1) Wile E. Coyote, sputtering rocket strapped to his back, has run out of cliff and now hangs momentarily suspended—gazing despondently into the abyss. His best strategy is to:
a) Flap his arms madly
b) Not look down
c) Hope the road runner will have a change of heart and save him
d) Hold up a little umbrella
e) What difference could it possibly make at this point as our Acme inspired protagonist is about to plummet hundreds of feet to a cartoonish implosion on the canyon floor?
2) Mr. and Mrs. Coyote are in family court, once again litigating the placement for their daughter’s senior year of high school. The senior Coyotes should:
a) Hire yet another slew of expert attorneys to present their side of the case more emphatically
b) Hire more educational consultants to advocate for one school over the other
c) Offer the family court judge four tickets to the SEC playoff game if you know what I mean.
d) Stand up in court shouting, “our daughter loves me more and therefore should live with me and go to the school I recommend, you unpleasant, psychotic wretched excuse for a human being, my mother was right I never should have married you!”
e) Acknowledge that they should have stopped fighting when they got divorced 15 years ago when their daughter was a toddler because they are psychically slaughtering their child and that the choice of high school venue is the least of their issues.
“If it first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is bad advice not only for skydiving but also for arguing with your ex-spouse.
There is something to be said for standing up for yourself, for not backing down. But your child is unlikely to say it. Because rather than integrity and self-respect, kids are only likely to perceive fight, fight, fight. Do not mistake Lincoln Douglas debates for the Itchy and Scratchy show. Incessant arguing is invariably the wrong answer. Mentioning what an unmitigated thudpucker your child’s other parent is makes you feel better. But it makes your kid feel worse. Because – – stop me if you’ve already done this arithmetic – – your child is half him. As fulfilling as it is to remark that your ex is 100%, pure, unadulterated, certifiable fuzz brain, you are also communicating that your child’s head is half full of fluff. Probably not what you wanted to convey. It takes two to tango. The genetics of which never become untangled.
My dad’s partner parachuted with the 82nd airborne into occupied France in 1944. He felt strongly that the time for a conversation with the axis powers had passed. He brought tens of thousands of his closest friends, some heavy artillery, and a number of M1 rifles to help him make his point. They were a magnificently organized, disciplined bunch. They never took a step backward. But do you see how this paradigm is not appropriate for resolving conflicts with your child’s other parent? There is a place for arguing. But that place is not in what was once the family home.
I am not suggesting that your ex is anything other than the low rent, backstabbing, deceitful, snake in the grass you so articulately described in your court pleadings. Indeed, in a perfect world I would not suggest that you waste a bullet but rather take him out behind the barn and beat him to death with a shovel. For the life of me, I never understood what you saw in him in the first place all those years ago.
Having made your bed you don’t have to lie in it. But you don’t have to set it on fire either. Because speaking of incendiary metaphors, only a fool fights in a burning house.
It’s easy to make fun of high conflict people in untenable situations. And I know it is unlikely that Wile E. Coyote will overcome his predilection for braised, roasted, or fried road runner. Nobody ever heard of a vegetarian coyote. But every time Wile E. chases that bird, he ends up falling off a cliff, exploding, or smacking into a painted tunnel.
My takeaway for intense arguing is the same as my insight into process addictions of all kinds. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, anger--are all pretty much the same. The only way to stop is not to start. Regarding trashing your ex in front of your kids, if you can’t say something nice, say it to someone other than the other parent of your child. Because it may not be all that much fun on top of the canyon hungry and annoyed. But you have to admit, it’s a long way down.