Can’t We All Just…Let Co-Parenting “Hollywood Exes” Get Along?

Can't We All Just...Let Co-Parenting "Hollywood Exes" Get Along?

Full disclosure #1: Actor Will Smith and his first wife Sheree Fletcher (pictured last on the right) were the first people I ever heard of co-parenting like grown-ups after divorce. Whatever their differences, they kept it civil in the press and made it clear that their son Trey was their top priority. Even though I did not know them personally, they came to mind when I was newly separated and beginning to build a co-parenting partnership with my soon-to-be ex-husband. When Smith married actress Jada Pinkett Smith (whom they call Trey’s “bonus mom”), the Smiths and Sheree did the hard work of continuing along the positive path, a journey Sheree discussed as a guest on a 2010 episode of my “Co-Parenting Matters” show (that’s full disclosure #2).

So when I heard about Sheree’s involvement in VH1′s newest reality show, “Hollywood Exes,” I didn’t cringe. Sheree is a co-parenting hero of mine, and I hope that her presence on the show will reflect the fact that you can survive and thrive after divorce without dragging your ex through the mud and without dragging your kids down in the process. In an interview, Sheree discusses the importance of healing after a break-up and Will’s thoughts about her doing the show (she asked him about it, out of respect, not obligation, and he gave his blessing).

But of course in Hollywood terms, such maturity translates as boring, and sure enough, some Twitter reviews of the show have lamented the lack of dirty laundry being aired. So that can only mean one thing…It’s time to invent some drama! Or rather, in this case, time to drag up years-old drama, dust it off, and try to resuscitate it.

Take a recent post (I won’t dignify it by facilitating additional clicks) that delights in “delicious morsels of drama bubbling up from three years ago!” Actually, the “drama” this post refers to is song lyrics from an album Will Smith released seven years ago. According to some accounts, the song is directed at Sheree and paints her in an unflattering light. But who would click on a headline that read, “Will Smith Disses His ‘Hollywood Ex’ in a Song Released 7 Years Ago!”? Instead, we get “Will Smith Disses His ‘Hollywood Ex’ Sheree Fletcher [AUDIO]“…which makes you think he gave an interview on the subject just yesterday. The “audio”? A YouTube posting of the song featuring the album cover…

I had hoped (in vain) that other media outlets would avoid this kind of reaching (and click-baiting) and let the reality (the real reality, not the kind manufactured for TV) of this particular Hollywood divorce be The Story. Why delight in exes dissing each other, especially when there are children involved? And when said exes have publicly discussed making the conscious decision to move on and get along, why dredge up the past? Presumably, Sheree knows about this song, and if she’s moved past it, shouldn’t we?

Thankfully, most non-Hollywood parents are spared having our less-than-proud post-divorce moments publicly thrown up in our faces 7 years later, or documented for posterity. In real life, we celebrate the journey toward congenial and civil, the journey one member of the CoParenting101 Facebook group described as going “from horrific to joking.” But sadly, this isn’t a reality most people want to see on TV.

I get it. I know drama sells, but I continue to hope that we can become a culture that delights in adults healing and moving forward, not staying mired in and acting out of their pain, anger, and frustration. I continue to hope that we can change the cultural expectation about parenting after divorce to one that involves progressing toward the “delicious morsels” of our best selves.

Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of the forthcoming book Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce (New Harbinger, 2013). She is also the co-founder, with her ex-husband, of CoParent more


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