Communication In Lieu Of Resentment

Communication Crowd

Communication can be a pain. Imagine you need something or have to make a decision for your child.  Whether you have to choose a doctor, agree on an extracurricular activity, make a medical decision, decide on which school to send them to, whether you should buy them a pony so they like you better, whatever it is….

Now imagine that your child has one to three other parents, and you have to discuss every decision with this overwhelming crowd of people.  The correct, legal, moral, non-dick move is to include them all in decisions and come to an agreement among two to four people. Now imagine that you have done the research, gone to whatever tours, appointments, orientations, etc., which no other parent attends, and yet they all get to weigh in.  Worse, they can suddenly decide they no longer want to switch visitation, allow an activity, or transport during their visitation. Now, you’ve wasted your time doing the research only to be outvoted because one to three others decided they no longer want to do it. This is especially infuriating after being asked to “look into it,” and when every reason given could have ruled it out prior to the research and legwork.

This happens to so many co-parents.  It is incredibly frustrating when one parent has spent time researching an extracurricular activity — that you’ve all agreed upon — and after all the research is done, the parent is told that another parent doesn’t have time to <insert excuse>.  Further, they are told that they are welcome to pay for it and do all the driving if they want to enroll the child.  The child of course, who they’ve already said yes to, because everyone agreed prior, is now super excited — and your head wants to explode.  When I go to doctor’s appointments and then have to give a full report to one to three people who were too busy to come, but still they argue about what tests to agree to and get annoyed about questions I should have asked, I restrain myself from saying, “you could have come!”

Flames, flames on the side of my face….

Flames Communication

I use myself as an example because so many of you say how “zen” I am about our family dynamics.  Usually, that is true, but every now and then…not so much.  I have my freak-outs, and the girls’ dad handles many gracefully and comes up with a solution, which makes me less stabby, head explody, throat punchy.  Well, most of the time….

So, what do we do about this?  No, lighting his car on fire is not a viable option (come on ladies, we all know you do that when he cheats on you, and you, my dear, are already divorced).

Basset Car Fire Communication

Here’s the deal…this is painful for me to write because, while pissed, I still have to admit it’s mostly my fault that this happens.  While it sucks that I don’t have help, I also told them, “I’ve got it” or “I’ll let you know how it goes.”  Why should anyone step up if you will do it all for them?  Is it still shitty? Sure.  Mostly, because you end up doing all the work.  Make no mistake, having two to four parents does not split the workload two to four ways.  It often times just means more people to confer with.

Before resentment builds, ask for help.

Tell them what you are planning and say (which I swear I have done), “I’m going to look this up and do the legwork but I need to be sure we agree, because if I waste my time and it’s a flat ‘no’, I will hurt someone.”  Parents (especially moms) feel the need to “do it all.”  Doing it all means resentment and burnout.  Being overwhelmed isn’t failure, it’s recognizing you need to reevaluate your priorities.  

Alternately, you can split up the workload.  I make my own schedule, so I handle appointments that are scheduled in advance.  Their step-mother has offered to take them on some days off and split up the amount of work missed.  Their dad researched the last extra-curricular, because I was getting overwhelmed.  All three of us rotate when a kid is sick so none of us are missing too much work.  Is this easy to work out?  Hell no.  It also means you have to communicate.  I know communication with your ex and/or their new spouse can be tough, but the tone of your relationship depends on it.  That tone bleeds over to the sidelines at a game, or awkwardness at a school function, which isn’t fair to your children.

Every time you must have one of these discussions, have a glass of wine first, take a deep breath, and discuss calmly.  Be honest because open and honest communication is just as essential to co-parenting as it is to anything else.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told my ex, “between the girls, work, and the house, I just don’t have time to figure out ____________”, and he picks it up.  Come on, if people can be “sister wives,” we should be able to figure out football practice.

Whether It’s Sex Or Visitation, Withholding Is A Bad Plan

JUSTICE EDITED

Whether it’s sex or visitation, withholding is a bad plan.  Why? Because, neither should be used as a tool to control another person.  Withholding almost always has a negative connotation, and for good reason.  People who withhold usually do so to gain power.

Let’s talk about contracts…I promise, it’s related.  I have to begin by stating that I’m NOT an attorney and you should always check with your lawyer before doing something stupid.  Contracts are something binding between two people.  Breaking the contract results in legal action.  It’s easier if you think of a contract as a law that is only imposed on the people who signed it.

So, you have a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Final Judgment, a Paternity Agreement, etc. (they are called many things but we will call it an “agreement” for our purposes here), with your ex, relating to your divorce and your children.  This usually includes a schedule for visitation and child support.  Understand that a breach of this contract, on either side, can result in a penalty for the person who failed to do their part, according to the agreement.

If you remember nothing, remember this:  just because one party doesn’t follow through with their contractual obligations does not mean you don’t have to.  If he/she doesn’t pay their child support, that does NOT mean that the other has the authority to withhold visitation of their children.

The beauty of child support is that the state regulates and tracks it (always pay it through the state, and if possible, straight from the paycheck to the state).  If they stop paying, the state (at least the state of Florida) will put out a warrant for their arrest.  You don’t have to do anything or file anything with the court.

Remember that contracts are basically laws that only pertain to those who sign it — always make sure to do your part.  If they don’t, they can be held in contempt by the court.  However, if you don’t do yours, then you are both in contempt for each of your individual breaches. Think of it this way, if the guy in front of you is speeding and you are following suit, does the police officer say that only the first person gets the ticket?  Hell no, they pull all your asses over and laugh as they go down the line and ticket you all.  You don’t get to break laws just because someone else does.

Withholding visitation is the fastest way to lose custody/visitation (custody is an outdated term unless DCF is involved).  The courts look at who is the most likely to foster a relationship with the child(ren)’s other parent.  If you are going to cut off your ex, expect the court to intervene.

Does that make your ex less of an asshole?  Of course not.  But I would be remiss if I said to do something that is spiteful, damaging to your children, and can cause you legal strife.  I know it’s a pain, and it takes too long because the courts are bogged down with plenty of asshole exes.  That being said, do it anyway.  Do it right the first time, and you can avoid the bullshit that goes along with the, “he said, she said,” and who should be punished, how much, and for how long.

Keep your nose clean and your head up, and remember that withholding visitation is a bad idea.

Revenge – A Dish Best Served While Pointing and Laughing

PUNISHER

I receive so many emails from readers asking how to get back at their ex.  So many people tell me that while my approach helps, it’s just not enough.  Sometimes you just feel like you need revenge.  I completely agree.  So many quit therapy because their therapist constantly says to, “not let it in.”  Well, why didn’t I think of that?  I didn’t realize it was so easy!  With that in mind, I no longer need you.

I get it, you don’t want to respect their new spouse.  You don’t want to hear from the kids about how great your ex is doing, and how fabulous the new husband or wife is.  How all they do is take them places and buy them things.  Meanwhile, you are left doling out punishments, running to Michael’s praying it doesn’t close because your idiot kid didn’t tell you they had a project due in 30 seconds, and that you can’t afford to buy them all those things because you don’t make as much as their household.  It sucks.

All you do actually want to do is drunk dial them, and tell them where they can stick their social media photos of their last “family vacation,” which depict a family that you are no longer a part of.  You want to slash tires and put Nair into that bitch’s shampoo bottle.  You simultaneously hope he gets fired so he will be less smug, but also realize you cannot survive without the child support. Basically, every time you see her, you hope she trips and does real damage to her stupid face.

I really do get it.  All that said, I love you guys and really don’t want you to get arrested, or worse, lose your kids for doing something you cannot take back.  If you are reading this, then your kids are important to you, and you are trying. Don’t let the assholes get the best of you.  More importantly, don’t give them the satisfaction.

The best way to get back at them, is excel and exude confidence.  

I do not mean to go post endless pictures on Facebook of how “blessed” you are.  In case you don’t know, no one believes that shit.  Simply live your life.  While things are different, and you may miss some things, I would bet money that there are many things you DON’T miss and are glad to be rid of.  You are a viable person, and as the mother or father, you are irreplaceable.

You want to mindfuck your ex and their new significant other?  Walk into a room like you don’t care that they are there.  Wave to acknowledge him/her/them, or even go say, “hello,” if you think you can do it without “accidentally” stomping her foot with your stilettos.  [Sidenote:  Unless you can wear those without falling on your ass (I can’t), do not wear them while trying to look confident.  Many women look like a baby giraffe learning to walk.  This is a bad plan.]  Talk to people you know.  Interact with your kids.  If you don’t know anyone, invite a friend along. That way, you don’t end up feeling like an ass while you’re pretending to look at something on your phone because you have nothing else to occupy you.

Basically, fake it until you make it.

Eventually, and I know it doesn’t feel like it now, you really won’t care. Revenge won’t be a high priority anymore. You will go say, “hi,” because why not?  They are just some other people you know at this event.  You will chat with friends without constantly checking to see if he/she/they are looking at you.  You won’t care because this is another chapter of your life, and it’s OK that it doesn’t include them.  You will be confident, and it won’t be an act anymore.  You will laugh when they are petty or overly concerned with what you are doing.  You will be amused when they do something stupid, and the kids report back a less than perfect outlook (which you will never let your kids know you think is amusing).  Am I saying to revel in someone else’s pain?  Of course not!

OK, maybe a little….

Without Love, It Takes More Effort – Do It Anyway

2015-07-12 19.34.28

Marriage is hard.  Raising children is hard.  Without love, it’s even harder.

This may seem like an obvious statement.  However, many forget this and wonder why everything has to be such a big deal, why everything requires so much damn communication, and why it’s just so damn hard.  It’s because you aren’t in love anymore.  Concessions you used to give each other are no longer present, and flaws that used to be overlooked now bug the shit out of you.

What we need to be doing as parents, instead of lamenting how fucking hard it is, is to ask your child, “How can I improve your life?”  “How can I make your world better?”  I guarantee that the first thing out of their mouth will be to stop shit-talking one of the most important people in their lives.  How awesome of an example would it be if you demonstrate to your children how to deal with and be kind to someone who may or may not deserve it?  Moreover, someone that you simply don’t freaking like?

Additionally, even when it sucks, be better than you think you should have to be.

I know it’s hard, and I know you think they are the asshole.  I’m sure when you tell your side, your friends and family agree.  But guess what?  They think you’re the asshole and when they tell their side, their family and friends agree with them.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed and say, “dammit, I’m tired of being the bigger person” (in many situations, not just with co-parenting).  However, that’s just the exhaustion talking.  No matter how tired I am (even when I want to throw the kind of temper tantrum that I would never allow my children to throw),  it’s worth it to be better than think I should have to be, if for no other reason than to provide zero ammunition, and to be able to sleep at night.

Further…love your kids’ parent, even though you are not in love.

I know this is a stretch, but you don’t have to be romantically in love, to love another person.  I’m not saying be best friends, because boundaries are important. Besides, when you start dating again, that could get weird.  However, find something you do love about that person, no matter how small.  If the only thing you can think of is that you love that they aren’t a war criminal, then run with it.  I love that my ex plays with my kids.  He runs around like a crazy person and is goofy.  I love that he’s funny and can make me laugh when I’m ranting about some idiot teacher that has messed with my kid (that teacher should be scared).  I love that he can roll with things when I screw up and I speak before I think, or I make a big deal out of something before I have all the information.  I can love him as a fellow human being, and you can do the same for your ex.  It’s important, because your children love this person.

You only have a limited amount of time and energy.  Spend that energy on joy, not hate.  Being angry takes so much out of you.  Before you know it, the kids will be grown.  Are you going to look back and see years of hatred and fighting, now useless because it simply didn’t matter that they let them stay up later than you’d like?  Or, are you going to look back and see that you enjoyed your kids, and you made the best of a situation that you hoped never to be in?  The choice is yours, but I sincerely hope, for your ankle biters, that you choose joy over hate.

Oh and wine…definitely choose wine. Like I said, life is short.

Teaching Tolerance If Not Love

Dalai Lama Edited

We need to be teaching tolerance to our kids, even if we cannot teach them to love others (which we should be doing…but hey, if we aim lower, maybe it’ll take).

Webster’s Dictionary defines tolerance as:

“The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

It doesn’t mean you have to agree, and it doesn’t mean you are compromising your beliefs.  It means you are respecting others because they are human beings, and they deserve it.  I’m not simply talking about religious tolerance, or being nice to “the gays.”   [Sidenote: if you actually say “the gays” go punch yourself in the face.]  I am talking about showing tolerance to all people, because, regardless of your beliefs, they are people too. Honestly, what they do in most cases doesn’t really affect you; so go worry about yourself.

No, that doesn’t mean you need a COEXIST sticker for your car.  It means that you should learn and teach your children to accept others as they are.  Every religion, orientation, belief, occupation, culture, and demographic, has something to offer and something we could learn from. 

Tolerance is sometimes letting people do things their own way even when it affects your child.  The world doesn’t care that you don’t want your kid hearing _________ or knowing _________ exists.  They will hear it and it does exist.  It is better to prepare them to deal with these differences than to have them be at a loss, or worse, think that every way but their way is “bad.” That would make them little assholes, and I can only assume that you want your kid to at least have friends, if not flourish.

I used to work as a criminal defense paralegal (among other things).  It never ceased to surprise me (nor to make me sad) that our Defendants assumed I would be put off, or worse, afraid of them.  Sure, I’m super fantastic at preparing documents and organization, but what I’ve always done best is show individuals respect as fellow human beings.  I show them that a young, blonde, and often most notably to them, white female isn’t nervous and in fact, is genuinely concerned about their well-being.  [Sidenote: Being white is only notable because the majority of our clients are of minority backgrounds.]  It is so sad to me that anyone would be taught that this shouldn’t be so.  Now, I often have the same experience with therapy clients.  I often have to prove that I do not judge their choices and/or circumstances.  They are people, not a list of charges.  They are more than the sum of their circumstances or, in some cases, their poor decisions.  I don’t get to put a bumper sticker on my car and simply say, “I’m not racist.”  I have to prove it, every single day, and uncover the years of discrimination they have faced.  It sucks, and I wish I could do more, but sometimes the only thing I can do is be kind to one person at a time.

If my readers could help me out here and create more, little tolerant people, maybe this task won’t be so huge when our children grow up.

From a co-parenting standpoint, this includes your ex and their family.  My ex and I do not see eye to eye on everything, and neither does his family and I.  I also don’t pretend to agree with everything he does or says, because that teaches the girls nothing.  Instead, the dialogue usually goes something like this:

“I understand that that is how Daddy does things, and I’m glad that works well for him.  However, because our home is different — we have different family members, we work different hours, we have different responsibilities, different priorities (just pick one) — that doesn’t work out for us here.  It is awesome, though, that you get to see how different households handle different things.  Now, you’ll have more to pick from when you are setting up your own household.  God knows, I don’t have all the answers. So, I’m sure he has some strategies that I don’t know, and that you could learn from.

OR

“I can appreciate Daddy’s thoughts on that subject, and they definitely give you another perspective.  It is great for you to learn all kinds of viewpoints, so you can choose one for yourself.  However, I don’t share that belief, and so I will not be doing it that way.

I know sometimes you want to say, “well, if I wanted to do things his way, we’d still be married!” or “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and we are smarter over here than that,” but please don’t.  What your ex does in their house is their business, and you don’t get a say anymore.  You will not be effective in teaching tolerance or how to love others despite your differences if you cannot even show respect to the father/mother of your children.

Now keep in mind, I think every person deserves to have their own beliefs, but I still think people who write checks in the express line should die in a fire.  See?  We all have limits to our tolerance.  I’m just asking you to do your best.  If you are reading this, and working to be the best you can for your kids, I know you are already trying.

Just remember:

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~Jiddu Krishnamurti

How to Choose and Have a Good Relationship with Your Divorce Attorney

Divorce

     You’re getting divorced, or you are divorced and you have the ex from hell that thinks the attorneys need to be involved in every situation you encounter in your co-parenting career (yes, it’s a career because it is a lot of freaking work). Both of these are a shit position to be in for a million reasons you already know so I won’t list them here. Since we live in the litigious United States, this means we have to lawyer up and hire a divorce attorney to look out for our best interests. This is expensive and upsetting because only you know your family, but what you don’t know is how to navigate the court system.

What to expect from the process and hiring a family law attorney:

  1. Expect a retainer fee of $5,000. A retainer fee is the “deposit” you give an attorney. They work, use these funds as they go, and let you know when that amount is used up.
  2. Expect to continue paying after the retainer fee is utilized. This money will go faster than you think and the attorney will do one of two things:
    1. Make you pay another retainer fee so they know they are getting paid for their time.
    2. Start sending you monthly bills as work is completed.
  3. If you take this all the way to Trial, expect a separate Trial retainer fee. Trials are expensive to prepare for and expensive to attend.  It is not unusual for an attorney in most areas of law to request a Trial retainer fee.
  4. Expect this to take a year or more. Divorces and modifications take forever, especially when one of the parties is bitter and argumentative. Further, everyone complains about the government and the lines at the DMV. You do realize the Court is the government too, right? The attorney cannot make the Courts move faster.

What to look for when choosing a family law attorney:

  1. Do your research. Look them up on the Bar website in your state.
    1. It will show if they have had any disciplinary actions. People bitching is one thing, but a verified complaint, where the Bar sides with the client, means there was true fault. You need to know this.
    2. Additionally, it tells you when they graduated from law school. There is nothing wrong at all with baby attorneys and in fact, you may get one with fewer cases who will do more work for less money. However, only you know your case and how complicated it is, which decides how much experience you need.
  2. If they don’t make you sign a Retainer Agreement, don’t use them. This agreement protects the attorney as well as the client. It sets forth what you both can expect from each other, how and when the attorney expects payment, and most importantly, what their representation covers. People think that’s “my attorney” they handle all my divorce issues. Nope. Read your agreement. It may say they are only negotiating a settlement for you, or that their representation goes up through Trial, but they don’t “do Trials”. Make sure you know what services you are paying for.
  3. Get someone who is family law only or does family law. You wouldn’t go to a General Practitioner if you have heart problems, you would go to the Cardiologist. Do not go to an attorney that “practices everything” or has a “general practice”. I was told not too long ago that you shouldn’t buy a copier/scanner/printer/fax machine combination. That basically means it does each job to a mediocre standard. That you should buy the thing that has been toiled over and produced to do one thing really well.  Attorneys are no different.

How to have a good relationship with your attorney:

  1. Stop calling them. There will be weeks (or in some cases months) of no movement on a case for whatever reason. Calling daily simply pisses off the attorney and staff. Also, they are charging you for these “status update” calls to tell you, “no, still nothing, and as I told you Steve, I’ll call you as soon as I have an update”.
  2. Only call for legal reasons. This probably seems like a no-brainer but I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t see it. If you want to know what is legal in a certain situation then by all means call. However, if you’re calling daily just to vent about your ex, call your therapist. They may not be cheaper, but they may take your insurance. I once actually said to a client (back when I was a paralegal), “You are calling me again because your ex-wife didn’t send back a shirt that you purchased. You are paying the firm $150.00 per hour to speak to me about a $10.00 shirt from Target. This is not a good financial decision for you.”  Honestly, this is not a legal question unless you actually want to sue them civilly outside of family court for the clothing you’re missing.
  3. Pay on time. You’ll quickly go to that mystical place called the backburner if your bill is late. You have to do your part if you want the attorney to do theirs.
  4. Produce what is requested quickly and accurately. Family law is famous for the amount of paperwork involved. When you are divorced, there is what is called, Mandatory Disclosure or Discovery (at least in Florida). These are questions you will be asked as testimony (but it is written unlike a Deposition, which is oral testimony) and documents you will have to produce (mostly financial, such as tax returns, bank statements, pay advices, etc.). Support staff members are happy to sort through your production but remember they are billing you to do so. If you show up with one tax return when two are requested, no pay advices because HR is annoying, and a grocery bag full of receipts, they are going to bill you to go through it, then bill you to email you a list of what is still left since you didn’t give what was requested, and then bill you for the next set you bring in, to correct the issue. Read requests very carefully and send them everything they have asked for in an organized fashion. This will be you biggest money saver.
  5. Remember that this attorney is handling your divorce but not additional legal matters. Thanks to television, people have the wrong idea about hiring an attorney. Hopefully if you read above, you didn’t hire the “family attorney” that is handling your divorce, as well as your traffic ticket. They aren’t your friend, they aren’t going to golf with you (even though of course they golf…..because attorney), and don’t call them when you have a dead hooker in your trunk at 3:00AM. They are simply handling your divorce and that’s what they are paid for especially if you’ve have found an attorney who charged you a flat rate (which you won’t).

All in all, these are manageable and we’ve all done at least one of these.  Do your homework and do what is asked and it will save you a ton of money and heartache. That money should be going to your children, not divorce attorneys. Their children already go to expensive private schools.

The Anti-Resolution Year

Calvin Edited

Ten days into the New Year and it’s smooth sailing.  Why?  I refused to make resolutions this year.  It’s easy to live up to nothing.  I’m freaking amazing when doing what I always do.  Of course, there are things that could and should be improved.  Like maybe I should learn to walk in heels, exercise more, drink less, go on a starvation diet so I can fit into skinny jeans (Why? No one looks good in those!), not cuss so much, but really, who are we kidding?  I’m just trying to keep my head above water.

Since there are things that need to be improved, instead of resolutions, I made two lists.  One list is things I like and one is things I don’t like.  My decision was to do more of the first list and less of the second.  No, I’m not having an Office Space moment:

Office Space

Disclaimer:  Yes, “Office Space” jokes are outdated, but I like the movie and the main character is cute so I do it anyway.  😛

Seriously though, isn’t that what everyone wants?  To do more of what they like, and less of what they don’t?  I’ll give you the short versions so you can see what I discovered when writing them:

Things I like:

  1. One-on-one time with the girls
  2. Time with my sister and family
  3. Friends
  4. Karate
  5. Traveling
  6. Spin class
  7. Hot yoga
  8. The beach
  9. Writing
  10. Reading
  11. Good food and good wine

Things I don’t like:

  1. Being overwhelmed
  2. Ruining the following day with a hangover
  3. Feeling rushed
  4. Wasting too much time in front of the TV
  5. Money stress
  6. People encroaching on my time and space without asking

Seems straight forward right?  Here’s what I saw though;  I like my family, exercise (certain kinds), and relaxing (certain forms).  What I don’t like can all be solved by planning and saying no.  I quickly realized that, I have control over everything I don’t like.  I also don’t like bell peppers, but I can control my intake of those (and while I haven’t tried your recipe and while you may be a great cook, NO I won’t like them that way either).

resolutions

~Cyanide and Happiness comic (so fucking funny you’ll pee you)

What does this have to do with co-parenting?  Maybe nothing, maybe everything.  But it does go along with my philosophy of being kinder to yourself and others.  Are you really going to start getting up at 4:00AM to go running only to realize halfway around the block, “oh wait, I hate this shit!”?  Maybe for a few weeks, but then you’ll feel like a failure when you stop, because you gave yourself a goal that you didn’t really want to do anyway.  Do things for yourself, not to yourself.  May this year be awesome, and if it isn’t awesome, may it not suck!  I’ll toast to that!

Gratitude – Not Just for Thanksgiving Anymore

Gratitude Edited

I hope everyone had a relaxing Thanksgiving.  But the truth is, most of you probably didn’t.  Many of my readers probably missed their children because it wasn’t their year for Thanksgiving (myself included).  Others, had them but they talked about “last year with _______, we did ______, and it was awesome”, while you smile politely and try to sound excited.  Lastly, there are the co-parents who have the shittiest deal, and have to swap halfway through the day.  These agreements are written by attorneys who obviously are not divorced, and do not know that seeing your ex halfway through the day and having to deal with children in transition sucks giant hairy donkey balls.  It all sucks no matter which of the above you were this Thanksgiving.

All that said, we don’t need a holiday to be grateful.  Besides, we celebrate the Natives assisting the Pilgrims in the month which has been assigned Native American Heritage Month (bet you didn’t even know we had one of those), in which we pretend all is well.  But, it’s like watching the Titanic movie, we know the damn thing sinks and we feel the same about Thanksgiving thinking, “run, they’re gonna take your shit!  Also, thanks for the corn.”

I know it’s hard, life is hard.  But, we can choose how we view it.  I feel like all I do is work and do chores.  What does that mean?  It means I’m employed.  I wash dishes because I have food to eat, and people to eat it with.  I do mountains of laundry and wash millions of tiny socks because I have two beautiful daughters.  I scrub out dog crates because I have companions that I don’t have to explain myself to and they are always happy to see me.  I have floors to mop because I own my own home and I want it to be well maintained.  I fall in the toilet at 4AM because I have a fabulous male friends who accidentally leave the seat up.

You don’t need to stand around a table and talk about what you are grateful for once per year while secretly being pissed when, “fuck, that’s what I was going to say.”  You can choose to be grateful for those you have even if it isn’t 100% of the time.  I’ve heard about gratitude journals but I’ve never been disciplined to keep up with one.  I simply make note that when my kids are upstairs screaming at each other, that I would never do without one just to stop the yelling.  The truth is, life is tough and as co-parents, we have a whole other set of rules and dynamics.  That said, we can embrace them and appreciate what we do have.  I don’t know about you, but I’d take those two girls 50% over 0% anytime.   

The Importance of Authenticity

 Car Edited

 We, as humans, want and need to be accepted.  We wear the styles we see, and stop wearing them when everyone else does.  We compare ourselves to others constantly.  This is perfectly normal and begins early in life.  However, there are times when you just have to be you.  As we’ve talked about before, your children need to know you have feelings.  They need you to be honest when communicating with them.  In addition however, they need you to be you.

This is where authenticity comes in.  Authenticity is not the “I just gotta be me” people, and it is not at the expense of others.  It is not breaking the rules or laws because you don’t like being told to do, but then pretend it is because you are being “real”.  Authenticity is not going to Starbucks every day just because everyone else does when you don’t even like their coffee.

So what is authenticity?  Authenticity is defined as real or genuine, not copied or false.  It is how you build a rapport with the people around you.  It is how you gain trust.  It is how you establish your unique personality even and especially when it differs from others.

I have a friend who blocks out what I’m saying, or at least files the information long enough to percolate my ideas into “their” ideas later.  They do the active “uh-huh” listening and then a month later, tells me about their great idea.  Worse, they sometimes repeat my lines and stories back me as their own.

I see the university stickers and stick figure families on everyone’s car.  Just a hint:  No one cares where you went to school or how many kids or cats you have…..just saying.  I adore my girls.  They are the light of my life, but no one else gives two shits that I reproduced.  I get that.

It seems no one has an original thought anymore.  This is usually caused by insecurity.  People want to be accepted and they don’t believe they are worthy.  Other times it’s that they are impressed by you.  As Charles Caleb Colton said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery“.  We are flattered, now stop.

That Ford pictured above is mine.  I am a therapist who wears jeans to the office and I often have pink highlights in my hair.  I break out in thematic song every time a musical is mentioned because chances are, I have the score memorized.  My playlists on shuffle always makes my guests laugh, because there is such a ridiculous range of music.  My favorite flower cannot grow in the state I reside.  I can’t tell one designer from the other and I hate jewelry (no, my ears aren’t pierced).  I don’t think Channing Tatum is sexy because he reminds me of someone I would date’s cute little brother.  I can tell you which fork to use when, but avoid restaurants that make that skill necessary.  I go to a country bar weekly because I like friends, music, and beer, but don’t listen to country music.  I hate Starbucks and I have no idea why everyone likes Star Wars so much.  *GASP*   None of this makes me special, a rebel, or interesting.  It’s just me.  I like what I like because I like it, and I don’t like something because other people do.  I like trendy things and dorky things.  I’m me and I’m unapologetic about it.

Your children need to know you are you, and most importantly, that you love being you.  You having the confidence to love yourself is one of the best lessons you can teach them.  Self-love and self-care.  Further, once they get out of middle and high school where they are obsessed with blending in, they will branch out and develop into a self-assured adult.  One with an original personality that catches people’s attention and your child won’t care that they caught it.  They will love themselves and as such, love won’t need to be collected from others and more importantly, from the wrong sources.

If I’m The Good Example Then We Are All Screwed

Mediocre Edited

The aftercare director at my daughters’ school told me that she wishes all her parents acted the way my ex and I do.  We discussed as we waited for the girls to get their crap together and say goodbye to their friends for the 10th time, since they won’t see them again until tomorrow (which is apparently very long when your little).  I thanked her and left.

Later that day, what she had said really started to sink in.  Why, I’m not sure, as I’ve been told this so many times over the years.  Maybe because I feel like people are getting worse not better?  Maybe because I value her opinion?  No idea.  Either way it occurred to me that if I’m considered a good example of anything: we…are…all…fucking…screwed.

When not screaming at each other in front of the school, not having to explain what a whore is to your 7 year-old because that’s “Daddy’s nickname for you” (seriously, I couldn’t make this shit up), when not having the entire planet be aware of your marital status becomes the standard, we are doomed.

“I am, as I’ve said, merely competent.  But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.”  ~Billy Joel

Co-parents are told they are different from “regular” families, that they are not the “norm”, and the like.  At divorce rates of 53% of first marriages and 65% of second marriages, dare I say that is the norm?  As such, I’m thinking we need some ground rules so I’m not the example:

  1. No yelling in public (also wear shoes).  Not only does this make you look like an ass, it embarrasses your children, and can bite you later in court.  A public argument can quickly lead to witness testimony that he is “scary, intimidating, or dangerous”.
  2. Watch name calling.  I don’t mean avoid calling him a lying-cheating-dirtbag-who-stole-all-your-family’s-money-and-left-you-with-several-children-he-never-sees-and-you-hope-he-gets-untreatable-syphilis-so-when-he-goes-crazy-you-can-get-a-restraining-order-because-he-doesn’t-pay-child support-anyway in front of the kids (OK, so don’t do that either).  What I mean though is don’t call him “my ex asshole” and the like.  It makes people uncomfortable. “My child’s father or mother” is sufficient.  Little Timmy’s parents that you aren’t friends with, but see regularly at school functions, don’t care that you were married and now divorced.  They get it.
  3. Don’t make your divorce other people’s problem.  It is not up to the soccer coach to know your visitation schedule, nor the school’s job to know who pays for what.  If an administrator hands you a delinquent bill, the correct response is, “I apologize, I didn’t know there was a balance.  I will contact their father, work this out, and get back to you.”  An incorrect response would be, “I paid my half so you can contact his useless ass and figure it out.”  Again, you look like the jerk, they don’t care, and if only half the bill is paid, your child is going to be kicked out of whatever wasn’t paid as owed.  They have absolutely no obligation to figure out who is responsible for what.  They have a bill, it gets paid, or your child doesn’t participate.  End of story.
  4. Make all the parents equal.  The school doesn’t care if you don’t like your children’s new slut step-mother.  All step-parents are to be respected and if there is an issue, work it out amongst yourselves.  Do not get others involved.  You do not remove the other parent’s emergency contacts from school lists or doctor’s offices.  They are allowed to choose their own contacts and the businesses they are related to do not need to be in the middle of your bullshit.  Figure it out.

There are only 4 rules there and they seem like common sense.  However, if they were common, I wouldn’t be the example (I can barely work our oven for God’s sake).  I use reuseable bags, recycle, and support animal organizations, but now and then PETA does something fucking ridiculous and makes all of us “tree huggers” look like lunatics.  Being raised Catholic, I don’t necessarily like being associated with all that messy Inquisition stuff.  Since divorced individuals are no longer the minority (depending on which study you read), we need to be an example to our newcomers and more importantly, not make school staff cringe.  Let’s not make each other embarrassed to be a co-parent, because Lord knows I should not be the example.