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Category Archives: positives

I’ll Take The Mess

Well, it’s Sunday night and the house is a mess. There are clothes lying on the floor. Empty bags of snacks on the coffee table. Shoes and socks strewn about. A few dishes that never made it into the dishwasher. Floors need mopping. There’s laundry in the dryer to fold and still more ready to go into the washer. Odds and ends desperately need to find a home. Basically, to say our house looks lived in is an understatement. But I don’t care.

I will gladly take the messy house in exchange for a full two days of spending time together as a family. To spend an entire day playing softball together on the first truly nice Saturday of the new year. Seeing all three 2014-02-22 14.49.20kids playing together without pulling each others hair out (well, for the most part). Hanging out together in the house. Having meals together. Arguing together. Working it out together. Spending hours with one on a school project. Having a special dinner with another while the other two spent time celebrating a friend’s birthday. Shooting hoops and playing catch with the third. Weekends like that are too few and far between.

They don’t come easily either. As the girls get older they’d much rather spend the night at a friend’s or go skating with the gang. It took several no’s and turning down other offers to get us all in the same house at the same time for more than an afternoon. No softball practice. No soccer games. No sleepovers. But it was worth it. We had our moments of frustration and we had our share of stress points throughout the weekend. But we worked it out. And when it was all said and done I gathered the troops to thank them all for a terrific weekend together. I wanted them to recognize how special these days are and how important it is that from time to time we shut out the world and focus on each other to remind ourselves that we are a team.

For me personally, to have a weekend without too many projects or deadlines was too good to pass up. Those days are rare as well, especially after a busy week. There were several moments when an hour on the couch 2014-02-17 09.31.25sounded like heaven. But a moment throwing a baseball with my son or making breakfast with another sounded even better. We all had to push ourselves at times and I was proud to see all three of the kids make the effort. Maybe they all recognized they needed it more than any of us realized. It encouraged me to keep putting the mouse down to get back outside to shoot one more basket.

I love my kids. I really do. They push me to new limits on a daily basis. There are times when I throw my arms up in complete disbelief at how horrible a job I’ve done parenting these little demons. And then somehow it all comes together. Just when I’m convinced I completely suck as a parent, the kids remind me of what it means to be a family and how important we are to each other. Smiles and hugs goodnight and three kids laughing together tells us all it was well worth every effort and that sometimes a mess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

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Join The Club

Why would you read this blog? Well. If you’re a divorced dad (or mom for that matter), you’re kind of part of the club. When you got divorced, your friends and family likely rallied behind you and supported you in the only way they knew how. But as much as we appreciate the support of those around us, there is still an emptiness you feel unless you’re able to connect with others who are living the same experience.

I can demonstrate empathy for someone with a broken arm, but I can’t connect with them on a level of true understanding and compassion simply because I’ve never had to live day to day with the emotional or physicalpolls_alone_0603_585011_poll_xlarge challenges of having to survive with only one workable set of fingers.

Those who don’t have kids, can’t fully appreciate what a day with kids is like. Anyone who isn’t divorced with kids, can’t truly appreciate the level of energy true commitment to those lives requires to make it work. They can support, love, embrace, and encourage. But they will never truly understand what life as a single divorced dad is like unless you are a single divorced dad as well. At times it can cause you to feel alone in a crowded room. You need the support and appreciate the encouragement, but you can still feel alone when you don’t feel like people fully understand what you’re going through.

And so, this blog was created as a point of reference, written by a single divorced father of three who is attempting, like other single divorced dads, to make it through the hours, days, weeks, months, and years with a positive attitude and with the strength to raise well adjusted happy children.

It’s one thing for a doctor of psychology to tell you it’ll all be OK. Or to hear from your married brother that you’re going to make it. But it’s another when a fellow father struggling with getting the kids to soccer practice, their yearbook meeting, dance class, making their lunches, being there when they get home, having their favorite keep-calm-and-join-the-club-6jeans ready in the morning, making sure everyone is together for a healthy dinner, and coordinating with an ex who has their own set of demands to deal with, tells you that you can do it; it simply holds a little more weight.

And I’m here to tell you, you can do it. You’re going to make it. You’re not alone. There are others going through exactly the same thing. It sucks, it’s hard, it’s demanding and it’s draining. It will test you on every level emotionally and physically. You will fail, and you will succeed. You will laugh. You will cry. You will smile. You will scream. You will let people down because you’re simply at capacity and don’t have anything else to give. You will also celebrate victories with friends and family when you need it most. You will have days when you’ll feel like it’s all going to fall apart. But you will recover and recognize that it won’t. There will be victories. There will be hugs. You will find moments of peace and acceptance. You will recognize strengths you never would have known you had if it hadn’t been for the divorce. You will grow and so will your children. There are so many positives to look for. So many amazing moments. And so many things you can do to make it a positive.

My hope is that you can find a word or two here and there that encourages you to smile and get up ready to take on the world. A world that may be foreign to you. One that may appear overwhelming at times, but is manageable if you simply take it one step at a time.

So, from one divorced father to another; I assure you, you can make it. Oh, and welcome to the club. Glad to have you.

 

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Get It Right The Third Time!

Would you expect your nine-year-old to start playing a Chopin concerto perfectly on the piano the first time? How many hours of practicing would you expect him/her to need in order to get it right? And yet how often do we get upset with our kids when they don’t act correctly or follow directions the first time?

My recent push to have the kids do the dishes together after dinner made me stop and recognize how important it is to provide them with opportunities to practice not just what they do but how they do it and whoIT-simple-mistakes they do it with. Our first go around was rough. (Boy … was it rough). Each kid wanted to lead. Or should I say, didn’t want the others to lead. Perhaps their goal was for me to give up on the entire idea and just say, “fine, you guys go play and I’ll clean up.” But by the ninth or tenth time they started to get into a rhythm. They started to figure out that either way it was going to happen, so they may as well make it fun. And they did. They each made mistakes (I have a picture of a very soapy floor to prove it). But learned to help each other work through the mistakes rather than point fingers.

How many soccer games did your child play before they started to figure out how to pass rather than go after the ball with everyone else on the field?

I’m grooming my oldest for baby sitting the other two; giving her opportunities to watch them for five, ten, fifteen minutes at a time. The first few times it’s resulted in a revolt due to a lack of communication and lack of understanding of how everyone needs to work together. But what a tremendous learning experience for every single one of them, including me. After each instance we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn’t. Hopefully over time, they’ll each learn the best way to respond to each other to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Even something as simple as the morning routine, i.e. getting ready for school, getting dressed, fed, out the door on time; has taken a long time to nail down. Oh sure, you can try to get things together the night before. mistakesBut kids change their minds or forget socks. Or neglect to inform you of a form that needs to be filled out, waiting until you’re closing the door. Learning how to work together and pace yourself properly and work through the stress of the morning rush takes practice.

But how many times do we throw up our arms and give up when it doesn’t work the first time? “I knew this would happen!” “I knew this was a mistake!” “What were you thinking?!” “Why did I think I could trust you?!” “Obviously you’re not ready for this kind of thing!” So easy to just spew the negative and make our kids feel like incompetent idiots isn’t it?

I, like you, struggle with providing them emotional room to grow and learn. To build their confidence through the fine art of screwing up. How difficult it is to encourage our kids to make mistakes and teach them that being wrong is OK and simply part of the process. Especially when it directly affects our own routine or deadlines. But keep in mind that even Einstein knew the power of making mistakes. I believe he’s quoted as saying, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Yes it typically means a lot of cleaning up, or buying a “new one.” But I believe there is a cost to progress, both financially and emotionally. I always tell my kids, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” I mean that in terms of both a project and the day itself. If we can lay our head on the pillow high-fiving each other, regardless of any arguments or lapses in judgement that took place, then it was a good day. If we can rest knowing we learned something from our mistakes and that we’re better prepared for the next time, then it was indeed a success.

Bottom line; the goal shouldn’t be to get it right the first time. The goal should be to learn how to do it differently until you get it right.

 

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No, No, No, No, NO! (maybe)

Between the three of them, my kids ask for something on average about every :17.4 seconds. Many times there are simultaneous requests made that have nothing to do with each other. There are just so MANY. “Dad I need this,” “Dad can I do that?,” “Dad, have you seen my goldfish?” To that point, the word “Dad” is verbalized no fewer than 48 times an hour or roughly 600 times a day. I’ve often said the three of them can be like needy little piranha. Because of this fact, as a dad (or mom for that matter), you know how easily the word “NO” flows from your mouth. To the point that sometimes it slips out before the question is even asked. “Dad can I … ” NO!

The problem is, that mixed within the ridiculous requests of, “Dad can I take the dog in the shower with me,” “Dad can I have a pet lobster?,” “Dad can I buy this $350 pair of disposable socks?” are legitimate requests yes-no-buttonsand / or desires that deserve some serious consideration. The trick is figuring out what the motivation of a request is and when to stop and mentally wrap your head around it.

For me, there are a couple of ways of accomplishing this.

1. When possible have them wait a week. This eliminates about 40-50 percent of the requests as they usually either forget about it, lose interest or recognize that the friend who instigated the “need” has gone another route and rendering it no longer cool and therefore a waste of time and energy for all parties. If after a week it’s still something they deem important, it probably deserves a second look.

2. Suggest they will need to clean up any mess made by what they’re asking to do before they get computer or TV time. This eliminates another 25 percent.

3. Logistics and reality will usually eliminate another 15-20 percent and require an actual flat out “no” which may create some drama. But you have to have some fun am I right?

As mentioned, lost in there are another 5-10 percent of requests that likely have some weight. And our first inclination is to take a look at history and devalue the request based on what we’ve seen in the past. And
there’s truth to that. How many times have you heard yourself say, “Do you remember the last time?” or “I’m ????????????????????????????????????????still paying for the last time.” or “Yeah, that’s not happening again.” Still, they’ll offer to do the dishes, clean toilets, mow the lawn, get off of their little brother, anything to have a chance to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity that happens every Friday at 7 p.m.

So how do you know when something deserves the yes? Well. Maybe if they get themselves up and ready at 5:30 in the morning for an event that’s not shopping related. Or after two weeks it’s still something they’re interested in. Or maybe you just need to ask yourself if you’re saying no just out of habit. Or it’s a power struggle. “How many times have I told you, no, no, NO!” Are you digging in your heals to make a point about who’s in charge? Sometimes it’s worth putting ego and history aside and considering the benefits of saying yes.

The word “no.” Such an easy answer. Eliminates so much responsibility and time management. But at some point the no’s also eliminate opportunity to acknowledge your child’s self worth. And honestly, the word “No” can be nothing but a dead end that gets you nowhere with your child. Sometimes saying yes to something you completely don’t understand or consider a complete waste of energy, is actually an opportunity to bond with your child in a way you never dreamed. It’s a chance to teach them what can happen when you open your mind to the possibilities of what can happen when you say yes to the world and step outside of your comfort zone once in a while. Just letting them know, that sometimes you simply have their back is worth an occasional …

Yes.

 

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Aside

So, how’re you holding up? Keeping it all together?

Sometimes I have a difficult time coming up with a topic to write about. Today is one of those days. And yet I feel compelled to write to you and encourage you to keep moving forward; to keep the faith and to fight throughhow_you_doin whatever negativity you might be dealing with. Some days we simply need someone to tell us we’re amazing. That what we’re doing is epic. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

Just the fact that you’re there for your kids is something to be both proud of and thankful for. Some dads leave a divorce and put it all behind them, including their kids. I wish there was something I could say to those dads, but chances are those dads probably aren’t reading this blog. I feel bad for those fathers because they’re really missing out on one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Keep in mind I’m not talking about dads who want to be there, but have limited access to the kids due to the courts. I’m talking about the dads who just don’t care. Because they would if they knew what they were missing.

But it’s not easy and it doesn’t come without an effort as you well know. It doesn’t come without battles, compromises and standing up for yourself AND your kids. There is a reason why you get up every morning, idadjpg-85702c75c414f9a9make school lunches, stay up late washing a special pair of jeans your daughter wants to wear to school in the morning, coach a soccer team or teach your kid how to make the perfect pancake. There’s a reason you stop what you’re doing when you tuck your kids in at night to spend 30 minutes talking to them about their day. It’s because once you see your kids smile due to your efforts it becomes infectious. When you sense the impact you’re having on your kids you become astutely aware of your true purpose.

It doesn’t happen right off the bat necessarily. And I think that’s where some dads struggle. You can’t just wake up one day and expect your twelve year old kid to be your best pal. It takes time for both you and your kids to find your groove and to respect each other. It takes time to accept certain aspects of being a dad and get comfortable with others. And even when you do, there are going to be days when you struggle to keep the focus where it needs to be. Because along with your kids, there are a thousand other people pulling at you, needing you, expecting things from you. You get lost in a project, or invariably everything lands on the same day between 10 am and noon. That’s when the school calls to let you know your daughter has a temperature. Or your ex texts you to see if there’s any chance you can best_job_ive_ever_had_being_a_dad_mousepad-p144662381049604604eng3t_400meet the kids at the bus stop today because of an emergency.

It’s a balance that takes time to master and even then it’s not always easy when you’re getting it from all sides. So I’m here to tell you you’re doing great. You’re a great dad and your kids need you, typically when they seem to need you the least. But they need you because of the amazing things you bring to their lives. They need you because you’re the only dad they have and over time they’ve learned to appreciate everything you do, even when they tell you you’re the worst dad ever because you made them turn off an inappropriate program or made them clean their room or turn off the computer. They need the boundaries you set, the hugs you offer, the reassurances you give them that they’re awesome and not a freak like so many of their school mates make them feel like sometimes.

They need you dad and they need you because you’ve set the bar. And now that you’ve set it to not maintain it would be letting them down. And the fact that you’ve set the bar is the strongest indication that you’re doing a great job.

How YOU Doin’?

 

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