Hi, this is Jen from grace for single parents where you’re parenting and God’s grace collide. All right, today we have Ana Bright. Anna, how are you?
Hey Jen. I’m good. How are you doing?
Good. So if you, I wanted to have you on today to talk about co-parenting, have some experience with this. And this is a difficult thing for all of us that have to deal with this. So would you take a moment and introduce yourself.
Yeah. So my name’s Anna Bright. I write over at https://graceandglorymoms.com/ a lot about figuring out who we are and our identity in Christ. And then also write a lot about parenting, strong-willed kiddos. Cause I’ve got five kids from 17 down to two and a half almost three. And I’ve got a couple of really strong willed kids, so I write, so I write and I do that. Also I’ve been married to my current husband for almost 10 years, but I was previously married and my two oldest kids are from that marriage. So I spent my time in that marriage for gosh, less than four years. And then I was a single mom, a working single mom for about five before my husband and I got married. So we’ve been doing this for a while, you know let’s see. My divorce was final in 2006 although we split up in 2005 so I’ve been kind of trying to do this co-parenting thing for quite a while and trying to navigate that with a new marriage and with three additional kiddos in that marriage. And so I just, I’m glad that I can share my experience with other moms so that way they don’t necessarily make the same mistakes that I’ve made and I’ve made a lot of them over the years. So I’m really glad that you’re having me on.
Yeah. I’m really excited to hear from you because I think this is something a lot of us struggle with and, and have a lot of issues with. Everything from when our children leave for whether it’s a weekend or even if it’s just a few hours, how we give up control during that time. You know, like we want our kids to still maybe be on the same schedule. Right. And you know, the other parent doesn’t do things the same way that we feel like they should, that it should be done. So that’s always an issue too. You know, you’re not with that parent anymore for a reason, but it’s really hard to remember that when your kids are involved.
Yes, I agree 100%. I’m always amazed by people who can co-parent and do it well. I mean, I’m often brought to tears when I hear those stories because I just think it’s amazing for those people, but more so for the kids, just how loving and how much dysfunction they are not going to have as they grow up because of it. So yeah. So but it’s not, it’s not easy, you know. Exactly what you said is, you know, you’re not with them for a reason, for a variety of reasons. And most of it’s because you don’t have the same values in one way or another.
What tips, I guess, do you have for us especially, you know, I mean, I think a lot of us know we should keep our kids first in mind, but that can also be difficult to do when, when the other person, maybe doesn’t care about that or maybe they do, but you can’t tell them, you know, Hey, these are the tips I have.You know, they, they’re not always receptive to that.
Right. I mean, you could tell them, and I say this from experience, I tried that for many years. And it didn’t work out too well. Because people don’t really, you know, they have a different idea of what, what they think is best. So, you know the one thing that I really struggled with a lot was parenting out of fear. You know, fear of losing my kids, fear of them getting old enough to decide and choosing to live, you know, with their dad. Just, I, I just parented out a fear and that obviously caused problems even in my current marriage. So it’s, you know, that, that’s a whole other podcast altogether. But so I think that one thing is always keep your kids first. Right? I’ve had conversations with people before where I’m like, listen, you need to love your kids more than you hate your ex.
And that’s the best thing I can say. And I don’t say that I hate my ex because, gosh, that’s such a harsh word, but you know, it’s one of those the words kind of flow easy, just saying it like that. So anyway I need to always make sure that I put them first. And I also need to think about my ex when it comes to my kids because the fact of matter is, is that my kids love their dad, they love him. And how hurt would they be if they knew that I was trying to do certain things, you know, simply to spite their dad. Gosh, that would hurt them incredibly because they love their dad. So I think that’s probably my biggest tip when it comes to parenting the kids is don’t do it out of fear and love them first and foremost, what ultimately is best for them.
And unfortunately that means many times you have to kind of swallow your pride and, and do what’s best in some, and, in cases where you can’t co-parent well. You know, I had talked to, gosh, a number of friends who have been in difficult relationships with our exes and a friend of mine had told me about a book she read called Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex. I was like, that sounds interesting, you know, and she was saying that it was, you know, changed her life and the way she does things. So I was like, ah, let me just read it. And it talks a lot about parenting. There was a chapter, at least one chapter that talked about how to parent your children and all of the things that were in there sounded exactly like things I was learning in trying to parent my strong willed child from parenting with love and logic.
I was like, Oh my gosh, this entire chapter sounds a lot like what love and logic talks about in peaceful parenting and gentle parenting and positive parenting and all the, whatever the different names are that are used. And so I realized that my husband was right from the very beginning and he said, yes, Anna, you control the relationship you have with your kids. You control that the way that you relate to your kids, the way that you interact with them, the way that you connect with them. Nobody else in the world, including their dad can, can change that no matter what kind of awful things are being said or done or manipulation or lies, whatever it is, whatever the case may be. Ultimately, you being, you staying true to who you are and who God says you are and who God says you need to be for your kids in this situation.
That’s what’s going to, that’s what’s going to impact your relationship with your children as they get older. And so that fear that you have is just going to wind up actually putting you in this scenario that you don’t want to be in. You’re going to behave in the way that’s going to push them towards that. So you need to stop living and parenting out of fear and you need to connect to your kids. So while I was doing a learning about love and logic and positive parenting and my strong willed kid, I realized a lot of things were all about connection and not control. And we tend to control things when we’re afraid. So that was really, really transformative for me, was realizing that I can’t, I can’t do this anymore. The what I’ve been doing. So some of the things, especially with my teens is you know, we’re raising adults, right?
We’re ultimately trying to grow our kids into the adults that they should be, you know, instill the morals and values and characteristics and encourage them in their strengths and help them with resources and all that. So we want to give them space and responsibility. So I realized that too, with reading all these parenting books. And just the change that was happening in my heart is that I needed to set boundaries with my big kids, but I needed to give them room to stumble and I needed to give them some stake in it too. And not just make it sound like I’m the one just instituting boundaries and rules because, you know, they’re teenagers, you’ve got teenagers, so they want to be free. They want to have independence, much like much like toddlers, but you know, their tantrums are a little bit more sophisticated.
So I’m letting them kind of have a stake in talking to them. We had a talk recently about, you know, grades and guys, you’ve got hopes and dreams and you need to be able to set boundaries for yourself. So if your grades aren’t here, if your room’s not clean, then you don’t go, seem reasonable? They’re like, yeah. So that’s kind of where we started at the beginning of this semester. And so when the first weekend came up that one of them didn’t have, you know, as soon as they ask, I don’t need to say yes or no. As soon as they ask if they want to, if they can go do something and say, well, you know what the criteria is, we set it up, not me. We set it up. Do you meet the criteria? You know, like, man, I’m really, really sad for you about that.
And I don’t say it sarcastically because I want them to be able to go out. So that’s part of it too, is letting your kids, especially if they’re teens, kind of have a stake in the consequences, not just, you know, for the sake of co-parenting, but to help teach them responsibility. Cause they’re going to be adults soon. They’re going to be out on their own and they need to be able to set those boundaries for themselves and say, okay, I’m not going to go hang out with my friends tonight. I’m not going to go to that concert if I don’t get this work done because there’s bigger things at stake. So there’s a kind of, the really big things that I’ve learned is don’t parent out of fear. Right? Oh, work on your connection with your kids. You know, learning their love languages, all that stuff.
I am a nerd. I am such a nerd when it comes to reading these things. Like if I don’t know something, I’m going to search the ends of the internet to try to find it. And these are things that I’ve found that I’ve kind of worked and you know, when they’ve not worked, I realized that I blew it. Like after the fact, I just went back and I’m like, well, I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that. I came down harsh. I got snappy, you know. I didn’t try to connect. I was just, you know, I just got mad and I just kind of blew up and I had to apologize later. I didn’t handle that well.
Yeah. So if I can go back for a second, when you talk about the boundaries, you help your kids set boundaries that they instill within themselves that they might carry over to their other parent’s house. Is that…
Well, so obviously I can’t do that. So that’s what I’m hoping, because these are lifelong skills that they’re going to have to do one day they’re going to be gone. My oldest is about to graduate high school and she’s not going to go back and forth to houses anymore. She’s going to have one place she stays at. So the hope is to raise them up. To have these responsibilities that they set for themselves. You know, I can’t control what happens at dad’s house, right. Control what boundaries and stuff are set there, but can try to help them set boundaries for themselves. What do you think is reasonable? And this just doesn’t happen here. However, they’re still teens. So if they don’t have the same sort of boundaries then that kind of leaves it up to them. And then, you know, I don’t want them to fail, but hopefully they’ll kind of learn either by sticking to the boundaries that have been set or not.
But I, you know, it’s mostly, this is definitely the boundaries that are here at this house as far as dad’s like, listen, I can’t control whatever dad’s rules are. You know what’s right. You know, if you should go out, you know, the things that should be done, you know, your priorities. And that’s what we talk about in this family a lot. If what you’re doing is not conducive to what your priorities are, then you need to double check and make sure that what you’re living by and what you really want your priorities to be are the same. For instance, my oldest son plays baseball and he loves it and he has hopes and dreams of going and playing at the next level and beyond. And you know, so we say in our family, God, first family second, then school, then baseball. That’s not to say that other priorities like friends and stuff aren’t important. But if we look at like your top three or four, that’s kind of where it is. And when we look at, you know, kind of where we’re making mistakes and stuff we can often see that are you know, our priorities have gotten a little out of whack. You know, the mistakes that we’re making is we’re picking, we’re choosing some things as priorities over what really should be. Does that make sense?
Yeah. And I mean my kids are younger there. I have tweens and barely teen, kind of along the same lines. You know, they’ll, they’ll act differently in one house versus the other. And it is difficult to be like, well there’s a different style of parenting at both houses. I can’t control that and I have to let that go. I can’t let that bother me. And second is just talking to the kids. Cause sometimes they’ll come home fighting over something that’s left over from the other parent’s house. My daughter will be like, well we’re not allowed to act that way here. And it’s like, well how do you guys want to act? You know, like just as you’re saying, you know, what kind of person do you want to be? You know, you need to be the same person everywhere. I can’t see the act somewhere at school. You’re going to be however you want to be at school. Right. And I can’t force you to act somewhere some way at your dad’s house. So you guys need to treat each other with love and respect at my house, my house, I demand, but outside of my house, you know, what kind of person do you guys want to be. I hope you want to respect each other outside of here too. So you know, whether they’re young or you know, younger when they’re, you know, toddlers and whatnot, it’s a little different. But kind of the same thing as you as you’re saying, you know, when it gets older, when they’re like, well, are you going to go out or not? You know what, what kind of person do you want to be?
Yeah, yeah. And because even if so, no, I mean, even if you’re still together with your kids parent, like they’re still going to go off. Like you said, I can’t control how you behave when you are at school. I can’t control how you behave when you get older, when you go to football games or go to your friend’s houses. Like these are the same issues that we still would run into if we were still married too. So these are just things that we need to continue to go. I can’t, I can’t control you and I don’t want to, you know, you can only control yourself and even that’s hard on a good day.
It’s hard on us some days.
Oh my gosh, I don’t like how I acted some days. Yes, I have, I have moments every day.
Well, I’m like, dang. So yeah, I’m like, this is, this is just life and being honest and being honest with our kids too about our failings and say, listen, I, I blew it. You know, but this is, this is kind of, I mean, I tell my oldest when stuff comes up, you know, she’s like, mom, can’t you just do, you know, whatever it is. I’m like, no, babe. I’m like, you’re about to be on your own hashtag adulting like, I mean, I’ll give you suggestions and I’ll help you how I can, but I’m not going to do it for you. You know, I don’t want to take the responsibility. And the problem is there’s been a long time, you know, a lot of guilts. You know, it plays into our parenting as well. You know, when we’re trying to parent our kids you know, it’s just doing the best we can with what we have, doing what we think is the best in the moment at the time and, and going on.
And going up from there and just leaving the rest in God’s hands. I mean we, we can’t, I mean they’re His, after all, like they, he loves them way more than I ever possibly could. So I, I can’t control that. I am just thinking over a lot of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. Cause I, I want to be very clear. I have had my fair share probably more than my fair share of screw ups over the years. And how I handle my kids and how I work with their dad. You know, their dad’s remarried. So in ways that I tried, you know, I’d try to tell them like, listen, all of us love and care about you. We’re just, we just feel differently about it. And I tell my little ones my seven year olds I homeschool her. And so we read a lot of books and talk about a lot of different things. And I tell him like, listen, you got it. You got to remember the bad guys in stories. They don’t think they’re bad guys. Everybody in a story, the good guys in the bad guys all think they’re doing what’s right.
That’s true. Yeah.
So it’s kind of what we run into a little bit in our stories as well. And if we can stop looking at our, our exes as bad and just remember there doing what they think is right as well. And you know, I know there’s cases where that’s not always happening, where there, it might seem actually vindictive. The best we can do is still try to love them because by loving them we’re loving our kids and our children are going to see it. It’s hard when you’re first starting. I mean, I’m looking at my teens now and there’s a lot of things that they see now that I didn’t think that they’d ever see.
Well, do you have any last words you’d like to say? I mean, I really appreciate you saying that in the end though, they, God loves our children more than us and he does have our children in his hands. So I really do appreciate you saying that I, because sometimes when we have done all, we think we’ve done to control the situation when we shouldn’t be anyway, but if you can, if you can just rest in that. It’s really the truth because God does love our children more than us is. It’s really, I feel like if we can just rest in that, even though it’s really hard to comprehend that sometimes.
But I do want to give you the chance to give any last words you, you wanted to say.
It’s just, I just want to encourage people, it’s hard. It is so hard and there’s some times that are just worse than others and when we try to control it, the times where I’ve tried to control the situation are the times where things blew up in my face the most. And I look back where we are now and I don’t even know what my big kids are going to say. You know, 10 years from now, you know, or 15 years from now when they might be married and have their own kids, you know how they’re going to look back on the situation. But even where they are now my big kids were three and 15 months old when their dad and I first split up. This is all they know. And just trying to stay steady to who I am and what God says to me.
And that’s, that’s why I’m so grateful because even though it doesn’t deal with co-parenting in the Bible, it tells us how to treat people, love God and love others as yourself. And that that includes everybody. And the hardest thing I say, the hardest thing, I’ve probably said that about five times so far in our conversation. One of the hard things to remember sometimes in we’ve got high conflict is that our exes are children’s father, “ex is such a harsh tone”, fathers or mothers. They, we’re made in the image of God as well. So whether they profess to be followers of Jesus or not, it still says that we are, that we are all made in God’s image. You know, and we might be the only Jesus they see that’s, that’s weighty, that’s weighty. So and just say, just keep going. Just stay true who you were made to be and who’s you are. Eventually the kids will see on the other end, man, you never wavered, mom. You know, dad, you were always solid. You pointed me to Jesus every step of the way.
Oh, that’s good. Thank you so much.