Every life has its milestones. Not only the big ones like birth marriage and death, but many smaller ones – birthdays, moving school, Christmas, even sports days - and these are the ones you often miss after separation.
Until you’re on your own, you often don’t realise just how much you will miss. Indeed, if you and your partner break up before your child is born, you can miss out on the birth, which can be a huge loss. What can you do about missing milestones in the lives of your children, and how can you arrange things so you don’t miss them all?
Missing the Milestones
The nature of contact means that you’re bound to miss many of the milestones in the lives of your children. You won’t generally be invited to birthday parties, and their Christmases will generally be spent with their mother and her family. In most cases, though, not being physically present doesn’t mean complete exclusion. You will have contact close to the time, and you can use that as a celebration. You can also phone them, send birthday and Christmas cards, and presents either to be opened on the day or when your kids are with you. It’s not the same things, but it does tell your children that you remember and that you care.
With parental responsibility, you can be legally involved in where your children go to school, so when they move up, you can have a say in things. Listen to what your kids want in this; after all, their involvement is direct. Then contact your ex and offer your recommendations. She is probably the one who’ll attend parents’ evenings at schools.
If relations with her are good, ask her what the teachers have been saying about your children. Ask the kids to bring their reports and sit down and talk to them about the comments.
Of course, in some instances relations with your ex are so bad that there can be little civil contact between you. This presents problems, but on major issues you can invoke parental responsibility to make your views heard.
Being There For Milestones
At times you might be able to negotiate things so your children spend a birthday or Christmas with you, or that you can attend a school event instead of your ex (in some important instances, it might even be possible for the two of you to go together). You might not consider it at the time, but if you’re negotiating directly with your ex for contact, try to have every other Christmas as part of the arrangement (or at the very least, Boxing Day). It allows you to celebrate at least some of the holidays with your children, and on a personal level, can greatly brighten what can be a very lonely season for you.
As far as possible, you should try to be involved in the milestones of your children’s lives. No, you may not be there the first time they successfully ride a bike, but you can perhaps arrange to attend a school sports day where they’re running – in fact, your ex might be glad to let you go in her stead at times.
It’s not easy, and inevitably you’ll miss more than you attend (indeed, where you have no chance to be involved, even though you want to be, you’ll miss them all, which can be heartbreaking). But make the most of the milestones for which you’re there; enjoy them with your kids.