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Category Archives: Scheduling

In Sync with the World

I’m fairly confident that one common reaction to a divorce is a conscious decision to protect yourself both emotionally and physically. You tend to become more rigid as a natural reaction to the pain and confusion suddenly thrust upon you. Trust takes a holiday and you begin your divorce with an initial inability to be open to compromise and find yourself going by the book and following the rules of the arrangement.

In doing so, it becomes impossible to truly get into any kind of rhythm as everyone involved has gone into a similar mode of protection with their own agenda and thoughts on how to move forward. But to successfully navigate through the pain, the anguish and the confusion, it’s crucial that we learn how to open up a bit and become more flexible in our approach to life in general, not just your ex and your children.

I recently found this video on-line that demonstrates how metronomes that are started at different times will eventually start to work in unison under the right circumstances.

If placed on a rigid surface, all of the metronomes continue to run on their own unique timing. While those placed on a surface with some give to it, eventually come together and work in sync with one another. As I watched the video I couldn’t help but compare this to my life as a divorced dad, or just my life in general. When we’re unwilling to budge and instead create an environment where there is no flux, it can quickly turn to chaos as everyone just continues to go off on their own tangent. But when we offer just a little bit of flexibility and have an ability to accept the energy around us and then redistribute it, life seems to find a way of working with a little more synchronicity.

When we can let go of our fears, our paranoias, and the negativity that come with them, we can start to once again find a way of working in rhythm with the world around us. And when that happens, everyone wins. When Insyncwe’re working against each other, all that happens are battles, fights and arguments. There are no victories only continued struggles and battle plans. And not unlike a rowing crew, the more the rowers are in sync, the smoother and more efficient the motion.

Figuring out the balance that allows you to have your own life while working in conjunction with your ex is not an easy task. It doesn’t happen over night and continues to evolve even after your divorce has been final for a while. And believe me, when the kids sense a lack of synchronicity they then fight even hard against the grain. Suddenly everyone is out step with each other and frustrated and it just feels like the entire world is crashing down in front of you.

There will be times when bending just isn’t an option and others when it is. It’s up to you (and your ex) to learn when to adjust, when to maintain structure, when to bend and when not to. Just be sure to communicate and try to be reasonable in your explanations as well as your expectations. You can’t be expected to live your life according to your ex’s schedule, nor can they be expected to live according to yours. But a little give and take goes a long way in assuring the kids get what they need, which is a good relationship with both of you. When the kids feel a sense of unison and know what to expect, it’s a win / win for everyone.

 

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Left Wing, Right Wing, Chicken Wing!

Congratulations. You made it through the holidays and 2012.

As many will attest, the holidays can be a stressful time. It’s perhaps one of the most stressful times of the year, particularly if you’re divorced with kids. As a single parent you wear the stress of many people, not just
end-of-2013-start-of-2013_shutterstockyour own. Along with the joy of dealing with the solitude when you don’t have the kids, carrying the full load when you do have them, finding time to shop for presents and then wrapping them, juggling schedules, school breaks, stretching finances; everyone around you is equally stressed out creating levels of anxiety you never dreamed existed.

The kids of course are experiencing a great deal of their own stress. In many cases it means the majority of their vacation is spent on the road, visiting more than one family, adjusting to a major holiday without mom and dad together and dividing what time they do have between both mom and dad. In some cases it also means trying to understand why mom and dad may be getting along but aren’t together as we do our best to create a harmonious environment to ensure their holiday memories are good ones.

There are family members who are stressed because they don’t understand your situation necessarily and don’t know how to act around you. There are others who; despite your reassurances that everything is fine; ask you 76 times if you’re “really” alright and worry about how you’re handling it all or how the kids are coping.

6a267e83118d66269156e45fd180e4b2-dog-feels-bad-for-knocking-over-christmas-treeAt work; staff and clients are stressed out as everyone is trying to get things done before the break and their moods are swinging back and forth as they deal with their own multitude of home holiday stresses which of course filters its way to your office.

The checkout girl at Kroger glares at you when you have the audacity to ask for paper instead of plastic because SHE’s stressed from all of the overtime hours, the kid who just dumped a dozed eggs all over aisle 9 and not being able to find the little bar thing that separates everyone’s groceries on the conveyer belt.

And let’s not forget the dogs who are picking up on everyone else’s stress and acting up because they’re level of anxiety is at an all time high with the damn tree and presents they’re not allowed to pee on or tear up; all the strangers who come by, having pictures taken with some stupid little elf on their back, the UPS guy ringing the doorbell every 30 minutes and having to spend more time outside or in their crate so that they’re not tripped over.

Then to top it all off the world was piling it on as well. You carried with you the stress of a potential fiscal cliff
and stared a fading NHL season square in the eye. (You may laugh, but NHL fans were struggling with both the nhl_lockout640_640lock out and the fact that people didn’t care.)

From right wing politicians to left wing hockey players and owners fighting, foreign nations in civil conflict, school shootings leaving us all emotionally drained and then of course people arguing over gun laws. I swear, just thinking about it makes me want to check some whiney congressman (or woman) into the boards with an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

But hey! You made it. It’s all history and somehow 2013 started off with some lights at the end of the tunnel. Despite a few bumps in the road and a few dollars missing from your paycheck, everyone made it to the other side. Family visits are over, presents are opened, lights are taken down (or at least turned off), hockey starts in two weeks and D.C. will live to fight another day.

So grab a Molson, order yourself a dozen chicken wings, put on a pair of underwear that Santa stuffed in your stocking and pat yourself on the back. As you do, look back at the past year and recognize all of your
accomplishments. Think about everything you experienced, everything you felt and everything you’ve learned.

Stop for a moment and consider how much stronger you are and how far you’ve come. You’ve answered a lot of questions and overcome a lot of issues. New ones will arise of course, but you’re better equipped to deal withPresident Obama Hosts Congressional Leaders To Discuss Fiscal Cliff them. You have a better sense of who you are and where your life is headed. This will be a year of continued growth and understanding; a year of discovering new strengths and abilities. You’ll learn a little more about who you are and what you’re capable of. Of what you’re deserving of and what you need to be happy. And come next Thanksgiving, you’ll find yourself even better equipped to navigate the stresses of another holiday season.

For now look at the new year as a fresh canvas. A chance to spread your wings just a little wider and let your breaths be just a little deeper. It’ll be tumultuous at times no doubt, but you have new tools and skills to carry you forward. Time to pick a new north star and start dreamin’.

In the words of Cakehole Presley, “Choose your spot, grab a rock and hold on.”

 

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Holiday Stress – Year Two

If you’re a regular visitor, you’ve heard me state before the importance of focusing on the kids during the holidays. But it bares repeating. Regardless of what holiday it is, as parents we are living our child’s past every day. Every Christmas, 4th of July, birthday, recital, Hanakkah, whatever the celebration; each will be locked stressed-is-desserts
away in our kid’s memory and it’s up to us to do whatever we can to make the memories fond ones.

Let’s face it; the holiday season in particular can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Christmas budgets, work schedules, vacations, travel, getting everything done in time, elf on the shelf craziness, the kids are beyond over stimulated. It’s insanity at times. Now add to it trying to schedule time with TWO families and it only adds to the stress levels.

That’s why it’s crucial that you take a step back and remember what it’s all about. It’s about doing your best to be fun and upbeat. Because if YOU’RE positive, fun and upbeat, the kids will be more likely to follow suit. Countering stress with stress only escalates the problems. And that’s not what you want your kids remembering twenty years from now as they go through old photo albums.

I can pretty much guarantee you that you and your ex are going to have differences of opinions throughout the holiday season. There will be anger, frustration and you’ll be convinced at times that they have no interest in what’s important to you. It doesn’t matter. Your kids don’t want to hear that nor should they. They want to enjoy
the holiday with you and when possible with both you and your ex. Sometimes that’s feasible, sometimes it’s
12-28-09 ornaments118.jpgnot. But what is feasible is you putting on your game face and putting on your big girl panties to make the holiday memories ones that your kids will cherish for a lifetime.

It’s not easy. Lord knows I slip just like you. All you can do is be aware. Just keep picturing the images your children will have in their head of Christmas 2013 and know that you can influence those thoughts. It may mean giving in at times, it may mean holding your tongue at others. It may be something as simple as taking an hour or two to bake cookies with them, driving around looking at holiday light decorations or cuddling up on the couch and watching Elf when they’re with you. The point is to focus on making memories they’ll look back on when they’re older and smile. Let them be little nuggets they hold on to that remind them how special their lives are and how fortunate they are to be loved and how important they are to someone on this planet.

If I sound preachy, my sincere apologies. That’s not my intention. I simply know how difficult these times of the year can be especially when you’re divorced. Know that I say these things to myself daily as much as I say them to you. I repeat them over and over in my head as a reminder of what my focus needs to be and a means of committing to making every attempt to make this holiday one of laughter and joy for the people most important to me; my kids. If I’ve learned anything through the first two years of our divorce, it’s that arguments during the holidays accomplish nothing. Stress causes us to lose our focus on what’s important. The gifts don’t matter, the lines at the mall don’t matter, the stress doesn’t matter, the kids laughing during the holidays does matter. So plan ahead, be reasonable, be flexible and be joyful.

Peace and have an amazing holiday!

 

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Different Paths

Another title for this post could have been “Growing Pains” and I hope you take what’s being said as a positive as it relates to personal growth. Growing pains can hurt, but they’re typically a sign that you’re making progress. It’s true when your body is growing and it’s equally relevant when embarking on a new direction in your life. Let’s look at your divorce as an example. You’ve worked hard to maintain a positive relationship with your ex. Despite some bumps in the road, for the most part you’ve both been able to see past it and have worked relatively well together. My hunch is, that there are good weeks and bad weeks. I mean let’s face it; if you were able to work that well together consistently, you’d probably still be married. But you’re not. A truth that over time will likely build distance between the two of you despite your best attempts to continue parenting as a tandem.

Sometimes one of you just needs time to digest recent events that may have rubbed you or your ex the wrong way. Sometimes life simply pulls you in another direction. I think it’s an illusion to believe that every attempt to work closely on schedules, events and parenting issues is going to go smoothly. It didn’t happen when you were married, no reason to believe it’s magically going to start happening now that you’re divorced no matter how good you get at compromise.

As your life takes you in new directions, it’s also likely that your confidence, both in being a dad and the choices you make as a parent, is going to grow. You’ll start to find your own groove and get accustomed to making decisions about things that in the past were made as a team. You’ll start to get more comfortable with doing things without consult and realize that, while many issues will always require a discussion or notification, not all roads have to go through your ex when it comes to parenting. And to an extent that’s fine. Just don’t get cocky about it.

There are going to be moments when it sinks in a little deeper that you’re no longer a couple. Part of the purpose of working closely with your ex is to help maintain that sense of family that is so important to the kids. But from time to time, things are going to happen that will remind everyone that you’re not. And it’s going to suck. It’s not necessarily the end of the world, but reality has a nasty way of slapping us in the face from time to time. So just be aware. Recognize that you’re not going to be thrilled with every decision your ex makes when it comes to the kids. Conversely, you’re going to make choices that are going to piss off your ex.

When that happens, stop for a moment and consider, even if for just a moment, if you’ve gone too far or if the decision you’ve made is actually quite reasonable. Is your ex over reacting and making assumptions? Are you? It’s easy to presume that one deliberately did something in an attempt to undermine the other. Typically that’s not the case and all you can do is reassure the other person of the truth and then it’s up to them to take your word for it or not. Still, when you work closely with an ex-spouse, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the boundaries between still being a family unit and being a divorced couple.

I made an agreement with my ex-wife that we would try to include each other in a lot of things like holidays, birthdays, extra curricular activities, school events etc. And so far it’s gone pretty well. We’ve even had each other over for dinner from time to time. But sometimes, I think it’s natural for it to feel a little too close. There comes a point where in some respects, you’re going to want that space. Especially as you start to feel more at ease with being a single parent.

When that happens, I think you should embrace it as it means your’e growing. But I also believe, it’s worth considering the other side of the coin. I’m not saying you should necessarily change your course every time, since there comes a point when your life and the decisions you make are going to be more and more your own. Just remember the shoe will likely be on the other foot at some point and be prepared for the fact that once you start to take those steps there is another person who will likely take some of their own. And it’s going to hurt when they do. Just as it did for them when you found your own stride. And it’ll be up to you to acknowledge and not make it an excuse to get angry. It won’t always be an easy decision, but it’s an important one.

There are going to be struggles for both of you as time passes and lives take their own turns. It’s all about navigating those ebbs and flows and remembering that it’s a two way street and that from time to time, it’s going to hurt. Just promise yourself that you’re going to do whatever you can to ensure that you’re the one who’s going to be feeling the burn, not your kids.

 

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774 miles, 13 hours, 3 kids, 1 Jeep!

774 miles, 13 hours, 3 kids, 1 Jeep.

My head spins just thinking about it. But we did it. Not once but twice in one week as we traveled up to the finger lakes to kick off summer vacation. I only attempt these trips knowing that my kids are accustomed to longer distances. As soon as my oldest was born, my ex-wife and I were hitting the road. We’ve been traveling long distances ever since and as each child joined the caravan, they became more and more accustomed to sitting for long stretches. Based on history, knowing that some great moments are just up the road is more than enough incentive to keep on truckin’.

The funny thing is, we typically can’t drive five miles at home without a meltdown of some sort, and yet on the long trips they typically do great. But even this trip was a record for us and I’m still astounded that we made it home without having to drop someone off in Columbus or Cincinnati.

I remember when I was a kid (he said in his best old man impersonation) we didn’t have car seats, or laws about sitting up front. We also didn’t have DVD players, streaming video and i-pod touches. We rode on the hump, laid in our dad’s lap as he drove, sprawled out in the back seat, played road bingo and punch bug. Dad typically pulled over several times threatening to throw us off a bridge which garnered 20 miles or so until the next round of back seat anarchy.

But now, even with the restrictions of car safety legislation, the kids (and parents) have tools that make the trip a little easier. So as I packed the car for our trip north I thought I had it covered. Snacks, drinks, DVD player, i-pods, headphones, books, games, you name it we had it. Then it happened. As we pulled out of the drive way we realized the DVD player wasn’t working. On top of that my car charger was AWOL. That meant no movies and I had maybe 2 hours before I’d hear, “DAADDD!!! My I-pod is dead!”

A wave of panic rushed through my veins as I tried to assess the potential damage and come up with a plan B. Meanwhile by the grace of all that’s holy, the kids all fell asleep within the first 30 minutes which bought me a couple of hours.

I heard a couple of yawns and saw some stretching going on which let me know I’d soon have a lot of requests coming my way. That’s when I heard one of the kids ask, “Can we watch TV on your phone?” I hadn’t even thought of that! Fortunately I had a full charge and the Netflix app ready to roll on my i-phone. My car stereo has an ‘aux’ plug that allows you to listen to your phone through the car speakers which is an added bonus! And so it was that we managed to make it through the first 1/3 of the trip virtually unscathed. From there we picked up another charger and suddenly the DVD player was a forgotten memory as my phone, little screen and all, became the center of entertainment.

As I mentioned we’ve been road tripping for a long time. So my kids are accustomed to long stretches in the car. We started with little 1-2 hour trips and worked our way up. Now it’s my kids, all 10 and under, who are typically the ones who don’t want to stop. When we stop to gas, they just want to go to the bathroom and get food through the drive-thru so we can keep on moving. Pretty amazing actually. When everyone’s doing well we will do that, but I’ve learned that sometimes we all need a break from the journey and will stop for a longer break while I recharge and the kids decompress.

And then we’re off again.

Traveling with kids can be a challenge as we all know. The trick is to do as much preparation ahead of time as you can. And not just in terms of entertainment and snacks. Mental preparation is almost, if not more, important. Acknowledge in your head from the very beginning that there are going to be trying moments and plan ahead how you’re going to handle them. Promise yourself you’ll keep a cool head and recognize that it’s the circumstances that are causing the issues. That’s not to say you won’t have your moments of “don’t make me pull over!” which you will, but the more you can prepare yourself the more enjoyable it’ll be for everyone. As the dad (or mom) you set the tone.

Some tips.Make sure snacks, drinks, etc. are within arms reach as you won’t have someone next to you to help. Have a “take turns” plan of action for movies, tv shows, music etc. At the same time, depending on how many kids you have, don’t be afraid to double up on DVD players. Borrow a neighbor’s DVD player to give the girls one to watch Barbie on and the boys one to watch Thomas the Train on. It’s more effort, but makes for a much smoother ride.

Above all try to remind everyone about the north star; the goal, the prize! Talk about it with the kids mid stream. “What are you looking forward to most when we get to the lake?” “How many fish are you going to catch?” “Are you going to go tubing this year?”

As frustrating as traveling with the kids can be at times, not once have I ever regretting the trip. The bonding that takes place is irreplaceable. The time spent focused on the kids is priceless. Even the trip itself becomes an event you conquer together. The important thing is that you’re spending time as a family. The trip itself is really only part of a much more important journey. It’s that thought that keeps me throwing the kids in the back seat and taking off for adventures that otherwise would be time spent watching too much Disney. (no offense Mickey).

Every mile is a memory. Every memory is one more opportunity to remind the kids of how important they are and how important your relationship with them is. That in and of itself is worth the trip.
 

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