Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Long Distance "Co?!" Parenting

Reading some provocative posts and tweets this week has really made me think about my dreams vs. the reality of the life I have been handed - yes, HANDED aginst my will and every single maternal instinct within my soul.

First off, if you are reading this blog expecting a flowery interpretation of my wonderful life and my beautiful kids, read elsewhere.  I have blogs posted for family and friends to hear what they "want" to hear and see what they "want" to see.

Our story, printed to the left, tells most of the tale - leaving out the part that I was battling cancer when my ex decided to drop the bomb on our "perfect little family"  Okay, I was left fighting for my life, my kids, my home and my marriage within 3 short months.  Hardly ideal and a chapter I have all but emotionally blocked out for fear of drowning in a sea of anger and self-pity - much of which I fully entitled myself to for a season of my life.  Fear, loneliness, disbelief and hatred filled much of my heart and mind for quite sometime.  I became an expert escape artist - even moving clear across the country to avoid the sights, smells and abandonment that surrounded our world.  The kids rarely saw their father - that is - as far as "parenting" was concerned and I was privately and publicly ripped to my very core.  The only chance I had to make it out sane and strong was to get away - so I did.  We left the eastern gold coast and transplanted ourselves in the vast Sonoran Desert four years ago - spent three of those years in court fighting for what was rightfully ours - and finally gave up the past in favor of building a promising future.

Like many in my shoes, there were periods of dire self destructiveness when I thought the only way to get through yet another day was to have a few glasses of wine once the kids were safely tucked in  simply numbing the extraordinary pain that swelled within my heart.  For over a year, we received no child support......cyber dad thought he was a masterful parent by "visiting" the kids via webcam - a practice I viewed as an intrusion.  I felt controlled and violated by so many around me.  Cyber-dad wanted me to revolve my life around his "webcam" schedule, friends wanted me to simply cut him off, some wanted me to find saving grace within their church, others thought my key to happiness was to throw myself into internet dating and "get laid" and most did not realize that we were at the mercy of the courts.  If one more person told me to "have him thown in jail" I think I would have screamed - as if was that easy to obtain justice!  Ha!

Finally, about two years ago, I gave up the fight.  Along with giving up the fight, I had to give up some of the closest friends I had ever known.  Upon reflection, it became clear that the advise I was receiving was "not for me" and was keeping me in a cycle of dependence and uncertainty.  Looking further, I was able to see the tremendous damage it was doing to my heart and the relationship, albeit limited, that my kids had with their father.  Many of the people offering up the most direct suggestions had very wounded hearts, broken family relationships, inner children needing control and dysfunctional marriages.  Absence may make the heart grow fonder for some, for me it made the heart grow wiser.

In this revelation, I came to realize one's not about me.  People change, relationships change and my kids needed only to see a healthy role model.  As they only see their father 3 or 4 times per year, I decided it was my duty to foster this relationship in the best way I knew how.  Lack of expectation and unconditional acceptance.

Now, I'm sure a lot of you are shaking your heads and thinking me a fool......and perhaps in some ways I am - but it was not worth my health and happiness to carry a torch into battle for years to come.  It is my hope that someday, he will come around and be the man he once was - but this is only a hope, like I HOPE to buy the winning Powerball ticket!

My kids are fully accessible to their father and they love him.  When he visits, he uses the guest room - less transition for them and less work for me.  Heck, I was in labor with my first for 50 hours, I can surely put up with him for 48!  I have yet to meet, or even speak to his "girlfriend" of over 5 years and probably won't until one of our kids gets married - dad's choice - and I have come to be okay with that.  The little they know of her, they seem to like and so it shall remain.  The kids acknowledge their dad holidays and birthdays- a favor which is never returned, but it is the right thing to do.

It gets lonely, money is tight and sure, I wish there was another "fall guy" around to deal with the endless homework, discipline and household duties, but alas, there is not so we motor through as a team-for now, the five of us making it happen.

Someday, I may meet that soul mate who loves me unconditionally for who I am and I hope that my heart will have healed enough by then to recognize him when he comes along.  Until then........the kids have two parents,  unfortunately not "co-parents, " but two parents just the same.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Single Parent Life

This is an email I received....much like many of you have privately shared.  I share my responses to help those of you still caught in "the cycle."

I love the children and they know that. (Because I reinforce this every single day - NOT because of you!)   Stop fabricating and stop fabricating in public (blog) really what is the purpose of making it public, do you need the attention that badly or is how you believe your own lies? (It is not a fabrication.  (These are not lies.  No, not for attention, but the support I receive makes me stronger and that is what I need when we deal with late payments, struggles and everyday life that you know nothing of.) My children know how I much I love them but for your own selfish reasons you continue to play devils advocate with a relationship you have nothing to do with. (No......I speak the truth.  I'm an advocate, yes....not the devil's advocate.  It is for your own selfish reasons that you think otherwise.)  That's right the relationship is between myself and my children, not you. (Yes it is!  So you had better kick it up a notch buddy.  These kids have dealt with more than you have ever known!)  Please feel free NOT to respond.  (Easy request.  The mirror hurts sometimes.)
(PS: If you don't like my interpretations, you are FREE to stay elsewhere and rent a car!!!!!  No one tied you down!!!!!!  Oh forgot to include my generosity in your email.  There are other options in the area.  I am kind to you - you are not to me.)
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®
Reply to all

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Message......

Dear Dad,

Whether you realize it or not, we've been counting the days down until your visit.  We have bragged to our friends that you are coming and have planned an imaginary fantasy weekend in our heads about how perfect our time together would be.  We anxiously awoke on Friday morning anticipating your arrival a few hours later.  The day had finally come.

We know that you are used to doing things your own way, on your own schedule, the way you want to do them.  We only see you 3 or 4 times per year and for a few days at best.  You are not used to having a gaggle of kids around who are fighting for your undivided attention.  We know that you still think of us as "little kids;" you left us a long time ago.  We've been growing and developing since you left and we are not the same people we once were, just as you are not.

Dad, in the little time we have together, please don't call us names.   Please refrain from losing your temper, from calling us "stupid," and "baby;" from criticizing what we eat or where we find pleasure.  Don't punish us for trying to turn our time together into a vacation.....of wanting to laugh and make memories with you on our terms.  Please don't put down our pets, our toys, and Dad, please don't try to imply that you are going to ground us if we don't do as you say.  We will be lucky if we see you again one more time before Christmas.  These are empty threats with no fact, they sound silly to our adolescent ears.

Happiness is how you interpret what's in front of you; how willing you are to enjoy simple pleasures even if things aren't perfect.  Your response to problems is one indicator of how much you have stabilized since the divorce.  Blaming sets up a situation in which it is difficult to move forward.  Maybe you just need to hear it again; to us you are phenomenal and you are loved and appreciated.

We need to hear that too.

As we get older, our relationship will continue to change.  You can be lulled into a false sense of security.  It's challenging to know what is important and what is not, but knowing that helps.  We want a future with you, Dad.  Let it go and make our time together happy and joyous.  You are not going to step in on a random basis and command the respect you think you deserve, but we try.  We are kids.  We are victims in this situation.  It is up to you to right the wrongs and build the memories that will encourage our future relationship, not us.

Dad, we want nothing more than to see you more, to speak with you more often and to feel your unconditional love.  We want our time together to be fun and special.  We want you to be our father.

Your kids

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tips for Disciplining Your School Age Child

Be sure “no” is not the word your child hears most often.   Positive reinforcement is important. Praise your child for good behavior so he does not see misbehavior as the only way to get your attention. Your child can be sensitive to criticism, making this kind of praise a perfect way to bolster his self-esteem.

Remember tantrums still happen.   Try to remain calm; if you react to these tantrums your child will see them as a way to get attention. Take a deep breath and calmly tell your child that when he is ready to talk about how he feels, you are ready to listen.

Empty threats are dangerous.   It is easy to become angry and make unrealistic threats of punishment, like “If that fighting does not stop we are never going on another car trip!”   Threats on which you cannot follow through, especially those with the word “never,” will weaken the power of the realistic consequences you may use in the future.

Manage discipline. 
  Your child may feel like he has little control and believes that the way to gain power is to misbehave. Constant discipline will only fuel that belief, instead, focus on giving your child positive attention when they are doing something good. This will show him that he can gain power and your attention this way, too!

Involve your child with choices.   Sometimes the way to deal with a child who may feel like he does not have any control is to involve him in the process. Offer him an “either/or” choice so he feels he had some say in the matter. Remember a child should not always have choices. You need to decide when this is appropriate (e.g. battle over what to have for lunch, not whether or not a seatbelt needs to be worn), and make sure that you can live with either choice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Look Within....

The minute you begin to focus on things that are "broken" rather than things that are "right" your center of gravity changes.  Keep your eye on what is "right and good."  Otherwise, the result will be "broken."

Let It Go

It has been almost 5 years now since my initial cancer diagnosis and subsequent marital breakup; five years of ups and downs and all arounds.  Five years of raising four kids alone, fighting the system, financial hardship as well as five years of growth, laughter, good times and adventure.  This family packed an awful lot into five short years!

Somehow, the number "five" holds great significance.  My children each started kindergarten at "five," one is considered cured of most cancers when the five year milestone is reached......we have five fingers on each hand - the very first thing we learn to count.  In five years, we have lived in four different houses, four different town and two different states. We've traversed the west, been to California four times and have taken ample cross country romps across the U.S. The kids have grown from ages 2-8 to 7-13 - translation; from daycare - third grade to first through eighth. We registered for high school last week and won our first of many sports trophies.  A lot can happen in just five short years!   

If you are just beginning your journey, the road ahead looks long and scary - I know.  This was not the "plan" when you started out all fresh and new and in love.  Once upon a time, you felt invincible, loved, protected and cherished and now, you simply feel grief, disappointment, anger and frustration.  Life has been reduced to a business contract.  It feels unnatural - everything you believed to be true no longer applies.

I have learned a lot in these five years - much of which on my feet as I fumbled and fell along the way, some through counsel and guidance.

1) Divorce is a grieving process like no other.  A person who has never been in these shoes CANNOT comprehend the range of emotions that accompanies this loss.  You cannot expect them to.

2) You must always put your children FIRST - even if that means coming into direct opposition of those around you.  They are entitled to an open and loving relationship with both parents - in fact, they need this to be whole.  Do NOT use your children to prove a point or otherwise fulfill your own needs.

3) People around you will enjoy pointing out the faults of your spouse and will encourage you to "see them" for what they are.  This is counterproductive and will keep you in a bad place longer.  You may need to vent, they do not have to return the favor.

4) You will be judged - both positively and negatively - for how you process your grief, get back on your feet, parent your children etc.  Remember, this is a learning process and you will err along the would have if your marriage remained intact as well, but somehow, the world perceives 2 as better than one.  Ignore this judgment.

5) It takes two people to make or break any relationship......accept your role.  You cannot force the other person to accept theirs, but hopefully, in time, it will come.

6) People will take sides.  You will lose some close friends.  Your social life will change.  This is, perhaps, healthy!

7) Always take the high road whenever possible.  Do what is right and best for the kids and for your own emotional health.

8) Be cautious of the advice to take from others.  What is best for them may not be what is best for you.  Weigh your options carefully before reacting.  Look toward the outcome you desire.

9) You are not here to prove a point or teach a lesson.  You are not the person to fulfill that role.  You are not a parent to another adult. 

10) Do something nice for yourself every day - a nap, a 1/2 with a good book, a chat with a friend......something centered on rebuilding your inner self.

Look at today as the beginning of the rest of your life.  If you blew it yesterday, so get another chance with each sunrise.  Things will become more natural as they evolve and you will have the life you desire.  Don't let anything stand in your way!