In 2001 I was chasing a rainbow. I was in the family courts pursuing an application for contact with my son. As many fathers find, I needed more help and advice than my (fairly inexperienced) solicitor was able to give, and I joined the parenting organisation Families Need Fathers. The following year, disillusioned by FNF – membership of which was quite expensive – I joined the fledgling Fathers 4 Justice.
I stayed with F4J until 2012, and from 2005 was active in researching and writing for them; I also moderated the forum for many years. But I knew I was only getting a fraction of the whole picture. I began seeking out other organisations, in an effort to widen my perspective and understanding. I approached Mothers for Justice, run mainly by victims of domestic violence, and Babies 4 Justice, set up for mothers who weren’t receiving the child support they were entitled to.
It was all interesting and instructive, but all these groups – and many, many others I could mention – were only representing just one gender, and usually only a small section of that gender. I wasn’t getting to the truth.
On July 12th 2009 I discovered Wikivorce, which had been set up in March 2007, and immediately realised I had found something very different: its members were both men and women, parents from all sides of family proceedings, with very diverse experiences, but working together relatively harmoniously and very constructively. Incredibly, this feature – which is hardly rocket science – remains unique amongst parenting groups. Since then the membership has grown from 40,000 to 150,000. I began to correspond with another member; her experience was utterly different from mine – she was a single mother and survivor of domestic violence – but our views on parenting were remarkably congruous, and… well, reader, I married her.
The following article is, I believe, extraordinarily important, a game-changer, a paradigm shift: the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It shows what can be achieved when mothers and fathers work together, in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. Ultimately, single gender groups will never, ever, achieve anything, because they represent an adversarial approach to parenting. The only way to parent a child is, has always been, and will always be, cooperatively by two parents. No one has ever come up with a better alternative, and never will, despite the efforts of reformers like Plato who think they can come up with something better. Similarly, no one will ever come up with a better alternative to marriage, however many millennia elapse. I believe these truths passionately.
Lawyers, politicians, legislators come and go, as do the single issue, single gender groups, with their impossible, ill-considered, unrealistic demands. At a stroke they have become redundant, obsolete. What the parents in Wikivorce have achieved makes the other groups, and the legal reforms, irrelevant. These are parents, parenting. Quietly, without publicity or fanfare, they are creating a revolution.
The language and vocabulary we use say much more about us than the words alone.
In the field of family break-down, I am very aware of the language and words used by parents. Often, without realising what they are actually projecting, people use words, phrases, language which often tells me much more than they think are saying. The words used can either calm a situation or more often than not, increase and inflame hostility and conflict.
I have read many, many statements from parents in support of their proposals for parenting time. All too often, they focus on what the parent wants – starting sentences with “I want”, using self-focused language that moves the emphasis on to what the parent desires, rather than keeping the child’s needs as the heart of the statement.
Language can often inflame an already delicate situation, and create fractures and hostility where adopting a different sort of language…
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