Why my relationship with my kids’ dad matters

Possibly uncomfortable topic I guess – and probably a misleading title.

Of course, the relationship any of us have with our exs matters. Good, bad, indifferent – it affects our children and our lives.

I should have said “Why it matters to me that I have a good relationship with my kids’ dad.”

I put a lot of effort into keeping things smooth with the ex and why is not necessarily a simple answer. Most of my friends don’t really get it – some downright refuse to support it – but it’s a conscious decision that I make every day. Here’s why.

It matters because I need my kids to see that people can act in a mature fashion. 

We’re the adults here. We haven’t always been mature around our kids. There was a time when there was more yelling than civil conversation and more stuff broken than was fixed. But we’re not in the place now. I want my kids to learn to learn that we can move past times like this and treat one another respectfully. I can’t tell them how they should behave as a reasonable adult human if I’m not able to model it.

It matters because I don’t hate him

And truly… I don’t. I understand this bit doesn’t work for everyone. I was not physically abused nor were my children, and etc. Our marriage didn’t work. Neither of us were kind. Neither of us are without fault. We went through some trauma as a family that we didn’t survive. But that’s the thing…. in our way we are surviving. We’re still a family. We can eat a meal together. We still make one another laugh. We still ‘team tickle’ the kids. How he’s feeling or doing also matters to me because that affects our kids. If work is bad or he’s upset with a family situation, maybe his patience is running low – if I can be sensitive to that – maybe I take the kids off his hands for the evening – we all get a respite. Everyone wins. The tables are turned, and he returns the favor. It isn’t possible every time, but kindness counts. And again – I want to model that for our kids.

It matters because I want them to feel love from us – simultaneously.

I think they need to be able to feel love from us not just when they have us one-on-one, but all the time. That’s hard to do when you can’t get along. How do graduations and weddings look then? I want those times to just be celebrations for my kids. I never want them to have a second thought of, “What’s going to happen when I put mom and dad in the same room? What about step-parents?” When someone asks them about these things, I want them to say, “We’ll sit them all on the front row – they’re cool” Or whatever answer it is that works for them.

It matters because our problems are not their problems.

This is one of the biggest pieces to me. The kids didn’t ask for any of this. They wanted us to stay together. They love it when we’re all in the same place. Sometimes that’s hard for the adults here; we’re frustrated, angry or sad. I’ve had to physically remove myself from situations previously. Then I could step away from my emotion and bring the reaction that I wanted to the table. He has done this too. And lest you think we’re not showing them humanity or trying to paint some messed up Stepford situation here, there have been plenty of times where the kids have known there was a showdown going on  – guns they are a blazin’ – and they’ve also seen it de-escalate and be resolved. But I think we owe it to them to put all the effort we can into helping the piece of their life story that involves us be one that they can be proud of.

Finally, it matters because of my heart…

My heart has so long held enough hurt and anger to fill pages and pages. I don’t want to spend any more of my time than is necessary in that place. I want my heart to feel all the love and joy that is out there for the taking. And I can’t do that if it’s already full of negativity. So, maybe that’s a little selfish – but oddly it’s one thing the ex and I agree on easily. Let’s all move onward and upward together.

I get that this all takes two willing parties to do. But don’t be mislead. This is much easier somedays than others. He’s not always kind or thoughtful. He doesn’t always do what he says. He doesn’t always put the kids where I’d prefer them in his priority list. BUT – I’m sure he’d say the same about me in some circumstances or have other, no less important, gripes.

The thing is that we keep striving. We keep trying. We keep pushing past our comfort zones into somewhere that’s a happier place for all of us.

Like I told Sweet Pea when she asked me how my heart felt when she talks about dad’s new “friend” – “If you’re happy, and your brother is happy and your dad is happy – how can my heart be sad when everyone I care so much about is happy?” And from that perspective -it’s pretty easy. 🙂

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The sting –

Franco: And now my friend, the first-a rule of Italian driving.

[Franco rips off his rear-view mirror and throws it out of the car]

Franco: What’s-a behind me is not important.

 

Except that sometimes it sort of is…

April 23. It’s always a hard day for me. It marks the day we all said goodbye to my mom.

I think we all have these days. Days that come with a sting instead of a song. No matter what good comes of the day, it’s always a bit bittersweet.

This year I actually spent it with good friends enjoying a bit of racing, I *almost* could have forgotten what day it was. I got a ride in a Ford GT (WHAT?!?) and laughed an awful lot whilst sunburning my so-pale-as-to-almost-be-translucent legs.

I was so glad to have been able to make *that* day into something a little sweeter.

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That red GT- yes – that one right there. 

But yesterday hit like a ton of bricks.

I went to hang with the kiddos for a while, as I always do, after not having seen them for the weekend while not-yet-ex went to the store. To discover that every picture that I was part of had been removed from the public rooms of the house and shuffled to corners of the children’s rooms. Some of my things (fairly – nothing of any real importance) had found their way to the trash. Things my stepmother had made for us found their way into the kid’s rooms as well.

Ouch.

Suddenly amicable things aren’t feeling so friendly.

We’d already agreed that I’d help shuffle some things out of Bug’s room – so cleaning was already on the docket.  I just shifted that effort. Sweet Pea held the door while I loaded the car – backseat – full, trunk area – full.

You’re going to fairly make the point here that I’ve moved out quite a while ago – none of this should matter. And you’re right – if we’re following the first rule of Italian Driving.

BUT –

Most of these things I’d put off dealing with for a reason (no – that doesn’t make it right either). They were mom’s or something she’d given, or made. A costume I wore in a play when I was 8. A dress I wore to a ballroom dancing competition when I was 23. The little glass divided tray she used to put pecans in every Christmas.

It’s hard to look at these things and remove them from the house that I wanted so badly to be our dream home. Where I’d used them to entertain friends for Thanksgiving (NO – not in the childhood costumes – though we might file that away for later and more humorous use.) It was hard and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t emotionally prepared – and I was angry because I felt I’d been blind-sided.

But so be it. It had to be dealt with. And it was. It didn’t matter.

Not-yet-ex was shocked when he came back. He didn’t understand. He wasn’t trying to make a statement according to him (thought this neatly coincides with him starting to see someone new.) But it’s okay.

I have these things now. They’re precious to me.

NOW – we’ll pull out that first rule of Italian driving and go make some new memories. Ones we like better. 😉

 

 

Fraught…

Oh friends – how these last several days have been fraught.

Fraught with anger, frustration, disappointment and so many other things.

Things with the kiddos have been lovely. Bug made great strides on riding his bike this past weekend and even received an award at school – this was one of those, “Are you sure that’s meant for my kid?” moments.

But times with the not-yet-ex, yeah. Slightly difficult. And am I being hard on myself about everything under the sun? Oh boy, you bet I am.

You expect that things are going to be fraught with difficulty when you’re in the process of dissolving a marriage.

I suppose I didn’t expect to be rehashing the basic facts of what started the dissolution a year in.

This is the fun of divorcing in a state that requires a year of separation. You’re meant to carefully consider why you’re leaving. Make sure you can’t possibly, even a tiny smidge, reconsider working things out.

And I’m swallowing the harsh reality that no matter what you tell someone about your motives for leaving, and how it happened, and how everything has gone down since, they’re going to believe what they want to.

And I’m learning that I have to be okay with that. It’s hard for me. I try to be a peacemaker. I ‘doormat’ myself too often, willing to back down for the sake of not having to fight.

Not caring what someone thinks is SUPER hard for me. But I’m learning. Or trying to.

I’m also learning that I have to continue to stand up for what I believe is best for the kiddos regardless. It’s so much easier to let things go when you’re married. Again, it’s all for the sake of peace. But when you’re apart – some things glare – and you have to go with your conscience and HARD.

I know this is growth, but for the record – growing hurts – a lot. And I’m sure I’ll see the beauty of weathering the storm and whatnot down the road, but right now a bit of shelter sure does sound nice.

 

 

A letter to my daughter when she thinks she’s found “the one”

 

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When my kids were really small, I had journals in which I would write letters to them regularly. I recorded funny things they were saying and doing, and how I felt getting to be their mom. As they grew, and my free time lessened, I haven’t kept it up as I wish I had.

I’ve recently had a spate of friends who are ill and facing saying goodbye to young children too soon, as well as friends who’ve lost parents in an untimely fashion. It got me thinking about what I’d want my kiddos to know – and this was one of the first things I’d want to tell my kids down the road if I’m not here to say it in person.

 

Dear Sweet Pea & Future Beau-

So you guys have been dating a while – and you each think you’ve found ‘the one’ eh? He certainly seems to be considerate and kind (yes – I’m making assumptions here – if he doesn’t seem to be considerate and kind at least to my face I hope we’re not having this conversation.) And I’m fairly disposed to give you my blessing.

I’d just like to give you just a few things to chew on, while we squee and happy dance and get ready to break my bank account for as much of your dream wedding as I can give you. Check in on these things regularly – they matter – a lot.

  1. Make sure you’ve seen one another at your worst.
    Have you seen him lose his temper? Or be really depressed? Over the course of years, hopefully you have more good times than bad. But the hard times will come, rest assured, and you’d rather find out sooner than later how you each handle those situations.
  2. Be open – about everything. 
    You have to be able to talk about everything. Maybe you choose not to sometimes, but don’t marry someone that you feel you have ‘restricted’ topics with. That’s bad news. The more honest you can be with each other about all things, small and big, the better off you’ll be.
  3. Listen.
    Take the time to make sure the other person knows that you’re hearing them when they’re talking to you. Think about what they’re’s saying, and try to understand, whether it’s his golf game, her horrific haircut, work or family concerns, they’re communicating to you because it matters to them. Take it in.
  4. Don’t poor mouth one another.
    No matter how mad you are at him, try to only take it up with him. If it’s a safety concern – different ball of wax – call me and I’ll come kick him in the pants, hard. But if you’re arguing over money or intimacy or any of these other things, for heaven’s sake, don’t go run your mouth to all of your friends about him. If we’re really lucky in this life, we get one or two friends we can vent to who won’t judge on the back end, who support us no matter what. But if you’re not 1000% certain you’re speaking with that person, shut your piehole – bringing others into your marital problems is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Choose one another every day.
    This one is the hardest of all. It takes so much work. Choose one another every day. And I mean every day. Choose one another when you’d rather scream at than kiss them. Take their needs into consideration with every single choice. If you’ll each look out for one another first, you’ll never need to look after your own needs. The very best marriages I’ve seen start and continue in this manner. When you feel like you hate them, stop, breathe, DON’T open your mouth, and force yourself to remember 5 reasons why you love them. Then speak.

I love you, sweet pea, with all of my soul, and can’t wait to see what this amazing life has in store for you!