They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I've often wondered how distance or space can make the heart yearn for who or what's missing when communication is key to building quality relationships. But, if absence makes the heart grow fonder, how does the heart feel when someone returns? Does it bring them closer? Or can it create a greater distance?
When a child is born it's a life changing experience for everyone, and those changes can be overwhelming. In fact, they can be outright intimidating, but does that give one parent the right to walk away? Of course the answer is no, but the reality is sometimes they do. And when this happens one parent is left to raise a child alone, hoping they can provide everything they need to have a well balanced life.
Then after a few months or years the missing link (counter parent) returns out of the blue and decides to be super parent! And your initial reaction is...well, I'll let you fill in the blank. When this happens, how should you react? Do you welcome them with open arms, or do you shut them out? Well, speaking from experience its best to open the door for them to come in. Why? Because the child you both created has the right to have a relationship with both parents. While welcoming an estranged parent back is easier said than done, here are a few ways you can make the transition easier for you as a parent, and your child.
1. Stand firm on what you've set in place for your child. Kids need structure. In fact, everyone needs it! When an absentee parent returns they feel the need to rearrange certain routines you've established for your child because they want you to make room for them. While things will change, you mustn't rearrange any daily structure thats already been established. If they're genuinely back to establish a relationship with the child then they'll make necessary adjustments to their schedule to do so. Don't spend valuable time debating and creating a completely new schedule to accommodate them. However, if they are sincerely putting forth an effort to bond with their child, and reasonable matters are hindering them, then using your best unemotional judgement, make adjustments as you see fit.
2. Be patient, and never loose your cool. We all know when relationships end, someone may or may not have ill feelings towards the other party. However, there may be harsh feelings because one parent has had the privilege of raising a child without the assistance of the other. And we all know how this can play out. When the absentee parent returns they may want to "trigger" your emotions by dangling their new relationship in front of you, bringing the child home late from a visit, intentionally canceling visits which may cause you to rearrange your plans, or breaking a promise to your child. While these things can infuriate you try your best to mask your emotions. Why? Simple. If you loose your cool in front of them, they'll own your emotions. And they may attempt to trigger them any chance they get to get under your skin. So remain calm, cool and collective no matter what. Besides, if you don't entertain a clown, they'll stop performing.
3. Be respectful of their parenting. The other parent may have different practices from yours, and guess what? That's perfectly fine. The whole point of having two parents is so the child can get the best of both worlds, and learn different sets of values to create one dynamic person. Remember, you are not the other parents parent, nor are you the police. So please try to refrain from monitoring what the other parent does. As long as your child is safe and happy, you should not have any criticism towards their methods.
4. Give them a genuine chance. As much as your patience will allow, work with the other parent to create opportunities for them to spend with the child. If they fail to met their commitments, then you are not responsible for their mishaps. Save your energy to pour into your nurturing your child's emotions if they are disappointed. All you can do is work with them to the best of your ability, and move forward from there.
5. Remember the bigger picture-your child's relationship with both parents. Whether we want to believe it or not children benefit positively from both parents interaction in their lives. It doesn't matter if the parent is an upstanding citizen, or the polar opposite they are entitled to a relationship with their flesh and blood if it proves healthy for them. Kids deserve to know both people who created them, and the chance to build that relationship and decide how they will interact with them.
Having a child is a blessing. And while the day to day tasks of parenthood is an enormous responsibility it's one that must be done with the love and care of two people. So if you co-parent decides to reappear, give them the opportunity to fulfill their obligations to your child, for the child's sake. Remember to keep your emotions at bay, step out of the way and allow nature to take it's course.