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

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.

Stepping Into Their Shoes

Assholes Edited

We talk a lot about how hard it is to be a single parent, a parent in general, and how kids have it tough but they have to be responsible anyway.  I know it appears as if everyone should suck it up.  However, as my sister tells our friends, “Don’t let her fool you.  You mess with her family and she becomes a mama bear.”  She’s right.  Sometimes, transitions are hard and my girls just need a damn break.  This is perfectly normal and I try to give it to them.  Your kids need to understand that they are understood and not in fact, surrounded by asshole adults who don’t have a clue how they are feeling.  Validation is key in almost every relationship, especially with your children.

You should cut your ex and yourself some slack.  Please take a moment and think about how hard this is on your kids.  Now, don’t misunderstand, I don’t think having divorced parents is an excuse for bad behavior, and adults who still blame their parents failed marriage for their relationship issues, need to grow up.  More than half the population is divorced, stop making excuses.  You are not unique.

All that said, having two homes fucking sucks.  Sure, you get two of every holiday and many times, two of everything.  But they also have to constantly keep track of whose home their belongings are located.  They do without things they forget.  They have to remember things other kids don’t, because they can miss school deadlines if what they need is at the other house.  They struggle with stability and remembering what rules apply at which home.  They miss out on events depending on what weekend they fall on.  Most importantly, sometimes they just want mom while at dad’s house, or vice versa.

Think about the last vacation you went on.  Trying to remember what to pack and get where you needed to go.  Having to stop somewhere because you forgot something and cannot be without it for the duration of the trip.  The stress of being out of sorts and having to “settle in”, when you arrive.  And this is for VACATION.  Your children have to do this every week while attending school, meeting deadlines, practicing their instrument or sport, etc.

I am not saying that your kids don’t need to figure it out, or that they don’t need to be responsible.  But remember that sometimes, they didn’t want to leave dad and that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  Sometimes, they have a bad day and wanted to sleep with their smelly, faded, well-loved, teddy bear, and they forgot it.  They don’t have our adult freedoms and cannot simply go out and pick up what they forgot or feel they need.  Step into their shoes and see things from their point of view.  Your kids will really appreciate it and you’ll be a better parent for it.

Love is Not Finite

Sloth Edited

Love is not a limited resource.  I know adults who still have not learned this and it’s very sad (and annoying).  The result is someone who feels threatened for absolutely no reason.

These individuals can be identified in many ways.  The most common is that they use titles when you know exactly who they are referring to.  My friend, my mom, my dad, my brother, etc.  Yes thank you, we just had dinner last week, I know who “your friend” is.  They do this because they have to point out that they are “theirs”.  Note: If you know me personally and do this, I may punch you in the face.  Stop it.  You are probably cuter/can walk up stairs without being winded/more charming/have a better ass/can walk in heels/smarter (I could go on), than me.  NO ONE should be threatened by me.

Just because your kid, parent, or friend loves someone in their lives, does not take away from their love for you.

No one is going to say, “I’m sorry but I can only love 10 people.  If you want my love, Herman here, has to go to make room.  It’s OK, he always smelled like cigarette smoke and invaded my personal space anyway.”

This is especially true for your children.  You are their parent.  No matter how much your child loves their other parent, they will always love you.  They may not like you, but they will always love you.  You do not need to be threatened.

Hanging on to your children to make them love you will push them away.  It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Remember, your kids love both their parents and step-parents (if applicable) and loving them, doesn’t take away from their love for you.  Whether you’re the sperm or the egg, your role is important.

Your Kids’ Path

Path Edited

When babies are born, it’s hard to fathom that this, is a person.  It’s not just “your baby”.  It is a human being, with a name and everything.  A future, likes, dislikes, etc.  This is not a puppy, it will grow up and fly away (at least if you do it right).

New parents have all sorts of ideas about what “their kids” will and will not do.  That’s wonderful in theory (I had them too) until the little bundle of joy learns that dropping the sippy cup from the highchair is funny because they made you retrieve it.  What a fun game!  The toddler that spouts off to your mother-in-law that “her food is disgusting”, is not a child you will want to claim.  This of course escalates as they get older.  “I can’t wear blue mom, it’s a boy color.”  A year later, “Why are all my clothes pink mom?  Pink is for babies.”  Seriously, I will smother you in your sleep….  This is a person who has feelings, likes, and dislikes.  Surprise!  They are not the same as yours.

Your kids have their own path.  They have relationships with people completely independent of yours, even if you know the person.  This is especially true for their relationship with their other parent.  What you find annoying, they love about that parent.  What you once found charming, they find embarrassing.  This person is not their ex, it’s their parent.

When they go to the other parent’s house, they are following their path with one of the most important people in their entire world.  Good, bad, or otherwise, this is their path and you cannot follow them.  If they hate that mom makes them go bed an hour earlier than you do, well, “mom has different rules, honey”.  It’s up to them to discuss it with their mom.  If dad has a habit of blurting out “private” stuff they didn’t want everyone at dinner to know, the kids will have to learn to speak up and tell him.  It’s simply not you place anymore.

Whatever you think is the other parent’s transgression, you’ve done something equally annoying.  Oh you haven’t?  Think harder…..I’ll wait.  Yep, there it is.  Glass houses and shit folks….  No one gets it all right.  It’s their parent to be dealt with either now, or later in therapy.

It’s hard, but this is their family, even if it isn’t yours anymore.  These are people too and they love their parents.  Both of them.