Category

Divorce

The Evil Stepmother

By | Daughter, Divorce, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Stepmom | One Comment

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Being a step-mother isn’t all that easy…

…especially if you look to Disney. The words “evil” or “wicked” usually precede your title and you’re more often the problem than the solution. That’s strange when you consider society’s (inaccurate) stereotype  of women possessing the greater ability to nurture or be an active caregiver. You’d think, as women, these ladies would get a break.

The challenge of a stepmother is arguably greater than that of the children’s mother or father. They not only have to navigate the relationship waters with their spouse (which comes with built-in emotional baggage – the kind that doesn’t fly for free) but they also take part in the children’s education, religion, discipline, and a myriad of other parental prospects without ever having the option to fall back on the “it’s my kid, that’s why” safety net.

Then there’s the children’s biological parent.

Sometimes an ideal situation of cooperation arises as is the case between this mother and stepmom. It’s something to which we should all aspire. But all too often the relationship is caustic and combative with petty jealousy and insecurities overriding the parental purpose of putting the child’s needs first. Alienation through words or actions do nothing but satisfy adult egos and often end up harming the child. Stepmoms can be unfairly viewed and treated as competition instead of co-parents.

If you are part of a family dynamic that includes a spouse that has vowed to not only love you but your children as much as they do (or would) their own, take an extra moment to appreciate what they have decided to do. Could you do the same? Do you do the same?

Purposeful parenting is a lifelong hill to climb with many tough, life-altering choices to be made. The women who decide to help make those choices for children that aren’t biologically their own should be honored. It takes a special kind of person to be that type of stepmom.

While the official National Stepmothers’ Day isn’t until May of this year, I hope you’ll join me in paying respect where it is due.

T.

Fatherhood Half-Life

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Divorce, Fathers and Daughters, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Relationships | No Comments

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While the term half-life is normally used when talking about nuclear physics or nuclear chemistry (not to mention a pretty sweet video game), it can also be used in a different way when applied to the nuclear family, especially when it comes to fatherhood.

Imagine this.

At a random point in your young adult life someone hands you an envelope with some shocking information.

The message is simple. Starting today you will only receive half of the life you would have normally lived.

That would probably change your life.

What you consider most important may become doubly so. Your priorities would suddenly stand out in stark contrast to time spent on less important things.

So it is for many divorced Dads. Their “fatherhood half life” begins with a divorce and a custody battle. And with most, half is an all too rare “best case” scenario.

From the moment she was born, I placed time with my daughter as a top priority. I like to think the D in my DNA stands for Daddy.  I was lucky enough to be self-employed from home the first year of her life and then to land an extremely flexible job that let me keep my priorities and promises intact. Then, divorce…and those promises got a lot harder.

I’m no time management wizard. There are numerous examples of how I’ve wasted time on things that held no real value. But fatherhood isn’t one of those things. It never will be.

My situation has my daughter living hundreds of miles away. I’m not afforded the same conveniences of many divorced parents. It’s high conflict but it has taught me many things about myself and my faith.

So when I hear about parents wanting to “take a break” from the kids, I wince.  You don’t know what you have. Dad up and recognize the benefits of your sacrifices.

Every time a new theater or dance camp opportunity comes up that we have to take a pass on because she won’t be here, I grimace. Someone else’s decisions are affecting her opportunities.

Would I act differently if she was with me every day? I don’t see why. Why wouldn’t I want to spend as much time as possible with the one of the most important people in my life?

Promotions, money, more stuff…keep ‘em. I’ll take time. You should do the same.

The fading (but not fast enough) standard of a divorced father being awarded every other weekend and half the summer is an insult, not just to the involved Dads but to the decades of studies that have shown how important a his relationship with his kids is. Those aren’t my words, it is scientific fact.

If you find yourself in a situation like mine, don’t give up. Fight for your rights as a father. Stay true to her.  If you get to see your girl every day, make it count.  It’s more important than you may know.

My girl and I have done a whole lot of living in our four short years together, whether it was on a daily basis or just half. One thing is certain. Our “half-life” is still very full of love.

If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites? It’s OK to Say Goodbye to Saturday Morning Cartoons, My Guppy,  My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series

Todd


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It’s OK to Say Goodbye to Saturday Morning Cartoons

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Fathers and Daughters, Growing Up, Memories, Parenting, Quality Time, Technology, Toddlers | No Comments

bugs bunnyLike other kids of my generation, Saturday morning was Shangri-La. We had a respite from the crazed world of learning math or doing chores. We had our Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was incredible.

Bugs and his Looney Tunes pals rocked.

Rocky and Bullwinkle rocked.

Schoolhouse Rock …well, you know.

(The Tick ‘Spoooooooned’)

With the roof of my mouth barely healed from last week’s shredding from sugary cereal, I would bravely refill my bowl and the Cap’n and I would head off for some quality time.

But earlier this week I learned that the cable channel CW was the last ship to set sail on the showing of the animated awesomeness that was our kids’ God-given right to punch out from reality.

And that’s ok.

You may think it strange for me to say I’m glad my daughter lives in an “on demand” world but in some ways I completely am. I’m rooting for it.

When I have her, my “Saturday mornings” (and hopefully this is how she’ll recall them, too) consist of going all out for breakfast with Daddy’s cinnamon pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit. We find crafts to do or practice reading and writing. If it’s summer, maybe we get some pool time in. How much can we do together? What cool memories are going to be made today? How much more can I love you?

Why would I want her to check out? Screen time is a last resort in our house.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want her to know who Mickey Mouse is. For the record, there’s a Mickey Mouse short about Minnie putting on too much perfume that is reigning supreme in the iPad’s replay numbers.

I just don’t mind the fact that we can decide when and for how long that time is.

I do the same thing with my “House of Cards” or “Walking Dead” fixes. I watch them at a time we don’t spend together or she’s in bed. Thank you, Netflix and DVR. I can be a present parent and still get to watch my favorite shows. Win/win.

So why shouldn’t she get the same entitlement to convenience? I don’t think being able to watch her shows at a whim will turn her into an entitled citizen, expecting the same treatment from everything in her life. We figured it out pretty quickly, she will too.

Plus it frees up time for her to “be” in the room. You remember that blank stare we all had as kids. Our folks had to say our name 4 times before we snapped away from the boob tube.

So, goodbye Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was fun. It really was.

You’ve gone the way of the VCR and Atari.

Parting is somewhat-sweet sorrow…maybe more than I care to admit.

That’s your cue, Porky.


If you like this, maybe you’ll like some of my other favorites? My Guppy,  My New Morning Show,  Men Suck… , The Wonder of a Weed, and the G-Talk series


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The Civil(ity) War

By | Custody, Daddy, Daughter, Divorce, Fathers and Daughters, Parenting, Relationships, Teenager, Tips, Toddlers | 2 Comments

shutterstock_124904687-300x200There are two types of divorce – ugly and really, really ugly. (I should amend that statement since I have met one other person whose divorce was unbelievably amicable. But it didn’t involve children).

Truth be told, you haven’t learned the true meaning of compromise until you have dealt with a lawyer and the words “custody battle”.

Fostering a relationship between Grace and my ex is my job and one that I do not only because it is required of me but also for the fact that it’s in Grace’s best interest.  So I’ll stick to the high road.

Is it difficult? You have no idea. Does it take nearly every ounce of resolve at times to let certain actions wash over me and not let them affect who I am or what I do? Ask my stomach. It hates me sometimes.

But someday Grace will be old enough to discern for herself who her parents are as people and question their actions.  When that day comes I want her to be able to look at me with respect and approval. And some (other) day I’ll be “old enough” to be standing in front of an even bigger Judge and I’ll want the same look from Him.

So this is for you Dads out there who might have been handed the short, spiky end of the stick.

If you’re frustrated trying to be logical with those who have no use for logic, or if you’re dealing with someone who makes a living in the gray areas between right and wrong, or maybe it’s something as basic as not sharing a set of values or priorities. Whatever it is for you, hang in there.

What matters is to know, really know, who you are as a father and to be able to show that to your daughter in whatever capacity you are given – even if that capacity isn’t what you deserve.

Fight for your rights. Stand up for who you are as a father. Hang on with tooth and nail and spend every last dollar you’ll ever earn to defend your relationship with your daughter.

For some, the struggle to stay civil may last longer than the actual Civil War. So feel free to check back to this post when times get tough. You’re a good Dad. You love your daughter. Dad up and show her what it means to live with integrity.

T


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Always No One There To Remind Me

By | Conversations, Daddy, Daughter, Divorce, Fathers and Daughters, Memories, Quality Time, Toddlers | One Comment

WikineI live a dual existence. And no, I’m not Batman.

One life involves (and centers around) a three-foot bundle of beautiful energy that rivals the air that I breathe. The other life is a more work-centric, but freer existence of popping here or there whenever I need/want.

But there’s no denying this simple fact.

The latter is just a constant reminder of how much better the former really is.

So it is for me and millions of other men who love their children with abandon but are divorced and don’t get to see them every day.

I opened the door to my home tonight and was once again struck by the sense of loss. It’s a weekly calling card of being temporarily childless.

Say what you want about having kids, but be certain of this: Becoming a father changes you on a molecular level. The D in DNA stands for Daddy. While some may cherish the reprieve from the responsibilities of child rearing, I’m not one of them.

No matter the number of framed photos on my walls, the numerous glances at a fridge covered with toddler art, or the recorded videos watched on my iPhone, she’s just not here.

Grace has been an absolute dream child about the situation. Almost every handoff between me and my ex has been smooth as she says goodbye to one and hugs the other. It’s mostly all that she’s ever known.

When she asks about it, I say “Mommy and Daddy both share time with you. We both love you very much but we have to share because it’s important that we both see you.” To be honest, I am sometimes convincing myself more than her. Learning to share as an adult can be tougher than teaching it to a toddler.

I can only imagine how magnified it is for fathers with more than one child.

Since I’m partially quoting an 80’s song for the title of this blog, I may as well also admit that I would sometimes crank up Paul Young’s “Every Time You Go Away” when driving back home.

If that sounds like what a brokenhearted teenager would do by injecting more meaning into pop songs after a breakup…well…it’s kind of like that. No one likes to say goodbye to the ones they love…even for a little bit. And every time she goes away, she does take a piece of me with her.

I know I’m blessed. I see my daughter more than many other Dads. My job gives me an incredible amount of flexibility to spend even more time with her when she is with me. I was even self-employed her entire first year of life and fed, cleaned, sang, and rocked her to sleep more times than anyone she’s known.

But it will never be what I had thought our life would be. The good news is that I have been able to adjust and accept the new reality of half the time I was expecting. I don’t want to complain.  I just needed an outlet to mindfully express what I’m assuming other divorced fathers are feeling also. I’m sad. It happens every week. Someone told me that that was what blogs are for – to speak in your voice.

I’ll keep my chin up and tell myself that she knows how much her Daddy loves her and that I’ll see her or talk to her every day until I get to hug and kiss her again.

And until the next game of “upside down girl” or “underdog” swing, the next duet of “Down By The Bay”, or the next  shared milkshake, I’ll remember that she’s only a few days away.

I’ll rely on my faith, excellent friends, and family…

… and I’ll try to avoid the retro radio.

T.


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