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discuss problems. Keep interactions short during drop-offs and pick-ups.

Wc tried to follow Dasher's directions, though neither of us was very good at boundary keeping. We deliberately kept e-mails and phone calls to the point. We spoke in a friendly manner in front of Jake, and discussed discipline, nursery schools, and potty training amicably. I chose a potty seat, and he bought the same one for his house. If Jake hud to go to his pediatrician, I'd call my ex with the information.

We even managed to discuss some division of money without involving Our lawyers. But then I canceled a visit. "Jake's tired from being up late last night," I said, hoping he'd understand. "I shouldn't have said yes in the first place, but I felt guilty because I knew you wanted to sec him."

"It's not up to you to decide when I should see my son," Cason said.

There. That's where he drew his line in the sand. I had worked hard in the past six months to gel along with him, so hard to make a healthy space for our child. Now he was accusing me of something this horrific?

"You saw him two days ago. He's not a doll you can just swing around," I said. ''Plus, people cancel playdates all the time with kids this age."

"This is not aplavdate. Hay-ley," he said. "I'm his father,"

A selfish father, I was dying to say. Now Jake, who was cranky all day because he couldn't sleep the night before, was going to have another late night because his father was trying to make a point.

While Jake napped in his room, I sat sequestered in my bathroom, arguing on (he phone with Cason. He didn't understand that I wanted him to be more flexible for Jake. 1 didn't understand how desperate he was to see his son. There were caustic words between us, a few threats to call lawyers, and a few hang-ups. Then I remembered Dasher's advice: It takes time to trust again. Try to be reasonable even though you're angry.

Calm clown, I told myself. If you want a civil outcome, act civil. I lowered my voice, took a few deep breaths, and assured and reassured Cason that it would never, ever be my intention to keep Jake from him. Finally, he said canceling the visit was probably right. Jake needed to get to bed early, and

moving forward

Check out these resources for more Info on helping kids—and yourself—through separation and divorce.

> Therapist locator

.net Search forco-parentlng counselors through this site sponsored by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (Aamft.org).

> Copsrentlngl01.org This site was developed by asuccessful co-parenting couple: don't m tss the resources section tor a list of recommended reads.

> The Split at Parenting.com Follow our blog chronicling one mom's separation.

> Two Homes, by Claire Masurel If you've got kids under 5. this book offers a positive picture of what it can be like when parents divorce.

> What in the World Do You Do When Your Parents Divorce? A Survival Guide for

Kids, by Kent Winchester Geared toward kids 7 and up, this book helps them understand what's happening in their life—with lots of reassurance.

> Mom's House, Dad's House, by Isolina Ricci

This classic has been helping divorced parents create separate— but loving—homes for their kids since 1980.

we'd reschedule for the next day. It was the first time in months, maybe years, that we were able to defuse an argument. And as the months continued, and as we kept to the boundaries, we did it again and again.

A divorced relationship is similar to any other relationship, Dasher said many times. It takes work. The payoff? A healthy child. I could see that with my son. Jake smiled, laughed, and played well with other kids. He was—and still is—an incredibly loving and happy child. We'd done what we'd set out to do. In our last session with Dasher, we discussed the division of major holidays, which were to be switched each year.

"What about Halloween?" I asked.

"If things arc going okay, then you should do Halloween together."

It wasn't the answer I wanted to hear. Trick-or-treating in the neighborhood with Cason sounded too much like a date, but I knew my son would be excited to spend time with Mommy and Daddy. That day, Cason and I walked out of the session together into the parking lot. It was our first time walking anywhere together since we'd separated ten months earlier. We stood next to my car, and he said, Tm sorry. I really am sorry."

"I know," I said. "I am, too." I watched hi m pu il out of the lot, and I followed behind. I knew that for us to raise our child together, I'd have to take his lead sometimes, just as he'd have to take mine. We couldn't be married anymore, but we still needed each other—and always would.

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