Alex and Clara Cazeau and Ricky and Emilee Player are a blended family raising Maelyn Player, 4, the daughter of Clara Cazeau and Ricky Player.
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The four parents unintentionally showed off their co-parenting skills at Maelyn’s soccer game by wearing customized jerseys identifying them each as mommy, daddy, stepdad and stepmom.
“When I was younger my brother played baseball and my mom would get us shirts made so I wanted to do the same thing when Maelyn started playing her first sport,” Clara Cazeau, 26, told ABC News. “I didn’t think it was going to be anything different.”
A photo of the foursome posing with Maelyn on the soccer field is earning praise after Emilee Player posted it on Facebook. The photo has now been shared more than 85,000 times.
“I wanted to send a message that, because of us, I know that co-parenting can work,” said Emilee Player, 23. “I wanted other people to see it because we’ve been doing this for three years now so it’s our normal life.”
She added, “I think it’s pretty cool that we’re there for our daughter.”
Maelyn’s parents, Ricky Player and Clara Cazeau, split in 2013 when she was just 8 months old. The pair, who both live in Columbus, Georgia, made a commitment immediately to still raise Maelyn in a family unit.
“We just want Maelyn to see that she has two loving parents,” said Ricky Player, 27, who also has an infant daughter with his new wife. “We do a week on and a week off and Clara still comes over on my weeks and sees Maelyn and I do the same for her.”
Ricky Player and Clara Cazeau both met their new spouses while working at the same restaurant in Columbus.
“I came when [Maelyn] was just turning 2,” said Clara’s husband, Alex Cazeau, 21, who is stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “I love her and treat her as if she’s my own.”
The key to successful co-parenting, according to all four parents, is to act as a team and put the child first.
“Try to stay strong and to put your differences aside, with your ex or the new spouse,” advised Clara Cazeau. “Everyone has to be 100 percent in or it’s not going to work.”
Ricky Player said his daughter can “sense the love” she gets from all four family members, while his wife offered more advice from the perspective of a stepparent.
“We have an understanding in terms of major life events and decisions, that Alex and I kind of step down and Clara and Ricky make those decisions,” Emilee Player said. “Her parents are going to know what’s best for her at all times and we all want what’s best for Maelyn.”