This article was originally published on November 14th, 2019, and has since been updated.
For the sake of the children involved, co-parenting DOES NOT have to be complicated. Matured parents would be driven to put aside any feelings of antagonism or spite and look toward the future of their children. It’s usually easier on the kids and less straining on them if their parents and step-parents can co-exist peacefully.
David Mengon and Dylan Lenox are father and stepfather to 5-year-old Willow Mengon, and while making efforts to relate peacefully with each other for Willow’s sake, they became best friends for life. David, a former U.S. military officer, now a government contractor, was away most of the time when Willow was much younger. He and his wife, Sarah divorced in 2015.
It was a blow to him the day he came over to Sarah’s home in Texas for a weekend visitation and met her boyfriend, Dylan.
“It was really challenging at first,” David told TODAY . “There was a lot of pain and hurt on my side just seeing my daughter with another guy. He came out with Willow in his arms, and it crushed me immediately. Then as I got to know him and find out who he was as a person and realized it was never a competition of ‘who’s the better dad,’ I started to gain a lot of respect for him.”
No one would have expected that a normally awkward situation would turn out to bring so much joy to everyone in the family, especially Willow.
Co-Parenting Pace-Setting Dads
Dylan, 27, has a 2-year-old daughter, Tatum, with Sarah and a 6-year-old son, Liam, from a previous relationship. Willow doesn’t only get to have two loving and doting fathers, but she also has siblings to grow with and share in her life.
The dads and their daughter were captured in amazing photos by Sarah, who is a professional photographer. David and Willow were just about to go to a father-daughter dance at her school when Sarah decided to capture the adorable trio.
Dylan uploaded the photos on his Facebook page in January, and the post has so far garnered 350,000 reactions, 32,000 comments, and 214,000 shares . The affectionate pictures inspired thousands of other parents still working their way around co-parenting. It doesn’t cost so much to make it work.
“David is Sarah’s ex-husband and I am the Fiancé,” Dylan wrote. “We have molded ourselves into one unique family, of only for the sake of our children to know the power of love. Not only did I gain a daughter, but I also gained a brother and a best friend. Thank you, Sarah, for letting this all happen!”
Dylan went further to encourage parents out there to look beyond societal norms and do what’s right for their children.
“When we care more about our children (on both sides of the party) than the way society has taught us to be towards (ex’s/baby mommas/daddy’s) then walls will fall, life will be free of hatred and remorse, and our children will conquer the foolish “norms” that media has shoved in our faces,” he wrote.
He later updated the post to include that he and Sarah got married in October 2019.
One Big, Happy Family
David travels regularly from New Mexico to Texas to visit his daughter and spend time with the family. He admits that he’s still getting used to Willow addressing Dylan as ‘Daddy’, but he understands that she’s just a child and Dylan is more present in her life.
“He was there to make sure Willow was protected and Sarah was safe,” David said, referring to the periods when he was away on two deployments. “It’s still a hard pill to swallow every once in a while when she calls him ‘Daddy,’ but I gotta remember it’s not a title, it’s a behavior. Because he is filling that role of being a good, positive male influence in her life and taking care of her, he deserves the title of ‘Dad.’“
Dylan attributes the sturdy union to Sarah’s willingness to let the past go.
“I think it’s just mutual respect, and that’s all due to Sarah,” Dylan said. “She [Willow] doesn’t have a recollection of me or David not being there. We didn’t push anything on her as far as titles or who plays what role. As long as we’re equally supporting and loving, that’s all that matters.
“With David, I just had to put my own personal feelings aside, be an adult and be mature about the situation,” Sarah said, explaining that she made a pact with David to stay in touch for their child’s sake. “I never let my feelings get in the way of raising our daughter. It helped a lot that both sides were so understanding.”
In the end, the children are happy and surrounded by loving parents willing to make a difference for their sakes. It all boils down to genuine respect for one another’s feelings and expectations. They are a testament to successful co-parenting.
“I’ve gotten messages saying, ‘This has given me the motivation to make a change with my ex-spouse,'” David said. “They say they are going to put better effort into it and hope it changes. It’s all about the kids.”
Keep Reading: This Viral Soccer Game Photo Captures Co-Parenting at Its Best
- Scott Stump. Dad and stepdad share sweet moment with daughter and message of friendship. Today. June 23, 2019
- Dylan Lenox. Facebook. Januray 19, 2019