Happy begets happy begets happy……..

My son’s AAU basketball team is playing is the Nationals this week in Myrtle Beach.  If there has ever been a time that I felt compassion (or should I say sympathy?) for my ex, it would be right now.  He has the team staying at his house all week… a whole house of loud, excited, stinky 8th grade boys.

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Did I mention they’ll be playing basketball every day?  And they’re stinky????

They truly are a great group of boys and no doubt this week will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives.  I commend Les for making memories for these boys.  I have already said a prayer for him this morning.

Yes, I pray for my ex.  That is a foreign thought to a lot of people who have gone through a divorce, but it’s something I try to do daily.  Along with praying for my husband’s ex and even the future spouses of our children.  They are all part of my daily prayer.

Why do I pray for my ex?  Because he is the father of my children.  Praying for him is praying for my children.  I could never wish any ill on him because that would be harmful to my babies.  As I have told my kids many times over the years, we may not have been able to make our marriage work, but I love him regardless because he gave me those two amazing children.

Some people wish the past never happened, but I can never question why my past happened when I look at my babies.

The thing that matters the most now is how we all handle the present.

It is so important to children for their parents to get along – even after divorce.  Too many parents are self-consumed and too busy licking their own wounds to realize this.  Over the years I have had many children tell me exactly how they feel about this.  I don’t just mean my own children and stepchildren, although they have all four at different times talked to me about this.  Friends of my children have commented on it.   I even had a stranger say something to me while playing with my kids on the beach.  She said, “That’s my dad over there.  My mom is not here.  They can’t even be near each other…”  Her sweet little eyes showed exactly how that made her feel.

How often do you hear a child say, “I wish my parents would stop being so nice to each other… she really should do things to punish him more”??????

And being nice is certainly not always easy.  I had a friend call me yesterday because she wanted to talk about her ex and a situation involving her child.  It was heartbreaking because it involves a very serious issue that she doesn’t know how to address.  Her relationship has been so good with her ex for years that she doesn’t know how to handle it because she doesn’t want to destroy the good will they have worked so hard to establish.   I sadly had no answers for her, but I listened and tried to give my thoughts.

Even through a situation that was causing her a lot of angst, she was still trying to focus on how to keep her relationship good with her ex because she recognizes how important the co-parenting relationship is – even when the other parent is not really carrying their weight.

So why do some parents attempt to sabotage any relationship they have with their ex?  One of my friends is a divorced dad and his kids live in another state.  His ex won’t let him talk to the kids when they are with her and she sometimes doesn’t even bring them when it’s his weekend to have the kids.  He is having to pay an attorney to try to modify his Custody Agreement just so he can talk to and see his kids.  In attempt to punish him, she is causing great harm to her children.

It is shocking to hear how many stories people tell me about fathers who WANT to have an active role in the lives of their children on a daily basis but are denied this opportunity by the mother.  Considering the statistics of what happens to children (especially daughters) who do not have an active father, you would think these mothers would be thankful to have a dad who cares.  It seems like in the news the assumption is that all dads are every other weekend dads and that is all they even care to be.  THAT IS FALSE.

I have numerous friends on Facebook who are newly divorced who have 50/50 custody of their kids.  That is not something that was prevalent when I got divorced nine years ago.  Fathers are taking a stand to have a more active role in the lives of their children after divorce and I commend them.  As I have said many times in the past, my ex plays a very active role in the lives of my kids by talking to them at least twice a day and never going more than a day without seeing them.

I am so thankful that if my son is being disrespectful, I can call his father and say, “Guess what your son just said to me????” and hand my son the phone.  I have faith in knowing that my ex will support me and take care of the situation just like if he were actually here.

When I tell new people how active my ex is they often comment on how that seems “excessive.”  My response is always, “If we were still married then he would have more contact with his kids than that.  So why should I deny my kids their father if he truly desires to still be a daily part of their lives?  Would I say it is excessive if it was my son’s best friend calling twice a day?  No.  So why should it matter how much they talk to their dad?”

I am not saying that this kind of contact is for everyone, but it works for us.   My children are well adjusted and happy.  I have never heard them complain about having to talk to their dad too much.  It’s just our way of life and it is definitely in the best interest of my kids. 

Their dad is happy because he has a daily role in the lives of our kids even when they are not spending the night at his house.  Because of that, my relationship with my ex is better because I am not robbing his kids from him on a daily basis, so I am happy.  And because our relationship is good, my kids are happy.

Happy begets happy begets happy.  I pray that continues…

…for the kids.

It’s Like Summer Camp, But NOT….

I certainly do not profess to be an expert at blending families, nor do I claim to even be semi-pro; however, I believe there is comfort when you are going through a new experience in knowing that someone else has walked that road before.  It’s comforting to know that you are not alone… someone else has done it and has come out at the end of the tunnel (relatively) unscathed.

I DO feel like a professional in single motherhood.  After being a single mother of two amazingly strong children for almost nine years, I had gotten the routine down to a science.  I went through all of the stages that single moms go through – the highs and lows, the strength in independence and the depression in loneliness, the happiness my ex moved on and the disbelief he had done so, the joy in knowing my kids had a stepmom who is good to them and the helplessness in knowing my kids had a stepmom who was with them when I was not.  I had times of almost an inner joy explosion (or so it felt at the time) when I walked around my house that my two kids and I moved into and I recognized that it was MINE… and that there would be no anger and insults in my house.  And I had times of crying myself to sleep at night because I felt despondent in the dating scene (hanging out in bars with my girlfriends, online dating, church singles classes) and knew with absolute assurance that I would never meet the right man for my children and me.  All that changed…

My children playing in our new yard on the first day in our new home.  They were 4 1/2 and 18 months.

My children playing in our new yard on the first day in our new home. They were 4 1/2 and 18 months.

My same "babies" on our wedding day.  They are now 13 and 10.

My same “babies” on our wedding day. They are now 13 and 10.

A week ago tomorrow I married my forever love.  It’s not the fairy tale you envision as a child since Prince Charming never came riding up on his steed with two kids on ponies in tow.  There was no fanfare and there was no ball… we were married on our church land in the woods with only our immediate family present.  And it was more than I could have ever dreamed.  The next night we spent our first night in our home as a family.  This is where the true fun begins…

Our wedding day!

Our wedding day!

This was the first time we had all been under one roof together overnight.  Both Joe and I felt strongly about not sleeping over with our kids.  They had been through enough trauma in divorce to push adult issues on them.  Because I had been divorced for many years, we did introduce Joe to my kids pretty early on.  My kids were not at the impressionable stage where they are possessive over their mom and resentful of anyone new… they were DYING for me to meet someone.  My sweet girl asked me one day, “Mom, are you EVER going to get married?” to which I replied, “ I WAS married once honey…” and she looked at me incredulously and said, “TO WHO???”  Shocking, but true.  She was so young when her dad and I got a divorce that she had always known Dad and Amy together and always known me, well, single.

Joe and I waited to introduce me to his kids until we were absolutely sure that they were ready and that we had a future together.  So after about five months, I met his kids.  We took it slowly and I did everything in my power to not infringe on their time with their dad.  He has 50/50 custody of his kids, so we spent our time together when he did not have them.  We barely even talked on the phone if he had his kids and they were awake… it was important to us that they not feel like I was stepping on their toes.  They knew I had kids, but we did not introduce them for another month.  The anticipation and excitement of meeting each other was more than they could all handle, but they enjoyed hearing stories about the other kids.  We eased into it one night by having Joe and his kids to dinner.  It was like a homecoming…  The kids got along fabulously and although we have had minor hiccups they have accepted each other with open arms.  I think the way we handled everything from the beginning has helped us get to where we are today.

I truly believe that too many single parents try to force their new love onto their kids before they are all ready.  Having a new love interest is exciting and you want to share everything you can with that person, but your kids are the ones who have the true potential of being hurt.  As a parent, you don’t have the luxury of thinking selfishly.  It’s all about the kids…  And in beginning a blended family, if the kids ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy!!!  Too many parents forget that.  Joe’s kids have asked us why we waited to tell them about us, but when you are honest with children and tell them that you were merely trying to protect their hearts, they respect that.

Back to the present… so our first night together went off without a hitch!  Well, with only a few minor issues…

We have room at my house, so Joe and his kids are moving in with us.  We are going to have to do some maneuvering so that our home becomes OUR home – changing rooms, giving things to Good Will, etc.  Until then the kids are sharing one bathroom – yes, four kids and ONE bathroom.

“What is this??? Summer Camp?” My son asked (quite loudly) on Night #1 when we told the kids that they will have times when they need to take their showers.  The funny part about his response is that he takes a shower at the same time every single morning ANYWAY, so it absolutely does not affect him… but as he said, “Mom, you and I both KNOW that one day I may oversleep and miss my shower time…”  Like a typical teenager, he doesn’t mind taking a shower at the same time every day, but when someone says he HAS to take a shower at the same time every day it becomes a deal breaker.  One week in and he is still asking how long we have to have this “summer camp shower schedule,” but he’s asking the wrong person because I LOVE SUMMER CAMP.

Camp is fun!!!!!

Camp is fun!!!!!

And if the blending of our families can feel like summer camp every day, then SIGN ME UP!!!!  We are not foolish enough to think that it will always be flowers and unicorns and happiness, but we are smart enough to know that we can do this!  We have four absolutely fabulous and resilient kids between us who thrive daily in our love and laughter and smiles.  They come in for a group hug when they see us hugging in the kitchen.  They laugh at us when they see us kissing in the family room.  They dance with us when they catch us dancing while cooking dinner.  And at the end of the day, if we can all sit around the dinner table together thanking God for the amazing day and for abundantly blessing our new family, then I think our new normal is the healing we all need in our lives…

…and maybe more families should go to “summer camp.”