Ringing In The New Year – Let’s Learn to Thrive Not Just Survive

Invisible Edited

So we’ve made it through another round of holidays and another year of co-parenting (or any parenting for that matter).  You should totally be high fiving yourself right now…I know I am.  Some days, when the kids are fed and alive by bedtime (even if not clean), I consider it a success.  If they are bathed, ate something resembling a vegetable, and didn’t look homeless when they left the house, I feel like the fucking master.  I’ve learned that much of parenting is simply survival.

Now, as we move into a new year, we reflect on the past as well as look forward.  My goal for you this year is not simply to survive, but to thrive.  Now, I am by no means telling you to start baking your own bread, going on an all kale diet, ironing underpants, and cutting out sugar/gluten/alcohol (God forbid)/red meat or whatever else people get on kicks about to feel better.  No one actually keeps all that shit up (at least not for long).  I’m not saying these are bad ideas, but this is not what I mean by thriving.  Here are some examples:

  1. Do one thing every day for you.  I know, I know, but I’m a selfless parent and even if I wasn’t, where would I get the damn time?  Everyone has time for what is important to them.  Make yourself important to you, and make the time.  You may think your priority is your kids but if you work 60+ hours per week, they aren’t.  Look at how you spend the majority your time and that will tell you what you are making important and who you are making feel important (or unimportant).  You are a person with feelings.  Everyone in the house is happier when the person in charge is.  Learning self-care is a valuable skill (and I do mean a skill to be honed) that needs to be learned by every person, but for people raising people, it is a must.
  2. Listen to your children.  Children are people and they want to be heard too.  You will be amazed at how the bullshit declines when they don’t feel like they have to be little assholes to be seen and heard.
  3. Learn balance.  Yeah, I don’t have it either but I work on it every single day.  For every task you do for your kids, do one for you, one for your spouse (if applicable), one for work, etc.  Learn to put everyone on your to do list (see #1 – yes you too).
  4. Remember to enjoy your children.  I know this may seem like a no-brainer but I see too many parents panicking over cooking/cleaning/did I remember their vitamins?/why-the-fuck-did-I-agree-to-bake-9-dozen-cookies-for-that-bitch-who-runs-the-bake-sale?/dammit he needed a purple shit for school today/I forgot to buy dog food and now I’ll have to feed the cat to the dog….the list goes on.  STOP.  Your children are growing up so quick that while you are freaking out, YOU ARE MISSING IT.
  5. Drink because you want to, not because you have to.  Cultivate an environment that is filled with laughter and fun.  If this sounds like I’m living in Oz then take a step back and see what needs to change so you don’t dread getting out of bed in the morning.  Is it work?  Quit.  Is it your ex?  Put up firm boundaries.  Are your kids acting like dicks?  Learn another form of discipline.  Too busy?  Learn to say “no”, and remember that just because your phone is ringing does not mean you have to answer it.

Go easy on yourself this year.  People spend too much time beating up themselves and others.  There is enough bullshit to go around and no one is perfect.  Much of parenting is survival.  This year, make it a point to thrive.  That doesn’t mean work out, eat better, get more sleep, etc.  Unless that’s actually what you want.  Seek happiness, not perfection this year.

I “Merry Christmas” The Shit Out Of You!

Happy Holidays Edited

I “Merry Christmas” the shit out of all of you.  Not because I don’t care what your holiday of origin/choice is; I really do.  It’s just because it’s how I was raised.  I also love Easter, not the “Jesus rose from the dead” bunny, because that’s just weird.  I like Christmas trees, not “happy birthday, Jesus plants”.  I just want you to enjoy your holiday and not get mad because I don’t know what you celebrate (there’s only so much space in my head for information, guys).

If you’ve noticed, political correctness is lost on me.  Why?  Because it wouldn’t occur to me to look down on someone based on their appearance, color, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and so forth, so remembering that people might think I’m being insensitive is new to me.  OK, let me rephrase, me being insensitive is not new, just how people interpret it is.  People are so touchy these days…..

I try to remember but the truth is….I just like people.  I think they are flawed and messed up and I get that (and I secretly enjoy it because it means I’m not alone).  I think people are too hard on themselves and each other.  I don’t expect people to know my affiliation any more than I am going to remember that you’re a circle-completing-cat-sacrificing-whatever-you-call-it.  I hear you, and I respect it, but truth is, I’m not going to remember.  I barely remembered to put on pants before leaving the house this morning.  Shit, I didn’t remember, now I have to go home for pants.

The important thing is, it’s the holidays.  Whatever holiday you are celebrating, this is the time to enjoy your family, not the time to put on your sassy pants.  More importantly, it is the time for your children to learn about your holiday traditions, religious or otherwise.  I used to think that being a kid on Christmas was the best thing ever, (this was quickly remedied by constantly getting socks and underwear for Christmas).  Now, I know that having kids on Christmas is way better.

My girls get so excited about things.  I wish I was that excited about ANYTHING.  Seeing their faces on Christmas morning (whenever we celebrate it), makes all the overtime and swing set assembly worth it.  Making my girls smile is so important to me.  It doesn’t matter what day we celebrate, as long as we are together, it can be whatever day we choose.  Don’t let anyone tell you that one day on the calendar is superior to another.  It’s not when you celebrate, but how.

My girls’ father just told me they are getting a BB gun and a 4-wheeler for Christmas from my ex-in-laws to play with on their new property.  It’s like they read the, “kids can hurt themselves with these, buy them for Christmas” catalog.  But really, it’s not my place and that’s the job of grandparents.  To buy them crap and feed them shit you, as a parent, wouldn’t.  With their dad and grandfather present, they are not going to get hurt….much, (I will not miss an opportunity to say “you’ll shoot your eye out”, though).  So, I let it go and let them have fun with family, who enrich their lives.  That’s what the holidays are about.  Tolerance, confidence, and togetherness.  Whatever that means for your family.

No holiday is perfect.  Remember that they are happy to spend time with you and your holiday counts.  Stop worrying what others think/post, and remember that you know what is best for your kids.  Your holiday of choice is going to be great.  Why?  Because you adore your children, you’ve worked hard to make it nice for them, and they love you unconditionally.  Have a wonderful holiday, enjoy your children, and when they head to the other’s parent’s holiday celebration and you are worried that it may be better….drink wine and remember that they love you equally.

Religion and Co-Parenting

Right Wrong Edited

Along with some other fascinating demands (yet outside the jurisdiction of the court – that whole separation of church and state thing), of divorced parents, is attempting to force the other parent to observe their religion, in the other home.  Hopefully we are seeing a pattern here that you do not control what goes on in the other parents’ home even when your children are there.  I completely understand that religion is a touchy subject and I await the flood of emails once I hit “Publish”.  But, some things must be addressed.

If you are a religious person, and you want to raise your child in your religion, you have every right to do so.  Your ex cannot tell you that you cannot take your child to church and raise your child in your religion, during your visitation.  It is your right as that child’s parent to teach your child about your religion.  That being said, NO, that does not mean that you get to show up on their doorstep and take the child on their days.  If a church event falls on the other parent’s visitation day, your child will not be allowed to attend without their permission.  This is where it is prudent for everyone to play nice.  It also does not mean that the other parent is required to observe said religion that you have chosen in their home.

If you are a non-religious person, that’s perfectly fine too.  You do not have to teach your child about God and organized religion.  This does not make you a bad parent, and you are perfectly capable of teaching right and wrong, without the fear of God and/or hell, as backup.  That being said, do not assume you are right.  Atheists are just as annoying as religious zealots.  Remember, as Mark Maron says, “there are no atheist soup kitchens”.  If your ex is trying to teach your children not to steal, kill, rape, pillage, etc., these aren’t bad lessons and they are not hurting anyone, so just stop.

Neither side will know who is right until we are all too dead to gloat, so stop competing.  

The trickiest situation is when each parent believes in a different religion altogether.  This is more difficult because you feel strongly that yours is accurate.  You really feel as if you are fighting for your child’s soul here, which is decidedly worth fighting for.  I get it.  But…yes, there’s a but.  You two don’t agree on things, that’s why you’re divorced.  I know this seems obvious, but I keep coming back to it because parents forget this.  Take a step back, do your part just like you do in every other area of your child’s life, and remember that what your ex does, or teaches in their home is none of your business.  Also, (and I know you don’t want to hear this, but it needs to be said), I don’t know any religion that condones divorce (correct me if I’m wrong).  If you two are so darn religious that you are at each other’s throats about it, how did you end up divorced?  Shouldn’t you be off building schools in Africa and flagellating yourself?  Exactly, you don’t get to be religious when it’s convenient.  It makes the rest of us look bad.  Stop it.

Your child will have questions when they receive conflicting information.  Use this as an opportunity to teach tolerance.  Many people believe many things.  That they should listen to everyone’s different beliefs because you can take something away from each person and their relationship with God, or lack there of, for that matter.

At the end of the day, you need to be honest with yourself.  Do not use religion as something to fight about (historically this fails *sweeps Spanish Inquisition under the rug*), because you like power struggles with your ex.  In the end, your child is going to grow up and decide for themselves.  You do your own thing, in your home, and the rest will fall into place.

Some People Are Never Going To Get It And That’s OK

 

Death Row Edited

There is a challenge of co-parenting that not many of us speak of.  It is the pressure from friends and family who are not divorced.  You see, society as a whole pushes marriage, the sanctity of marriage, the nuclear family, and so forth.  It’s clearly not working since more than half the population is divorced.  However, despite the fact that we are in the majority, we sit quietly and feel appropriately ashamed while the marriage and parenting experts show us failures how it’s done.

Everyone knows I am all about personal responsibility.  I do not think it is in any way your friends of family’s job to keep track of your visitation schedule.  Hell, I remind my girls’ father.  I hardly expect extended family and a random parent of a school friend to remember.  There will be times however, that it will become frustrating and I mean stuff-them-in-your-trunk-when-no-one’s-watching-and-enjoy-their-screams, frustrating.  Your friends and family are not always going to understand, even when they pretend they do.  Or my personal favorite when they say the appropriate words, while their body language and every action they take before or since says the exact opposite.

If you have your children every other weekend, which is standard, no matter who the primary time-sharing parent is, you only have your children 4 free days per month.  God forbid they play a sport or anything that requires scheduling on those days because that makes it even harder.  Summers are split with their other parent, which means that what may, on paper, look like 10 weeks quickly turns into 5.  Then you account for preparing again for the new school year, summer camps, and each person you promised to spend time with gets to see your kids for like….30 seconds.

The joy of having to explain several years post-divorce that if I have the kids this weekend, no, I don’t have them next weekend.  We’ve only done every other weekend for freaking years.  This, is never fun and happens all the time.

There are going to be other challenges as well.  Parents who are not in the same situation offer parenting advice that is impossible when the children are not with you full-time.  Additionally, they offer advice that I can only assume they heard 15 years ago on bad daytime television, because it simply doesn’t apply here on earth with our current legal system.  A reader actually told me she was told, “Well, just make their dad institute all the same rules at his house.”  If she had that kind of control, or he listened and executed that well, don’t you think they’d still be married?  Other fun ones:

  1. “Just go tell the Judge he fed them McDonald’s.  Poor nutrition is abuse.” – This is a whole other rant for me, but drive thru is NOT abuse.  Abuse is a terrible thing and the word should not be thrown around.
  2. “She/he should never be allowed to have a babysitter and should schedule everything when the kids are with the other parent.” – I agree if you have a free babysitter (other parent) every other week or weekend and it’s excessive, it’s a concern.  Seriously, if you have to “party” every weekend, maybe kids aren’t for you.  But sometimes, the other parent isn’t available and things come up.  If the children are provided for, stay the hell out of it.
  3. “Demand that the agreement say he cannot have women over when he has the kids.”  – The court has no jurisdiction over whom a grown adult allows into his or her home.  Also, if you agree to this, it goes both ways.  Are you planning on never dating again?
  4. “You’re the mom so you know best.” – No one, including the court, believes that a vagina makes you a superior parent.  You may very well be, but it’s not the lack of a penis that does it.
  5. Alternately, “Dads can provide better for their children so they should have custody.” – Though this is not always the case, many men make more because while their wives were birthing and raising children, they were putting in valuable years of work experience while she now has a hole in her resume.  On the flip side, many women smoke their male counterparts in the income department.  Financial success does not make you a good parent.

I’m sure there are many other fun examples that are eluding me now, but you get the picture.  Do what works best for your family.  Listen to your attorney if it is a legal issue (not your next door neighbor in the curlers) and most importantly, be reasonable!  As for friends and family who do not understand, there will be some that are never going to get it and that’s alright.  You’ve got this.  You are the best person to care for your kids and while you may want to stuff them in your trunk, it’s hard to be an involved parent from jail.  Also, when they complain about paying a babysitter, you can snicker quietly about how the you have free babysitting every other weekend and get to spend “babysitter” money on wine!