Talking to a person face to face works a lot better than communicating digitally – especially when there’s a conflict. It helps to see someone is a person, and not just an answer in your phone.
My family and I, we are probably the model version of an extended family. Everything goes fine almost all the time, we all like each other. Of course, we fight too, sometimes.
A while ago, it happened. My ex -my third son’s dad- called at the end of a working day. I was tired and emotional, because I had just entrained the kids and no matter how used you get to co-parenting, it always hurts a little to see them go. I was worried about something small that turned into something big in my mind. My ex had a busy day, but he called me back anyway, I was standing in the street somewhere, it was windy outside. I still picked up. We had a fight. At that moment, we could probably fight over a pretzel, but especially over ‘the problem’: that my four year old suddenly didn’t want to go to his dad.
In his case, that’s extraordinary, because ever since he was born, he always wants to go to his dad. But all of a sudden, with his big, brown, dreamy eyes he said: ‘Mommy, I want to be with you.’ Is it wise to let a child have their way, or is it better to stick to the schedule?
It was one of those times when texting or calling doesn’t work, especially if you’re tired and it’s windy outside. We exchanged bad words. Mine became worse, my ex hung up without saying goodbye. Beep beep beep. Even when we were together he never did something like that.
We could do better. We arranged to meet over coffee.
It was in the morning, I was late. He was already there. Wearing headphones, drinking coffee, reading the newspaper. My two-year old was with me and immediately crawled onto his lap, because she always does that, even if he’s not her dad, not even her stepdad, just her half brother’s dad.
‘Hi, you want coffee too?’
We started out carefully. How should we start the conversation? I told him something irrelevant, just to break the ice. ‘It’s always different when you can look someone in the eye,’ he remarked, and he was right. We weighed our words. ‘I didn’t mean to…’ ‘Neither did I!’ That was enough.
We didn’t really need the rest of the hour. This time, it didn’t end with beep beep beep. This time he said: ‘It will be alright.’ We’re sticking to the schedule. If my son will object for a long time, we’ll start listening to him. Perhaps it will blow over. In words, it sounds easier than in feelings. But I can live with it, now that I’ve met up with his dad. Sometimes it helps to see someone’s a person, and not just an answer in your phone.
Text: Pauline Bijster – Photo: Christin Hume
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