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In Ten Years

In Ten Years

As I reacted to the natural call of my offspring (“DAD!”) for the 1,528th time this weekend, I recognized that I was starting to sound annoyed in my responses. Annoyed. Annoyed with what? Being needed? Loved? Not alone?

Overall I consider myself to be a pretty good dad. But every once in a while I stop and see myself as being a complete ass. I allow my ever evolving, busy life to cloud my judgement and get in the way of valuing what’s really important. It’s the moments when I’m in the middle of something personal or maybe working from home (which I’m remarkably fortunate to be able to do from timeIMG_8576 to time), maybe typing an e-mail, that the adolescent piranha that can be my children, all seem to peck away at my aura simultaneously each with their own specific need, ie.”DAD can you make me a snack,” “Dad, my computer won’t work,” “Dad,where’s the remote?,”  “Dad I’m bored,” “DAD!, blankety blank didn’t flush,” “dad have you seen my … oh there it is.”

I’ve at times asked them to give me a minute so I can focus on the task in front of me assuring them that I’ll be with them in a minute. By the tenth time, I know I can come off somewhat rudely. Something about the same question being asked ten times within five minutes will cause that.

Yet, it’s those moments when I get made at myself for reacting that way. Because the truth is; in another ten years, I’ll miss the beckoning. I’ll long for just one, “DADDDD?!!!” And wish to God one of them would need me to find the brush their sister took without asking.

Remember, the days with our kids are limited. Embrace every moment, answer every question and once in a while, let the rest of the world wait and be the dad!

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in choices, Uncategorized

 

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Ho Ho WHOA!!!

While the title of this blog is “Life as a Divorced Dad,” a good majority of the posts I write can easily be read by parents from just about any situation with a sense of, “yup … been there.” However this particular post will most likely resonate more with divorced parents than any other.

Like most parents, we invest months of preparation, planning, spending, anticipation, anxiety, stress, sleepless nights pushing ourselves to emotional extremes culminating in few days of hurried chaos as we attempt to accomplish splendid memorable moments of holiday cheer of epic proportions for our children. (deep breath)

We then groggily wake up on the 26th with a sense of, “Whoa what just happened?” For most, the sudden contrast of calm can be a little unsettling. The pace of our lives has been ludicrous speed and it’s now come to a screeching halt. For the typical family unit there is still a sense of wholeness that accompanies these feelings as the kids play with their new toys, a pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen and parents 2014-12-02 22.17.53attempt to begin the process of cleaning up.

But for the divorced parent, there is often a much larger sense of contrast. For a divorced parent the experience can be remarkably cold and empty, especially if they spend Christmas morning with their kids and then hand them off to the other parent the day after. We wake to a Christmas ghost town of deadly quiet as we look around the house at shreds of ribbon strewn about along with a few empty boxes and left over Santa cookies. It can very much feel like slamming into a brick wall.

Throughout the year the transition from having kids to not having kids is most likely the most difficult adjustment for everyone involved, but the holidays take it to a whole nother level. It is an experience of extremes and the emptiness of handing your children off during the holidays can be unfathomably cold for no other reason than it’s an extreme shock to the system both physically and emotionally.

As hard as it may be at first, take advantage of the quiet. Rest. Reflect. And look forward to the next time you’ll get to see your children. Send them a text and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a picture of you enjoying a gift they got you. Let them know that even when you’re apart, they’re still with you. Some children will feel guilt for leaving a parent alone. Letting them know you’re OK will allow them to enjoy their time with the other parent, so long as you stay positive.

Remember that everything you did during the holiday rush was to ensure your children had a joyous holiday. That’s still the focus. Part of that includes time with their other parent. Know that everything you’re doing, including sitting alone on the stoop, sipping on a cup of java, you’re doing to give your children memories and relationships they’ll cherish as they get older.

You did good. And you deserve a moment of peaceful reflection. Enjoy it while you can because in a few days, you’ll start the chaos of a new year all over again.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Uncategorized

 

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So, Are You Seeing Anyone?

A common question for the divorced dad is, “are you seeing anyone?”

I’ve shied away from the topic of dating for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is the fact that quite frankly, that’s kind of personal. However it struck me recently as I’d seen other people I know who have been divorced for a couple of years; how easy it seemed for them to just jump into a new life with a new partner and move forward.

Really? How the $&%@ did you do that?

It took me thirty-one years to find my partner. Sure a lot of that was on me. But still. That’s a long time. I was very career focused and had grown accustomed to being single. But when I met my wife I was convinced I’d found my soulmate. Then for it to all blow up in my face the way that it did, I feel a little jaded and even more cynical about relationships. So the thought of integrating another person’s life into myFatGuyCupid-300x298 own again is somewhat intimidating. Perhaps I take it all too seriously, but that feels like a big deal to me. Which is why I’m always amazed when I see other divorced dads married again or in a serious relationship after a year or so of getting divorced. Frankly it blows my mind. Kind of the same way I’m always floored when I hear that a guy has had a couple of affairs. I’m like, seriously? I had a hard enough time finding ONE woman. How the hell are you finding like, nine at the same time?!

To answer the question you’re probably asking, “why yes, I’ve dated some.” And truthfully there have been women I could see myself with. Women who represent many things I didn’t have in my marriage and whose company I very much enjoy. But here’s the thing. When you’ve gotten back into a mode where you make your own meals. Manage the house on your own. Make the bed the way you like. Pick the laundry soap you like. Wear a shirt that is completely hideous and not care. Lie on the couch for no damn good reason without fear of retribution. Manage the kids day to day on your own terms when they’re with you (albeit with some basic coordination with the ex as in my case). And basically do what you want when you want. It can be a challenge to consider the prospect of going back to a system that, in our case, didn’t work.

Listen, after a divorce, getting to a point where you feel strong as an individual and completely self reliant takes a lot of effort and is remarkably empowering. The thought of giving that up again and finding ways to balance it with leaning on someone else can be a struggle for some. That’s true whether you’re a divorced man OR woman. Let’s face it. There are many aspects about being single that are kind of cool. I like being independent. I enjoy being self reliant. I enjoy my time to myself when I can manage to get it. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be awesome to have someone to share it all with and someone to connect with. I would personally love that. But I think it’s reasonable to be somewhat skiddish and over protective of your mental state after what we’ve been through as divorced parents.

So to you guys who have managed to find your way into a new relationship. I applaud you. Would love to hear how you managed to cross that threshold. For those of you who haven’t. Don’t sweat it. Enjoy the positives of calling the shots and being independent. There are many perks. I believe if and when it’s supposed to happen it’ll happen. Until then; when someone asks, “So, are you seeing anyone,” just hold your head up high and proudly say, “Nope. Are you?”

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in dating, Divorce

 

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A Fundamental Truth

Look guys. I know for some of you dealing with your ex is not a welcome moment. And Mother’s Day likely creates some stress and uncomfortable situations. Especially if you haven’t worked at your relationship with your ex-wife since the divorce. “But we’re divorced? Why should I work on my relationship with her?” Well. I’ll tell you why. Regardless of the kind of relationship you have with your ex-wife; if you had a family together, there is one fundamental truth that cannot be changed. She is the mother of your children and you both will always be a parenting team on some level. And no matter how you may personally feel about it, another truth is that your childrenimages need to have a connection with their mom.

I say this because no matter how you feel about your ex, part of your responsibility as a father is to ensure that your kids have a good relationship with their mom. Inside, your children crave a relationship and a connection with each of you. They need to feel accepted and loved by both of you, especially when they’re trying to discover who they are. It’s one of the reasons it’s so important to put to the side your own feelings toward your ex, regardless of what they may be, and make an effort to help your children focus on the positive attributes of their mom.

As a divorced dad, you have a choice. Hold on to bitterness and create friction, tension and stress for you, your ex and your children, or recognize the value in a working relationship with your ex-wife that enables you both to benefit from helping each other as single parents. I’m not an idiot. I understand that it’s often easy to fall into the trap of pointing out the negatives. Especially when you’re at a point where you may be dealing with a disagreement. But remember, that works both ways. And your kids aren’t stupid. They’re actually quite perceptive and probably understand more than you may give them credit for. They know your ex-wife’s pitfalls, and trust me, they recognize yours just as well. It’s up to you to set the tone. You need to suck it up sometimes and recognize your kids will be much better off if they see the two of you backing each other up and creating at least some level of consistency as parents.

My ex wife and I have worked very hard these past few years ensuring that our kids know they can’t get away with things by playing us against each other. And trust me, they try. They know the buttons to push, the things to say and the way to put us against each other. But you can’t get sucked in. Listen, my relationship with my ex isn’t perfect by any means. We have our issues obviously. Hell we got divorced for a reason. And from time to time we lovemommobileboth find it very easy to say things or point out things about each other to the kids that we should probably keep to ourselves. But try to remind yourself, what good is it going to do to slam someone so important to your kids? There is a very good likelihood that they’re very much aware of anything you may bring up. Using it as a means of turning them against the other parent isn’t going to accomplish anything other than creating friction between all of you, including you and your kids.

I would also hope for you, that during your divorce you’ve had a chance to recognize that you both brought baggage to the table. That each of you hold some level of responsibility for your current situation and that you’ve grown from the experience. The goal should be to be growing and understanding what’s really important. And that is ensuring your kids have everything they need in life and one of the most important of those is a good relationship with their mom and dad.

Transferring your own personal beliefs about your ex to your children will do much more harm than good. Honestly, I don’t think they need help with that anyway. In fact it’s just the opposite. In their own relationships with each of you, they will likely experience the same things you and your ex did in your marriage. The reality is, you’re in a terrific position to help them navigate the negatives as you’ve already lived them and hopefully have learned from them. Rather than compound the problem by reenforcing the negative, help them do something you obviously weren’t able to do; acknowledge, accept and move on. If you can teach them tolerance, acceptance and understanding on a level even you weren’t capable of achieving during your marriage, you’ll be setting them up for success in their own relationships as they get older.

In the process you may actually learn a thing or two as well. Things that will allow you to see your ex differently and the hope would be for her to see you differently as you both grow as individuals. Will it be perfect? No. But it’s time to start letting go of some of the hurt. Recognize that the divorce does not mean you’ll never see your ex again. You will be in each others lives forever as parents to your kids. This mother’s day, give your kids something they desperately need. A positive relationship with their mom; you may find yourself finding a way to create one for yourself as well. And that is something that will benefit everyone.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Daily Life, Uncategorized

 

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The Society That Cried Bully

Were you bullied as a kid? Before you answer, stop and really think about it and then consider how your kids will answer the same question thirty years from now.

The word is being thrown around a lot lately and in the process its definition is becoming diluted, which personally I think is an insult to those kids who are truly being tortured to the point of suicide. It’s also a danger to our own kids who are being taught to label those around them as bullies when in fact they may be nothing
more than an ignorant kid who simply called your child a poopy head.

I myself was teased as a youngster. I was the short kid in school. At one point I strongly considered legally changing my name to Half-Pint. Kidding aside, it had a profound affect on me. It wasn’t just kids calling me names and labeling me, it was teachers, parents, coaches, friends, family, you name it. They all had their
shutterstock_87771445“affectionate” little names for me and were always quick to point out that I was too little to do things. My self image throughout life was that of being small and scrawny. Even after I’d become an adult and, for the most part, caught up, I still considered myself puny.

Would I consider it bullying? No. Teasing maybe, but not bullying. Did it hurt? Yes. Did I react to it? Certainly. I remember one day getting so angry I actually found myself shoving the tallest kid in the class into the chalkboard and punching him. But that was pretty much the extent of it. It led to a trip to the principle’s office for both of us and a lesson on choosing how we react to people.

Then I discovered Ernie DiGregorio, a point guard for the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. Listed as 6′ 0″, he was closer to 5′ 10″ and seemed dwarfed by the other players on the court. Yet he held his own. He had poise and exuded inner strength. I thought he was the coolest guy on the planet and he was my idol. To a kid like me, he represented that the size of my body didn’t matter as much as the size of my heart. He gave me a positive to grab hold on to and carry with me.

I still hated being short and looking back can see how the names, always being at the head of the line in school, the names, having short sisters who were bigger than me, the names, and frankly just being short, all had a profound affect on my self image; both as a child and as an adult. Still I wouldn’t consider it bullying.
Would it have helped if people would have been a little more sensitive? Sure, but the question is at what point does teasing become bullying or something more criminal? And do we at times put too much of the responsibility on the teaser, and not enough on the teased?

WHAT? Blame the teased? No, I’m not suggesting we blame the teased. But I do believe we are on a path of making everyone out to be a victim, which is dangerous. Yes, it is without question important to teach our children (and adults for that matter) to be sensitive to those around us. To be compassionate, supportive and understanding. To lift each other up rather than knock them down. But we also need to be giving our kids the tools to deal with jerks. To recognize that they exist and how to look past them and keep moving forward. To learn the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who appreciate us and ignore the noise emitted by those who would put us down in an effort to build themselves up. To understand why people are mean and learn how to blow it off.

The reality is, no matter what we do as a society, there are going to be assholes. Hell, as a dear friend and mentor once taught me, on any given day we have the potential to be that asshole. There are going to be jealous, insecure idiots who will do whatever they can to push down the strong willed and those different than images-6them. When they attack we need to know how to handle it and brush it off. To recognize that typically these people need bigger hugs than we do and buying into their ignorance is giving them too much credit.

That takes practice and it takes a support system teaching us that the actions of the mean are irrelavent and nothing more than a cry for help from someone much weaker than ourselves. They are actually a sign that the potential strength they see in us is a threat, one they don’t know how to deal with so they choose to spew hatred. I honestly believe bullying has more to do with fear than it does hatred. We fear those who pose a threat and tend to become defensive. Some take it to extremes with relentless taunts, facebook posts, threats, verbal torture and worse.

My point to this post is simple. I’m concerned that too much focus is on teaching kids not to bully and not enough on giving kids the tools to deal with being bullied. As much as we need to let kids know how important it is to accept each other and respect each other for our differences, we also need to teach our kids the value of having a tough skin. To learn to deal with adversity and defeat. To pick themselves back up when they fail or someone hurts them. This doesn’t mean giving everyone a trophy to build up their self esteem. Quite the contrary. It means recognizing those teaching opportunities. The strikeout, the D-, not making the team, being called fat or skinny; singled out because of race or sexual orientation or for wearing the wrong shirt to school. These are all precursors to the struggles that await them as adults. Their childhood is a pre-season of sorts. And it’s our job to coach them through it to prepare for the big game. From pre-school to middle school to high school, each instance is a chance to learn how to deal with struggles and find the inner strength to over come them. (Please don’t wait until high school to start.)

YES! We need to help kids understand the impact of their teasing, and bullying. But there are always going to be those who bully because they already KNOW the affects of their actions. It’s why they do it! They want to inflict pain. They want to knock you down. That’s their goal. The more you point out to them that their actions hurt, the more you’re going to encourage them because they WANT to hurt.

My hope is that we as a society not only teach our youth the power of their words and actions, but that we also strive to raise a generation of emotionally strong, self confident young people who recognize that people who hate are afraid. Afraid of your strength. That sometimes the only way they know how to build themselves up is to take you down a notch. We need to raise a generation of kids who know how amazing they are to the point that even the harshest attacks will leave nothing more than a scratch. When I shoved the kid into the chalk board, we were BOTH sent to the principle’s office. I was told that while the other kid’s actions were unacceptable, how I responded to them was as bad if 314239679x356not worse. That violence isn’t the answer. When I got back to the classroom my teacher told me the same thing and told me that I was “bigger” than that. And she was right.

Your kids are going to be told throughout their lives that they aren’t good enough, that their thoughts are wrong and will feel at times like they don’t belong. They’re not going to gel with everyone they meet. We need to teach them that just because someone thinks they can’t sing doesn’t mean they should stop singing. In fact, we should teach them to sing louder so that more people hear them. Because I promise you, there is someone out there who will think they sing like an angel. Teach them to just walk past the ones who don’t and keep looking for those that do.

So what can we do? For starters let kids know they’re not alone. Show them that they have someone else they can talk to who may be going through the same thing. The Our Place Network is a great example. Young kids talking to young kids, monitored by an adult. There’s even a weekly podcast that goes along with it where kids can call in with questions or stories and get input from other kids their age as well as non-judging adults.

Yes, teach your kids to be sensitive. Yes, coach them to be supportive when someone stumbles. But at the same time educate them to know how to pick themselves back up when they themselves stumble and there isn’t anyone around to help them. Because it will happen. They will be picked on, they will be teased, they may even be bullied and feel like the world is against them. Give them the tools and the inner strength to battle through those moments, brush themselves off and be there to help the next guy.

 

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