Your child has been chosen as Third Shepard in the school nativity. That sinking feeling you have isn’t because they didn’t get a starring role. It’s because you know you did. Turn up to the play (like you want to) and you’ll be cast as the Judas. Stay away and, well, you’ll be cast as the Judas. There’s no winning. You’re between a rock and a hard place.
But what if you cast yourself – as the grey rock?
What if for these few precious moments of Away in a Manger and little Johnny dropping baby Jesus you can be just a normal dad sat watching your little one play the best third shepherd that has ever been played?
As we prepare for the Christmas season the levels of control and opportunities for conflict hit fever pitch. With all your emotions to play with your ex will feel like all her Christmases have come at once. And I don’t want to speak for you here, but I don’t think she was on your Christmas list was she? So let’s not give her what she wants.
Just like the teachers have handed out all the roles and helped the children practice their lines. She’s been doing exactly the same. Telling all her friends the stories, probably the children too.
Now don’t feel rubbish about that.
You and thousands of others are going through the exact same thing right now. I promise you there is never a reason to actively try and destroy a healthy relationship between a father and their children. Even if you did say her sister looked hot in that top once.
Between personal experience and community groups I am still dumbfounded, shocked and devastated by the things I see guys go through to be with their children.
Let me say, my Dad wasn’t at one single school play, parents evening or awards ceremony. In fact until I was 12 it was my reality that he wasn’t at all interested and had abandoned us. Last year (aged 35) I put up Christmas decorations with my dad for the first time ever. It was and will always be one of my happiest childhood memories, even if it did come 30 years too late.
I tell you this now because I want you to know a child’s love for their father can beat this situation your’e in. Despite having no memories of my dad and only one single photograph of us together it was enough that I never gave up hope he might love me.
So how do you show up to the school play without taking centre stage?
- Choose your performance. By far the easiest option is to see if there is more than one performance planned. If so you can arrange to go to the opposite one to your ex-partner. It doesn’t absolutely guarantee you won’t need these next steps too but hopefully it will give you a fighting chance.
- Practice your lines. Know that there is a good chance someone will wind you up, your ex, a teacher, one of their friends. Now this may be a deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction or the simplest of comments that digs away at one of those hot buttons we all have. But either way, preparation is key. Understand what is likely to piss you off and what is likely to be water off a ducks back. Then have some stock answers for the things that will piss you off. Literally write out and practice your lines, role play, pretend you’re a grey rock in the play.
- Choose your state. Rushing from a stressful meeting at work, through crappy traffic worrying you’re going to be late and skipping lunch will not help the best you show up. So physically prime yourself. Allow yourself time to do something that makes you feel amazing just before you go in, gym, swim, walk the dog, anything that will physically make the endorphins happen. You’ve seen Braveheart and Gladiator – those dudes went at battle in the best possible physical and emotional state for a reason.
- Know you can leave at any point. If things do take a turn for the more theatrical then exit stage left. Take things as far away as possible from an audience and go home if that’s what it takes. At all costs avoid a public display of crazy. (saw one of those in town today – I think someone had been a very naughty boy!)
- Take a calming influence with you. There’s always that one mate who tries to be a diplomat and calm things down. The one who seems to take life horizontal in all ways. They are a great person to have by your side. Especially if they know your little one too. On that note, while of course your new partner has the right to see the little on in the play I would ask if this year is the most important time for that to happen?
If you’re wondering what a grey rock reply looks like, we’ve written up some lines to inspire you… These are designed to be non-confrontational and give little wiggle room for false accusations. Naturally you’ll want to rehearse them in a ‘Hugh Grant in Love actually’ rather than a ‘Bruce Willis in Die Hard’ kind of character!
That does not work for me.
I will think about it.
I do not agree.
That information is wrong.
I intend to follow the court order exactly as it is written.
I do not agree with your version of reality/history and choose to disengage now.
I see things differently.
Received and noted.
Please comply with the court order/parenting plan.
I will be following the court order/parenting plan.
I will think about that and email you later.
Unless something has changed, my previous position has not.
I hope you find peace with whatever you are struggling with internally that causes you to respond in a negative manner continuously. I wish you the best.
I do not feel these misrepresentations warrant a response, I see no purpose to this exchange other than to increase / incite conflict. As such, I am noting my objection and your attempts to portray me in a negative light.
I will continue to comply with the court order/parenting plan as consistency is in the best interest of the children.
Just because you say something does not mean it is true. I will abide by the court order/parenting plan.
I am not going to participate in your perceived conflict. I will abide by the court order/parenting plan.
You will just need to make your best parenting decision. I will abide by the court order/parenting plan.
You’ll need to discuss that with your therapist or solicitor.
Your attempt to elicit a negative response from me has been noted.
I will not respond to false accusations and manipulations of events.
Wishing you all the best this festive season,
The Nurturing Coach Team