

    I’d put my money on your gut instincts and air-tight reasoning vs. tools one and two mentioned above — any day. My standard response to the term, “Good Luck” always used to be, “No luck involved.” These days, it seems truly good luck is much needed all-’round. Good Luck ;-)

    • Wow, Richard. I’ve never been anyone’s “hero,” let alone a “blogging hero.” I think you are now my hero because you told me I’m yours. So from one hero to another: Thank you … I’m honored!

      And yes, I do believe there’s a fair amount of luck involved. Air tight reasoning aside, all will go to crap if I get a judge who is having a bad day, or who believes parallel lines are the ultimate parenting paradigm, or if I somehow remind her of the woman who ran off with her first lover. Indeed, luck is involved.

      I appreciate all that you are sending my way!

  23. Crystal says:

    So, I have been thinking of this parallel parenting concept… And I have a question: As a step parent, how can this possibly work? Let me start by saying I as a step completely understand my boundaries… This does not mean I take any less responsibility for the children when they are in my home. I help support and provide for them and most importantly love them just as much as my own bio kids in my home. As a step this is what I signed on for, no props needed for the things I am supposed to do as a parent, step or not.

    But, in order to give respect to my step kids, bio mom MUST be able to communicate with me and not just about “big” things but sometimes little stuff as well. Like for instance; if my step children are in my care and one complains about a headache and asks for medicine, even if it is a safe Jr. Tylenol, I still don’t want to give it to him without knowing what his bio mom would do in that situation…and especially if either child came to me and wanted feathers glued to their heads. Do I think I am completely competent and capable of making parenting decisions on my own? Yes! But, that is not the right way to handle every situation nor is it my right. My asking the bio mom her thoughts and opinions does not mean I am incapable in any way, but it does mean I am doing the right thing and giving her the respect I should in her role as their bio mom.

    I have only heard that she is now using the term parallel parenting. (This is possibly used to try and justify her time in which she chose to not speak with her ex (the kids bio father). ( my husband) as she wanted to erase him from her life and then tried to move with the kids out of state.) However, never once has it been something that was discussed. She (as the bio mom) and her ex (as the bio father) did sign a parenting plan and agreed to fallow it… Not a parallel parenting plan. Never once was a parallel parenting style really even used, unless it applied to what went on in “her” home… Never for what went on in ours. (I would never even expect it to.) I am trying to be respectful and keep my boundaries all at the same time, but now there is this parallel parenting term being used… does this mean I am just supposed to do whatever I want with the children and not run anything by her? As a mom I can not see this as being ok, and as a step mom how I will know what side of the street to be on because I haven’t been given any direction. I really don’t think any parent is ok with saying “do whatever you want.” As parents and step parents we always want to be informed and involved in our kids lives, it doesn’t mean we don’t trust the other parent, but this helps keep us from crossing a double yellow line ( which is illegal). Shouldn’t we as parents all around, focus on building a bridge together anyway??. So the children can be and feel safe crossing it back and forth… Isn’t that really putting them first? We don’t have to like each other or always agree. But as adults and parents we do need to put aside pettiness and learn to communicate. ( in this you also never ever talk bad about a parent in front of the children.) It is not about ex’s being psycho … that may be how you feel and it is only an opinion (a personal opinion). It is not fact! It is not about you or you and an ex anymore…that relationship didn’t work that’s why your divorced… we get it! But no one divorced the kids! It is not a pissing match. It is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about the kids and ONLY about the kids.. all personal feelings and opinions aside. It is about respecting your roles as parents and communicating as you would to another parent regarding their child. If you had an issue with another parent and their child wouldn’t you try to bring it up to that parent respectfully? You may give your advice and input, but not make demands and ultimatums. You wouldn’t get into a pissing match of right and wrong.. even if you didn’t agree. As an adult you would try to understand and communicate in a way that would help resolve the issue. ;) ( At least I hope most of us would..lol.) So how on earth is parallel parenting even a thought — especially in a split two week on off situation or week on week off. We are not talking just a weekend here.

    Another point… as to what ends up happening (that we have had a problem with), parallel parenting ends up putting kids in the middle. The kids have been made to be the go between for information…which as kids has been miss relayed many times. I do not feel comfortable going through my step kids to talk to their mom, and I from day one have refused to do so. Kids don’t need to be put in the middle because a parent doesn’t want to talk. NEWS FLASH: The kids don’t want to either..lol. Only as kids they have a right not to! Us grown ups… not so lucky… But we do get to drink margaritas after. So it’s not all bad..lol ;)

    On an end note; The saying “birds of a feather flock together” should never be put to use literally. lol. @Mikalee, I am amazed at how well you pull them off!! I know ( way too personally) how flocked up this whole situation has been..Your sense of humor is great! I do now think it should be a law to ask opinions (especially.. of.. oh I don’t know .. a… MOM.) before you decide to flock up someones hair! Most of us moms don’t want our daughters referred to as chicks! lol And Thanks for giving me a space to talk and share too. :)

    BTW; I hope I am not going to start getting charged for my comments soon.. with all the editing work needed and all ;) ..lol

    • Crystal, you make a ton of really good points here, and there’s one I particularly want to highlight: Does anyone think the idea of parallel parenting would be much more appropriate in situations that are not 50-50 joint physical custodial arrangements?

      I think I can see some value in that, and I’m wondering if others agree. Or is it malarkey, regardless of the custodial schedule?

      And btw, when you called the situation “flocked up,” I laughed out loud! :)

      • Richard says:

        Oh, oh, . . . I know this one! Um . . . MALARKEY, I say.

        Again, out of my realm, but not off my radar. I’m no math wiz (whiz?), but changing the percentages on an asinine idea (concept) to relate to percentage of custody is a numbers game. You still have X % of a bad idea — IMHO.

        “Parallel Parenting” is, I believe, more of a buzz word than anything else. Almost more of a marketing term to be applied as the latest trend for parents looking for an edge . . . rather than anything truly focused on the benefit of the kid(s).

        Does that sound jaded? It sounds a bit jaded to me.
        Just how I roll. ;-)

        • kadja1 says:

          Richard–I agree with you, but I take it further…It’s an experimental tactic to gain someone some brownie points for a book or study to force upon the people…

  24. kadja1 says:

    It is funny how these judges can get, but if the daughter got picked on for an extreme hairstyle put on by this step-parent and the dress code says it’s not acceptable, the judge has to back the custodial parent. Getting picked on over something like that is beyond the child’s control, but if the step mom is the direct cause of it, the judges will usually slam that step parent–and the non-custodial parent for allowing it to be done. The custodial parent is the primary caretaker and thus makes those decisions in most states.

    The drama with my ex’s ex-girlfriend was one thing–dealt with her effectively. Found out that the dad was doing crazy crap as well so they gave me sole custody. He went the way of a totally religious nut case–I’m not talking about right wing/left wing either…HE really thought the world would end and was trying to really push that cult crap on them.

  25. PL Holden says:

    Wow! No time to read all the comments so sorry if there’s some redundancy.
    I know that the mother/child bond is stronger than the father/child, but wow, from what you’ve written it sounds like your children are being used as ammo to try to drive you crazy. Hope you are coping well.
    Have you ever saw The Squid and the Whale? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367089/

    • Agreed. Kids are ammo for a personal agenda. And I’m coping just fine — thanks to Boyfriend Brett, great friends, good wine and this blog! ;)

      Never have seen The Squid and the Whale. Will now, however…

  26. Lívia says:

    Your blog is very nice! \o/

  27. Jackie Paulson 1966 says:

    Ya know I found you from http://thejackieblog.com/2011/03/17/im-living-with-a-terrorist/#comment-848
    I have been divorced since 1996. My husband walked out on me and our 1.5 daughter. He fell “out of love with me.” He was sleeping with a married woman and got her pregnant…I raised my daughter alone, working three jobs – I was 28 and my daughter 1.5. To this day, his new wife of 11 years has no clue about why I divorced him. OMG ! To top it off I will write my book as I aspire to be an author about my experience. So, IN 2009 I got a paralegal degree, my motivation was trying to get child support and I won my case! He owes me 95 GRAND with interest and penalizes. When my daughter would visit him or THEM, he would have her make five cents for every bear bottle cap she would pick up off the lawn…no shit! OR cigarette butts. One night they all went to like a 4th of july party and drank, swam, had fun…well.. my daughter volunteered the fight they had. My ex drove, and two kids in back seat (mind you)- and 4-5 years of age. His now wife…gets into a screaming match and hits him, then jumps out of the car! NO SHIT. IT gets better too..but you get the idea. I could go on and on. That is why I need to get my book going. My daughter is 17 and she is my pride and joy. It’s posted on the “featured blogger” on my wordpress blog. Thanks for this post and letting me open up this way. You are dear to me, Jackie Paulson

    • Umm *shy* I just wanted to congratulate you – for earning your degree and fighting for your rights as well as for making your sorry assed ex finally understand that he had a moral and legal obligation to care for the child he assisted in creating.

      I am in a fight to the death with my own Ex to get him to share some of his 90,000.00 + income with his sons (that I am raising working two min wage jobs)

      He owes over 19,000.00 in child support alone – *sigh* – I hope you nail yours to the wall hun.

      Good luck (you will need it to actually see anything he owes to his child)

      BUT?

      I have a feeling you will.

      Be well,
      M.L.

      • Thank you for the congrats — I just hope my case ends well. One never knows…but I’m trying to be optimistic.

        Best of luck to you as well. I can’t imagine a person not wanting to contribute fairly to his or her own children — who does that?

        Well, we both know who does that, I guess…
        :(

    • Wow, Jackie — another truly crazy experience. I’m so sorry for the pain you must have gone through — especially given your daughter’s intimate involvement. Un-freakin-believeable!

      Congratulations on your success…and I look forward to following you and buying your book when it comes out. An autographed copy, I hope…
      :)

  28. Łowiczanka says:

    I went through a faze when I wore feathers. Kind of like you, but only a couple down at the bottom. Love your look !!

    • I remember feathers being fairly popular in the late ’70s. But if I recall, they were always on headbands or clips…not semi-permanently attached to one’s hair with a metal clamp!

  29. Lee says:

    My ex parallel parents when it suits him, but he has no issue telling me what sunscreen to use and the exact number along with articles about skin cancer. Yes, once I forgot to put it on and my darling got a sunburn. Wondering though…does that equate to his daughter sexually abusing mine? mmmm…don’t think so. My son will come home with black eyes and no explanations from him…like the time he “ran into” the ex’s hand weight while doing exercise. But, the one time my son took a small tumble down one single stair and had a bruise, I got an email about hematoma’s and how dangerous stairs are. BTW…no clue how to spell hematoma.

    I am still going to write this article about this and debunk the myth that it is actually better than the couple duking it out over every last details. I like the idea of kicking ass in the parallelogram.

    • Lee: Your situation sounds eerily familiar. All this talk about parallel parenting, yet recently, my ex decides to berate me over a seemingly inconsequential baseball issue with my son. I love the hypocrisy of it all: Parallel parenting when they see fit is more like it.

      And btw, you nailed the spelling of hematoma, though it can also be spelled haematoma…in case you were wondering. And just because I’m a geek.
      ;)

      Looking forward to your article, as always…

  30. greenlightgirl says:

    I have a son, who has had his head shaved repeatedly, leather tennis shoes cut in half, son not released until 6pm putting us back home after 1am on a school night and had two sizes small clothes returned “finally” only to have the proper size clothing kept by the “Others.” So while you do indeed have a heaping helping of crazy served up in your life, there will always be more where that came from. I believe they stay up at night dreaming of ways to torment. . .

    Here is a wonderful Emily Dickinson Poem that I thought you might like–

    Hope
    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune–without the words,
    And never stops at all,
    And sweetest in the gale is heard;
    And sore must be the storm
    That could abash the little bird
    That kept so many warm.
    I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
    And on the strangest sea;
    Yet, never, in extremity,
    It asked a crumb of me.

    • Love love LOVE the poem — especially poetic given the mention of feathers and all!

      And yes, I believe you’re right about the staying up late to consider new ways of torture. Except I’m trying to learn not to give in to those feelings and just let it all pass — everything except that which impedes the health, safety and well being of my kids, that is…

  31. John Roycroft says:

    I fought my ex (satin’s off spring) for 4 long years to get custody of my daughter. The courts thought it was in her best interest to live with a drunk than a father who was working drug enforcement in the projects. Then I got a call one day from my daughter, “Daddy come get me, mommy is in jail for DUI.” One call to my attorney and that was the end of my fight. Full custody and child support. Sweet revenge.

    • Dear Sir:

      Please excuse me if I seem rude – I don’t intend to be.

      May I suggest that – you have received justice rather than revenge?

      I am sorry that your relationship with your spouse turned – to crap. (being blunt – forgive me but I have been somewhere close to that)

      I lost my husband to alcohol and I know this can be heartbreaking.

      I did not see winning custody of my children as a victory myself – rather – I was relieved to know that they were safe and in the best possible care.

      Fighting for the right to care for them was – humiliating, hurtful and expensive.

      For both of us.

      If there is any victory at all- I see it as your daughter’s victory.

      She will have a safe, loving and caring home.

      I feel sorry for your ex’s loss – you can never replace a child – especially one you have loved and cared for since birth.

      I pray for her recovery Sir – a daughter needs her Mother and a Mother needs to have the ability to be part of her child’s life.

      So – rather than congratulate you on your victory – if you will forgive me – I will hope you have some way of helping your daughter to someday know that her Mother loves her.

      Please be well,
      I wish you both a loving life.

      Sincerely,
      M.L.

      • I don’t think you’re being rude at all — just adding a bit of context from your perspective, which is part of the conversation that this blog invites. And I’m grateful to see your thoughts on this, because I think we’d all agree that these situations are all nuanced.

        There is no black and white. But there is tragedy in every divorce, every custody battle, every night a parent is sleepless with concern over his or her child.

    • A long-fought battle, but one that was worth undertaking. I’m sure you’re more than relieved to know that she is safe and healthy…and happy!

  32. Dana says:

    OHH boy…you are a brave and strong woman. I cannot believe how irresponsible that was (well everything-but ESPECIALLY the neighbors garage!!). Doesn’t Marilyn watch/read the news?? What I wouldn’t give to read her blog lol!

    • Thank you for the feedback, Dana — I don’t consider myself brave, just a Mommy trying to protect her children. And I completely agree with your assessment, and will repeat an analysis I just offered on another comment: I don’t think Mediator Man has ever watched TV or even has an imagination. Because if he did, he’d hear the description of Creepy Neighbor and be appalled — not accepting!

  33. Divorce stinks. Hang in there. I hope things get better over time. Always put the children first and do the best you can.

    • Absolutely…great advice. The kids and their best interests are always at the forefront of every thought I have…even at my own expense, at times. There have been moments I desperately wanted to take a stand, but decided against in order to protect the kids. Hard to do, but sometimes necessary.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! Your feedback is much appreciated. :)

  34. N. Bee says:

    Hi, I stumbled across your blog by clicking a comment you left on another blog. Hats off to you for having a sense of humor – I love your parallel-o-gram, roared with laughter over the FU intersecting line!

    It’s been many years since I had to deal with co-parenting issues. I though my ex-shit was bizarre (he replaced me with his brother’s wife, pulled crap like trying to put our teenager in a psych ward without my knowledge for not getting along with “auntie-mommy” by claiming she was suicidal and I was too paranoid to drive in city traffic – she wasn’t suicidal and I drove/worked in Cleveland) but wow… their attitude about that neighbor is scary. It doesn’t matter if they thinks the guy is nice or even if Creepy is not a pedofile as a parent should always err on the side of caution to protect the child. I hope the court addresses your red flags and sees the potiential danger.

  35. Tigger says:

    Your graph is fantastic… may I add:

    A holier-than-thou parent’s justification
    in the guise of parallel parenting:

    Ex to me: MD wants to get her ears pierced. I know she is only 8 years old, but I think she is ready for it.

    A sane parent’s concerns regarding the
    holier-than-thou parent’s alleged parallel parenting:
    Me to ex: I dont think she’s ready to take care of ear piercings. She hasn’t shown real responsibility with things, and this is a big one that could cause her a lot of pain if she doesnt do as she is supposed to. Also, I was really wanting to take her to get it done when she turns 12… you know, a Mommy and Daughter outting like I did with OD.

    Ex to me: She wants it, so I am taking her to get them done.

    A week later, MD showed up at my home with ears pierced. 4 weeks later, MD’s ears were infected to the point that she needed an antibiotic and had to take the earrings out.

    A holier-than-thou parent’s justification
    in the guise of parallel parenting:

    Ex to me: The kids really want to play *insert some sort of team sporting activity here* I was going to enroll them into such activity. Let me know your thoughts.

    A sane parent’s concerns regarding the
    holier-than-thou parent’s alleged parallel parenting:

    Me to ex: Well, the kiddos grades have been slipping and you have already enrolled them in activity a, activity b and activity c. Why dont we give them a break from all these activities so that they can bring their failing grades up to passable.

    Ex to me: This is something that they want to do, it’s good for them and healthy for them. You are being selfish because you are not allowing the kiddos to participate in activities that are good and healthy for them. i am signing them up anyway and you must bring them during your parenting time.

    Yup…. so much fun!

    I love…. love…. LOVE reading your blog, because it makes me so happy, but sad as well, to know that I am not alone with a lot of the things I go through with the ex and wifey….

    THANK YOU AGAIN

    • You are welcome. And YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!
      :)

      All of your additions to my chart are familiar. Do these people all take their direction from the same play book?

      Thanks for reading. And please keep sharing so that others can know they’re not alone, too. I do believe it helps…

  36. Tigger says:

    Yup…

    “Parallel Parenting = excuse to do as you damn well please” Page 249 of the handbook

    and I so agree that sharing helps because, as it has for me, finding your blog, it lets me know I am not alone in these crazy situations…..

    • Oh oh OH…there’s a handbook?!?!
      ;)

      And I’m certainly glad you’re here and sharing — and relating. Even though what you’re relating about … sucks for us all!

      Keep your head up, Tigger.

  37. What a load of crap on the “parallel parenting”…..My parents used to say “How can two walk together unless they agree” and it’s true. Even if parents are apart, there has to be agreement on the best interest of the children and that means sharing hopes/concerns of the other parent. My heart aches for you. And as someone who worked with abused children for over 10 years, there should never be co-sleeping or any other intimate contact (bathrooms/changing/sleeping). Stepfamilies (and some biological) are the worst for those situations. I would continue to bug CPS about it. Find someone to intervene.

  38. Pippi pie says:

    Well let’s add my ex’s new partner to the list of effed up b!tches… Disciplining my daughter (at their house) by putting her nose against a wall, sitting on her knees, IN FRONT OF ME!! Don’t ask how I let the woman remain breathing after that, but according to ex because it’s her house now she gets to make the rules… Makes me wonder what happens when I’m not there . Actually I know, many things because my kids come back and tell me the odd thing, breaks my heart a little more each time. But hey, I should just cop it sweet as I did “break up the family”… According to her. Had never googled how to make a voodoo doll til she came along …

    • Wow. Sounds like a HORRIBLE situation — I’m so sorry for you. I can absolutely relate to how it breaks your heart when the kids tell you something … and it’s something you have absolutely NO control over whatsoever. It’s an awful feeling.

      I just about spit water all over my keyboard when I read your last sentence; so glad to see you can find some humor in the madness.

      I wish you continued healing — and thank you for stopping by!

  39. Pippi pie says:

    We all have a list don’t we? Your blog is one I have come to a few times, helps me take a breath, remember I am not the only mum out there dealing with this endless crap. Thank you. You make me laugh when I want to go run her over and over and then reverse over her just to be sure.

  40. Juj says:

    While I understand your frustrations, I watch my long-time significant other struggle with this as the non-custodial parent everyday. His ex-wife has had custody since they divorced when their son was nearing 3 years old, and now he is nearing 9. Dad has watched his son become out of control because his ex-wife allows him to do pretty much anything he wants. Now that Dad actually has rules to enforce (bedtimes for school, bedtimes for weekends, saying “no” to buying things, etc”), Dad is a “bad parent” for making his son cry. His ex is quick to jump at calling him a bad parent, but when she does something stupid (letting the kid stay up until after ten pm, then sending him to school on five hours of sleep), Dad cannot say anything. You HAVE to pick your battles. There are causes for concern, and then there is petty crap. I consider the hair battle, petty crap. It grows out. Dad doesn’t want his son having pink color in his hair, but Mom does it, anyway. Dad will be bitch slapped if he gives his son an inch-long haircut, though.

    I am a child of divorced and watched my parents struggle with the parallel parenting. The problem is, there is always one parent (there HAS to be) in the situation that feels the need to know EVERYTHING about the other parent’s home. And some, just do not know how to pick their battles. Unfortunately, you chose who the other parent of your child was going to be. Too late to back out now. Now, you need to focus on what is best for the child. And fighting over feathered hair (in the literal way, not the Charlie’s Angel way) isn’t helping the child.

    Stopping them from playing in a possible pedophile’s garage is different- you need to stop that from happening.

    • Juj — great comment, and I definitely appreciate your perspective. My concern with the idea of parallel parenting is that it is completely selfishly driven — toward the parents and their best interests, without considering what the child may feel. So in my case, my kids spend two weeks in a home with their dad/step mom with a completely defined set of rules/expectations, then they come to my home to my rules/expectations. Given the permission to parallel parent, we can do whatever the hell we want — but the kids have to do all the adjusting. It’s crazy-making for them. They get confused about what’s expected of them in my home, because it’s “not like that in dad’s house.”

      I agree that we chose each other as parents…but shouldn’t that also dictate that we need to work respectfully together to accomplish a common goal of raising well-adjusted children and putting their needs first? I think so. But it takes two to tango, as they say.

      And in terms of the feathers: That is definitely NOT a battle I picked. I neither called my ex to talk about it or made a big deal of it with him — it was simply a way to address the literal issue in a symbolic way on my blog.

      But I will add that the judge in our case didn’t seem to care about the man with the toy box in his garage. Her response: “How do you know he is dangerous?” My response: “How do we know he is NOT?” When it comes to children, I’d rather err on the side of caution — but apparently, Nevada judges don’t think that’s too important.

      Again, thank you for leaving your thoughts here. It’s a tricky subject, to be sure. And I know there are many sides to most stories — I’m just presenting mine and hoping others will share theirs, as you have…and I’m grateful! :)

  41. Tam says:

    My ex sister in law is driving my brother crazy. She refusues to financially support the kids (my brother has to argue about the boys eating lunch) she doesn’t support the boys academically (A average at my brother’s C average at her house. She doesn’t discipline, set guidelines or for that matter she really doesn’t parent yet it is being suggested that my brother parallel parent with this self center liar. I can’t believe that hte court would disregard what is best for the kids just to give her equal time. Is there anything he can do to help his case? He is trying for sole physical custody (he has sole legal) and I believe that the only way this parallel parenting thing could work is if she only had them every other weekend, her holidays and her 4 weeks summer vacation. Kids need consistency and guidance not chaos. Who comes up with these ideas and do they have kids?

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