Joint Custody: Who Gets The Stuff? - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Joint Custody: Who Gets The Stuff?

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"Mom, I left my soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler at Dad's." 

You're entitled to be annoyed with your kid.  To a point.  But kids will be kids.  They forget things under the best of circumstances.  And joint custody is not the best of circumstances.  That kid is bearing the brunt of shuttling between two houses, which is, let's face it, confusing, difficult and a flat out pain in the ass. 

So now begin the negotiations with your ex. Does he bring the soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler to you? Or do you pick up the soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler from him? 

It should be simple.  Who has more time?  Who is going in the right direction?   Unfortunately, the questions one would ask in a rational circumstance are completely irrelevant here. 

Instead, the full force of every resentment, disappointment and grudge that exists between you and your ex now weighs down the not-so-simple matter of getting that soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler back to your child.  

He may say, "I have her uniform and you have her, and soccer practice starts in 45 minutes."  But you know he really means, "How dare you opt out of our psychodrama recapitulating our unhappy childhoods as the over-achiever in a family of screw-ups?"   

Are you supposed to drop everything and leave work early to go get the soccer uniform from him just because he makes more money?  Or do you make him come to you in an effort to force him to recognize that the only reason he's more successful is because you shoulder more of the child-rearing burden?   How did a soccer uniform get so heavy?  Talk about baggage! 

Not to mention the fact that kids sometimes use the forgotten soccer uniform-retainer- cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler as a manipulative tool to force parental togetherness. Because regardless how over it, over-er it, or over-est it you are when it comes to your marriage, your child will wish the two of you back together until she draws her last breath.

 It helps to be "on" to him, yourself, and your kid, aware of the subtext lurking behind the forgotten soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-books-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler. And that subtext will of course be unique to the dynamic of your particular triangle. 

Will you "owe" your ex if he makes the run? Will you feel indebted? Will your child "win" a forced moment of togetherness between you and your ex, or even just a glimmer of power over a situation in which he feels powerless? Will you harbor resentment towards your kid if you make the run? Guilt if you don't? 

The age of your child is also a determining factor. Less can, and should be, expected of very young children, more of older kids and teens. 

But no matter what the underlying dynamic is, you must act "as if." As if stuff is just – stuff.   

If the soccer uniform-retainer-cell phone-homework-glasses-lunchbox-inhaler is not essential to your child's well- being and happiness, you have got to let them go without.

Your kid's teeth won't be irrevocably harmed if she misses a night with the bite plate. He will survive without that cell phone for a couple of days no matter how tragic it may seem at the time. That inhaler, on the other hand, might be necessary.  Once or twice. 

The good old "three strikes you're out" policy is pretty fair. There are only so many times that you should be expected to run around like a headless chicken before your kid has to take responsibility for remembering that X@$%X soccer uniform. 

For their sake and yours, set a boundary and stick to it.  Joint custody is a seismic shift, and every break in the new routine is an aftershock. Acknowledge what you and your kid are feeling - denial, anger, bargaining, depression? 

But as you ride the roller coaster of change, no matter how you feel inside, act "as if" you have arrived at the promised land of acceptance.  Meet your ex halfway in the supermarket parking lot, make the exchange through the window, and be on your way.  Don't look in the rear view mirror.   

You'll be surprised how quickly that symbol of failure, loss and missed opportunity turns back into a mere – soccer uniform.  

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