Parenting is challenging. Parenting after divorce can be even more challenging when frequently the interests of parents compete and collide with each other and with the best interests of the child.
When it comes to emergencies, it’s time to put those differences aside and to make sure you’re working as a team. What do I mean by this? Let me share a story:
I received an email last Tuesday from my son’s high school notifying me that administrators were investigating a bomb threat that had been scrawled on one of the stalls in a boys’ bathroom. With the Sandy Hook shooting still so fresh, I was concerned but not overly alarmed.
On Thursday, I heard through the grapevine that administrators had now found another threat with a list of the names of some twenty or thirty students. I checked Twitter and it seemed that this was indeed true. When my son got home from school we talked about it, to the best of his knowledge, he was not on the list. I decided to be safe, that he would not be going to school the next day, the day that the first threat had warned that the school “would blow.” He was relieved. I felt confident my ex would agree and planned on talking with him later in the evening.
Within a couple of hours, school administrators announced the decision to close the school for Friday. They also said that police were in the process of contacting the families of the students named on the list.
Friday evening I had dinner with a friend whose son attends the same school. She is also divorced and it was dad’s parenting time. She didn’t think her son was on the list – she hadn’t been contacted by the school or police. She’d had a conversation with her son the previous day and asked about another friend who was on the list but he hadn’t said anything about himself.
Saturday evening I got a text message from her, her son was in fact on the list. She was panicked because the school and police had held a briefing Thursday afternoon for the named students and families that she’d missed. She was worried for her son, that she hadn’t given him the support he might need.
She spoke with her ex. Yes, the school had called him about their son being on the list. He assumed that the school had also called mom. Yes, he knew about the briefing but couldn’t go. No, he didn’t call mom because he assumed the school had notified her.
She spoke to her son. He had assumed that she knew that he was on the list.
The incident now seems to be resolved. An arrest has been made. Nobody was physically harmed and we’ve all learned something more about emergency preparedness.
However, quite aside from the communication breakdowns between my friend, her ex and their son, why did the school not contact both parents?
I don’t know the answer to that – it could be they were following the emergency contact instructions on file or it could be that those were missed in the intensity of the incident or maybe my friend’s phone number on file was incorrect.
I do know that if you are sharing parenting responsibilities with your ex then you need to make sure the instructions that your child’s school has for emergencies is to contact BOTH parents – not one or the other, but BOTH. And if you are the one who is filling out paperwork or completing the instructions online, now is not the time to be selfish and make sure it’s only your contact information that is correct. Make sure your ex’s information is also correct. This is about your child.