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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas Hangover

There was a point a week or so ago that I was actually excited about having Christmas eve and Christmas morning with our kids at my ex-wife’s home. There was a certain comfort to it. Our core family reunited to celebrate something positive. As the week progressed however, I found myself having panic attacks about it all. I came down with a horrible cold, my first in almost a year, and the stress of ensuring that presents were where they needed to be, stockings, a few extra gifts at my place, and that everyone had what they needed etc., and just the idea of spending the night in her house was all starting to take it’s toll.

But when the kids and I got there on Saturday everything started to fall into place. My ex had done a great job of planning ahead and for the first time in years most if not all of the wrapping was done before the kids went to bed. It was also obvious the kids were relishing in all of it and our joint efforts appeared to be paying off. The holiday, us all together, presents under the tree, tracking Santa on line … all of it was working pretty well. We even did the Santa visit Saturday afternoon together without a hitch.

Once all the last minute details were completed we had a simple dinner and followed family tradition by watching “White Christmas” together before getting the kids to bed. In no time the living room was prepped for the next morning and every ounce of sweat and tears that had gone into putting it altogether appeared to have paid off.

By the time Christmas morning had arrived, I hadn’t slept at all. Between the cold and squeezing in with my son in his squeaky bed, it was nearly impossible to sleep. But at 6 a.m. … he was up and ready to roll and a cold and lack of sleep wasn’t going to stop this train. So we headed downstairs and before you knew it wrapping paper was flying and kids were squealing with joy and an energy that was higher than any Christmas past. We did our best to hold some sort of structure to the process but just rolled with it as the kids were all anxious to pass out their gifts to each other and get to Santa’s prizes.

After the last gift was opened and the kids had a chance to chill with their new bounty, we finished with some donuts and milk and then the kids and I headed to my place to make a Christmas day feast. We invited their mom over and the five of us entered into our first major holiday as separate families under one roof together sharing sparkling cider and a festive meal. Any issues we had with each other were set aside and it was clear the kids were enjoying every moment. For me that was the greatest gift of all and made all of our efforts to put aside our differences worth it. Despite all of the hardship and stress put upon them, the kids had a tremendous holiday with the two people most important to them breaking bread together.

And there really is no ‘but’ here. Somehow, even as certain events happened that normally would cause friction between my ex and me happened, we managed to work through it all. Perhaps it was the Christmas spirit or just the amount of focus on the kids and knowing that in 36 hours we’d all move on with our lives. But regardless we somehow managed through it all including the discomforts of being in each others’ homes. Whether or not we’ll do it again next year, the fact that we were able to put all the negatives aside and create such a wonderful experience for our kids made all of the stress, all of the worry, all of the discomfort worth it.

I can’t speak for my ex-wife, but I myself walked away from it all feeling pretty good about myself. It felt like I’d grown on some level by not letting the petty stuff get in the way of us having a great time. I’m sure there were things I did that irked her as well, but you’d never known it. On some level I’d like to think it helped my ex-wife and I take another step toward acknowledging that we’re moving in different directions, but that it’s o.k. and that we’re still capable of coming together when it’s important. And when it comes to the kids’ well being … I’d say that’s about as important as it gets.

 

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Divorce & The Holidays

As the holidays grow nearer, I thought I’d share some articles about dealing with divorce and the holidays. These are all fairly recent (within the past few days). If you’d like to share an article feel free to comment with the link.

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/holidays-after-divorce/

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/21/living/holiday-survival-divorced-darents/index.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lois-tarter/tis-the-season-to-enjoy-y_b_1161672.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-pease-gadoua/divorce-and-the-holidays-_b_1142534.html

 

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It’s Late!

There are nights when I’m ready for bed at 9:30 and exhausted, yet still find myself awake at midnight. This is especially true when the kids are here.

It’s almost as if my mind won’t let me sleep until it’s assured everything is going to be o.k. and obviously I’m just not there yet. Thankfully, this past year the universe has surrounded me with a world of positive support. It was something I hadn’t recognized until after my wife and I split up. I spent 13 years in a marriage that lacked mutual regard for who the other was. We loved each other but didn’t get each other. As soon as I found myself surrounded by people who “got” me … my outlook changed completely. I started to purposefully gravitate toward people who were more positive and had similar outlooks on life and the world. My entire mindset changed. It was amazing. I also learned that forcing myself to get to bed at 10 once in a while made a world of difference. There’s something about being mentally and physically tired that makes it 10 times easier to become overwhelmed and convinced doom is right around the corner.

I find the kids respond better when I’m in a positive state of mind. It’s like they have a sixth sense. I also find I tend to be shorter tempered and more likely to react abruptly rather than supportively when I’m overly tired or focused on the negatives. That’s not what they need and it usually spirals downward. They need to feel reassured that everything is going to be o.k. and seeing me stressed out and anxious only makes things worse. Staying positive is easier said than done some days … but you do what you can right?

But that’s where being surrounded by positive people pays off the most. Just knowing that there are those I can turn to who will understand and offer sincere and unconditional support makes a huge difference. If I could offer any advice to not just divorced parents, but people in general, it’s to surround yourself with positive minded people who believe in you and that anything is possible. Constant negativity is draining and destructive. The divorce itself brings enough negativity into the mix … having people around you who complain all the time and find everything wrong with the world only makes it worse.

So … get some rest … stay positive and keep coming back. Thanks for visiting and have a great holiday!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Daily Life, full schedule, holidays

 

The Honeymoon

As a newly divorced father (it’s been about 5 months since it was finalized), I entered into this new phase determined to stay positive. I continue to believe that in the end this will all land us in a better place.  I take the occasional, “why can’t you and mom still live together,” with stride as I can already see the kids adjusting to this new reality. It’s a struggle for all of us from time to time and as much as I believe it’s important that they see both my ex-wife and I with our game faces on, I also believe it’s good for them to see that we struggle some as well.

I don’t have a good answer for them when they ask why we got divorced and I think they deserve more than “you’ll understand when you’re older.” I’m older … and I don’t understand. So I try to be as honest as I can without getting into phrases like ‘anger management,’ ‘intimacy issues’ and ‘what I learned in counseling.’ Kids are more aware than I think we give them credit for and I’m pretty confident they understand more than we realize. They just need reassurance that it’s all going to be o.k.

When you’re seven the world revolves around you. So I think the key is letting them know that the world will continue to revolve. At the same time the rules that applied in the house when we were married still apply. It took about a week before I came to terms with the fact that “I wish mommy were here” when I send them to their room for mouthing off is equally substituted with “I wish daddy were here” when it happens at their mom’s. They know what buttons to push don’t they?

As we enter the sixth month of two homes, it’s obvious that the honeymoon is over. My ex and I continue to work together although some of the attributes that created riffs between us are starting to creep in and I’m sensing a little more distance between us as our lives begin to go in opposite directions. But I still believe the effort needs to be made to work together as co-parents. I think the kids still need that. They’re watching us and listening hard to every word we say.

We decided early on in our discussions that we would spend Christmas morning together. This first one is going to be tough and forcing the kids to split their time on such an important family day didn’t sound fair on any level. I’m confident it’ll be a great time and will do everything I can to ensure it’s a magical day for the kids first and foremost.

How are the holidays for your family? What are the struggles you go through? I can only imagine how difficult it is for those of you who don’t have the support of your ex in those regards. Be strong and stay focused on the kids. It has helped me through many an angry moment and as I venture into my first Christmas as a single dad … I’ll continue to use that as my compass.

 
 

Holidays

I don’t think I ever anticipated how difficult the holidays were going to be. Our first Christmas as two units has the kids trying to figure it all out at a whole new level. I think what will get us through it all is the constant communication and making a point to let them talk about it. I try really hard to let them have their moments of heart ache over the fact that their mom and I live in two separate houses. And it seems just getting it out helps them a lot of the time.

I’m sure my situation is a lot better than some. Their mom and I still work together on parenting and are friendly toward each other. Being apart has actually helped our relationship I think. That helps us with the kids as a whole too as we share what we’ve experienced with them week to week allowing the other one to have a sense of where things stand and what’s been talked about.

Overall I’m blown away at how positive and happy the kids are all things considered. They have their moments of lashing out and letting us know they’re angry about the situation. All I try to do is remind them that I love it when they’re with me.  My oldest actually asked me if I liked it better when they weren’t around because of how quiet it is. I quickly shot that thought down and told her how much I actually prefer the noise because it feels more like a house and how much the silence drives me crazy. It seemed to mean something to her. And tonight I let them all know that I’d had a horrible day and was very down before they got home from school and that they had gotten me in a great mood and that being with them made my day.

The point is … the holidays in and of themselves are stressful and full of heavy moments. Throwing a divorce into the mix is like throwing a ton of bricks on top of an already heavy load. The kids will be watching and picking up on how you react to it. My take is … do anything and everything you can to stay up and remind them of how much you love it when they’re around … even when they’re frustrating you.

 

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