Recently, I took a parenting class in the evening in an effort to improve communication skills within our complicated family. It was strongly suggested and I’m glad I took it. It was tough to enroll because it was only offered in the evening, deep in NE Portland and only on my parenting night. But, I did it! I hired a sitter and schlep my 3 little kids to her house in jammies at 5pm before I drove the 45 min in heavy traffic. There were about 15 people in my class and we were from all walks of life. Some were remarried and brought their new partner to the class. Most of us were single and trying to navigate a complicated family life. All of us were involved with high conflict divorce with shared little kids. It was strangely comforting to hear personal experiences that mirrored my situation. It didn’t explain or justify behavior but did feel good to know I’m not alone.This picture says it all-LOVE! (Even Kai smiled) haha! Summer 2017 at Jameson Square Park
These 3 cuties are why I continue to do my best and make the most of every situation.
Back to the class-it took no less than 25 email exchanges to get enrolled in the class. I’ll spare the details. But it was a feat just to register for the class for all sorts of reasons.
Beyond Conflict Parenting Class was upstairs in an old Portland house in a small room with uncomfortable church folding chairs. The instructor isn’t married and doesn’t have children. She’s been teaching this class for maybe 20 years? I can’t remember the actual number but long enough to see a lot of different situations and people.
Funny thing is that I always felt better leaving that class than I did when I arrived. That is a good sign. I was surprised to feel this way because my expectations were low. Kinda like online dating. You do it, you put your best effort out there but you’re okay if nothing pans out. Yes, it spoke to the general public and wasn’t specific in handling high conflict divorce. However, the messages were good reminders to “do the right thing” no matter what. Some parents shared horror stories (not me of course for privacy reasons) and Judith never deviated from advising the “higher road” no matter what! I mean the stories were so bad that I can’t even repeat them here. But, Judith reiterated again and again focus on the kids and respond by respecting the kids.
And, the best thing I learned in this class is that I’m only 1 parent. In essence, I’m potentially 50% of the solution and 50% of the problem. For example, if I do my very best and communicate clearly with kindness, it can only be 50% effective for communication. Depending on how the other parent chooses to respond is out of my hands. Wow, this was eye opening for me. I already know this as I love self help books and seminars but it’s a different beast when someone f*cks with your little kids. Anyway, simple advice to stay the course but a good reminder for me. Healthy, positive co-parenting takes 2 willing people. It is what it is.
Facts I learned from this class is that less than 10% of families get divorced through family court. That means most families 90% or more are able to mediate and/or reach an agreement outside the courtroom. Hey, even Brad and Jolina chose to settle out of court. There were lots of books and handouts shared to help navigate this tricky family situation.
And the most important take away from Judith Sweeney’s class is-When in doubt, focus on the kids! When uncertain on how to handle an unusual situation, focus on the kids!