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Holiday Survival Kit

Take a deep breathe.

Acknowledge that the holidays are coming. For ‘any’ family that raises the stress quotient by no less than 27%. Being divorced adds another 15-20% regardless of the state of the relationship with your ex. Why? Well, there are numerous factors that come into play.

1. School: Depending on where you live, kids may be out the entire week while you may have two days off.
2. Christmas: Long before Thanksgiving the kids begin eyeing that glorious morning. Catalogues start arriving and items are getting circled well in advance of the carving of the t-day bird. Each child’s energy subsequently increases exponentially as their already short attention spans suffer serious drop offs andfd429767a2ccdf1658f9889d081c65c5 their ability to listen flies out the window.
3. Finances: Holidays = $$$. Not trying to be a scrooge by any means. It’s just a reality. Between holiday meals, decorations (lights, trees, etc), presents, travel, vacation time, child care needs, aspirin, therapy … it adds up.
4. Family: Look, the truth is, that for most humans the idea of getting together with family brings thoughts of both warm fuzzies AND which alcohol to consume first. It’s just natural. We all have parents and siblings. Bottom line: it’s always fun to parent when you yourself have regressed to the age of seven.
5. Weather: Days are shorter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dreary. Kids are inside more (see number 2). I’m depressing myself just thinking about it.
6. There’s a good chance you won’t be with your kids as much as you’d like and will have moments without them that will understandably bum you out.
7. Thanks to brilliant advertising agencies, the perception is that everyone’s head is full of sugarplum fairies during the holidays. The reality is for a lot of people the holidays are one of the most depressing times of the year. For some it’s grieving loved ones lost through the year. For others the holidays bring back painful memories. Regardless, if you’re down I guarantee you you’re not alone.

My advice? Sit back and let it happen. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to control it all or understand why you continually find yourself in the fetal position while your parents attempt to comprehend what divorce means in the twenty-first century. Remember that you’ve done well. Your life may not be perfect, but you’ve overcome a lot to get to this point and have a great deal to celebrate.

If you can’t be with your kids; surround yourself with supportive friends, family, neighbors etc. If you’re single, don’t just sit in the house alone. I promise you there are people in your life who would love nothing more than to open their homes and hearts to you this holiday season. If you and your ex are fortunate enough to be on speaking terms, take advantage of opportunities to be together with the kids. The kids know you’re divorced. They get it. But it does wonders for them to be able to spend a peaceful hour or two with both their mom and dad at the same time and not have to choose.

First and foremost, resolve to live by the creed of “If the kids are happy, I’m happy.” Make it fun for them. Encourage them to enjoy every single moment of it whether they’re with you or their mom. Give them that. It’s a gift they’ll hold with them their entire lives. Always remember, regardless of your situation, you’re creating their memories, right now. You owe it to them to do your best to make their recollections of the holidays something that will always make them smile. In doing so, you’ll likely enjoy them a great deal yourself.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Over Under Sideways Down

I asked one of my children the other day, “So how much of a pain is it to go back and forth between two houses?” I was floored when they told me, “Actually dad, it’s kind of cool.” We didn’t get into a deep conversation about it, but what I took away from the conversation was that our effort to ensure the kids had what they needed including good relationships with both of us was working. For them, this is their reality, and they’ve adjusted well. That’s not to say that from time to time the occasional “it wouldn’t be like that if you and mom weren’t divorced,” doesn’t rear its ugly head. But then the same holds true for the always popular “You’re ruining my life,” and “I hate this family.” It’s just another way of them lashing out to express their dismay with a situation or any form of discipline that provides necessary boundaries.

For the most part they’ve handled it well. In fact on some levels they’ve probably handled it better than their mom and I since they always have one of us around. The only point at which it becomes an issue is when they feel like they have to choose between one parent or thecropped-Main-Logo-v41 other. They may want to do something with one parent, but can feel guilty for leaving the other one behind, especially if it’s supposed to be that parent’s time with the kids. All you can do is encourage them that nobody’s feelings will be hurt either way.

As for the parents; one of the most difficult aspects of divorce has been the on and off again aspect of being a divorced dad (or mom). Even though I know I’m their dad 24/7 and despite the texting and facetime aspects of today’s technology, the contrast between being with them and not being with them can be an extraordinary adjustment to the system. It’s an element of the divorce that I don’t believe people fully take into consideration when they make the decision to split, even if their choice is to co-parent.

Whether you have your kids every other weekend or every other week; whether you custody is 50/50, 60/40, 80/20, 90/10; there is one fundamental truth that’s undeniable; when they’re not with you it can suck the life right out of you. I don’t know that you ever become 100% OK with that fact, but it does help you focus on making the most of the time you do have with them.

That said. Seeing them flourish makes it worth it. Good grades, healthy relationships with friends and interest in social activities tells me they’re doing OK. It doesn’t mean things are perfect or that there aren’t frustrating aspects of this arrangement for everyone involved. But consistent experiences working through it all as a team, as dysfunctional as it can be at times, seems to be working. That in and of itself is worth finding ways to work through things with their mom even when we both would probably prefer not to.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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But What If?

Last night I was at my daughter’s softball game. It was a late start so by the time the first pitch was thrown the sun had already set. Off in the distance was a spectacular lightning display as storms were raging to the south of us. I overheard a child ask their dad, “What if it starts raining?” The dad reassured her that the storms were very far away and not an immediate threat and to enjoy the game. I took the guy’s advice and just sat back and enjoyed watching my daughter play what was probably one of the best games of the season. I put all other thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on the joy of watching my kid steal third base.

How often do we get wrapped up in worrying about the “what ifs” in our lives? So much so that we completely miss the opportunity to enjoy the here and now. I’m guilty of it. Quite frankly, I’m guilty of it right now. Worried about two weeks from now to the point of not focusing on2012-10-17 21.21.03
how amazing today is and how hard I’ve worked to get to this point.

You can easily cloud your head with what ifs. They’re so easy to create as there are countless scenarios as to how things might turn out. The problem is, we typically make “what ifs” a negative thing. What if it rains? What if she breaks her ankle? What if the car breaks down? What if the check doesn’t show up on time? What if my ex gets a boyfriend/girlfriend? What if I’m unable to support my family? What if it turns out Godzilla is real and he terrorizes my town forcing us to live underground and live on beetles? Sound familiar? I believe there’s a fine line between preparing yourself for the future and worrying about the things we have absolutely no control over. Or, as I’m well versed in, creating unrealistic scenarios, many of which would make for a great Lifetime movie of the week.

Some things we simply can’t tackle until they happen. Think back to all of the what ifs you worried about during the past year. How many of them actually came to being? I’m willing to bet it was less than 10%. We cloud our heads so much worrying about things that never actually happen. We really do. Yes, bad things are going to happen and there are going to be bad days. They’re going to happen. But they don’t need to consume us before they happen.

If it’s absolutely necessary for you to worry about the future, give yourself a time each day to do so. Then acknowledge and move on. Go watch your kid play softball. Or let them teach you how to play Minecraft or demonstrate to you the value of making a list as my middle child often does. Focus on those things that you can control in the here and now. Consider the what ifs for sure, at the same time acknowledging you can only manage “What is.”

 

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You’re Not Alone

My father is 91. Whenever I see him, (he lives about 700 miles away), the first thing he says to me is how alone he feels. Admittedly, part of this is his own doing. He avoids crowds due to his inability to hear people well and tends to shy away from social situations. Keep in mind, at one point, he was the President of the New York State Farm Bureau. But big picture, most of his brothers and sisters are gone. He recently lost a son-in-law. And he’s losing his memory and finally acknowledging his age and quite frankly, he’s scared.

This past week, my sister took him to a new doctor. My parents had moved a while ago and he had held on to his old doctor despite the distance until it was becoming obvious to both the doctor and my family that he needed someone closer. And so after a bit of drama he2014-05-25 11.42.45 agreed to get someone closer.

The foundation of this blog has always been to remind us that we’re never the only one on this path. Somewhere out there is someone who is experiencing the same trials and tribulations you are. Somewhere, someone understands what you’re going through. It’s true when your seven. It’s true when you’re seventeen. It’s true when you’re fifty and it’s true when you’re 91. It’s a key element to our peace of mind. To have the knowledge that there is someone who gets it and understands what’s going on in your head. Such was the focal point of my father’s doctor visit.

Even at 91. Even with everything my father has lived through. His accomplishments. His ups and downs. His knowledge of life and what it means to be 91. Despite having family around him every day reminding him that they’re there for him, even he simply needed a stranger to say, “You’re not the only one experiencing this and I want to help.” And from what my mom and sister told me, that’s exactly what this new doctor said. “I understand, and you’re not the first one to go through this.”

I’m told he wept at the end of the visit, which from all accounts lasted nearly two hours. I can only guess, that simply hearing someone tell him, “you’re not alone and I’m here to help” brought a sense of relief to him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t already have people around2014-05-30 17.31.57-1him who love him and are there to help. But sometimes it takes a complete stranger with no history to validate your state of mind.

As divorced dads (and moms), there are times when we feel incredibly vulnerable and alone. We wake up in an abyss of unknowns, convinced our lives are a complete mess. We shy away from inviting people in wondering who would want to be a part of our mess. During those times, knowing there are others just like you, somehow gives you peace of mind and an ability to face it head on with a little more confidence and resilience. It also helps us recognize that our world really isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be sometimes. And yes, sometimes it’ll make you weep when the weight of feeling alone is lifted. Hearing about my dad’s experience and having watched him these past few years and having watched my children grow and navigate through their first decade has helped me recognize that in every stage of life, we’re convinced we’re the first to experience the pains we’re living through.

In that vein, this blog has been a source of therapy for me as well these past three years. Each note I receive, every comment made, reminds me that there are others going through the same things I am. And that we’re all doing our best and learning as we go. The reality is, sometimes it simply helps to know, you’re not alone.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce

 

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The Chalk Wall Command Center

This past week my sister came to visit and helped me get some work done on the house. One of the jobs was painting bathrooms and a wall in the kitchen. On a whim, we decided to try chalk board paint on the kitchen wall and I’ll tell you, so far it seems to be a huge hit!

On it we have a weekly calendar for a quick reference regarding events, who the kids will be with and whatever we need reminders about. There’s a daily weather forecast so the kids know how to dress for school which one of the kids is always responsible for. A menu so we know what’s10568905_10152573678487908_3045153205304462917_n available for dinner. There’s also a grocery list where anyone can jot down something we’re in need of. The beauty is, when we head to the grocery store, we simply take a picture of the list and access it on our phone when we get there.

Other sections we’re currently working on include a chores list, a tip of the week, a poetry section, and putting up important themes and words that represent the type of energy we want in the house. As a communication tool I’m looking forward to seeing how we can utilize it to keep up with school work, game schedules, supply lists and whatever else we can think of. It’s like a huge command center for the house that keeps us all on the same page (or wall as is the case here).

Cost? The paint cost all of $20 for the entire wall. Roller and brush was $10. Chalk is $1.25 a box. And the kids think it’s the most amazing thing since sliced bread and have worked as a team to keep it updated and consider new ideas.

I’m currently looking into stencils to increase the over all artistic value of it, but as you can see, with a little planning, it’s really not rocket science and the best thing is, if you don’t like something it’s a breeze to erase and start over.

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Divorce, Uncategorized

 

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