Respecting ALL Parents

Stitch Edited

“This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good.”

~Stitch

I am a complete dork because I cry every time I watch this scene.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, Stitch finally realizes that he has found his family.  Despite its small size and its societal “brokenness”, he is happy.

We too can learn something from this little, but fierce cartoon alien.  We are often told how families are supposed to work and how they are supposed to look.  Well, life doesn’t give us little gift wrapped family units anymore than a stork dropped off our clean, swaddled infants like in the movie, Dumbo.  Wouldn’t that be convenient?

I was once a step-mother.  While it had its challenges, her mother, was the biggest challenge.  Everything my ex and I did was wrong and she would constantly tell us how to take care of “her daughter”.  I was even called and giving bathing instructions…..for a 2 year-old….who could swim.  I promised myself that if I EVER ended up on the other end of this relationship, I would treat my child(ren)’s step-mother with respect.

My ex is now remarried.  The girls have 3 parents and they are “our” children not “my” children.  Last time I checked, they are not in fact, the immaculate conception so they were never just “my” children.  Moreover, I completely agree that it takes a village and I love that the girls have more people who love them.

Each of us offers something.  Each of us love them unconditionally.  They have a parent for every need.  While they may go to one for one thing, they may prefer another for something else.  Remember that loving someone else does not diminish your position as their parent nor their capacity to love you.

With this marriage comes extended family as well.  As someone who doesn’t have a ton of family to offer, the girls suddenly getting another set of grandparents was a wonderful addition.  As we say often in this house, family is family no matter how you come by it.

As parents, we often forget that your children have a relationship with others outside of their relationship with you.  We forget that they can love more people and still love you.  We forget that we all need a break and having 2-4 parents is far better than playing the martyr.  Respect all the parents in your child(ren)’s lives because parenting is hard and they all sure as hell deserve it.

Just Let It Go

Maxfield-Parrish-Ecstasy

I am NEVER going to tell you not to let it in or just don’t let it bother you.  People can be assholes and while I agree that there are more students than yogis, I’m not zen enough to simply not let people’s bad behavior bother me.

You are allowed to have your rant, let it all out, and get mad.  Bitch about it and scream into your pillow.  Call your best friend and discuss what so-and-so did, why they are a jerk, and how their mommy dresses them funny.  Have too much ice cream and use language that would make your grandmother cringe.  Feel it and express it, but then you have to learn to let it go.

“Holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.”  ~Buddha

The people around you are going to hurt you.  People do shitty things because they are insecure, because they want to feel important, because they don’t know any better, and because they legitimately want to hurt you sometimes.  They demonstrate bad behavior for so many reasons.  Please, allow me to validate you here….You have every right to get mad about it, to allow it to hurt your feelings, and wish the circumstances were different.

That being said, staying angry only hurts you.  Anger will rot you faster than cancer.  They are not the ones losing sleep at night being upset.  They are not using their limited amount of time and energy to dwell on the situation.  You have a limited amount of time and energy with which to spend and expend on this planet.  Only you choose how you spend it.

Whether you are holding onto your children too tight and need to relinquish the worry and control (which is only an illusion anyway).  Whether you need to move on from a past hurt.  Whether you are holding out for your ex to finally understand you.  Whether you need to release yourself from a relationship that is crushing your spirit (we are little old for frenemies, guys).  No matter what you are holding onto, you need to let it go.  You are only hurting yourself and who the hell has time for that anyway?

People Don’t Change, Except When They Do….

People Change Edited

Some say that people don’t change.  Some say you can do anything you put your mind to and people can change if they really want to.  So which is true?

Both.

The person someone is, at their core, doesn’t change.  Some things are simply set.  However, as people experience life and survive struggles, their outlook changes and they learn different coping mechanisms (some good, some….not so much).

As parents we learn that our children change in some ways, but not others.  My oldest has always been the most fearless person I know.  My youngest is cautious and thinks things through.  The fussy baby in need of constant stimulation is still ridiculously active.  The one who played with her feet for hours in the infant swing, still prefers to be alone and do her own thing.  Most parents call bullshit on tabula rasa once you have more than one child and realize that you did the same crap and they are completely different.  These things will remain because they have been this way since they were born.  On the other hand, my oldest who once loved everything pink now chooses blue because “pink is a baby color, mom”.  My youngest has learned to make people laugh when they are mad at her (which makes discipline a challenge), instead of crying.  When we are dealing with adults though, we forget that they change too.

I am often surprised by my ex.  The man I knew who survived on Skittles and Dr. Pepper and who considered exercise to be the hand movements necessary to play video games, suddenly shuns carbs, runs, cycles, and consumes sushi?  I don’t know why I’m surprised, I’ve changed as well.

For various reasons during my formative years (I will not bore you with the details), I developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms.  My sister and I were constantly thrown curve balls (generally in the form of a screaming parent that you had no idea you upset).  As a result, I learned to plan ahead of time for everything (even insignificant things), to try to gain control and head off problems.  In addition to this neurotic habit, the younger version of me didn’t like rocking the boat.  I would hold things in until I lost…my…shit.  This left the recipient assuming I was having a bad day instead of an understanding that they had been an asshole for an extended period.  So I ended up with a reputation for having a bad temper while they were left confused because of all the times I had said nothing.  Wasn’t that nice of me?  No.  I wasn’t giving them an opportunity to change the behavior.  Keeping shit in while planning every moment of your life is a horrible combination.

These things are rarely an issue now.  Sure, I have my mental health lapses, but these are cured with deep breathing and wine (sometimes it requires more wine than breathing).  I am now more direct and explain what I need before I’m ready to twist someone’s head off.  While I still plan events in advance (mostly because I’m responsible for juggling several people and their associated responsibilities), I’m no longer as frazzled when plans change.

This isn’t because I reached some magical state of enlightenment.  It’s because my life is different.  My kids are older (I really don’t miss wiping butts), I enjoy my work, I’ve earned my degrees, I have more stable friendships, etc.

I didn’t always handle things well and therefore people who have known me prior to these changes rely on what they used to know about me.  When childcare falls through and the girls suddenly need to go to day-camp at the rate of $140 per day, my ex will assume it’s my need to plan or that I’m freaking out.  When I say, “I need to budget because I don’t have the funds to not plan for these expenses”, I mean just that.  I’m saying what I need, and why.  It’s not because I always have to plan.  It’s because I have to budget as well as make transportation arrangements, because I don’t want to get shit-canned by my job.  I’m being direct so this doesn’t keep happening (which eventually leads to an explosion).  I cannot work with this, means just that.  It does not mean I’m having a panic attack over it or blaming anyone.

When dealing with your ex (or anyone for that matter), don’t assume you know them.  People actually do adjust their coping mechanisms and their outlook.  I know it’s hard but when your ex speaks to you, simply listen to the words and remember you don’t know them like you did.  Even if they haven’t changed, the dynamic has.  The other thing to remember….if you understood them so well, you probably wouldn’t be divorced.  Take a deep breath, take things at face value, and remember that people change.

Nothing Has Gone Wrong Yet This Year!

I hope each of you had a fun New Year’s Eve and no one ended up vomiting excessively or slipping in someone else’s urine (I say this because I almost ate it coming down a urine soaked staircase leaving a club….classy).  Today is by far my favorite day of the entire year.  It’s so full of promise.  This year is perfect so far!  Nothing has gone wrong yet!

Whatever happened last year is done and gone.  We move forward to a year that has the potential to be a wonderful year or at the very least, be better than the last.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore.  The average person keeps a New Year’s Resolution for 120 days.  Me, I eat one salad, hop on the scale, see no change, and decide to order a pizza (and cheesecake).  My resolutions last about 47 seconds.  It’s a waste of notebook paper to record them and dangerous for the annoying people who keep asking me what my New Year’s Resolution is this year.

I do however take stock of the previous year and decide what serves me and what doesn’t.   As I do this recap, I think of my successes and know not to be stupid enough to be smug.  Why?  Because right after that, I review my failures.  No sugar-coating, no embellishments, just what I screwed up.  I actually out loud, exclaim “Ug!” at my stupidity over some of the idiotic things I’ve done and hope to hell I don’t repeat these mistakes.

Learning to let go is a skill most parents need.  Only you can change certain things, only you choose how you react to things, and only you can start being the change you want to see.  I know that’s a lot of “yous” and you are already exhausted.  Take a deep breath….you got this.  Take a nap, have a glass of wine, and review last year’s photos.  I guarantee there was more good than bad, and this year is going to be even better.