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Fostering versus facilitating

Categories: Fighting the Stereotype, Missing Parent, Tentative Steps


There’s a suite for rent on a hilly, forested street in a nearby neighborhood. It’s within budget, all utilities included. Slightly belligerent but exquisitely charismatic rescue dogs are not only tolerated, but encouraged. The landlords are dog people, this is good, I can feel it.

I make an appointment for a viewing at 4:30 the next day.

“I have a few people coming,”the landlord warns me.

“That’s OK,” I reply,”I just think this might be perfect, I’d really love to see it.

I walk up the steps to a looming house, all grey-and-glass and jutting West Coast architecture. Nolan grips my finger, tiny and spry in his green monkey t-shirt, and I watch the landlord regard us from the front step, an “O” forming on his mouth.

“I’m not looking for me,”I explain quickly,”And not for my son. It would just be a man living here — 31 years old, a tradesman, an avid mountain biker, pretty quiet. And my dog — well, his dog now. An awesome rescue dog, he’ll capture your heart.”

He doesn’t say anything and I draw a breath,”I’m looking on behalf of my ex,”I say,”For my son’s father.

The apartment is clean and sparkling and the landlord jovial: a fireman, resplendent in the glow of his personal-trainer wife. Nolan and I look around and snap pictures and I can just imagine my father shaking his head in horror, Why the hell are you helping him, Kristin? After everything?

I even think of the comment on yesterday’s post,from Robyn, asking me what the hell I am doing taking care of my exes credit card requirements. I feel a wash guilt for being the schleppy facilitator in my son’s Dad’s move from the next city, for doing his grunt work for him, again.

But the thing is, I’d feel more guilt if I didn’t help him look for an apartment. I think it is best that Nolan is near his Father, if possible, and, without being a pushover, I want to foster a semi-warm relationship that will enable Nolan to grow up understanding cooperation done for love. I want my son to know that his Father and I love him so very much, we’re willing to put aside our differences with each other.  If I don’t help him look for an apartment in this tight market, he might not get one.  And that would hurt our son.


I take pictures of the small, cute kitchen and the green foliage outside the bedroom window. I note the proximity to the bike paths outside, and the very safe vibe of the neighborhood.

“I think,”I say,”He’ll take it. I’ll confirm for sure tonight, but I think it’s a safe bet that he’ll be in. What are the next steps?”

Nolan’s Father moves here in a month. I am rejoicing for my son, apprehensive for my heart, and eager to forge a better path for our son’s future.

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14 comments so far...

  • Good for you!!!! But even better for your son.
    I know it is so hard to put aside the differences with your ex for the childrens sake but it is so worth the effort. I have learned how to distance myself emotionally from my ex when the children are involved. Even though my ex and I are battling over child support and the fact that he is just a &^%$%&&&## I still had dinner with him and the children on Labor day. I think it is better to show the children positive ways of dealing with issues that will foster their own personal development in so many ways. I get so sick and tired of reading the negative attacks in politics and hearing the awful divorce stories of parent pulling the children apart. Better to take the high road and that is what you are doing. Your son will grow to be a better man because of it!

    Terri  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 6:30 am

  • Wow.

    From one single mother to another, that’s both equally exciting and frightening.

    I am so happy for your little man :-)
    Good Luck!!

    Miz  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 8:27 am

  • You are a great woman, Kristin, and a great Mother. You love Nolan so much that you are doing what is best for him in the long run, despite the hurt you have endured.

    I promise not to tell your Dad ;)

    Angella  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 9:57 am

  • Whatever the reasons are for you helping your ex in any way shape or form can only be the best thing for your son to see and experience. If it doesn’t work out for the parents, despite everything it should always work out for the kids. You are making it work and I commend you.

    Ashley  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 11:33 am

  • Kristin, I have enjoyed all of your postings here on your new blog, but this one brought me to tears - I am happy for you Nolan, and your ex. You are all acting out of love and that takes a lot of maturity.

    I read a quote yesterday which I think is applicable here - “the most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.” - James Yorke

    It looks as if Plan B is turning out to be pretty darn good…

    Sherri Harty  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 1:26 pm

  • I didn’t say “what the hell…” Though I guess I might as well have. Sorry about that. I really didn’t mean to be harsh. But you can’t really complain about your ex husband being incapable of taking care of himself when you keep saving him.

    And I still think that it’s ridiculous that grown men couldn’t take care of such things on their own. But I guess that’s just my standard. I wouldn’t do those things for my husband on a consistent basis (once in a while maybe). After suffering a few of the natural consequences of not taking care of business, I imagine that any man would get the picture and start to do it himself.

    (Kind of like I won’t take my daughter her homework or lunch if she forgets to take it with her to school, when she’s old enough to go to school. Live and learn to be responsible for yourself.)

    Robyn  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 4:35 pm

  • “(Kind of like I won’t take my daughter her homework or lunch if she forgets to take it with her to school, when she’s old enough to go to school. Live and learn to be responsible for yourself.)” Cough, really? whoa, harsh.

    Ashley  |  September 3rd, 2008 at 9:21 pm

  • Ouf. I’d be gutted, so I admire your strength. In the long run, this will help Nolan. I hope your ex understands that this is why you’re helping him find a place (he’s currently living out of town, right? In a tight market, if you don’t snap up a deal, you can miss out, and it’s hard to snap up a deal if you’re not there).

    Lylah  |  September 4th, 2008 at 9:29 am

  • Ashley, yep. I’m guessing it wouldn’t take more than once or twice before she would learn to remember her stuff and be responsible for herself. I certainly can’t be leaving work often to run home and get the things that she forgot. Natural consequences are the best kind. I think that any 6 year old can be taught to follow a checklist, pack her backpack the night before, and grab her lunch on the way out the door. The goal is independence and personal responsibility.

    Robyn  |  September 4th, 2008 at 10:19 am

  • P.S. She’s not quite 2 right now, and she’s perfectly capable of picking up her toys, cleaning up her spills, getting her own snacks, etc.

    Robyn  |  September 4th, 2008 at 10:21 am

  • wow! i think that it is great you are helping your ex for the sake of your son. but i sooo would be pointing out the reasoning and that he is lucky to have your son or he would have no such support! you are much more mature about it and i commend you for that :)

    I sort of take Robyn’s stance with my husband and basically he can complain about it but he has to fix his own mistakes, i do not have time!

    Also Robyn - YAY YOU! i so agree, and for the most part, i do the same thing with my kiddo. it helps when they have a mad independant streak too! ‘no *I* do it!’ is heard often in my house LOL

    Kate  |  September 4th, 2008 at 5:39 pm

  • I would do all the same things you are doing. It is fine to make people responsible for their actions, but you must look at the bigger picture. Who would be hurt by your stubbornness in NOT helping to relocate N’s dad.

    But I also agree with making children responsible for their homework and lunch, etc.. This is how to raise a child to be responsible so his/her spouse DOESN’T have to do what you are doing now for R. Their own lives will go much more smoothly if taught early on about responsibility.

    Virtual hugs,


    Judie Ashford  |  September 5th, 2008 at 10:07 am

  • I’m going through similar things and I can attest that it is hard on many levels. It is easy to say that we should let our partners take care of themselves, and yet some people just don’t do that. We can let them sink in their own inabilities, but when you have children with them, it means that your kids feel the consequences.

    My partner just moved back to town, within few blocks of me. The kids wanted him close so they could bike to his house. I advocated for them, so I spent many gut-wrenching discussions trying to get him to understand that this was important. For a long time, it looked like he would pick a house which was convenient for him to get to his friends, regardless of the kids’ wishes. This just confirmed his self-absorption in their mind.

    In the end, he did get a place close to them and it has gone a long way for them to feel loved by him enough that he cares about their needs.

    But for me–to have him a few blocks away has been a knife in my heart. It has inflamed all the pain of loosing my marriage, and of loosing my friend. Never did I want to ask him to move close for my sake. I wanted him far away so I could grieve and move on. Still, I did what the kids needed.

    My point is this: this is our job. This is what we do as mothers. We make choices of what is good for our children regardless of our own pain. We cry in bed at night, and get up the next morning to nudge life events in the direction which benefits everyone–even if this means meddling where we don’t want to be.

    I enjoyed reading your story, Kristin, because it reflects my experience with divorce. Sometimes I have felt isolated because people imagine divorce to be black and white–you’re married then you’re not. I have friends which have shunned me because I’m no longer in a couple, and friends which can’t understand why I continue to engage with my ex–I’m neither married enough or divorced enough for people’s expectations. But it all makes complete sense if you look at my children and ask yourself, what do they need?

    Thank you, Kristin.


    Julia  |  September 5th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

  • Robyn, it sounded way harsher than I think you meant it (at least to me)so thanks for speaking up again. My 4 year old is good about remembering things as well. Not sure what I am doing that it is going so well, but I think if he forgot his lunch I would probably make sure that he had something to eat and then talk to him about forgetting it later, but we all have different strategies as parents. Sorry to hijack the comments Kristen.

    Ashley  |  September 8th, 2008 at 10:04 pm