There are NO Winners…

A common theme I have noticed in divorce situations is the desire between the exes to prove who is “the winner” and who is “the loser.” The conclusion I have reached is that if there are two parents who want to prove that they are the winner, then although the winner may be inconclusive… the loser is certain.

The KIDS are the losers.

Why do people have this innate desire to WIN? I know winning brings a feeling of euphoria, but why do these people choose this particular circumstance to try to win when the balance in the lives of their own children is the high price that is at stake?

The truth of the matter is that in divorce there are no winners. As I have written numerous times in the past, we are adults and we can get over ourselves and the situation. However, our ENTIRE focus should be on keeping things as balanced and normal as possible for our kids.

When I hear a child say, “I don’t want both parents there because that’s just weird,” then I immediately know that his or her parents handled the divorce wrong. Of course, this is assuming that there is no abuse present and that both parents are otherwise well-functioning people. The kids whose parents have put their own agendas aside for their kids are the kids who are comfortable loving both mom and dad, even in the same place – school performances, games, birthday parties. It’s the kids whose parents have tried their best to alienate their ex or undermine their ex who just want to avoid any contact between their parents because they know it won’t end well.

I get angry even as I type that because I just can’t understand how anyone who is any kind of a parent at all can purposefully put themselves and their own agenda above the happiness and security of their own children. I think those sad individuals are the ones who were probably never given role models on how to correctly behave in divorce situations. And I’ll take that even further to say they probably had no role model on how to be a respectable adult either.

Listen to your children. If they are not comfortable being near you both or they try to avoid situations where they have to invite you both to events, then YOU HAVE FAILED. You may feel like a winner because you have successfully convinced anyone who will listen how terribly you were wronged and how they too should despise your ex. Sorry, you can hang up your white hat because you don’t deserve it.

With that being said, it’s never too late to right the wrongs of the past.

Seek help. Even if your ex is unwilling, then you and your spouse need to attend co-parenting counseling on how to best help return some normalcy in the lives of your children. Therapists can be a great resource. I’ve gotten calls from two different friends who have recently started going to counseling with their ex and they both bring their spouses. If you can’t imagine doing that, then you need to rethink your priorities. In my opinion, those four couples are WINNERS. They are putting aside their own comfort to ensure the happiness of their children.

I’m excited about the future in our lives as we work hard to right the wrongs. At least I can go to bed at night and know that through it all we have given it our best. I’m hopeful. The kids deserve normalcy since they didn’t ask to go on this roller coaster with us. I want our kids to be the winners… even if it’s our expense.

What are you willing to do to fix your parenting failures??????

Perspective…

It always seems that God speaks to me pretty harshly when I am having a tough time emotionally.  He’s truly the father who basically says, “Seriously?  You have it so good.  You need to GET OVER YOURSELF!”

Last week in a nearby community a man approached a 14 year old boy on the greenway and then forced the boy into the woods and sexually assaulted him.  Our two boys are 14, so this hit very close to home.  It also forced some incredibly uncomfortable (but necessary) conversations with the boys.

And I give my boys a hard time for turning all the lights on in the house when they are home alone?

Yesterday, I learned about an old neighbor of mine whose 6 year old daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia two days ago.  She was admitted in the hospital yesterday and had a spinal tap (which thankfully had no Leukemia present) and had a port put into place today.  Her mother has been posting for the past three days on Caring Bridge and I am in awe over her calm grace.  I envision myself in the same situation like someone being ejected from a bar – screaming inaudibly while they carry me out kicking and scratching and clawing at the doorway.

Yet her child has cancer.

And I’m struggling with the annoying fact that my boys hit every beam and ceiling in my house with their dirty, nasty fingers.

CANCER.

Tonight I have also been inundated with prayer requests for a friend of a friend on Facebook whose fifteen year old son fell off a boat earlier today with friends and has not been found.  It’s dark.  The search is still on.  His parents have no answers.

And I’m upset that my son lost his library book?

MISSING.

Everything in life is about perspective.   I have always heard that if we get everyone to throw all of our problems into a pile, then we would want to grab our own problems back.  And that’s true!  We may THINK that we have it so bad, but then we realize that comparatively speaking, we don’t have it so bad after all….

I am praying for numerous people who are in need of prayers tonight… and it has made me realize more than every that I am so incredibly blessed.  It’s all about perspective.

Dear Parents, Are You Tired Of Being Tired? Amen.

A slightly edited version of this blog was published today on Huffington Post Parents.

My face felt tight from a mixture of sticky old sunscreen and dried sweat.  Admittedly there was an unpleasant scent that surrounded me of which I was embarrassed.  Or at least I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so damn tired.  I had spent most of my day outside at a school track meet which took many more hours than I had planned in my schedule.  And because of this poor planning on my part, I was also completely inappropriately dressed in a long skirt and a jeans jacket.  Sure, I could have removed the jeans jacket, but because of the Spanx tank top I was wearing under it, it would have been frowned upon by the other parents for sure.  Pasty white, untoned arms with a crazy tight tank (showing all kinds of curves and edges I don’t want anyone in public to see)? No thank you.

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It was worth it to see her run her 5:50 mile (personal best) at 11 years old.

So I did as we parents do every year at this time and I suffered through it (and, uh, sweat through my clothes in the process).  We spend hours out at the ball fields, in hot gyms, at field days, or at end of the year parties.  Those of us who work outside of the home leave the comforts of our air conditioned offices to stand out in the sun for hours before returning to work for a few more hours.  All the time feeling guilty because, after forgetting to bring a folding chair for the hundreth time, we realize just how much we would rather be anywhere but there.

It’s the time of year where parents are just exhausted.  And this week has been, well, even more exhausting-er than normal.

My normal annoyingly positive attitude is not sure how to handle the never-before-thought negative thoughts brewing inside my head this week.  My mind went into defense mechanism mode yesterday afternoon.  Seriously.  It just SHUT DOWN and I actually said to myself, “Thank God tomorrow is Friday.”  And it was only TUESDAY.  Nice coping mechanism, self, but just saying it doesn’t make it a reality.

My reality this week was spending most of the day on Monday with my kids and my ex-husband’s family at the visitation/funeral/burial of my children’s great uncle.  Divorce may be a divisive factor in our lives, but death brings us all back together.  It was a wonderful service for a man who had such a servant’s heart.  He was always there for anyone in need.  He was one of those people who just made you feel good by being around him.  As Maya Angelou said:

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#TRUTH

The funeral on Monday was emotionally exhausting and then Tuesday was physically exhausting.  I went to work for a few hours, then went to my daughter’s track meet for a few hours, then went by my attorney’s office to sign some paperwork, then went BACK to work for a few hours, then raced home to get my daughter’s basketball clothes/shoes and pick up my son, so we could race over to pick up my daughter from piano.  She changed in the car as we raced to basketball practice.  When the kids got out of the car to go into basketball practice, I realized it was the first silence I had experienced all day.  And it was after 6pm.

So what did I do with my free time?  I opened my brief case and pulled out some work.  <sigh>

Joe called to talk about dinner plans.  I guess I was a tad short with him because he said, “What’s wrong, honey?” I felt like I let all of the air out of my lungs as I said,

“I’M JUST….. SO……….. TIRED.  And I’m just so tired of being tired.”  

Catching some quick Z's after practice...

Catching some quick Z’s after practice…

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where we all just do whatever we can to get by.  Jen Hatmaker’s blog that went viral last year, Worst End Of School Year Mom Ever, was absolutely the best verbalization of this feeling that we all feel every single year at this time.  We are just sick and tired of being sick and tired, so we just EXIST.  It’s that “existence” that is so hard for someone who takes pride in being on top of everything.  Instead of being my normal prepared self, I find myself wishing away time – praying for a little bit of something… something that I haven’t felt since last summer.  FREEDOM.

And I don’t mean freedom away from the kids, necessarily… I mean freedom to just NOT DO. 

We go, go, go, go all the days.  Our schedules are marked on and highlighted and color-coded as we race from one activity to the next or divide and conquer while kids have different activities in totally different cities.  We make it happen because like Maya Angelou said, we want our kids to remember how our dedication made them feel.

Children don’t feel love through the thousands of dollars worth of shoes you buy them or the expensive camps you send them to.  They feel love when they are out on the court and they look to the sidelines and see you give them a thumbs up.  They feel love when they fall on the field and they hear your familiar gasp from the sidelines as you say a quick prayer to God to make sure your child gets back up.  They feel love when they see you with flowers in the audience after a piano recital.  They feel love just spending time with you.  But most importantly, they will remember how your love and dedication in their lives made them feel.

It’s YOUR TIME they need the most. It’s that simple.

The best thing we can do for our kids and for ourselves is to get a quick re-charge.  Like when your AC stops blowing cold air and you need to re-charge the freon… we go so hard for so long that we just start blowing hot air all around.  And when we are blowing hot air around, we are of no use to anyone.  Especially our kids.

And right now I feel like I am blowing hot air EVERYWHERE…

This weekend we have no basketball tournaments and no plans.  I am already scheduling in my calendar (WITH A SHARPIE) the 12 hours of sleep I want to get on Friday night.  I may not even get out of my nightgown on Saturday THANK-YOU-VERY-MUCH!  Visions of kids laughing by the fire pit while watching outdoor movies are floating around incessantly in my head.  And I know that after having a restful weekend I will be back to the Val who everyone knows and loves, not the Val that everyone hides from because she may burn a hole through you with her exhausted/angry glare.  Not the mom with the ultra-short fuse.

I know that once I get my refresher weekend that I will again be the kind of person who encourages people… the kind of person who makes people smile and whose energy makes others feel good. That is the real Val.

THAT is how I want to be remembered.  

 

 

Blending A Family: Even When It’s Easy, It’s Still Hard

980510_554786311250296_1012210023_oThis was originally posted today on CarolinaParent.com.  Please go to their site and read the blog written by Carolina Parent editor, Odile Fredericks, titled “Seeking Help for Traumatic Teen years.”

It’s hard to believe that our new party of six is almost a year old., Overwhelmingly, it has gone a lot smoother than I expected. Our fears before May 11, 2013, were that the kids would not get along or that they would have adjustment problems. I was particularly concerned that my two kids would have trouble sharing me after having me to themselves for over eight years, and I was concerned that Joe’s kids would view me as a threat to their loyalty to their mother.

After almost a year I can proudly say that neither of those fears came to fruition. Comparatively speaking to other nightmare unions you hear about, it’s been relatively easy. There has been very little fighting between the kids. Joe and I have only had one true argument that was completely blended family related, but that argument helped us remember that we are a team … our marriage is a priority. The past year has mostly been filled with good memories and fun times.

At the same time, it has been the hardest year of my life.

There has been more of so much in my life. More time planning and scheduling of our lives. More laundry to be done on a daily basis. More money spent on food and vacations and activities. More activities to attend. More arguments to diffuse, and more people to tuck in bed. More people to love, and more people to discipline. Did I mention more laundry? Overall, there is just more to fit in an already short week while taking into account an ever revolving door as I coordinate different custody schedules and different school schedules with different activity schedules.

I have to begin preparing for the following week before the current week is even complete, and planning my schedule is much more complex that it sounds. I have to sit down and make sure my schedule is in line with the Google calendar that my ex-husband and I share with the kids. I usually have to email their dad and their stepmom to see what else needs to go on the calendar for that week and to make sure there is not a change in the calendar that needs to be made. I then have to email my babysitter to let her know her responsibilities for the week and then take that same email, change the font to red, and superimpose my husband’s responsibilities into the email before sending that on to him. Even writing the process for planning is exhausting, which makes it no wonder why the two ladies in the Target line early Sunday morning looked at me with such pity when I said, “I have four kids.”

While there has been more, it also feels like there has been less of some things. Less time to focus on our relationship as a couple, and less time to focus on our individual relationships with each child. Less privacy and less alone time (something I crave at times). Less free time to just relax, and less time to focus on hobbies (it’s hard to go to the gym when you have three kids at practices in different locations on the same afternoon).

It also seems like there is less respect for others as each of us has tried to find our own place in our new family. This has been especially trying with two of the kids being teenage boys. It’s hard to know if some behavior is due to the change in our family structure or the change in hormones. Either way, it’s a constant work in progress to stay on top of and eliminate selfishness.

There are no easy roles in a blended family. We the parents are typically the bad guys, but what I have learned over the past year is that the strength in our relationship is what will bring us through this. Even parents who are still together can vouch that the teenage years are tough on everyone. Just like in those families, we will get through it together as husband and wife. It has become clear that not everyone is going to be happy all the time, but we must treat each other with respect and kindness so we can pull through these years relatively unscathed.

Growing together as a blended family has not been without its drama and difficulties, but the power struggles we face are helping us to become even closer as a family. Each day we are all finding our place, and I just know that the best is yet to come.