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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Love Hate Relationship

When I got married, I thought having grown up with four sisters, I had a pretty good understanding of women. Two weeks into my marriage I realized I had no freakin’ clue. Two “years” into my marriage I completely threw my arms up in defeat and I’m pretty sure my wife, who grew up with only brothers, did the same.

So now I find myself watching my own kids and I swear, I’m learning more about girls than I ever learned watching my own sisters or living with my wife. So often my immediate reaction when I see my girls arguing is to intervene and explain how lucky they are to have each other. There was a time, not that long ago, when their words really hurt each other and I felt compelled to force feed them the knowledge that as sisters they needed to learn to appreciate each other. I’m beginning to grasp the possible reality that sometimes the best thing to do is just let them hash it out.

As parents the very idea of our kids arguing triggers an internal fear that we’ve completely screwed up as parents and we immediately feel it necessary to jump in and turn it into a life lesson about getting along. Perhaps some times the best thing we can do is give them room to work it out. One day in the car the girls got into a horrible fight that had them crying to each other with one weeping about how hard it is to be the older sister and the other how difficult it is to live in the other’s shadow. They were screaming unbridled at each other and in full on tears sobbing through their closing arguments. But there was something different about this argument. They were not only sharing their perspectives, but then validating each other in the process. I was floored. Ten minutes later they were singing Lemonade Mouth tunes together.

As they’re getting older their bickering is almost turning into their own means of communication that only they understand. It’s like they bond through calling each other stupid head and smacking each other for sitting in the wrong seat at the dinner table. Sure there are still plenty of discussions needed about the correct way to approach conflict and handle altercations. And I believe my role as a dad is to provide them with the tools they need to maintain respect while sharing a difference of opinion. Those times are typically during the calm long after the storm when they’re more reasonable and open to listening. But as I watch them grow into young ladies, I’m learning that as sisters, they’re going to have emotional moments that a lot of guys probably will never understand and that’s O.K.. As siblings, they’re going to have abrasive opinions about each other and will express them quite openly almost as if their love language is their hatred for each other. I’d rather have that than quiet resentment that builds over time.

So after over 40 years of living with women and trying to understand how they think and why they sometimes react the way they do, it’s taken two young children to help me understand, even if just a little, that all they need is the room to freely express themselves without judgement and feel validated and appreciated for who they are both good and bad.

Not really all that different than us guys …

Who knew?

 

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A Kid’s Perspective

From my seven year old tonight as I was tucking her in.

“This divorce is tough on us kids you know. I mean, we have to keep TWO bedrooms clean, keep up with TWO sets of clothes, it’s tough Dad.”

So easy to get lost in how a divorce changes our lives. I think we make a lot of assumptions when it comes to our kids. Even in our attempts to ensure that they’re getting everything they need, I think it’s impossible to fathom what their perception is and how this is affecting them.

I think the best you can do is continually provide an open forum. Ask them questions as you’re tucking them in.  Let one of them help make dinner and ask them how they’re doing. Amazing what they’ll tell you if you simply ask. And what I’m working really hard at is validating their concerns rather than dismissing them or brushing them off. Along with the hugs I try to remind myself to offer them an ear and do your best to truly listen.

It’s not always easy, especially when life is especially full, and like most of you I can easily get wrapped up in the day to day hassles. But some of the things I’ve learned from listening encourage me to keep those lines of communication open.

For example; my daughters have been pushing me to go on e-harmony. They say I need a girlfriend. But a deeper look provided some better insights. When I asked “why” I need a girlfriend, they advised me that it would be nice to have someone else pick us up at the bus stop sometimes and make dinner and help with homework so I can work later. They also told me it would be nice to have someone else that could play with one of them while I go do something with one of the other ones.

What I gathered from this new information was that they miss the mom / dad family dynamic. There’s security in it for them. They miss one on one time and being able to go run errands with one of us while the other stays home with the other two. As I see it, it’s obvious that as well as things have gone, they’re still struggling with the adjustment.

And who isn’t? Why should we expect anything less? Hell, I still can’t make sense of it and find myself overwhelmed with all the extra hats I now wear. What would make me think they’ve already fully adjusted and have moved on? I’m sure they get an earful from friends at school as well. Lord only knows what stories they hear and what new fears they come home with each day. I can only imagine how dangerous it would be to let those fester.

I can’t help but think that the best answer is simply ensuring open communication and making sure that I don’t let my life get in the way of being there when they need to talk. That has to be the number one priority. If it means being 10 minutes late for an appointment, so be it.

And maybe instead of coming down on them for having a messy room, perhaps offering to help them once in a while knowing they have two to keep up with can’t hurt either.

 

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Emotions Catching Up

With the holidays past us and life starting fall back into a normal pattern, I had a revelation.

I noticed a lack of energy on my part the past couple of weeks. This included a lack of enthusiasm for aspects of my life that normally had me up early and ready to roll. I attributed it to a lack of sleep and recovering from the stress of the holidays. But then it dawned on me.

During the holidays my relationship with my ex-wife began to enter into a new phase. It was a new acceptance and realization that we were starting to drift apart and head in different directions both physically and emotionally. Where as thoughts of “maybe there’s still a chance for us,” or “perhaps we’ll get a second chance” had filled my head from time to time, the reality that this was more than likely more definitive in nature began to sink in. Because of that I believe a mild case of depression began to set in as it started to hit home that my marriage was over.

I had been so busy the months leading up to the divorce that I hadn’t really given myself a chance to acknowledge the grand scope of my new landscape. My ex and I had done so many things together that we, in many ways, were still acting as a couple. I enjoyed certain aspects of that, but now as the new year is taking shape and my life is moving forward I’m beginning to realize that this emptiness I’ve felt is not going to go away. That chapter of my life is over and it’s time to begin building a new foundation and accept that it’s o.k. to move on.

My hope is that we’ll continue to do some things together with the kids and provide them with that assurance that we’re both working together to provide them everything they need in life both monetarily and emotionally. But as I’ve been told by many people, boundaries are good and will continue to evolve as we move forward.

I’m thankful again that I have surrounded myself with people who are full of positive encouragement and forcing me to share. One person in particular who I’ve dubbed my spiritual guide, insisted that I not walk this journey alone. That just as a coach will keep you on task and make sure you stay focused on your training, it’s important to have people around you who stay with you to remind you of all of the positives in your life. I’m beginning to appreciate the true value of that advice as I continue to work my way through the bumps and hurdles of this new existence.

It’s easy to shut the world out believing that you have to come to terms with some things on your own. And there’s truth to that. But I’m finding it’s too easy to slip into a reverberating track of negativity unless we have people by our side to recognize those moments and help keep us on a positive path.

Tomorrow is coming. We really have no choice in that matter. But one thing we do have a choice in is how we approach it and how we embrace it. Life is too short to continually beat ourselves up over what happened. Our children are watching to see how we’ll address this new phase of our existence. So it’s up to us to wake up with a fresh attitude and show them that it’s o.k. to reflect and grieve, but at some point we have to move on give our soul a chance to heel properly.

 

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