I was talking to Adam and Jo , two parents who are new to the world of co parenting.
They each shared remarks made by their children (13 and 10 years old) to each of them about the other.
With each word being spoken the level of conflict and heightened emotions were building, building and building. Until it all started pouring out and they ended up in front of me - furious that the other would do or say such things.
During the conversation I was able to share with them the story about the tortoise, elephant and hippo which goes like this….
One day the tortoise met the elephant, who trumpeted, “Out of my way, you weakling – I might step on you!”. The tortoise was not afraid and stayed where he was, so the elephant stepped on him, but could not crush him.
“Do not boast Mr. Elephant, I am as strong as you are!” said the tortoise, but the elephant just laughed. So the tortoise asked him to come to his hill the next morning.
The next day, before sunrise, the tortoise ran down the hill to the river where he met the hippopotamus, who was just on his way back to the water after his nocturnal feeding.
“Mr Hippo! Shall we have a tug-of-war? I bet I’m as strong as you are!” said the tortoise.
The tortoise laughed at this ridiculous idea, but agreed. The tortoise produced a long rope and told the hippo to hold it in his mouth until the tortoise shouted “Hey!”.
Then the tortoise ran back up the hill where he found the elephant, who was getting impatient. He gave the elephant the other end of the rope and said, “When I say ‘hey!’ pull, and you’ll see which of us is the strongest.”
Then he ran halfway back down the hill, to a place where he couldn’t be seen, and shouted “HEY!”. The elephant and the hippopotamus pulled and pulled, but neither could budge the other – they were of equal strength.
They both agreed that the tortoise was as strong as they were.
Yet you and I both know that the tortoise isn’t that strong. He was not pulling at the other end of the rope he just made each believe he was.
The benefit of being independent is that you can see things in a different light and in talking with Adam and Jo it became obvious that neither were allowing the children to do what they said, but more that the children were saying these things.
So before you jump to conclusions when your children complain - ask.
And when you ask, do just that. Don’t accuse.
And if you are asked - be thankful that you were asked and that the other parent didn’t just assume. Whatever you do, don’t get offended that they would even think or believe such a thing.
If the tortoise is able to hide behind a rock - your kids will try to hide behind each of you.