Love Quadrangles: Ciara, Future, Russell, and Co-Parenting While Dating.

This weekend, singer-dancer-model Ciara became the latest celebrity subject of single-mom scrutiny after a photo that surfaced of her, her one-year-old son Future, and her new beau, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson made its way to Hot 97 host Ebro’s Instagram account:

Ebro In The Morning Discussion: Do you think Ciara is doing too much exposing her son to Russell Wilson so early?

A post shared by Ebro In The Morning @HOT97 (@ebrointheam) on

The online debate hit its peak when T.I. weighed in on the Instagram post by saying that Ciara was “outta line,” bringing her son to Wilson’s training camp, and that he would go off, if he were in Future’s position. All sorts of opinions have flown in the past few days about the age-old topic of whether or not the time is right for a single custodial parent to let a new partner meet the kids. For a sampling of some of those opinions, you need only scan the comments section of Ebro’s Instagram post or do a Twitter search on “Ciara baby.” Here are a few representative tweets from those search results:

https://twitter.com/jazzycamille_/status/628668483853795328

https://twitter.com/NaturallyTiss/status/627625430107951105

We also asked our Twitter community to weigh in:

(Single moms by choice have the opportunity to make dating decisions without outside consultation.)

Though it’s impossible to know what Ciara and Future’s co-parenting situation is actually like, it’s telling that both of their actions, as parents who are dating other people, have been the source of constant speculation and scrutiny for over three days. Unsurprisingly, double-standards are at play, and everyone’s projecting their own circumstances,  ideals, and the limited information tabloids provide to indict both parents. Future is catching flak for having four children with four moms and for criticizing Ciara’s parenting and decision to date, after having been an unfaithful partner to her. Ciara is being indicted for dating someone else less than a year after breaking off her engagement to Future and taking her son with her to visit Russell Wilson, while their relationship is still relatively new.

There are no hard and fast right answers here. There won’t be much general consensus between single mothers and fathers on this, except for the obvious: when dating, all parents and partners should act in the best interest of the children. But the dynamics of every family are more complicated than that company line. Who defines “best interest?” What happens if both parents can’t agree on what’s in a child’s “best interest,” as it relates to introducing them to a new partner? When, exactly, is the time right for that introduction? Is there a plan in place to manage any emotional fall-out the child may experience if the new relationship doesn’t work out? If the new relationship does work out and the non-custodial, but involved parent still isn’t on board, how should the custodial parent proceed?

The answers will be different for a mother who’s solo parenting with zero involvement from her partner than it would for a mother who has a custody agreement (legal or verbal) in place with the father of her children. A solo mom would obviously make the call without having to consult anyone else. A co-parenting mom has to negotiate not just when her child will meet the new partner, but when her co-parent will, as well. The co-parents will have to have conversations, both with and without the new partner present. And in cases that resemble what seems to be the arrangement with Ciara and Future — Ciara has the child the majority of the time, but Future isn’t entirely uninvolved or absent — the lines, conversations, decision-making, and final calls are murkier and likely less civil.

Mistakes will be made. Emotion will cloud judgment. Children will be introduced too early in some relationships and too late in others. And all of it is hard. Even in cases where all parties are gracious and able to communicate amicably, it’s still a situation that requires a great deal of trust, some calculated risk, and a willingness to relinquish a bit of control.

The only way for the co-parenting relationship to remain healthy and for the new relationship to have a chance to thrive is to keep the lines of communication between all involved parties as open and honest as possible. Understand that not everyone will respond to the changes in the ways you’d like. And cope with the changes through seeking family counseling and/or reading books that will help co-parents, children, and the new partner deal with the situation in a drama-free (or at least drama-reduced) way. A great book to consult is Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce. This passage on co-parents and dating gets right to the root of some issues most families in this position face:

Screenshot 2015-08-04 at 6.45.33 PM

 

As a humorous segue into the serious work of co-parenting while dating, you can also use this short, profanity-laden video from comedian TC Illkillya, as a conversation-starter — but only if you already have a somewhat candid, amicably relationship with your co-parent:

 

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