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Sick of It!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a single parent, is the fact that you are not allowed to get sick. It’s actually in the bi-laws. Chapter VII, Section IV, Paragraph III, Line II clearly states, “a temperature of 102, severe chills, cold sweats and vomiting, shall not relieve said parent of the duty of making school lunches,
sick-guyfeeding and dressing the children, ensuring teeth and hair are brushed, school field trip permission slips are
signed and everybody is out the door in time to ride the school bus.”

Forget the fact that there’s no one around to take care of you either. And as a guy, I loath doctors. Part of it is the fact that I just love paying $100 to $200 out of my pocket to have someone tell me, “you really should get some rest.”

When you’re basically the sole proprietor of your family, there’s rarely room for even a “day” of stopping. Work, kids, soccer practices, laundry, shopping, meals, all keep coming up on the schedule. E-mails keep coming, phones keep ringing, clients keep asking, bills keep arriving, kids keep needing. You were overwhelmed when you were healthy. Now what? All problems and challenges appear 15 times larger when you’re sick and have no energy.

If you’re like me, your tendency is to fight through it. As my ex used to say, “you can be miserable at home or
miserable at work.” And typically it works. I take some DayQuil, eat an orange, hydrate, get a run or two in to images-13sweat it out, and in a couple of days I’m good to go. OK, and maybe I throw some donuts and coffee in there. But as much as I try to fight it, if after a week I’m still wheezing and dragging my ass, I’ll bee line it for the Kroger clinic in hopes of getting a z-pack. It’s the only way to ensure you’re going to have the energy and the ability to forge through long term.

As a single parent you’ve grown accustomed to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But obviously; if after a week you’re still sick, your body is telling you it just isn’t able to recoup on its own and needs some help. Try to recognize when you need to stop and shut down for a day and act accordingly. If you have a kid free day coming up. Cancel your plans that you’ve been waiting two weeks for and take care of yourself. If you have the kids, get them on the bus and take a day off – from everything! When they get home, let them make you tea and tuck you in on the couch. They’ll love it and usually their behavior improves at the same time. You’ll be amazed at how just 24 hours of rest and taking care of yourself can turn things around for you. Your boss will thank you, you’ll thank you and your kids will thank you.

So: single parents who are sick and goin’ it alone: High Five! I feel ya. You’re doing great and your family is better for your efforts. I’m personally cyberly patting you on the back. Hopefully it’ll help break up that cough.

 

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Aside

So, how’re you holding up? Keeping it all together?

Sometimes I have a difficult time coming up with a topic to write about. Today is one of those days. And yet I feel compelled to write to you and encourage you to keep moving forward; to keep the faith and to fight throughhow_you_doin whatever negativity you might be dealing with. Some days we simply need someone to tell us we’re amazing. That what we’re doing is epic. Sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

Just the fact that you’re there for your kids is something to be both proud of and thankful for. Some dads leave a divorce and put it all behind them, including their kids. I wish there was something I could say to those dads, but chances are those dads probably aren’t reading this blog. I feel bad for those fathers because they’re really missing out on one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Keep in mind I’m not talking about dads who want to be there, but have limited access to the kids due to the courts. I’m talking about the dads who just don’t care. Because they would if they knew what they were missing.

But it’s not easy and it doesn’t come without an effort as you well know. It doesn’t come without battles, compromises and standing up for yourself AND your kids. There is a reason why you get up every morning, idadjpg-85702c75c414f9a9make school lunches, stay up late washing a special pair of jeans your daughter wants to wear to school in the morning, coach a soccer team or teach your kid how to make the perfect pancake. There’s a reason you stop what you’re doing when you tuck your kids in at night to spend 30 minutes talking to them about their day. It’s because once you see your kids smile due to your efforts it becomes infectious. When you sense the impact you’re having on your kids you become astutely aware of your true purpose.

It doesn’t happen right off the bat necessarily. And I think that’s where some dads struggle. You can’t just wake up one day and expect your twelve year old kid to be your best pal. It takes time for both you and your kids to find your groove and to respect each other. It takes time to accept certain aspects of being a dad and get comfortable with others. And even when you do, there are going to be days when you struggle to keep the focus where it needs to be. Because along with your kids, there are a thousand other people pulling at you, needing you, expecting things from you. You get lost in a project, or invariably everything lands on the same day between 10 am and noon. That’s when the school calls to let you know your daughter has a temperature. Or your ex texts you to see if there’s any chance you can best_job_ive_ever_had_being_a_dad_mousepad-p144662381049604604eng3t_400meet the kids at the bus stop today because of an emergency.

It’s a balance that takes time to master and even then it’s not always easy when you’re getting it from all sides. So I’m here to tell you you’re doing great. You’re a great dad and your kids need you, typically when they seem to need you the least. But they need you because of the amazing things you bring to their lives. They need you because you’re the only dad they have and over time they’ve learned to appreciate everything you do, even when they tell you you’re the worst dad ever because you made them turn off an inappropriate program or made them clean their room or turn off the computer. They need the boundaries you set, the hugs you offer, the reassurances you give them that they’re awesome and not a freak like so many of their school mates make them feel like sometimes.

They need you dad and they need you because you’ve set the bar. And now that you’ve set it to not maintain it would be letting them down. And the fact that you’ve set the bar is the strongest indication that you’re doing a great job.

How YOU Doin’?

 

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Losing My Mind (and my keys)

I don’t know about you, but there are days when I’m convinced my sometimes over booked life is turning me into a complete idiot. There are days when it feels like I spend more time retracing my steps in order to remember where I left my pants than I do accomplishing my to do list. We all misplace our keys from time to time but honestly, I don’t know how many times this week I’ve stopped and called myself all kinds of names
memory36969112_crop out of frustration.

I’m proud of what I accomplish every week. It’s a lot. I consider myself incredibly productive. But man, sometimes I just stop and wonder what’s going on inside my brain. I had always had a history of laying things down in odd places and then completely forgetting. I learned over time how to stop, retrace my steps and then figure it out. And for the most part I’ve done a great job of doing it. But then there are times when I actually walk into the kitchen and completely forget why I was going there.

Does this happen to you? Do you forget things?

I remember driving to work one morning. I had just gotten off the phone with my mom and started thinking about the upcoming weekend and everything that had to get done. There were a couple of softball games, a birthday party, a project that needed some extra attention, yard work that needed to get done. Started thinking about an upcoming trip with the kids and then suddenly I realized I’d completely driven past my exit and was heading toward what was an old job I’d had seven years ago.

Stop right now, close your eyes and ask yourself what color socks you have on. Do you know? I’m telling you, our lives as single parents can really put a strain on our ability to keep up with everything. So it’s no wonder we drive off with our coffee mug on top of our car from time to time or go through seven to eight names including the dog’s before calling our kid the right one.

I would love to offer you a cure all. Like, have a place you keep your keys, wallet, phone etc. Put things you’re
DMLgroup.jpggoing need in the morning where you can find them the night before. Do crossword puzzles to exercise your brain. But honestly, I think there are just going to be days (sometimes several in a row), when you’re going to have to be aware of everything going on and give yourself a moment to stop, think and be cognizant of what you’re doing or where you’re putting something down.

It’s so easy to get so lost in our schedules and the hustle bustle of our days that we completely forget ourselves and what we’re doing. I’ve literally put dishwashing detergent in the refrigerator and have gotten out of the shower only to realize I never rinsed my hair. It’s easy to start thinking you have a brain tumor or alzheimer’s. My guess is I just overload myself from time to time and most of what I’ve read assures me that everything I’m experiencing is completely normal for a 40 something with three kids and four jobs. A lot of recent studies also show that stress is a major contributor to memory loss. And Lord knows, if you’re going through a divorce or trying to get back on track, stress just comes with the territory.

So, my only advise is to first stop every once in a while and give yourself a moment. I’ve found exercise helps on many levels. And make a point to try and recognize when you’re in a state of confusion and make an extra effort to be aware of what you’re doing. Slow your brain down a bit and try to focus. Lord knows I tell my kids to do it enough times every day. This is one instance where practicing what I preach can really come in handy.

So anyway … I’m sorry; what were we talking about?

 

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Power of a Hug

On more than one occasion when one of my children have been struggling, I’ve initially gotten frustrated with them and their behavior which only made matters worse. When their mood is thrust upon you, especially at the most inopportune moments, it’s easy to fall into the fatal trap of “not you too?”

There was one particular moment when my son was acting up and lashing out. I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was going on with him. He was doing everything he could to get under everyone’s skin. Once he accomplished that the negativity in the room only escalated.images-6

As the circumstance continued to spiral downward we reached a point where I simply didn’t know what to do. There was anger, frustration, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, exhaustion, rage, all bundled together building up inside of me as I began to truly hate the moment and what I was being forced to deal with.

He stood there screaming at me, calling me names, yelling, kicking, hitting; doing everything he could to lash out. The more I told him to stop, the more he increased the volume and intensity. I could feel myself boiling inside ready to do ANYTHING to stop it.

I finally hit my limit, grabbed him and held him close to me. In an instant he stopped. His body fell limp as he put his arms around my neck. A heavy sigh escaped his lungs as he laid his head on my shoulders and emotionally collapsed.

We stood there like that for about twenty minutes and the world disappeared.

I don’t know what started his fit. No idea where it came from or what initiated it. I could blame it on the divorce. 8925318-give-your-best-made-by-post-itCould blame it on his sisters. Maybe he hadn’t had enough rest. Maybe something happened at school. Who knows. Hell, who knows why we lash out at people we love sometimes.

I think about that moment from time to time. Especially when one of my kids is acting up. Trying to understand what’s going on in their little minds and hearts is an impossible task. Sometimes they end up in their room. Sometimes timeout. Sometimes they get a lecture. And sometimes they get a hug. Each moment is a new learning experience as a parent.

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that when they’re at their worst, that’s typically when they need our best.

 

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It’s All Downhill From Here

Being born in Western, NY, I grew up with snow. Hence, many of the stories I tell my kids about my childhood involve snow and lots of it. It’s something I think every kid should experience and something I want my kids to know. I want them to know what it feels like to fall face first in it or go, what feels like 120 mph, completely out of control down a hill with 30 mph winds blowing fresh powder in their face. I want them to have a memory ofchesnutridge6 rolling around in 18 inches of fresh pack powder and then defrosting in front of a warm fire, only to go back out into the frozen tundra for another round. I want them to feel huge snowflakes on their eyelashes as they walk up a hill listening to the crunch of the snow packing under their footsteps.

Unfortunately, being that we live in the south those are hard memories to come by.  So every year around this time my kids and I watch the weather forecast in Buffalo, NY very closely. And upon the first sign of a good lake effort storm we pack our bags, grab a new set of long johns, boots, gloves and anything else we may be missing and stay glued to the Weather Channel App. And when it hits, no matter when it is, we jump in the jeep and we head north.

It takes a lot of effort on everyone’s part to make the trip work. Driving that many hours crammed in something other than a mini-van is not something I would recommend for anyone with a weak stomach. But having traveled as much as our kids have in their short lives, they’ve become pros. So they burry their heads in DVD’s, i-pod touches, and Nooks and buckle in for the long journey demanding I go through the drive thru to save 20 minutes. After twelve hours on the road, we usually commandeer an unsuspecting family member’s home. We then proceed to partake in winterpalooza and enjoy two or three days of non-stop sledding, snowman building, chestnutridge5chicken wing eating, snowball fighting and hot chocolate drinking. It’s become a tradition and this year was no different.

I won’t lie. It’s an effort. Twelve hours (both ways) in tight quarters all for the sake of a few hours of playing in the white fluffy stuff is a test for any family. But I’ll tell you. It’s worth it. To hear the first exclamation of “LOOK SNOW!” as we head into Ohio. The giggles of anticipation. To witness the first snowball thrown during a routine stop for fuel and bathroom breaks. And then to see them all bundled up in their snow pants, boots, gloves, scarves, hats and mittens. Ready to brave mother nature’s fury. It’s just amazing and worth every mile.

There was one point on the third day when we had stopped for our last day of sledding. Wind gusts were 50 mph off the lake and it was only about 20 degrees out. One of the kids refused to get out of the car. But I had promised the other two they could have one more day so I literally picked the disgruntled snow bunny out of the car and carried her to the lodge. Three hours later she was the one pleading for one more time down the hill. And that’s how it goes. Part of the trip isn’t just about the experience of the snow and the environment. It’s about continually demonstrating to the kids what happens when you push yourself a bit. When you go outsidechestnutridge4 your comfort zone and try something you otherwise would forgo in leu of sitting on the couch watching an episode of i-Carly.

To accomplish that, we as parents sometimes have to push ourselves as well and go outside our own comfort zones. In the process we ourselves gain experiences we otherwise would never know the joy of. If I’m thankful for anything, it’s not just the memories of playing in the snow. It’s about the experiences I’ve had because of the kids who pushed me to do things I myself would have never attempted. All for the sake of ensuring they themselves had the chance to try something different.

One thing my ex and I agree on is that memories and experiences far outshine things. It’s not always easy, especially when life gets crazy. But I think it’s important to make these kinds of events the highest priority. Jobs will come and go. Tests can be retaken. Bills will always be there waiting. But their seventh year will only happen once. And then they’ll be going off to college; eventually telling their own kids about their childhood memories. Today is the day to create those memories.

If there was ever anything worth the effort. It’s creating moments for your kids that will last a lifetime. For us one of those memories will be snow.

 

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