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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy $$$$’n Holidays!

First, before I start my little rant, let me make it very clear that I love to give my kids gifts for Christmas and when married was the one who had to be told to ease up a bit at times. I start thinking about their gifts in July and have been known more than once to be the last guy at the check out on Christmas Eve. That out of the way, here we go.

I came home yesterday to no fewer than 13 catalogues from various retail outlets in my mailbox. A good majority of them were targeted toward kids. When my own kids got home from school they proceeded to images-1pounce on them and started circling everything they wanted for Christmas. Add that to the hundreds of e-mails I get from every retailer on the planet offering “50%, 60% up to 120% off!,” along with all of the clothing trends they bring home from school and you start to feel like you’re an idiot if you DON’T go shopping when they open the doors at 4 am.

As parents we want our kids to have a great holiday. We see the gleam in their eye as they tell you about this great new robot Barbie app they just found and our heart melts. How perfect their Christmas would be if we got that “one” extra gift on their list. This is precisely when you need to STOP yourself dead in your tracks.

I could get into a long op-ed about the commercialization of the holidays, but honestly I don’t think it’s anything new. I remember as a kid dreaming of presents and “things.” Circling pictures in catalogues, dropping hints every second I got, writing my letters to Santa; and of course all of the big “sales.” All of it existed even back forty years ago. To me it’s simply about being smart. And it all starts with writing down a budget and sticking to it. Pay attention to what your kids are asking for and write them down, price them out and definitely look for 5-tips-for-holiday-budgetdeals. Just be realistic about what you can afford, plan it out and stick to it like glue. Do NOT go to the store without at least some number in your head of what you’re going to spend on gifts this year. Because like all parents, you’re going to be tempted, to buy twenty four one extra gifts. You’ll feel obligated to take advantage of that once in a lifetime sale that happens every Friday after Thanksgiving. The reality is, that despite what they’d like you to believe, just because Wal-mart has it at fifty-five percent off tomorrow night from 7-9 doesn’t mean you have to go buy it. Especially if it’s not on the list and you’ve already reached your limit.

Retailers would love us to forget that shopping is just one aspect of the holidays. (Yes I’m likely kissing goodbye potential sponsors, but honestly I’ve already turned down a couple who didn’t fit the purpose of this blog). Our goal, in my humble opinion, should be to create positive memories for them. To find ways to make it fun. Each year we celebrate the elves that visit our home during the holidays. We’ve got pictures of our annual sledding trips up north at the first sign of big snow. Videos of our now traditional hunt for the perfect tree that we cut down as a family. They are moments that are to me, the greatest presents I can offer them. Moments of being together enjoying the spirit of the holidays. I’ve come to convince myself that the presents come second to those memories and moments of adventures, laughter and being together.

Trust me, your kids aren’t going to remember all of the presents you buy them. Honestly, I probably remember two or three gifts from my first thirteen years. One was a rod hockey game (perhaps the greatest Christmas present ever). Another was my first stereo complete with build in cassette deck. Beyond that I really have to sitUnknown-2 and think. And don’t forget; you’re not the only person buying them presents. There’s their mom, their grandma(s), grandpa(s), aunts, uncles; trust me, they’ll get plenty. And there’s nothing wrong with a little coordination. Sharing lists and planning it out to make sure the staples are covered. This is another time when maintaining a good co-parenting relationship with the ex can be a huge plus. Working together you can make sure this part of their holiday is a huge score. And yes I’ll say it, it’s more about the kids than who’s right; so perhaps the greatest gift you can offer your kids is to suck it up and talk to the ex if at all feasible in your current scenario.

My point is, we get so inundated by so many entities telling us to spend, spend, spend that it’s easy to get ‘wrapped’ up in it and forget what it is that we’re supposed to be doing in the first place, which is being happy together on the holiday. So by all means go and shop. Just know you’ll have a lot more fun doing it when you give yourself some boundaries and a game plan. I mean, come on, don’t you think removing the financial stress of the holidays is one way to ensure that you’ll be much merrier and more able to enjoy the holidays with your kids? Now if you’ll excuse me if I order on-line by midnight I’ll save an extra 40% off my entire order AND get free shipping!

 

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If You Only Knew What Your Kids Think

I recently discovered a growing number of kids who are reading and sharing LAADD and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s mind blowing. In most cases they are children whose parents are divorced or split, and as I read their own blogs, at times, quite frankly, I’m brought to tears. Their stories, their perspectives, their lives are, in some cases, rocked to the core by what they are witnessing. Their views of their parents and how they perceive the reasoning behind the choices their parents have made are at times down right chilling.

As a divorced parent, you need to know your children are watching. EVERYTHING. And they understand more than you often give them credit for. At the same time, they see things through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with the pain that you’ve encountered. All they see is selfishness on the part of their parents. Theyimages don’t know the hurt you or your ex are experiencing. Nor could they comprehend it. They’ve never been married. They’ve never experienced some of the things you or I have. They can only judge what they see by what they can relate to and because of that their views can be somewhat skewed. But it is still their perception and it is their reality. What I’ve gathered from reading their own blog entries is that in many cases, they’re not impressed. And more often than not, they are hurting.

Their hurt is deep and shaping the way they view the world and the people around them. Whether or not they see themselves as a reason for the divorce, they still feel abandoned and unimportant. They consider themselves an afterthought. They view themselves as very much on their own. My guess is that part of the reason for this perception is that as single parents we have to be everywhere at once and often turn them away when they are trying to connect. Part of it may be because they see us worried more about our own emotional needs than theirs. In being passed back and forth they likely feel like a hot potato. Even if it isn’t true, in their heads they likely interpret us as saying, “OK, it’s your turn to deal with them.” They feel less like part of the team and more like the ball being tossed back and forth. Regardless of the why, what I’m reading in many cases is an internal emptiness. A dark void that has surrounded them. This void has made them cynical, cold and lost.

I share this with you as a reminder that we need to constantly renew our focus on the emotional and psychological needs of our kids. They didn’t ask to be brought into this scenario. We thrust it upon them. Regardless of who walked out, cheated, abused or initiated the separation, on some level our own choices in life are now directly affecting them. Even if one or both parents are a huge positive, any negative is going to be taken personally. No matter how many times we tell them we love them or want them around, in many cases they see regret in our eyes and ask themselves if bigstock_depression_184004181part of that regret is having had them. They ask themselves if they are your baggage first and your kid second.

I am so thankful for what I have learned through this journey. Some of it has been gratifying and other parts difficult to swallow. All of it has shaken me to the core. There is so much hurt to go around. So much pain, much of which bubbles under the surface, hidden from public view. It’s all the more reason to do everything we can to stay focused on the positive. To balance the negative and hurt with compassion and understanding. To view ourselves as part of the solution not part of the problem. To put our egos aside and take the high road. To hold our tongues and be aware of the big picture. We choose every day how to react to those around us. Our ex’s, our friends, neighbors, family and yes, our kids. And we have the power to set the tone. It’s not always easy and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, misinformed assumptions, and overreactions. Just stop when you’re at your limit or feel yourself on the verge of completely losing it. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day that you are the foundation your kids so desperately need. Know that they need to have a strong sense of belonging to a family. You have so much power to establish the energy of the room and build a healthy, encouraging, environment for their fragile, still developing egos. They want you to be there for them regardless of what they may say. And if you’re not, they will find somewhere else to turn. And often that place can be dark and and incredibly destructive.

There is so much our kids don’t share with us. Perhaps sometimes we purposefully turn a blind eye to it simply because we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we prefer to live in ignorant bliss. But it’s important for us to be aware of their reality. Ignoring it is not the answer. Get it out and address it head on. Some of the conversations are going to be difficult. Some of the things you hear are going to hurt. But remember, you’re the adult. Teach your kid to face the negative head on by constantly being there for them. As a parent, by definition, you’re often the enforcer of rules and bearer of bad news. But let them know you can also provide them with an open forum free from judgement. There are things they’ll want to keep to themselves, but there are things they want to and need to share. But they’ll only do it if you’ll let them and they feel safe in doing it. Do your best to let them know that when needed they can come to you to discuss things. And above all let them know they are the single most important thing in the world to you. They need to know that fact down to their very core.

 

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Does It Add Up?

How often have you said to your kid(s), “That’s a lot of money for a pair of sneakers?” Or, “That’s way too expensive.” Or “We don’t have the budget for that right now?” My question is, do you know for sure? Do you discuss budgets with your kids? Do you even have one?

My ex-wife was all about budgets. She wanted to know exactly where we stood financially and what we could afford at any given moment. My father was the same way. I … was not. As a freelance editor, director I knew my earning potential was in many ways based on howImage much I wanted to work, and I’d always done fairly well so I didn’t worry. Drove my ex crazy. When we first got married, I didn’t look at price tags. I got the one I wanted. I felt, what’s the point of getting one you don’t really like? After the divorce that changed. I was forced to take a harder look at finances and that reality continues to evolve.

I initially flushed out a basic spending spreadsheet that outlined the house monthly expenses. Basically what we had to have to stay afloat. That worked for a while, but then my kids started wanting to go to Target and Justice on a regular basis. They started demanding Nike sneakers, and Abercrombie clothing. I quickly learned that just saying, “That’s really not in the budget,” didn’t register because they had no point of reference. And frankly they didn’t care. They wanted what their friends had, and honestly I wanted them to have it too.

And so, I expanded my budget spreadsheet and went back through the bank statements and added tables that showed how much we spent on clothing each month and how much we ate out. I started to look at how much we spent beyond the necessities and how it fluctuated month to month. These were variables that we could control and I thought it may help the kids have a better grasp of how balancing a budget works.

You can say a million times, “twenty bucks here and thirty dollars here really adds up.” But when you actually “add it up” it raises an eyebrow or two; even when you’re eight. To recognize that the more we spend in one place the less we have to spend somewhere else is a lesson I think every kid should have put in front of them. I will say, my kids are pretty good bargain hunters. And I think their mom and I have done a relatively good job of helping them grow to appreciate the value of a dollar. But this post is more than just about teaching the kids. It’s about having a grasp of your world. Again, as I often write, it’s about awareness.

As a divorced dad, you’re likely going to freak out about money a lot; especially early on. There’s no more chance of dual incomes or working together. It’s all on your shoulders and you likely pay child support and / or alimony along with everything else. To not have a clear vision of what that looks like on paper is to me a great way to fuel your high blood pressure and anxiety. And let’s face it, you have enough variables providing those opportunities. Here’s one you can control simply by forcing yourself to write it down. It leads to figuring out ways to pay $30 for medications you otherwise would have spent $300 on if you didn’t care. It’s about getting budgetcalculatorbetter deals on high speed internet because you suddenly realize you really don’t have a choice. It’s about eating at home more so you can afford a weekend trip with the kids or new sneakers when they need them.

They say there’s power in knowledge. So, educate yourself and if applicable, educate your children as well. It can lead to less stress and a stronger financial foundation for you and your family. So how do you do it? Well, there are a lot of simple programs that can help you do this. Like excel, numbers, quickbooks etc. Or start by writing it all down on paper the old fashioned way. Just listing it out is a start as you can begin to see where your money is going.

The point is, you need to be gaining ground for the future. Like most people, you’re going to have ups and downs. So, do your best to at least know where you stand so you can plan or act accordingly. You’ll make choices based on this knowledge. The divorce in and of itself likely set you back and can make it difficult to make ends meet. Having a good overview of where you stand financially every day may create some initial stress when you see where you really are, but it can be the first step toward plugging up holes and establishing a healthier world for you and the kids. I may even be a great motivator for taking steps to improve the situation. One thing I can assure you, it will likely cause you to feel more in control and less like life is moving forward without you. And I promise, it can also lead to much more enjoyable trips to the mall when everyone is on the same page!

 

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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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Regaining Control – One Stride At A Time

I write on this topic quite often, but it can’t be said enough.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you feel rundown. If you feel beat up. If you can’t think straight. If you have the impression that everything is falling apart and you can’t catch a break. Stop what you’re doing, put on some sneakers and go work out. Run for thirty minutes. Go walk for an hour. Go to the gym and lift weights. Go sweat. Put your energy into letting out some aggression. Release the anxiety. Give your mind a break. Give yourself some “me” time. If you have the kids ask someone to come watch them for an hour.

– First: You will have completed an attainable goal and will have a sense of accomplishment.
– Second: Your body will release endorphins and you will have worked muscles that otherwise would be running-cheaper-than-therapy-squareclenched.
– Third: You will clear your head and have time to think without the phone ringing, kids pulling at your shirt, deadlines hanging over your head or clutter around the house overwhelming you.
– Fourth: You will give yourself a sense of control. YOU decided what was going to happen next. YOU chose to take advantage of a beautiful autumn morning. YOU made it happen. And it worked.

I guarantee you this is a priority. Everything else can wait an hour. You cannot.

All too often we let our lives control us. Every once in a while we need to remind ourselves that we have more control than we give ourselves credit for. Our success or failure depends on a lot of things and obviously there are some things we simply cannot control. But we often let things control us simply out of a lack of effort to stand up and take advantage of the strengths we have. We let fear, depression, anxiety, and ourselves keep us from making things happen. They are excuses and we give them too much credit. This is an opportunity to remind us that we do indeed have the ability to change the course of our day. And the benefits are never ending.

Now go sweat and suck in some fresh air and tell me it doesn’t make a difference. Better yet; go to my facebook page (facebook.com/lifeasadivorceddad) and post a picture of where you decided to go.

 

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