From the moment we hold our child in our arms for the first time, our lives are forever changed. As coParents, we must work together to share parenting time, accept our child’s passions in activities and go with the flow to grow as their biggest fan.
We may be great captains of industry, opera singers of rich acclaim, educators shaping future generations, politicians or physicians; our titles do not matter one bit once a baby comes along. For in that very moment where the cosmos has opened and plopped an infant into our tender care we not only receive new monikers like ’mom” or “dad” or other variations of that but, we have a new job description as well.
In an intact relationship we may be ‘job sharing,” with our partner. Separated parties especially need to be aware of their parental job description. All parents definitely have a responsibility and a set of duties that are ours to carry out. Among the requisite functions may be nurturing, providing, safe keeping, teaching and loving. Inherent in all of that is the job title of “fan,” audience, observer, support system, and the most exuberant cheering section a kid could ask for!
This reality has far reaching ramifications in two specific areas that effect children and their ability to thrive. As a Judge, a common complaint of parents I see against their coParenter is the that the other parent is scheduling extracurricular activities during “my parenting time!” While it is true, I have seen cases of over overzealous schedulers or even vindictive coParents.
For the most part, kids are just busy and they have activities that require ongoing lessons, practices, games, recitals, appointments or meetings. Being a parent means that you are the one sitting on that folding camp chair in the pouring rain at your kindergartener’s soccer game even if the “BIG GAME” is really on your TV at home or you’ve had a hard work week and you would rather be spending quality time with your kid at home on your schedule!
Why should you spend your weekends being dictated by your children’s “hobbies” or your ex partner’s whims?! Well adjusted, social children participate in music, sports, the arts and service. All of which interfere with your leisure time. That is parenting! Your job, your important significant irreplaceable responsibility is to be present, involved, participate and be the number one fan.
What makes a difference is that as a parent, it is no longer your time; it is all parenting time, all the time, every moment, every minute and at every endeavor. Your child needs to know you are all in; not withholding or begrudging of the expenditure of your supportive presence. Parenting time is on the fields, the courts, the stadiums. the stage, the choir halls and the field trip bus. That is what a parent is all about – being the spectator, the fan in the stands for your child from the moment they perform their first violin performance.
And as a good parent, that number one fan or spectator committed to be in attendance as your child forays and dabbles into the arts, music, sports, and other team participatory activities, you must understand that those events are “safe zones.”
What does that mean “safe zone?” It means frankly, that you and your coParenter are not allowed to be unkind with one another. It is unacceptable and breaks all the rules of civilized, enlightened, child centric coParenting. If you as an adult trample on the sanctuary of a safe zone by bad behavior, then you are not being a child-centered parent.
When your kid is vulnerable, putting their young selves out their trying new things, if you and your coParenter can not be on your best behavior, then shame on you. No one ever said raising a child with an ex would be easy but, it certainly rests on the shoulders of the adults – not the hearts of the children caught in the middle.
Children exposed to mean verbal exchanges or angry looks between parents at kids’ events will effectively shut your child down. Your kid in all likelihood will withdraw from activities or performing. Your kid is uncomfortable, upset, hurt and isolated when parents can’t get along. Bad parental behavior brings unwanted negative attention to your child. Your lack of control at this important crossroads or events of your child’s life can destroy your kids’ desire to achieve, to try, to accomplish, to excel. Who wants to be a concert pianist if it means her parents will be there diminishing the thrill of that first concert by exchanging dirty looks? Your little rising and super star will start to diminish in flair, confidence, desire and aptitude.
Children do not rise to meet the measure of their potential if that child’s parents make every celebration a bad memory, a pit in the stomach, a break in the heart and a disappointing failed attempt to just be like the other kids.
Being a child centered parent means that you are genuine in your support of a child’s schedule including practices. You take responsibility and acknowledge that your parenting time is in fact that time you spend sitting on the sidelines, observing your child learn to be part of something bigger than himself – a team, for example.
Truly being a supportive fan means that you will honor your child by upholding the concept of the “safe zone.” It is a time and place to celebrate your child’s attempts at achieving something extraordinary by their participation in sports, music or other activities.
Author Judge Sherrill Ellsworth is the Chief Community Officer for coParenter.com, the sister site of KidsBeforeConflict.com. Ellsworth is the Past Presiding Judge of Riverside County, a Judicial Educator and former Family Law Judge. After almost 20 years on the bench , she has earned a reputation for being a straight-forward, no-nonsense, fair judicial officer. A broadly talented jurist and settlement expert, Judge Ellsworth has effectively handled complex civil litigation cases, family law, felony criminal trials, probate and general trials throughout her almost 30 years of lawyering and judging. Judge Ellsworth was one of the court’s most respected and admired bench officers, earning the trust and revere of her colleagues and the lawyers who appeared before her. In 2014 she was named the Lawyer of the year by the J.Rueben Clark Law Society Los Angeles Chapter. Also in 2014 for her Judicial leadership she was named as an Inductee to Western State University Hall of Fame. In 2013 Judge Ellsworth was awarded the Douglas Weathers Judicial Leadership Award by the California Consumer Attorneys, as well as various awards for her judicial leadership both as Presiding Judge and for Family Law. In 1999, she was named the American Business Women’s Association Woman of the Year for Judicial Leadership. Judge Ellsworth was appointed vice-chair of the California Court Case Management System Justice Partner Advisory Committee in 2010. She was a member of the Strategic Evaluation Committee appointed by the Chief Justice and of the council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, and Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants.