Divorced Calgarians maintain a positive relationship for their son’s wellbeing

It’s Sunday afternoon at the hockey arena. Ten-year-old Michael McCutcheon takes the ice following the chirp of the whistle and a loud cheer erupts from the crowd.

Michael’s dedicated fans include Heather and Randy Cook and Ken and Carolyn McCutcheon. At first glance they may appear to be a big group of friends. But look closer and you come to realize Heather and Ken are ex-husband and wife — and Randy and Carolyn are their new spouses. They sit together as a group for the majority of their 10-year-old son Michael’s hockey games.

“He (Michael) told me his team is the best in the world — or at least in Calgary,” says Michael’s mom Heather.

Heather (left) chats with Ken and Carolyn at the game.

Photo by: Ashley FreemanShe adds that being a hockey mom is very stressful “because you get so into it.” And she’s not the only one. As the game progresses she and the rest of the group are on the edge of their seats in anticipation, urging on their number 4.

According to Heather, growing up dealing with the messy divorce of her parents was enough to make her decide her children wouldn’t go through the same thing.

“I think he [Ken] just trusted me to say, ‘my parents got divorced and this was what was horrible about it, so let’s work to not do this,’” she said.

While many divorced couples think joint custody is crucial for the children and parents to maintain positive relationships, Heather says it is the last thing she wanted for her son based on her own experiences.

“The moving back and fourth was really difficult on my brother and me.”

She says her parents were constantly yelling and arguing and that their joint-custody arrangement was “the main cause of most of the fights” because, for example, one parent would forget to tell the other parent something about the kids, or forget to sign something for school.

Heather and Ken have been divorced for eight years now, and Heather has full custody of Michael. Heather, who married current spouse Randy in 2005, even worked with ex-husband Ken’s current wife (whom he married just last month) for two years while she was dating Ken.

“Heather had a job opening and it was posted on Facebook,” said Ken. “I told Carolyn, who at the time was my girlfriend, ‘oh, you should apply for this.’”

Carolyn says she was anxious going into the interview with her husband’s ex-wife.

“I was totally hesitant. But I asked him, I said, ‘should I apply?’ And he said yes and that he wouldn’t put me in a bad situation if he thought it was going to be a bad situation. So I went for the interview and I got it (the job) and it wasn’t, it was fine.”

Heather ended up hiring Carolyn as one of her sales reps and says once a working relationship began to develop, there was a common understanding amongst the two women.

“We had the agreement that we didn’t bring family stuff to work, so her and I got to know each other (as friends),” she said.

Heather, who writes her own blog, redwritinghood.ca, previously wrote about her trip to Vegas with her son for her ex-husband’s wedding.

She writes, “And soon, my ex-husband’s fiancé will be another family member. My son’s stepmom. This is not an enviable position. Look at all the negative connotations to that title. But she is a good person and I see that she cares for my son. Who wouldn’t want another cheerleader on their kids’ team? This kid has more people in his corner than Mohammed Ali. All cheering and hoping for the best for him.”

To read the full blog entry, click here Red Writing Hood.

Although the foursome don’t always do joint holidays, Heather says they have one tradition that involves everyone.

“The one that we always do together is Halloween, they always come over and we go walk around,” she said.

Heather and Ken say ultimately, their son is the one they all come together for in the end.

“I think it would be different if we didn’t have Michael. I’m not sure how the relationship (between Heather and I) would be,” said Ken.

“Kids pick up on when parents aren’t getting along. It’s just best for Michael and that’s why Heather and I got a divorce, we were always fighting. We said, ‘well, we can’t bring up a kid in this environment.’”

Michael’s stepmom says she’s supportive of the mentality held amongst Ken and Heather and agrees it can only improve the life of their son (her stepson). She says with the number of divorced families out there and the number of children whose parents avoid each other at all costs, she knows Michael’s lucky.

“Their (children of divorce) parents aren’t going to be at their birthdays where he’s always going to have that, you know? We’re always going to be at his hockey games and he can look up and wave at all his parents.

“He always has his parents when he needs them. They can always be in the same room. It’s not ever awkward for him. And that’s great.”

afreeman@cjournal.ca