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Category Archives: dating

Shut Up And Listen

When it comes to dealing with girls, 10 year old boys can be dumb. I can make that statement because at one time I was one and I hung out with many more of them. They really have no idea what they’re saying or how their words are being received by a sensitive little 10 year old girl who is suddenly all about body image. Eventually, they will grow up to be young men who will say things that are hurtful without even realizing it. They’re clueless. The scary thing is, along with my two daughters, in a few years, I’ll have one of THOSE running around the house as well.

It’s not for lack of trying mind you. Many times we walk away from a conversation with a female all proud of ourselves internally convinced we nailed it. Meanwhile the girl has walked away thinking “what an idiot.” We mean well mind you; but no clue.

Part of the problem is we don’t listen. We really don’t. Even when we’re listening, we’re not listening.

And so it stands that the other night after an argument with my 10 year old daughter, I decided it was time to just listen.

I will tell you point blank; I do not envy our youth. I would not want to be 10 years old today. The issues they’re facing are the same ones we didn’t face until we were well into our teens and it’s scary to think that these sensitive little minds are having to cope with body issues and maturity issues they shouldn’t even be exposed to for another 3-4 years. But they are and so here we are as parents, needing all the more to just listen.

My ex-wife told me that her perception is that our 10 year old doesn’t feel heard. And I think she nailed it. As soon as I just sat and listened for 90 minutes it was like a whole new little girl emerged. She became a chatter box and I heard all about the challenges this little person deals with on a daily basis and they have nothing to do with long division or geography. Those are a cake walk compared to the social anxiety forced upon 4th graders today. If you’ve seen the movie “Mean Girls,” imagine the same thing in elementary school because that’s exactly what my daughter described.

So what’s a parent to do? You know I think the answer is relatively simple. Just be there to listen. You can let them know that people typically have no idea that they’re hurting your feelings when they do, especially 10 year old boys. You can also reassure them that it’s not worth their energy to try to keep up with the prissy little rich girl who sticks her nose up in the air at everything everyone else does. But really, just let them be heard in a non-judgemental way.

Internally, recognize that their anxiety is real. They may be 6 or 8 or 10, but their emotions are heavy and the world is already being mean to them. They need your support any way they can get it. And that little 5 year old boy sitting next to them in the car? He needs to see the affects of the words he’s going to be saying in a few years if not already. And we need to take the time to point it out to him. The whole “boys will be boys” excuse is bunk. But that’s a whole other topic.

You know, we get so wrapped up in our own concerns that it becomes very easy to just brush off a little kid’s ‘worries.’ I’ve done it. I’m sure you have too at some point. But tomorrow they’re going to be 15 and it’s going to be too late. They’ll have been bombarded with hateful words and actions for far too long for you to just walk in and fix it. The need to counter the negativity in their lives needs to start now. And sometimes that’s just the simple act of walking away from Facebook for 30 minutes and listening to your daughter talk about boys saying mean things.

 

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Cleaning House!

Sitting here on a Saturday cleaning. The kids are with their mom and I have a rare pocket of time where I can actually focus on reclaiming the house. When I started this morning, I honestly couldn’t remember if my daughter had hardwoods or carpet. It’s carpet.

Rediscovering the power of the purge as well. It’s liberating to just throw stuff out that hasn’t been touched in months. Each toss into the can is like five pounds off my mental shoulders. Simplify my friends … simplify. It’s also fun to see if the kids notice anything missing when they come home. And just so that you don’t judge me to quickly, I only throw out the stuff they haven’t played with in 9-10 months. (He said only half convincingly)

Doing some mental cleaning as well. Tuesday will be my first Valentine’s day as a single in 14 years. Not really sure how I feel about that to be honest with you. I spent 31 years on my own before getting married. You get used to thinking for yourself after that much time and having now rediscovered the joy of that truth, I find myself struggling with the concept of dating again. I enjoyed being married but many things were missing from our relationship including that sense of just loving being around each other. I don’t think my ex-wife would argue too much with that statement. It was something we both wanted terribly, but just didn’t feel.

A camp counselor once told me, “make sure you’re in-love with the person not idea of being in-love.” True that. So as much as I would like to be with my soul mate, having been through a marriage and a divorce there are still many walls protecting this heart and soul. Walls that I put a lot of time and effort into building. And while I recognize that they’re going to need to come down at some point, much like my house, I think I need to do some purging first. There’s a lot of clutter I need to sort through and find the courage to just ‘toss’ in order to make room for new emotions. I think once I accomplish that I’ll find it easier to knock out a few bricks and let some sunshine in.

 

 

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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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