Happy Anniversary Personal Responsibility Co-Parenting!

Happy Anniversary Edited

September marks one year since Personal Responsibility Co-Parenting went live.  Lots of shit has happened since we managed to make it around the sun again.  We’ve learned lots of lessons such as letting go of control, changes in dynamics, letting your children have their own independent path, what constitutes abuse and what most certainly doesn’t, respecting all parents, and so forth.  If you read blogs, this is where I would put in a list of hyperlinks in a mastrabatory manner, which makes you feel the need to click and reread my work.  I will refrain but you are welcome to read the archives on the left…you’re welcome.

Some posts were well received and others were not.  I don’t apologize for any of them as the only complaints I get are from those who never even attempt my strategies/lessons/wine recommendations/advice/tools.

I’ve been told I should cuss less because it can be a turn off to some readers or in the bullshit world of writing and blogging, “I would be more accessible should I use cleaner language”.  Fuck that.  Anyone who knows me knows if I didn’t cuss, I probably wouldn’t be able to form a single declarative sentence.  I jest, but seriously, not being able to fully express yourself is like angrily hanging up your cell phone by pushing “end call”.  It’s SO much more satisfying to slam down a receiver.  Go big or go home.

I receive many emails per post.  Anyone who has emailed me knows that I answer each request personally and provide answers to any questions you may have.  There has been such an outpouring of love and gratitude for those I’ve managed to assist.  This isn’t life and death, but it is life altering for both you and your children.  If I can make one graduation, dance recital, or soccer game easier for one kid or one parent (but let’s face it, we can drink, so really it’s for the kids), everything I’ve ever written is worth it.

Thank you to all my readers and for your emails, the good and the bad.  Even if you disagree, you at least read it and one day when faced with another shitty co-parenting situation you may just try another path for shits and giggles and see a change.  Alternately, even if you completely disagree and never implement a single strategy, maybe it will make you think, research, and find a better, and completely different way that is at least less crappy than the status quo.

Mostly, I’m just glad to have made the revolution around the sun once again with my liver still functioning.  I screw up daily, but I apologize when I do, and I constantly remind myself to thrive instead of simply survive.  Let’s face it: parenting is hard and we need to be helping one another.  People are shitty to each other.  Women treat each other poorly so often that it is a running joke.  Men hold each other back, because they are afraid of competition.  Parents compare each and every thing their child does because they feel they need to raise Doogie Howser.  Everyone needs to calm the fuck down.  Sidenote:  I really don’t care when your kid stopped crapping himself.  I don’t know any healthy adults who shit their pants so I’m gonna say, it was bound to happen.  Good job Timmy!  Just stop.

While everyone is better in some ways, you are better in others.  Each of you deserve to occupy your space.  We all need to be building each other up and providing support.  Nothing gets shut down and deleted faster than a “my kid is better than yours” comment here.

Syndrome

All children are hard to raise and all families take work no matter what your family looks like.  Let’s decide this year to help each other out.  Here’s to a new year of co-parenting!  Good luck and drink wine!

Dealing Gracefully With A New School Year

School Edited

So by the end of the last school year I was threatening to pummel a teacher who thought it wise to assign a project the last week of school.  Seriously?  I just didn’t have it in me anymore.  The administrators were lucky at that point that I wasn’t sending them to school in tutus and feather boas, in lieu of replacing their stained, ripped, and in some cases, buttonless uniform polo shirts thanks to the kid who was chewing them off….gross.

We happily embarked on summer and enjoyed the lack of an alarm while it was still freaking dark out.  We swam, got tan from failing to make the 57th application of 189 SPF sunscreen, barbecued, and stayed up late.  But there is always a rub…. summer camp is freaking expensive.  Everyone complains about holiday expenses but for us, summer is much worse financially.  It’s an arm and a leg for it to start hours later and end hours sooner.  If I can’t work a full day, I may as well keep them home.

As such, summer also means attempting to write, work full-time, and you know, maintain a family and a home, all with children under foot.  The girls are like tiny soldiers.  They know the rules, they help me at the office, and they don’t dare make a sound when a client calls me.  That said, they talk… a lot.  Concentration becomes hard.  Hell, it’s an Olympic level sport trying to remember what the shit I was writing.

Now it’s time to return to school….  We attend the open house and it’s chaos.  The kids are all acting like they’ve been apart for years.  They are hugging and jumping up and down.  Did I mention all the squealing?  We have not accomplished all the reading we intended to and everyone has school supplies that were apparently “online” (thanks for narrowing that down).  I overhear a mother talking about “intensive violin” and private tutors.  Meanwhile, my youngest is wearing two different shoes (I had at least fed them and I’m pretty sure they were mostly clean).  It appears I’m not quite ready to do this all over again.

After, the three of us head to the office to get a few things done and a client calls me screaming that her ex-husband didn’t buy the school supplies, and now she’s stuck with the bill.  Fuck, I still need school supplies….

Most of my readers are co-parents.  Please, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, read your legal documents.  Whether that is a Final Judgment of Dissolution,  a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Paternity Agreement, or the like.  School supplies are almost never listed unless you have written your own custom agreement.  The Court does this so you don’t fight all year-long over who bought the last damn pencil.  However, most agreements do state the percentages that you will use to split your expenses.  If your income is close, it is usually 50/50, but it could be 75/25, etc.  I generally recommend that individuals use these as a guideline for any expenses not specifically listed.

For uniforms: get your own.  Children should have clothing at each house and this applies to uniforms/school clothes.  Food, clothing, and shelter are no-brainers.  Don’t fight about it.  If you are worried about your clothes going to the other house, then mark the tags and politely ask for them to be returned.  No, you won’t always get them back and it sucks, but life is tough.  Is it really worth fighting over t-shirt?

To track shared parental expenses, use a shared spreadsheet.

List expenses on the spreadsheet and email any necessary receipts to the other parent.  We don’t generally send receipts because it’s time-consuming and we have a general idea of what things cost.  Simplicity is key to not making each other nuts.

I wish you all luck for the new school year.  Here’s to all the homework, projects, deadlines, and events.  Try and enjoy it.  They children will only be this age/grade for this year.

Worries Are Inflated When My Kids Are Away

Balloons Edited

Every parent has been there.  Your kid coughs during the day and it’s allergies and you tell them to go play.  Kid coughs at 3:00AM and they must have the Bubonic Plague and you start searching for boils.  Anyone who says they haven’t overreacted, is lying.

My youngest had to have an Endoscopy recently.  I kid you not, when asked what we are dealing with, the Pediatric Gastroenterologist responded, “we could be dealing with anything from heartburn to cancer, I won’t know what until I get in there”.  I almost turned his testicles into a bow tie.  So her parents, Aunt and Uncle, and grandparents spent the next 2 weeks practicing deep breathing exercises and sitting on the edge of our seats while awaiting biopsy results.  I never again want to have to say “biopsy” when discussing my child.  And you wonder why I drink?  Needless to say she got lots of Popsicles (I would’ve gotten her a damn pony had she asked).  Turns out it was just a little inflammation but seriously, who the hell says that?

Every summer my girls go away with their grandparents for anywhere for 2-4 weeks.  I miss them terribly and I never want them to go but I let them because it would be wrong to deny them these memories with their grandparents just because I’ll miss them.

That being said, I spend that time constantly telling myself that just because I haven’t gotten an update does not mean a band of rednecks has found them in the woods and is systematically torturing them.  Most likely, they just don’t have signal…..spaz.

Past years have been tough because the girls weren’t old enough to contact me on their own and ex-daughter-in-law, is not high on their grandmother’s list of priorities.  Therefore, I sometimes go for extended periods without hearing how they are doing (one summer was 10 days and I made sure it was clear that if that ever happened again, they would no longer be going on these trips – boundaries folks).  Recently though, they have iPads and can FaceTime me (how is that a verb?) regularly so it has been better.

What does all this mean for you?  It sucks being away from your kids and as divorced parents, we have to do it regularly.  It’s never fun and it’s easy to overreact when you aren’t there, or you only have half of the story.  Sidenote: Don’t listen to stories from a kid and take it as Gospel.  Ask the other parent before getting upset because let’s face it, kids are idiots.  Don’t look at me like that, when we were kids we were idiots too (some of us didn’t grow out of it) and yes, yes, your child is brilliant.  Can we move on?

The chances of them being dead on the side of the road or contracting the Bubonic Plague is slim, so simmer down.  Take a deep breath and calm yourself.  If it has been excessive (like 10 freaking days), then speak up and set boundaries – they are still your children too.  Otherwise remember that you don’t want to be tethered to your ex either (which is why you’re divorced), so let them do their thing and talk yourself off the ledge.

Self-care goes a long way here.  Take a bath, get some exercise (yes, I’m one of those crazy people who believe that exercise induced endorphins can keep you from being homicidal), do the shit that gets put aside when your kids are with you (or just freaking sleep in because yay! the kids are gone), or whatever you need to do for YOU.  Take care of yourself and your psychotic symptoms will lessen.  After all, your kids are fine and they still love and miss you.

It’s Not a Break – Also Why a Manicure Gave Me a Panic Attack

Angel Edited

I’m exhausted, and it’s all my fault….

I wish more people would admit that.  You are only as busy as you want to be.  Learn to say “no” and stop taking things on.  Also, I suck at this.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a mother, aunt, sister, friend, I run my own practice, I write this blog, and I care for a house that is in constant need of attention.  I know there’s some other shit in there but I’m really tired and don’t remember.  I choose the number of clients I take on and I choose what I say, “yes” to.  Don’t feel bad for me, my exhaustion is self-induced.

That being said, I feel your pain….  I know that the kids going to the other parent isn’t really a break.  It’s not like you fly off to Hawaii every time they go to their house.  It is not as if when they leave, I am no longer responsible for them.  That their doctor appointments and illnesses are no longer my problem.  Do you know what I do when they are away?  I work my ass off so that I have more time for them when they come home.

I knew it was time to reign in my obligations when a manicure gave me a panic attack.  I know, I know…at least you had time to get a manicure!  Hear me out.  I bring my laptop to the nail salon.  As they work on my feet I write, answer emails, and/or draft documents, complete assessments.  But, I had had gel polish the time before and they had to wrap my fingers to get it off.

I panicked…How will I type?  I can’t even slide to unlock my phone to check emails from there with the tin foil on my fingers.  I frantically start asking the nail tech if there is another way to do this.  The nice Vietnamese lady smiles and says, “why you come, if you not relax?”  I had no good answer and stared at her in horror.  As if people come here to relax?!?!?  I come here so I don’t look like a troll who lives under a bridge eating goats when I have to meet with clients!  I almost slapped myself.  How had it gotten this bad?  Being busy doesn’t earn you a medal, it means you cannot manage your time.  Just as being a perfectionist means you are afraid to fail, but that’s a whole other rant.

Children of divorced homes grow up differently.  Besides the obvious double homes, holidays, and such, the time with each parent is more child focused.  It’s not that they are catered to and spend every weekend at Disney.  However, the parent generally wants to make the most of the time with the children and as such, adjust their time accordingly.  While I don’t make every weekend all about the girls, I have explained to those who ask, that we have them 4 non-work/school days per month.  I have half the time “regular” parents have to create lasting memories and enjoy each stage, and I want it to be special.  I don’t cater to them and I have been known to say, “I just spent 3 hours at Chuck-E-Cheese (also known as my personal hell), Mommy needs wine and a nap, go entertain yourself”.  What I don’t do however, is use that time to clean out my closet and catch up on work.  That’s for when they are with their dad.

Parents who are not divorced think that time away from the children is some magical vacation.  What is hard to explain is that parents who share their children get much less done when their children are home, because they try and cram in the 50% of time they feel they’ve missed.  Further, they are still responsible for their needs regardless of where they sleep that day.  While we switch every other week, I very rarely go a whole week without seeing my girls.

The point is, your children sleeping at another house does not alter your level of responsibility.  Additionally, you are probably behind on things you let slip when the kids were home.  What we need here is balance.  Make the time with your kids special absolutely.  But, don’t drive yourself to breathing into a paper bag while the Vietnamese employees glance in your direction and all you can make out is “crazy white woman”.  That’s never a good time.

The Use of Pronouns

Pronouns Edited

No, this is not a grammar lecture (though if you don’t know the difference between your and you’re, and there, they’re, and their, we probably cannot be friends).  I am speaking today about possessive pronouns.  Possessive being the prominent word here.

As we mentioned when discussing step-parents, your child(ren) is/are not the immaculate conception.  They are not your children alone.  They have at least two parents (unless the dirty socks on the bathroom floor were the last straw and he swims with the fishes) and possibly as many as four parents (well, there are dynamics where there could be more than four, but that’s a whole seminar).

Make an effort to call them “our children” or “the children“.  Many of you may think this doesn’t matter.  While it is a small thing, I will tell you that if you thought to be considerate even in your pronoun use, you’d have a lot less trouble with your ex because you would be infinitely more considerate in every other aspect of your co-parenting.

Let’s talk about the legal aspect.  [Disclaimer:  I’m not an attorney and I do not know family law statutes/local rules for your area.]  What I have seen though:  The quickest way to piss off a Judge is to withhold visitation from their other parent.  Withholding visitation is when you decide the other parent doesn’t know what they are doing, and therefore cannot see their child.  If you don’t want the kids, this is the quickest way to lose custody.  But I digress….. The second easiest way?  To spend all your time in Court/Mediation/Magistrate’s Hearings, talking about “my child(ren)“.  They are not your children.  They are our children or the children.  It makes you sound possessive and that you think the other parent is inferior.  Judges hate that.  It’s their job to make sure that children get to have both parents.  If they think you are impeding that, they will remove you from the equation.

When I talk to strangers do I say my girls?  Absolutely.  Usually because we are swapping parenting stories.  When a teacher rambles about doing a “sticker book” after my daughter just pummeled another student, do I think, “they are going to light you on fire and dance around you under the harvest moon because I know my kid and you’re screwed if you think stickers is going to help”?  You bet.  All that being said, please please please do not speak to your children’s other parent and say my kids.  It makes you an asshole.  I won’t even do that when speaking to the girls step-mother.  They are not my kids because I am not raising them alone.  It’s rude and disrespectful.  He cleans up vomit at 3:00AM….they are not just my girls.

This goes for anyone who says “my mom”, “my dad”, my sister” or “my brother” to another family member.  It means you are insecure and you need to claim ownership.  Since peeing on their leg is generally frowned upon, you need to find another way to feel secure.

Nemo-seagulls

Unless you want to come across like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, yelling “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine”, learn the word our.  You are good parent but you are not the only one.  Please remember that.