31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Divorced Parents Need To Maintain Contact

Single With Children: Divorced spouses should know how to contact each other

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 10/08/03

One might think that by the time kids reach their teens, we parents pretty much have it all figured out.

As a single parent several years past the pain and confusion of divorce, I some times mistakenly believe that there's very little left to stump and elude me. After all, most parents have been through ear infections, strep throat, primary grades, middle school and then (gulp) driving lessons and learner's permits.

So there I was last week, in the office of our primary care physician, with a son who's taller than I am and outweighs me by quite a bit, and just like any parent, all I want to do is make it better.

Upon checking in at the front desk, I suddenly realized I had no clue as to what insurance company to use. My former husband had recently changed jobs. I rang up the one number I had so I could get the new information.

But finding Dad started to feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. When I remembered the name of his new company, his assistant told me he was off-site making a presentation. For the first time in a long time, I felt helpless and alone and just plain stupid. I was afraid we might have to set up camp in the waiting room until Dad could be reached.

I finally got the new insurance information, and Justin got the medical attention that he needed. But it felt like it took forever and I won't deny I was a little more than annoyed, which should prove to anyone reading this that I'm hardly a saint of an ex-wife.

To be fair, I came to realize that Justin's Dad never imagined the new insurance information might be needed as quickly as it was, but we probably should have.

I definitely learned a few things from the experience.

First, parents - custodial or noncustodial - should always know how to find each other on any given day. You don't want to play Perry Mason in a physician's crowded waiting room when information is needed.

Secondly, keep insurance changes as current as possible. Many things, like sharing report-card grades or discussing the need for a tutor, can wait. However, a medical issue usually can't, and things will go a lot more smoothly for everyone - especially the patient - if the information is available.

Last, practice patience and kindness, even in extremely stressful situations. No loving parents purposefully make things difficult for their children. Let negative thoughts remain unspoken. A child already not feeling well shouldn't have to hear World War III break out between his parents. Act like adults and focus on the matter at hand. Along with the right prescription, this too can make everyone feel better fast.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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