My current guest is Carlos Phillips, author of Healed Without Scars and founder of the Healed Without Scars Ministries. Carlos was married for seven years when his marriage ended. He’s father to two boys who were just six and two at the time. For the past nine years or so under their parenting plan, he’s been their primary custodial parent. That changed in August last year when his ex became the primary parent. I asked Carlos to talk about what prompted the big parenting plan change and how he and his boys are coping. Here’s Carlos.
Last August my oldest son wanted to go and live with mom. He was having a combination of becoming a teenager and believing that living with mom would be so much easier and less strict and the whole nine yards that teenagers think. It was extremely hard to let them go, but that’s what we had to do.
It took so much adjusting to them not being here, and me not taking care of them and me not getting them to school, everything. It was that way for nearly nine years, so it’s taken quite a bit of time. As my boys are getting older and going through hormonal changes and trying to discover who they are as young men, it’s been difficult to not be there next to them every step of the way, on a day in and day out basis.
I make sure that we still have constant contact, on the weekends we have fun, but we also have very serious man-to-man conversations about life and about what it is that my older son plans to do after high school. We’ll text each other, we’ll call each other. It was so strange, when they went to live with their mom, their first day of school, they surprised me. They just gave me a call and said,
“Hey dad! We used to see you every day, so we just wanted to call you and say good morning.”
I had to really fight back the tears. That really did touch me, I didn’t expect them to do that, so that was really awesome. In teenage life, that didn’t last very long. I don’t even get a call from them now. I see them when I pick them up.
Even though it was my eldest who wanted to live with his mom, we decided we wouldn’t split them up. My boys are the best of friends. My oldest is sixteen, my youngest, is thirteen and they have been together through this whole situation, their whole lives, together. They’re inseparable, so it was never going to be a matter of splitting the kids up because they are the two closest human beings to each other that you ever want to see. I knew how much they loved each other and depended on each other, so the idea of splitting them up was never a thought.
My youngest didn’t mind the change. He said,
“If my brother wants to go, then I’m going with my brother.”
That was pretty much the end of it for him. My youngest son is so easy, he’s fluid, he goes with the flow. Whatever’s going on, that’s what’s going on.
“If we’re living with mom, great, if we’re living with dad, great. Either way it goes, I’m just fine as long as I’m here with my brother.”
In any divorce, it’s the kids that take the brunt of the adults’ decisions, so if you as an adult can really step up to the plate and look out for your children through this situation, that’s what you need to do.
The Divorce Coach Says
There are three parts to this segment that I appreciate.
First, Carlos’s willingness to make a major change in custody arrangements because his son wanted it. That takes courage and faith. My daughter is seventeen and there have been several periods in the past year when we’ve been seriously butting heads. I’ve thought about suggesting that maybe we should change our parenting time and that she should spend more time with her dad but I’ve kept quiet. I kept quiet in part because I was afraid it was an emotional response to tension that I didn’t really mean or truly think would be in her best interests. However, I know I didn’t say anything also because I was afraid she would go and I would “lose” her. So kudos to Carlos for trusting this change is best for his son and supporting it.
Second, I appreciate the philosophy that both boys should stay together. I don’t know what the professional advice is on this but my instincts agree with Carlos. Not only do children have a relationship with each parent but they also have a relationship with each other. I would be afraid that if my children had different parenting schedules then that sibling relationship wouldn’t develop so well. I also like to think that siblings can support each other. This can be especially important in the early days of divorce as the children are getting used to moving between two homes and adjusting.
Third, I appreciate that Carlos was able to accept that his ex was now willing to be more actively involved. Carlos had said he became the primary parent initially because his ex needed some time to find herself. It’s easy to get frustrated being the parent who’s carrying most of the load and to think of your ex in terms of “he’s never XYZ” or “she always XYZ.” This is a great reminder that sometimes people really do just need some time to become the parent they’re capable of being.
Have you faced similar changes to your parenting schedule? What was your reaction? How did you cope? How did your children cope?
Photo credit: makelessnoise