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Lessons in parenting

kid-with-parents.jpgThe summer I graduated high school I became pregnant with my son, Gabriel. In the nine months that followed, I had time to think about what kind of mother I wanted to be. This was my second decision as an adult, following the decision to raise him on my own. Since he would be raised in two different households, I wanted his father, Nathaniel, and I to stay friendly in front of our baby. It meant a lot to me that Gabriel had the right to love both his parents unconditionally, and not feel like he had to pick one over the other.

My decision stemmed from my own upbringing, and how my mom and dad used my siblings and me in the front lines of their divorce war zone.

Their war, where my siblings and I were always on the losing side, fizzled out with lingering bitterness as soon as we became adults. At that point in our lives, we had the right to tell them that it was a betrayal to make us pick sides and condemn the other parent, and to lose decades of the opportunity to learn to love and grow from them like children should. A parent’s relationship with their ex-spouse is not the same kind that they share with their babies — and we were denied that parental relationship.

I never wanted Gabriel to think that I would betray him, especially in the way that I was. I told Nathaniel that exact thing, and it was something he agreed with wholeheartedly.

In the years that followed, Nathaniel and I fought constantly over trivial things. On one occasion, Nate brought Gabriel home with a short haircut, cargo shorts and flip flops. I cried because I knew Gabe felt more like himself with his long hair, jeans and cowboy boots.

Sometimes we fought over big issues, like Nate taking Gabriel to Ohio, where he worked most of the year. I had custody but I did not want to limit my son from seeing his father, so we came to an agreement. For a week or two at a time, my toddler would travel to Ohio with his dad. It was also hard to let my toddler travel so far away, I always thought, “He will be too far away from me if anything were to happen.” But I knew Nathaniel well and I trusted him with our son. We were both determined to put our son first.

It wasn’t always easy. When we fought, it was always over the phone with a lot of screaming and hanging up on each other. It was a difficult relationship to maintain out of the ear shot of our child, but we had to make it work for Gabriel's sake.

And not every conversation was a fight — we grew up as best friends before becoming lovers, knew each other’s character, and did not dismiss the fact that we were both good for our son. It was a balancing act for us both.

Gabriel had the opportunity to love us equally the way I wish I could have loved my own parents. My upbringing experience shaped my views as a new mother, leading me to put my son’s happiness first.

Story by Sierra Kondos, UP staff writer

Category: Opinion