The parents’ conflict over their 2½-year-old son
had escalated dramatically over a period of a few months. Wider family members had become involved and
the dispute was spiralling out of control with appeals to the police,
children’s services, anyone and everyone.
Despite having both been highly engaged in parenting when the family all
lived together, one parent had not seen the little boy, Milo, for over 2 months. Shortly before a first court
hearing, dad decided to look into mediation. He met the mediator on his own,
with extended family members coming to the venue with him in support.
After the meeting with the mediator, the dad decided he
wanted to go forward with mediation.
Mum was invited and also came to meet the mediator on her
own - with her own family member also coming along to the venue in support.
After the meeting, mum decided she also wanted to go forward
to joint mediation.
The mediator had made appropriate checks in regard to safety
and agreed to provide mediation for these two parents.
First joint mediation meeting
The parents had not seen or spoken to each other directly
for several months. Helped by the
mediation process, they talked to each other about their aspirations for their
son. Tensions eased a little and the
parents made a plan for Milo for the coming month.
Second joint mediation meeting
The plans had, for the most part, been implemented as they’d
agreed but some hostility and mistrust lingered. Mum and Dad complained that the other had
been late or uncooperative in some other way.
They made plans for Milo for a further two months and arranged to come
back to mediation to try and make a year-long plan at their final meeting.
Final mediation meeting
The parents arrived and the atmosphere between them was
noticeably happier, calmer and more positive.
The change was so noticeable that mediator even wondered if the parents
had got back together as a couple. When
the mediator asked the parents about the change, the parents told a powerful
As agreed in mediation, they had met at an outdoor venue to
hand over care of Milo from one parent to the other. Dad walked up to mum holding Milo’s
hand. When Milo reached mum, he took his
mum’s hand but would not let go of his dad’s hand. Confused and feeling very awkward indeed, the
parents walked 100 yards to mum’s car, effectively holding each other’s hand
through their son. Milo looked up at
them both and beamed a huge smile. The
mum and dad told the mediator that they suddenly saw things through Milo’s
eyes. Here was their little boy,
thrilled to be holding the hands of the two people he loved most in the whole
wide world. ‘We just had to get over all
that had happened and get on with being the best mum and dad we could be for
After telling this story, the parents made a plan for the
year and years ahead, arranging birthdays, holidays, time off for each parent;
discussing schooling and how to handle their own wider family members. The mediator was needed in the main, simply to
record their plans in their personal parenting plan document.
As the mediator, I was deeply moved by the
emotional dignity and intelligence of these parents. The importance of being able to ‘walk a mile
in another’s shoes’ is very well known – but 100 yards in a 2½ year old’s shoes
can clearly be pretty powerful too.