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Connie Schultz: 'Tis never the season for revenge parenting

 

Connie Schultz

 

 

Ever have one of those moments when you hear a song and it sums up exactly how you're feeling? 

 

It's as if someone, somewhere out there, heard the call of your heart and set it to music. Maybe for just a second or two, you think, "Yes, that, exactly that." And then you remind yourself to breathe. 

 

Earlier this week, I was driving home and thinking about what I always think about this time of year. 

 

Whom, I mean. Whom I was thinking about, because my mind always turns to the children whose holidays are about to be destroyed by warring parents. 

 

And then a song I'd never heard before came on the radio. I searched for the lyrics as soon as I got home. 

 

From "Crazy Beautiful Life," by Thomas Hien, featuring Scott Chesak: 

 

The more you want the harder it gets. 

 

The more you let go the more you get. 

 

Life after divorce, in two lines. 

 

Or, more specifically, life with children after divorce, set to music. 

 

This is my annual holiday column, fueled by memories of my own long-ago divorce and the seasonal pleas from family lawyers and domestic court judges who tell me they share it with divorcing parents. 

 

If you are divorced or newly separated, let's agree on this: No child should play the starring role in a parent's dream of revenge. 

 

It hurts the child, always. Also, interfering with your child's scheduled time with the other parent won't end the way you want it to, even if you think you've won. 

 

And what is it that you want, really? 

 

What's best for your child, you might say. 

 

No, sorry. You know better than that. If you're screwing with visitation just because you can, you've shoved aside your child to make more room for your resentment. 

 

You aren't even doing what's best for you. Consider what even a few months of revenge parenting does to you. Remember that bitter divorced person you knew way back when? The one you swore you'd never be, when you thought it could never happen to you? 

 

You might want to avoid mirrors for a while -- or for a lifetime, depending on your game plan. George Orwell once said, "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves." Leading with resentment has a way of speeding it up, at any age. 

 

I'm not lecturing from the mountaintop. The only time I ever dropped to my knees and howled for help from God was when I was going through a divorce. My son was grown, but my daughter was a little girl, and I was scared out of my mind about what would happen to her -- and to me. 

 

My friend's advice, in 1994, should be prominently displayed on a needlepoint pillow in every parent's house in America: Resentment is when you drink the poison and expect the other person to hurt. 

 

Her words saved me and my kids. Beyond providing them a stable, loving home, the best thing I did for our relationship was to give them permission to love their father, who no longer loved me. It was the easiest, hardest thing I've ever done. 

 

If your ex is not an emotional or physical danger to your child -- as determined by an outsider qualified to make that judgment -- think about what you're trying to do by screwing with your child's holiday visits. 

 

Let me put it another way: If the worst thing you can do to hurt the other parent is to rob him or her of time with your child, think about what that says about that person -- as a parent and as a human being. 

 

He or she loves your child that much. What kid doesn't need that kind of love? 

 

If you get in the way of that, think about what it will say to your children about you when they're old enough to connect the dots. 

 

They do, you know. They always do. 

 

The more you let go the more you get. 

 

You can do this. 

 

For your kid, you can do anything. 

 

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. Her email address is con.schultz@yahoo.com.

 

 

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