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Meet The (Other) Parents

So far this summer my oldest daughter has been invited to no fewer than 57 “hangs” with friends. She’s a good kid and from what I’ve seen her friends are a good crew as well. Some of these are an afternoon at the pool hang. Some a group hang. Some a sleep over hang. But regardless of the type of “hang,” in most instances when I get a “Hey, can I hang at XYZ’s tomorrow?” my response is always the same: “Is it ok with her parents?” and “will an adult be there?” And if this is a new friend, I always ask to receive a text from them or get a chance to meet them or at least talk with them on the phone. It’s our rule. Plain and simple.

What I (and her mom) usually hear is something to the effect that we’re over protective and that no other parents care or ask to meet other parents. What I have found in many cases is that this is complete bunk. And frankly, I don’t care if it is or not. I want to know the people watching over my child and want to ensure someone IS watching over my child or at least keeping an eye on the situation to ensure a simple hang with a friend doesn’t turn into a full on pool party at someone else’s house with forty other kids. And no that’s not an exaggeration. It’s happened.

What I’ve personally found is that these newly anointed teens all use the same script. “You’re over protective and no one else checks in.” I know this because as soon as I check in with other parents they all say, “OH GOOD! I thought I was the only parent who did that.”

Listen, it takes a village. We all need to be watching out for each other’s kids, especially when they’re hanging out together. At this age, they don’t always think, so we sometimes need to help guide their thinking and ensure that good choices are made. They’re going to 2015-07-02 14.30.06
make mistakes. Let’s do what we can to keep those mistakes manageable and good learning opportunities rather than “scar for life” type mistakes.

When hanging with friends, our rules are simple.

– An adult needs to be in charge.
– If you change locations, let us know.
– If boys show up, let us know.
– If you’re alone, let us know.
– If plans change, let us know.

Follow these simple rules and you’re gold. We also insist on balance. Time with friends is important. But so is family. I personally like to have my kids home for dinner. Sleep overs are OK but not every night. I’ve also found, monitoring any apps at this point is also important as summer pool hang pictures are quick to find there way onto social media and frankly, someone needs to protect these kids from themselves sometimes. They have NO idea how dangerous it can be.

My point to all of this? Simple. It’s OK to be a parent. It’s OK to be protective. Our job is to keep our kids safe and we need to do so by whatever means possible. I personally think it’s important for parents to know each other, share rules with each other and respect each other’s rules when kids are staying at each other’s homes. You’ll find most of them have the exact same issues and concerns you do. And all have had their kids attempt to snow them with “no one else’s parents do that.” They do. And so what if your child is embarrassed once in a while. Sometimes they may be embarrassed, but I also think they like seeing that we’re doing our job.

Yes, we need to be reasonable. We need to give our kids additional rope at this age. But we’re still the dad (and mom) and we need to be prepared to adjust the length of that rope at any time depending on situation and choices that are being made. And one of the keys to ensuring we know the full story, is to meet the other parents.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Pushback Top 10 of Divorced Kids

When my daughter was four I told her to take the gum out of her mouth before we sat down for dinner. “You’re ruining my LIFE!” was the response I got. I told her, “Wow, hadn’t really anticipated ruining your life until you were 13, so I’m WAY ahead of the game.”

As parents our decisions are sometimes met with hateful resistance. I’m pretty sure it’s a sign you love your kids if you’re told how much theyFotoliaComp_34861400_4phGROBYL2KdLisCNSqaTcl8idEYHapB hate you from time to time. We weren’t put on this earth to be their best friend, rather protect them from the world and themselves as they go through different stages of development. And we all know that kids will use anything in an attempt to push our buttons and get us to change our position on things.

Driving to work this morning I was reflecting on some of my favorite pushbacks from the past thirteen years. Thought it would be fun to create the Top 10 pushback phrases we hear from our children. A few are unique to divorced kids, but most are applicable to any child. If you’ve got one not on the list don’t hesitate to share here or on Facebook (facebook.com/lifeasadivorceddad) or Twitter (@divorceddadlife).

And now the list!

Number 10. Everyone else’s parents are letting them go!
Number 9. This wouldn’t be an issue if you and mom (dad) hadn’t gotten divorced.
Number 8. You wouldn’t understand (which flows directly into number 7)
Number 7. It was different when you were my age.
Number 6. You’re ruining my life!
Number 5. I don’t do half the things my friends do.
Number 4. Mom (dad) let’s me do it at her (his) house.
Number 3. You’re MEAN!
Number 2. If it were (insert sibling’s name) you’d let them do it!
And the number 1 pushback we hear from our kids when they don’t like our answer: “Now I know why mom (dad) divorced you.”

Twitter: @billfilipiak
Facebook: facebook.com/lifeasadivorceddad

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Divorced Laundry

Scrambling through a particularly chaotic week it dawned on me how similar my life was to doing the family laundry. It’s uncanny how similar each day can be to a particular type of load. For example; there’s the adult load which is full of big items that take up a lot of space but are quick and easy to fold. (Adult clothes, towels, those kinds of things). Typically those loads don’t take long to fold and you can accomplish a lot in a short period of time. It’s like mowing the lawn. Big project but simple; straight-forward, Done! Trim with a couple pair of socks and you’re ready to move on.

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Contrast this with the baby’s load of laundry. There are likely 48 onezies, 153 tiny little socks, 24 shirts and a number of things you have no idea what they are but they’re itty bitty and impossible to fold. These equate to the days that are full of a “laundry list” of a lot of little tasks and errands that get strung together to create a ten hour day. Inevitably you’ll forget something and won’t realize it until you’re finished. Kind of like getting to the end of the load only to realize there are several socks left that don’t have a match. By the end of it you’re like, “If I have to reach in to that damn dryer one more time and hit my elbow on the door someone’s going into timeout!”

There’s also that load of clothes from two pre-teens that are similar in size making it near impossible to recognize whose is whose. Inevitably you’re going to mix em’ up and get all kinds of complaints, not unlike getting to work only to realize you grabbed your daughter’s lunch instead of yours.

Life is also full of awkward moments. Which I equate to your teen’s delicates that are impossible to fold and frankly, make you a little uncomfortable handling in the first place. This of course quickly turns into the perfect excuse for teaching them to do their own laundry. At the office we call this delegating.

As men, one of the positives of being single is that our laundry consists of nothing more than a couple of pair of jeans, a few classic T’s and and two pair of socks. But let’s face it, that makes for a pretty boring load of laundry after a while. Sometimes it’s nice to find a pair of Hello Kitty socks or some Superman pj’s (not mine) mixed in for good measure just to make sure your own clothes down get too lonely.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Changing The Perceptions of Divorced Dad

Last week I wrote about the perceptions of divorced parents and in particular divorced dads and how they’re viewed or judged on a daily basis. As I read the e-mails and comments from readers I started reflecting on the overall view of divorced dads and fathers in general. We’ve all watched commercials on television that depict mom as the hero of the household and dad as the buffoon who doesn’t know dishwashing detergent from laundry soap. We see stories about deadbeat dads on the news and read about infidelity that leads to separation and divorce. It all makes it that much harder for the dads that are there for their kids 24/7 as a positive influence.

Just as a few rotten eggs in the NFL get all of the attention and grab all of the headlines making it difficult for the rest of the players in the league, the abusive husbands and fathers that the media loves to exploit in their attempt to garner advertising dollars, make it nearly impossible for the growing percentage of dads who are not only involved, but carry an ever increasing percentage of weight in the rearing2015-01-31 19.19.40-2 of their children.

So as I read the input I couldn’t help but ask myself, “so what can we do to change the perception of dads both married and single?”

First and foremost I think the number one thing we can do is to continue to step up our game. We can put down the iPhone and help with homework, we can ensure we sit down together at the dinner table, we can coach a soccer team, we can continue to put the needs of our kids first and be involved. We can spot check their texts and hold them accountable for their actions. We can make an effort to listen without judgement. We can remind them over and over again how much we love them and how much we love being their dad. We can do all of these things; consistently and with vigor.

What we need is a to establish a growing portion of the population that grows up with an appreciation for what their fathers did for them when the odds were stacked against them. Sure it would be nice to see more advertising targeting single dads or programs that depict the divorced father in a positive light. But it all starts with us. It all starts with our efforts to provide our children with a foundation of love and support. Of understanding and unconditional love. Of creating a safe home where calm resolve and respect out duals adversity and anger.

Over time, as more and more positive examples of dads are seen by society. As more and more kids grow up with a dad who was there for every recital, who taught them their first guitar chord, who threw a thousand pop flies, showed them how to change a tire, but also made a thousand school lunches, taught them how to find a bargain, live smart, respect people, and do laundry, as more young adults grow up experiencing this dad, there will be a greater chance that we’ll be able to change things for the single dads that will follow,

But don’t do it for the future fathers of generations to come. Do it for your kids. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it because what’s most important is what your kids think of you and what they’ll remember you for. Do it because you want your grandchildren to have the best mom or dad possible and your daughter-in-law or son-in-law to have the best spouse possible. And that all starts today with the dad you are to your kids. It all starts with the perceptions you create.

Let your kids be the spokespeople for the next generation. Let them create the TV shows about the awesome divorced dad. Or write the commercials targeting dads who shop for Tide. Let your actions today, help change the perceptions of dads for generations to come.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in dads, Divorce, Talking To Kids

 

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Ho Ho WHOA!!!

While the title of this blog is “Life as a Divorced Dad,” a good majority of the posts I write can easily be read by parents from just about any situation with a sense of, “yup … been there.” However this particular post will most likely resonate more with divorced parents than any other.

Like most parents, we invest months of preparation, planning, spending, anticipation, anxiety, stress, sleepless nights pushing ourselves to emotional extremes culminating in few days of hurried chaos as we attempt to accomplish splendid memorable moments of holiday cheer of epic proportions for our children. (deep breath)

We then groggily wake up on the 26th with a sense of, “Whoa what just happened?” For most, the sudden contrast of calm can be a little unsettling. The pace of our lives has been ludicrous speed and it’s now come to a screeching halt. For the typical family unit there is still a sense of wholeness that accompanies these feelings as the kids play with their new toys, a pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen and parents 2014-12-02 22.17.53attempt to begin the process of cleaning up.

But for the divorced parent, there is often a much larger sense of contrast. For a divorced parent the experience can be remarkably cold and empty, especially if they spend Christmas morning with their kids and then hand them off to the other parent the day after. We wake to a Christmas ghost town of deadly quiet as we look around the house at shreds of ribbon strewn about along with a few empty boxes and left over Santa cookies. It can very much feel like slamming into a brick wall.

Throughout the year the transition from having kids to not having kids is most likely the most difficult adjustment for everyone involved, but the holidays take it to a whole nother level. It is an experience of extremes and the emptiness of handing your children off during the holidays can be unfathomably cold for no other reason than it’s an extreme shock to the system both physically and emotionally.

As hard as it may be at first, take advantage of the quiet. Rest. Reflect. And look forward to the next time you’ll get to see your children. Send them a text and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a picture of you enjoying a gift they got you. Let them know that even when you’re apart, they’re still with you. Some children will feel guilt for leaving a parent alone. Letting them know you’re OK will allow them to enjoy their time with the other parent, so long as you stay positive.

Remember that everything you did during the holiday rush was to ensure your children had a joyous holiday. That’s still the focus. Part of that includes time with their other parent. Know that everything you’re doing, including sitting alone on the stoop, sipping on a cup of java, you’re doing to give your children memories and relationships they’ll cherish as they get older.

You did good. And you deserve a moment of peaceful reflection. Enjoy it while you can because in a few days, you’ll start the chaos of a new year all over again.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Uncategorized

 

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