The Question That Changed The Co-Parenting Relationship With My Ex

The Simple Question From My Ex That Made Me Cry

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“Do you want me to get you a hula hoop?”

Sounds like a funny question, I know. Let me explain.

In 2016, my then-husband Brandon and I separated. He cut me off from our joint bank accounts and left. Our children were age 1 and 2. Our separation had been a long time coming after months of blatant lies, excessive drinking, gaslighting, and all the other signs of a crumbling marriage, but I was willing to fight to save it and certainly didn’t want or expect it to go down the way it did.

Like many divorces, the next year included a lot of the common divorce drama—exorbitant and unnecessary legal fees, a custody battle, a new girlfriend 2 months later, financial troubles, selling the house, etc. And then even some extra stuff like theft and insurance and bank fraud. I really hit the nasty divorce jackpot! My ex, and even his family, put me through hell. I could write a whole book about it.

Just imagine, anything an ex could do to cause you pain, humiliation and grief, he did, or tried to at least. Sadly, I was not the first or last woman he did this to. Live and learn, I suppose.

Throughout this tumultuous time, my ex, the person who was supposed to “Stand by Me” according to our wedding song, and love me “till death do us part” per those vows we promised each other, did exactly the opposite. One example that sticks out is when we sold our house I loved so much. I merely asked if the kids could nap at his home during the open houses, the response was “No, an agreement is an agreement,” referring to our parenting and custody schedule. Meanwhile he was spending every free moment he had with his girlfriend and her three children. I remember sitting in a parking lot, in the middle of winter, with my babies sleeping in my car. For some reason, even though he had already put me through so much worse (hence the book I will write), that moment felt like rock bottom.

Anytime I brought up something outside our agreement, like contributing to birthday parties and extracurriculars, switching nights for work or other reasons, being flexible in any way shape or form, the response was “No, I cannot, an agreement is an agreement.” It was ironic since he certainly didn’t mind asking me to cover the kids while he vacationed in Cancun or had work commitments. And he definitely didn’t mind breaking other parts of our agreements when it was convenient for him.

But he knew I would always say yes. I mean, what loving parent wouldn’t want extra time with their kids when you share custody? Literally for two years, there was not one glimmer of hope that he could co-parent, be flexible, or help me out.

So what does this have to do with a hula hoop?  My now 5-year-old son Lucas has special needs, mostly social/emotional issues. We have been fortunate enough to start early intervention and get him the help he needs. In the spring of 2018, Lucas started biweekly behavioral therapy. We took turns going and would report back to each other after each appointment. About two months into therapy, the doctor suggested we each get a hula hoop for Lucas to practice giving people space and work on boundaries.

And that’s when I got THE text.

“I am at Target — do you want me to get you a hula hoop?”

I got the text and literally tears came down my face. When I told a few close friends and my family about this text, the ones who knew all that had taken place thus far, they also got choked up. It was the first time Brandon has ever done one thing, for me directly, that wasn’t in our legal agreement, and showed one hint of him being a human. He handed me two hula hoops the next day (an extra for my daughter as I had suggested he get two, knowing she would want one if Lucas had one). Of course, like most of their toys, neither child really touched the hula hoops. But they were a breakthrough in my co-parenting relationship.

Now, I know this is not a huge deal, and I’m certainly not giving him credit for doing one decent thing.  And yes, it is sad that the standards for my children’s father are so low. But, knowing we have 14 more years left of this co-parenting thing, it’s the best I can hope for.

So, to co-parents out there, both moms and dads, when all else fails, just offer to get the hula hoop.