Am I second guessing every decision that my parenting partner makes?
Want a surefire way to drive your parenting partner absolutely crazy and ensure unnecessary
drama between the two of you? Become a helicopter co-parent. While helicopter parents are
overly involved and micromanage every aspect of their children’s lives often to their detriment,
the co-parenting version is even more damaging. Not sure if you fall into this category? Ask
yourself: Am I second guessing every decision that my parenting partner makes? Do I try to
control what goes on in my parenting partner’s house? Do I try to inject my input on the day-to-
day activities of my child when they are with their other parent? If any of these questions made
you squirm in your seat, then you just might be a helicopter coparent.
If this is you, first, give yourself a break. This coparenting thing is hard, and it takes a minute to
figure out what healthy boundaries look like. It is often hard to loosen the reigns and have faith
that your parenting partner will do things in a way you would approve of, especially if you have
seen evidence to the contrary. Every instinct is to step in and make sure they are “doing it
right,” and that is tough train to stop once it’s left the station. But, for the sake of your co-
parenting relationship, it’s a must.
Even though my ex and I are in a great place now, I was once a very annoying helicopter co-
parent. From the time Sammi was born, I was meticulous in choosing her outfits. From the
hair bows, right down to the socks and shoes, everything had to coordinate perfectly. I NEVER
bought separates, only perfectly matched coordinates that ensured she looked like she was
ready to be in the next Baby Gap ad. Whenever I had to leave her in the care of family, I would
lay out her outfits with detailed instructions to make sure there were no mishaps. So, imagine
my dismay the first time I picked Sammi up from school after she had been with her dad and
she was in some crazy configuration of clothes that definitely wasn’t purchased together and
barely even matched. I was appalled. I knew that the clothes she had at her dad’s were all
complete outfits (because I had made sure of that), so why the hell did he send her to school
looking like she got dressed in the dark?
I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to “fix” this obvious problem and came up with what I thought was a brilliant solution. Sammi was growing and could use some new outfits, so I would “do Mick a favor” and buy some new clothes for his house so “he wouldn’t have to worry about it”. This would give me the perfect opportunity to label the clothes so there would be no question as to what top went with what bottom. I came home from Target, feeling very smug, and grabbed my Sharpie and the first outfit. I wrote a big black A on the tag of the shirt and repeated that on the tag of the corresponding pants. This was idiot-proof!! I was so happy and relieved that now Sammi would be dressed to MY standard no matter what house she was in. When I dropped Sammi off with the bag full of freshly tagged outfits, I explained the system to Mick, who nodded his approval. I walked away
feeling I had won a round of “who’s the better parent” that he didn’t even know we were playing.
And guess what? The next day when I picked her up from school, she had on the B shirt with
the D pants!! WHAT THE HELL!!! I was irrationally upset about the whole thing and tried to
figure out how I was going to address this with Mick. Later that evening, I am recounting this story to my very wise older sister and she says, through laughter, “You really must like being upset, don’t you?”,
“Of course I don’t, why would you say that?”, and “You are making a huge deal out of NOTHING.” The clothes were clean and well-fitting and my guess is Sammi doesn’t even know the difference. This is a you problem – not a Mick problem. Quit bugging that man about dressing her like you want her dressed and STAY IN YOUR LANE!!”
Ouch! A little harsh, but she was right. I was totally hovering, trying to impose what I thought
he should do in an area that really was inconsequential. I was being a helicopter co-parent.
The reality is I trusted Mick to be a good dad, to love, protect, provide for, and nurture our
daughter. And I had to realize that his way of doing those things might not look exactly like
mine but that didn’t make them wrong.
That would not be the last time I needed to remind myself to stay in my lane, so don’t beat
yourself up if that’s a tough lesson for you to learn as well. It is helpful to remind yourself that
your parenting partner is quite capable of caring for your kid and they might even have things
they wish they could change about your parenting. My guess is that their input would be about
as welcome as case of poison ivy, so that is likely how they feel about yours. And that’s okay.
These are the little things that waste energy and cause unwanted and unnecessary conflict
between you. Take a page from Elsa’s book and just “let it go“. We all want the same thing in the
end, healthy and happy kiddos, even if we get there by taking slightly different roads.
Thank GOD she was at my house for school picture day, though! :p