When my ex-husband and I divorced, I braced myself. Our separation was just the first of many messes we were about to make. I knew that family reconfiguration was not a chore I could opt out of. Everything from who would walk (and keep) the dogs, to who would monitor the kids’ homework, would need to be renegotiated. It was this inevitable task I feared the most, because redefining roles posed a great risk.
When my ex and I were still married, our good-to-bad cop ratio was a 70/30 split. I was the unwilling but unarguable resident disciplinarian, and our divorce was poised to exaggerate this dynamic, no matter which way you spun it. If he got less time with the kids, his presence at the bake sale or soccer game alone was a feat of heroic proportions. If I got less time with them, I was doomed to play catch up. I knew that I would be scrambling to get them to their appointments; that I would be unable to resist the urge to pre-plan their science projects. My good-intentioned hampering and light neuroticism would be the forces that ultimately divorced me from my kids, too.
Then Cognition Builders entered the equation thanks to a referral from my Collaborative Divorce Attorney. During our first meeting, we sat down to discuss how, exactly, they were going to fix my fractured family. Leading the discussion was a buoyant, but serious 20-something. She defined her role as a Family Architect. On instinct, I asked about her children — she had none. The seeds of skepticism were sewn. When she spoke about creating consistency and cohesion, they grew. These ideals were so lofty by then that they bordered on fiction.
But I agreed to give the program a go, retaining a healthy dose of disbelief. By the end of the first day, our Family Architect had created new schedules for every individual family member. By the end of the first week, she’d provided scripted dialogues that upgraded our quick morning exchanges into living, breathing conversations. Did you know that you can have a meaningful moment with your kid with less than 5 minutes? I didn’t.
Our Family Architect created contingencies for managing our kids’ behavior, through which my ex-husband and I could both determine what the reward or consequence should be. We found ourselves more united in divorce than we had been in marriage. Our Family Architect worked out a system of communication where my ex-husband and I could keep continuous track of the kids’ lives and report back to one another. If the seeds of skepticism had been planted, I’d long since forgotten to water them. Our Family Architect even taught me how to turn hampering into guidance. As much as I hate to say it, until I started my program with Cognition Builders, it just hadn’t occurred to me that I should teach my kids how to plan the assignments that I’d been doing for them.
In everything that life had thrown at us, my family was taught systematically and specifically just what it is we needed to do about it — and how. And Cognition Builders taught me that family harmony, even post-divorce, does not need to be the stuff of fiction.