Divorce: the scapegoat for the absent parent.

Because here is the thing, right now you are letting them down, not your ex. In a matter of years that will fly by like seconds, there will be weddings, children and life events – and it will be you let down when the invites are no longer extended. It will be you alone without a choice because you chose anything and everything except your children. All you have to do is show up. It really is that easy.

Just show up. It is actually that easy.

A good portion of this year I’ve spent in reflection analyzing my thoughts, feelings, and actions as a parent. I’ve made many mistakes throughout the past 18 years, many. It took accountability and required the swallowing of my pride to not only be aware, but to apologize for the ways my choices affected others and even my own children.

I remember sitting with them both and defending their father on something because he had every right for how he felt and his distaste and disapproval for my choices. The words flew out of my mouth without even realizing. It was as if I was in the movie Liar, Liar with Jim Carey. Audibly I heard the words that had remained safely tucked away in the corner of my mind for a day I was strong enough to admit my faults. Today was that day apparently. I remember saying, “your father was right and what I did was wrong. At the time I couldn’t see how unhealthy my actions were and how they would affect you both, but he did. And I need to apologize to you both right now” and I did. I remember explaining that the way he felt about me was understandable, however, his hatred for me, being transferred to them, was where the issue was laying unfairly.

When you become divorced, you no longer have a spouse, however, your children are still your children. That relationship, bond, expectation, role, and responsibility didn’t just end when you signed your divorce papers. What your spouse did to you, whatever they put you through must have a line drawn with your children.

Using my fingers on one hand, I can tell you how many events, games, or school activities I’ve missed in the 14 years being divorced and it is less than five. On that same hand, I can tell you how many times my children questioned my attendance, my involvement, or whether I would see them during any moment in their life. And, how many times they questioned their importance or my love for them, all which are zero.

They’ve never waited for a call to see if I could make a game or a call saying that I wouldn’t. They’ve never sat at an event looking into the crowd and not seen me there beaming with pride. They’ve not looked at me with that “did you see that play” seeking acknowledgement, only to see me exiting the stadium. They’ve never sat at school waiting to see if I would attend a conference, an exhibit, or an award being received. They’ve not had me not pick them up when they are sick, comfort them when they are hurting or protect them when scared. I’ve always been there. A constant. I’m not saying this to toot my horn, I’m saying this because I divorced their father, not them. My responsibility to them as their mother never ended.

Parenting time is bologna, it is not about the parent; It is about the child. If more parents made this time about the child, I guarantee you the children would benefit. Sports, school events, doctor appointments, emergencies, holidays – that is a lot to navigate between two homes. If you try to add two calendars to that, and what works for who, it is pure chaos. I’ve never understood why parents don’t view their time with a child no different from being married. If during your marriage you would attend whatever it is, then you should be there. Unless you did something awful to the child, you have open access. That means you can and should attend anything that supports your child, whether your ex spouse likes it.

I would like to think if I did not have full custody that I would not have just slipped into a role of a “sometimes, if it works out, I may make it” type of parent. In fact, I’m certain I would attend everything I could, and everything I should. Making certain my children know they’re loved, supported, celebrated and the center of my entire universe. If their father didn’t like it, or his spouse didn’t like it, too damn bad. I’m not there for them, I’m showing up for my children.

To this day, with two 14-year-old boys and my 17-year-old daughter, I get sick if I miss something important. It feels as if I am letting them down. I would never make them miss something important to visit with me, I would attend the something important with them. We schedule our lives around our children, not our children around our lives. How do you get back that time, that optional involvement and those moments that build and fill a child’s heart with love and worth? Do you realize that 18 years flies by in what feels like minutes? And, you waste that when all you have to do is just show up!

Sometimes life happens, you’re required to work late, or maybe your work refuses to let you off to attend a recital or game. I get that; I do. That is not what I am referring to. I’m referring to the parents who choose to not attend, the parents who have the schedule, and still don’t come.The parents who have the finances for trips, outings, events but not for gas to drive to an away game, or even 15 miles down the road. The parents who attend a function that self-serves instead of giving of their self, and of their time. The parents who manipulate, are dishonest and deceitfully make the choice to honestly just fail as parents. All to blame it on the ex-wife or ex-husband. And, for what? What purpose do those lies serve?

Because here is the thing, right now you are letting them down, not your ex. In a matter of years that will fly by like seconds, there will be weddings, children and life events – and it will be you let down when the invites are no longer extended. It will be you alone without a choice because you chose anything and everything except your children. All you have to do is show up. It really is that easy.

Choose your kids. Show up. The end.

You are raising a human being — Remember that.

Totally Jessifiable

remember

In the shower (where it seems my clearest thoughts prevail) I was thinking about how many people lose out when they simply don’t allow, encourage or welcome a relationship with their step-children. Many times I overhear that they don’t accept them due to manners, dislike for the other parents, their behaviors etc. When your family includes either your own children and a new spouse, or the children between you only, that is not a family and you are not only hurting the children you are hurting yourself.

I have a friend that I adore, she and her husband were granted full custody of a boy about 10 or so, due to a mother that just left him one day. My friend was less than pleased, this boy dressed scroungy, he had different manners, picked on her kids, and she felt he was more of a hassle than a blessing. Her husband worked…

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You are raising a human being — Remember that.

remember

In the shower (where it seems my clearest thoughts prevail) I was thinking about how many people lose out when they simply don’t allow, encourage or welcome a relationship with their step-children. Many times I overhear that they don’t accept them due to manners, dislike for the other parents, their behaviors etc. When your family includes either your own children and a new spouse, or the children between you only, that is not a family and you are not only hurting the children you are hurting yourself.

I have a friend that I adore, she and her husband were granted full custody of a boy about 10 or so, due to a mother that just left him one day. My friend was less than pleased, this boy dressed scroungy, he had different manners, picked on her kids, and she felt he was more of a hassle than a blessing. Her husband worked nights, and she would complain and feel that she was raising “his” child, and it wasn’t her responsibility.

She would come to me and ask how come it was so easy for me, with my prior stepson, and how did I do it without getting upset – her biggest question was “How can you love him?” My answer to her was that for me, it was easy to love him – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have hard times. We all come around to things differently. Now in my current relationship, I went from raising a one year old to a nine year old. HUGE difference, difference in parenting, difference in attitudes, lifestyle and to be honest he isn’t used to have a mother type figure – let alone a steady one. We have our days of where it is real work, and there are days I am sure he doesn’t like me. But, tomorrow is a new day and I am not giving in. One day, one step at a time.

While being able to understand her frustration, I never could see how she could dislike this boy, because she had such a wonderful heart. After awhile I noticed she complained about him less, and he appeared in more photos, and the stories she shared were about him and the great things he was doing.

Fast forward a couple of years, and she and her spouse are now divorcing. Something that needed to happen a few years back, but when I say she has a great heart, I meant an extremely forgiving heart. Of course, I asked about her stepson and her response warmed my heart ” He goes with me of course, he is my son — it is written in our agreement that when the kids are with me, they are ALL with me.”

She took on a situation that wasn’t hers, she often did it alone, however the resentment wasn’t put on the child, the discipline, the nurturing, the love and care that she at times wanted to withhold – she never did. In the end, this boy grew into a young man who gained a mother and a sense of worth because someone who he fully expected to let him down, instead lifted him up.

My point here I guess is not just to share how easy it was for me, or how difficult it can be these days in a new relationship or how she was able to come around. But, more in that you all stand to lose when you choose to divide your family, solely due to the differences in hygiene, clothing, manners, attitude, or because they are simply not your responsibility. The truth is, that any child inside your home is your responsibility – whether it be a friend of your child’s, or niece or nephew, or a stepchild. And, the real question is why would you choose to shut out a child in any manner any how? Simply because you don’t like him or her – a child is a product of their environment – show them a positive environment – and watch that child make positive changes.

If not, you and your spouse or significant other will have an endless battle on your hands, there will be underlying resentment around every corner, and hidden under every argument, every family discussion – because you are not truly a family. Being a family doesn’t mean that you will agree, or that everyone ends up happy – it means that all are considered an important viable interest in your choices.

If you get to the point where you don’t like her/his kids, and they never say thank you, they will never be as good as your kids, and your spouse will never be as good a parent as you are – Is it time to ask yourself a different question like what am I doing with this person, is this the relationship for me? Seriously sit back, and ask who it is that you are hurting, because no one wants to be with someone like that. If your complaint is constantly their kids, that is a problem that needs fixing instead of complaining.

Do you want to fix your relationship with a stepchild or maybe build one? If so, here are some great ways to do so:

Sit and talk – even observe – see what they have to offer, a talent they possess and get involved.

Listen – put yourself in their shoes, remember they are a child.

Go on a date together – you, your spouse and them. Just you – not your kids at first.

Then go on a date with them all together.

Then go on  a date just you and them.

Eat dinner together as a family – sharing your day or something that happened that made it great.

At the end of the day – your family gains the world by simply trying. Have you given your all?

Always the bad guy…Divorce sucks.

“There are two ways to get on my bad side pretty quickly and pretty permanently. Accusing me of doing something that I am not, or telling me the kind of person I am because you think it are the two ways.”

The truth is, being divorced is sometimes harder then having just stayed in the hellish marriage. Many times the reason we leave is because there are irreconcilable differences – what we don’t realize, is those differences follow us into Divorce-land as well. They saying “there are always three sides to every story” was coined for good reason – because there is. There is your side, their side and the real side – which only the two of you honestly know, unless of course one is mentally handicapped – which many of us may claim the other is! Either way – it can be a mess. According to my ex- I am the reason he doesn’t have his kids, I am the reason for everything wrong in his life. When the truth is – he is wrong.

Yes, there are those relationship where the split is amicable, the divorce right down the middle, no one screwed the other, the kids are peachy keen happy, one got the cat, the other gets the dog and rainbows fly out of everyone’s ass – I’m not a member of one of those!

We divorced after six years of marriage, with children age three and six months. The first year was utter hell – for everyone involved. Then things got better – pretty great actually for about three years. Then add in school, and sports and one side not being as involved and you find yourself being summoned to court for a Status Quo Order. If you are not familiar with this, it is an order that forces the parent making any change, to halt any change pending a Judge to hear the case and the other parents arguments against it. In our case, I was trying to change Schools and he was not in favor.

As quickly as I was standing there in court facing him, discussing our points and reasons for and against, I will never forget for the rest of my life what our Judge said next. Pointing at me he said ” you go get your documents, your dirt on him and all your people  and then pointed at him and said the same following with “You both have a custody battle on your hands – one of you is leaving here next time with Custody and the other without” – my heart fell into my stomach. I was terrified I would lose, I hated my Ex – because he couldn’t just work with us, and he had to bring us to court and now I was going to lose my children.

For the next month or so, I did my research, I met with an attorney, documented the “dirt” I had, contacted friends, family any witnesses possible to be on my side. Sleep never happened because I was sick to my stomach the entire time. Our lives had been thrown upside down and all because of a school choice.

Fast forward to court – walking in, I had my witnesses, my family, documentation, all my ducks in a row. In walks in my ex-husband alone, with not even a pen in his hand. Looking at him, I was confused – this didn’t make sense – what was he doing. He brought forth no witnesses, he used his same argument he has used before – which was repeatedly overruled. Within 15 minutes, the Judge gave me Sole Physical Custody of our children, and with my first breath of what felt like months, I wept instead of jumping with joy. Losing would have killed me, but winning killed me too – because it killed part of the children.

Later that night, he would call me crying saying the kids could to the school, and just go back to what it was – I don’t think he even understood that the court took that right away. My anger at him exploded, and I asked why the hell he hadn’t tried, why hadn’t he fought, why didn’t he say this thing I did bad, or that thing I did bad, where was his wife, his family – Seriously what the hell were you thinking. He just cried and said he was done fighting.

We went  a year without speaking, I was the one that took his kids away, making him a weekend warrior and no longer a father. School conferences would go without his attendance, anything about the kids on our time he didn’t care about – even if it was serious – he would say he didn’t have a say – so why tell him. It was hell on him, and them, and truthfully for me too. He never went to our daughters games, or practices – he would sabotage her by making her miss a game, or not allow her to go to practice. She would try to share things with him, and he would push her away saying she was like my husband now, and that she was choosing a life without him. For a year, he repeatedly did this, to where now she doesn’t spend time with him, unless she is forced. During this time, I wrote him multiple times, to get him to snap out of it, before it was too late, to not make the same mistake with her, that our parents had made with us – and he would just ignore me.

During this time, my husband and I would argue, because I was trying to fix things for my ex with the kids – because in my husbands opinion, I wouldn’t allow my ex to fail in my children’s eyes – I didn’t feel he should fail. Both kids during this time got closer to their step-dad. Which is to be expected, my husband was stepping in, where their dad had stepped out. As time passes, and things progress both kids are closer to their step-dad than their father and little by little, they pull away from him more. The middle is where I find myself constantly, trying to smooth things over, talk the kids into a visit, or the ex out of my evil accusations. I thought things would get easier as the years passed, and I was wrong. I’m not even sure who I am battling anymore, because its just a mess.

I never tell him, he is the reason  we got divorced, or that he is the reason he lost the kids – I never remind him of all the reasons or the facts – I just try to encourage a relationship with his children. But to be honest, who children are they really when he just keeps letting them down?

Some days, I just think I can never win – and my kids will pay the price.