I was cleaning out my office this past week, and stumbled across this treasure, a note written to our resident Elf on a Shelf from my then seven-year old daughter during the first Christmas after my divorce. It read:
“Hi, it’s me. I miss you, so I have an idea. I think you should go to both my houses. Do you know my other address? P.S.- Please tell Santa that the #1 wish on my Christmas list is that my mom and dad don’t fight.”
I probably don’t need to tell you that this particular year was a banner year for gifts at BOTH her houses.
I remember reading this note the first time. After I got over the punched-in-the-gut-wind-knocked-out-of-me-feeling, I thought to myself, “But….we don’t even really fight anymore.” My marriage to her dad wasn’t a happy one at the end and, yes, we did fight occasionally. But our divorce was pretty peaceful. We made sure of it. Still, our poor second grader who should be producing an impossibly long and unrealistic Christmas list was asking Santa for…peace between her parents. It was clear that our seven-year old child was picking up more than we thought she was.
When I look at this now, with a few years as a divorced mom and a family mediator under my belt, this note really speaks to me about the importance of how we conduct ourselves in our co-parenting relationship. Even though divorced parents often have some negative feelings toward one another- and often for good reason- it is our job to see to it that these feelings are undetectable to our kids. This means more than just not fighting. It means no eye rolling, no sarcasm, no speaking badly about each other to or around the kids-EVER. It’s hard, I know. Sometimes it might even seem impossible, but it’s always possible. I promise. You can’t control another person’s selfish/idiotic/typical/nasty/etc. behavior, but you can always control your response to the behavior you object to. You can always keep your side of the road clean by choosing to remaining calm, kind, and cordial despite how expertly your buttons are being pushed.
You can do it. It’s what your kids want more than anything-my elf and I have the proof. The good news is, it’s cheaper than an X-Box.