Teen Mom alum Amber Portwood and her ex, Gary Shirley, have always had a pretty stormy relationship, but it looks like the clouds are finally starting to clear. After years of back-and-forth in court, Shirley was awarded full custody of the pair’s 7-year-old daughter, Leah, and Portwood will have to pay him more than $1,000 a month in child support.
This newest development in the tumultuous seven-year battle is being reported everywhere as a big win for Shirley. And while the language is technically correct, the sentiment is dead wrong: The only winner here is little Leah.
Anyone who is a fan of any of the Teen Mom shows or, really, any reality TV show, will admit to some degree of indulging in a guilty pleasure. People were absolutely titillated to see Portwood get violent with Shirley in 2010, and everyone waited with bated breath to see what would happen in the subsequent court cases, where Shirley was ultimately awarded primary physical custody, including while Portwood went to prison for drug charges.
Schadenfreude aside, though, anyone with even the teeniest bit of empathy likely directed it toward the one person who had no choice in the matter but still found herself in the middle of the vitriol and garbage: Leah. It’s sad when a relationship doesn’t work out. And yes, there’s something fascinating about watching the disintegration happen in real time. But once a kid enters the picture, the conversation has to shift a little.
It looks like that’s finally the case for Shirley, Portwood and their daughter. The Indiana judge in their case put an end to any further bickering and squabbles with the ruling on legal custody and child support, and the pair’s reaction — an intention to work together as co-parents for the good of their child — is definitely encouraging.
Cooler heads and calm conversations don’t really make for good reality TV, but all the drama that typically fuels these shows is just sad when a kid is involved. They don’t benefit at all from petty squabbles, parental smack talk or ceaseless back-and-forths about who would make a better parent and who is the bigger waste of oxygen. Instead, kids really just need their parents to get their shit together and start thinking about what’s best for them instead.
So there’s a lot to celebrate now that Shirley has full physical and legal custody of Leah, including an end to the kind of ambiguity and instability that can really mess with a kid’s head. But none of this is a victory for Shirley or a vindication or a sign that he’s won something at the expense of his ex. It’s a sign that the pair is finally ready to grow up and do the adult work of amicable co-parenting for the sake of their daughter.
And that means that the only one who gets to put a “win” in their column is Leah, who will hopefully only benefit from an end to the fighting and the beginning of prolonged stability.