I know that many of you heard the story yesterday about the custody battle between Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry for their four-year-old daughter. Media reports state: "a custody evaluator — a psychologist — wrote the report after extensive interviews with the family and others. The report raised issues not about Gabriel's ability to love but to care for Nahla, in part because of personal issues. A judge will decide the custody arrangement later this month, and whether Halle gets to move to Paris with Nahla — something Gabriel opposes."
Now, before we begin to take sides, which countless numbers of people have via social media, we need to look at the bigger picture. It is the very process of taking sides that is a reflection of the challenge that many of us who are trying to co-parent face daily. The challenge where one question is lifted over that of the very welfare of the children we claim to want to love and develop. That question is who is more right.
As the country faces increased divorce rates and more children, especially in our community, are being raised in single parent homes, the notion of co-parenting becomes more and more important. Co-parenting; or separated/divorced parents finding ways to collectively and cooperatively raise children they have brought into the world, is for many more difficult than trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro backwards with a blindfold. We carry as men and women so much pain, anger, shame and regret (did I say anger?) as a result of failed relationships that we can often never see beyond it in the name of providing a healthy space for our children.
Children are like beautiful flowers. They need ideal conditions in order to properly grow, bloom, and mature. What I see so often is parents attempting to fight for the position of greatest provider of light and water. "I can provide for them better than you" or "you can't love them or address their emotional needs the way I can". And what we fail to realize is that no matter how true either or any of the statements you can come up with to describe how great you are at parenting, it is secondary to the environment in with the parenting is done. By that I mean you could provide the greatest light since the sun to your babies, and provide care like spring rain, but if the soil that your babies are in is contaminated, all that great light and water still can't stop the flowers from being infected.
And my beloved family, so many of us are further contaminating the soil even in our well doing. I don't know the details of Halle's family, but if little Nahla is like most babies, she is not asking "who is the better parent?" She wants mommy and daddy to love her, even if they can't love each other. And so many of our kids are saying the same thing. They don't really care whose fault the divorce was, or what mommy did or didn't do for daddy. They want to be kids. And we too often as women are more concerned with not allowing him to play me again, and as men we vow not to let her get over on me. And all the while, it is our children who are hurting.
One of the biggest challenges of my life was realizing how much I sucked at co-parenting; spending so much time trying to defend what I was doing, or highlight what she wasn't that I couldn't see how I was infecting the soil. Am I great at it now? No. But I am committed to looking at how I can fertilize and not contaminate the environment my babies are in. There are several things we must remind ourselves of if we are going to co-parent properly.
How can I see beyond my issues to think about and provide what my baby needs?
How can I look beyond their issues to do the same?
How my co-parent feels matters.
How can I work with them even though I don't like them?
In the war between us, the first causalty is always our child.
The desire to raise a healthy flower matters more than who is the sun and the water.
I know your situation may be unique, and I don't know what he or she did. But unless we are talking about physical and emotional abuse that there is no cure for, children need their mothers and their fathers. I want to thank my mom and dad publicly for their ability to co-parent. I know it could not have been perfect or easy, but we saw you work together to raise us together. I am working like so many who are listening towards that.
So stop blocking that father from seeing his baby. Work through the issues while your child spends time. Stop talking about your children's mother negatively in front of them. Stop trying to make your babies choose sides in a civil war that is of your making. Whether you were married for years, or you just didn't wear a condom, it doesn't matter. These babies of ours are here, looking for love and guidance. How they turn out will be an indictment or a testimony, not to one parent, but both.
Let's raise together the beautiful flowers that God blessed us with in healthy soil. The world will be better for it.