No More Practice Games… We Are In The Big Leagues Now

This is going to sound pretty conceited, but I admit that when I first got separated I thought a fabulous man would swoop in and take me away pretty quickly.

I mean, I’m Valerie….

Yeah, that was nine years ago… and I just got married in May.  I spent over a quarter of my life as a single mom.

I did not envision my ex getting involved and married before me.  I did not envision failed relationships, heartbreak and lies.  I did not envision lonely nights when I cried because I thought I would never meet someone worthwhile for my kids and me.  After a while I was hardened to the whole process and just resigned myself to the fact that I probably would never get married.  I convinced myself I was better alone so that I could just focus on my kids.

Then came Joe… and here I am.

Through it all though, there was ONE THING I was sure of…  When people would ask me, “Do you think you will ever get married again?”  I would answer with, “I’m not sure if I’ll ever get married again, but I KNOW with certainty that I won’t ever get divorced again.”

Now, more than ever, I am determined to never get divorced again.  Joe and I agree that it is not even an option.  Of course it’s easy to say that now since we are still very much in the “honeymoon stage” of marriage, but this resolve has forced me to think about things that I am doing differently this time to make sure we don’t end up as just another statistic.

That’s the beauty of remarriage.  This is our chance to get it right! We can both look at our first marriages as practice runs that have made us all the better for the real thing.  We have learned from our past relationships and have a fresh outlook and a positive energy for our new relationship.  We can look at our past and know what we will never accept going forward and we know that we will do whatever we have to do to make it work.

After thinking about this all weekend at the lake, I came up with the top five things that we are focusing on to beat the odds of second marriages to ensure that this is our “forever marriage.”  Tonight I will share the first two…

1) Communication – I have talked about this in numerous blogs already, but it is truly the foundation of our relationship.  When Joe and I first started dating, he quickly realized what a straight shooter I am.  I am not a score keeper… I don’t hold grudges and then throw them back in your face later.  I feel something, so I say it.  Some people don’t like that, but it is how I am.  I remember sitting in Starbucks one morning and we were talking about how much we joke.  Sometimes we joke so much that it is hard to tell when we are being serious… So we adopted a “safe word” that we still use today.  It’s a word we can say that will immediately alert the other that this is a moment to listen without judgment.

Communication skills, or lack thereof, can be the downfall of a marriage.  We have learned from our past relationships that we can have a stronger family and a healthier relationship when everyone knows that they can share their true feelings.  We are constantly encouraging the kids to say what they truly feel rather than just regurgitating what they THINK we want to hear.  We want our children to be leaders and we want them to be able to respectfully speak their minds without fear of judgment.

So we have adopted a “safe word” with the kids too.  We want them to be able to say the safe word and everyone understands that it means, “Look, I’m going out on a limb to say this and you may resent me for it, but it is important to me.”  It has helped us all work through issues as they arise when we can actually talk and discover what is really important in the situation.

I have also been working on communicating with my stepkids without Joe present.  Little moments like when everyone else runs to the bathroom and it’s just my stepson and me… or when my stepdaughter and I drive home alone from basketball.  I use that as my time to build trust and communication with them.  I have told them both numerous times that I can be their biggest advocate with their dad if they talk to me.   We are all doing what we can to work on our communication.

2) Releasing Control – This has been tough for me because I have been flying solo for so long that I am very much accustomed to being in complete control.  Now that I have six schedules all on one calendar, I am realizing that there are too many variables to have complete control.  Especially right now since Joe’s two kids are back in school and my two kids are still on our summer custody schedule.  Our custody schedule is like a revolving door of kids shuffling in and out of the building.  Throw in basketball camp and beach trips and it’s hard to even find one night when we will all be under the same roof.  Because of this, I have had to go with the flow a little more than I am comfortable…but I am learning.

I’ve also had to release a little control when it comes to timing.  I am used to doing everything on “my time.”  Leaving town for vacation or going to a Durham Bulls game, I like to know exactly what time we need to leave and I will have everyone out the door at that time.  I like to follow a schedule, so I won’t just say we are leaving at 9pm and then not be ready.  That’s just not my thing.  They are apparently not accustomed to my “departure nazi” status, but if you want to see me in full swing, tell me the boat is leaving the dock at a certain time.  I don’t play games when it comes to going out on the boat.

I’ve had to ease up a bit because Joe’s kids aren’t used to my need to be out the door on time.  If Joe says we need to be in the car at 9:20am so we can get to church on time, then I will be standing at the back door yelling at everyone at 9:15am.  I have not always been like this… when I first got divorced I did EVERYTHING on “Val Time.”  If I felt like taking the kids to school 20 minutes late so I could sleep in, then I did.  I was tired of being told what to do and I guess I rebelled.  Over the years though I have grown to resent being late.  The kids know the anxiety it causes me, so they are ready to go when I say we are going somewhere.  I have had to let go of some of this control because my stepkids haven’t learned to follow my time warnings quite yet – but they will.

Another thing I have had to release control of is doing everything for myself.  After years of getting up and making my own coffee and washing all the clothes and fixing meals and doing the dishes, I am just not used to allowing someone else to help me.  In the past, if I wanted it done, then I had to do it.  Period.  So it has been an adjustment for me to LET Joe HELP ME…  Sounds crazy, but I resisted at first even small things like picking one child up so I could take the other somewhere else.  He is so kind and so thoughtful and wants so much to make my life easier, but I would resist and still try to prove to him and myself that I could still take care of everything on my own.

It’s babysteps, but I am learning to let go of control… and it really is a relief.

More to come tomorrow…….

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We Love Being Home Base…

Our kids are going to eat us out of house and home… Now that Joe and I are married, we have four kids under the same roof a lot of the time. I used to go to Costco once a month, but now we are finding that we reach a “dire need” status within a week of the last trip. We easily go through three half-gallons of milk and two loaves of bread in a week. Lately we have noticed when it comes time to make lunches in the morning that the snack food is depleting fast.

Last week I came home from work and started getting dinner ready. When I went to throw something in the kitchen trashcan, I was AMAZED at how many snack wrappers were in there – chips, fruit roll ups, Oreos, Babybel Cheese, a box of chocolate milk. Basically everything I send to lunch with the kids was in the waste basket and my son had not even been home from school for two hours.

As I was sitting there in awe over how much he had eaten that afternoon, it hit me…. My son has at least two boys who walk home with him every afternoon. They hang out for a little while and shoot hoops or go fishing before their parents pick them up. No wonder I feel like we never have any food — I have three or more teenage boys at my house every day after a long day of school!

I sat my son down and told him that from now on the pre-packaged snacks were for lunchboxes only and that while I did not mind his friends coming over every day that I could not afford to feed them all. My son was NOT HAPPY.

The next afternoon I came home to find a mess on the sunporch – Doritos packages and blue Gatorades. I asked the sitter where the boys were and she told me they went fishing and added, “And Jed’s mom came to get him but then left without him for some reason. Weird.” Joe walked in at that moment and I glared at him, “Can you believe this??? I told him YESTERDAY that I do not want to feed all of his friends every day and look what I walk into????” All the while I was pointing at the junk food wrappers scattered on my sunporch.

Joe looked at me and said, “Baby, I don’t think we had any Doritos or blue Gatorades… they must have brought them from school.” I was so confused, so I called my son from the fishing pond and asked him to come home. When he walked in I said, “Look at this mess! And where did this food come from???”

My son said, “We called Jed’s mom and asked her to bring snacks over since you said we can’t eat our food anymore. So she brought us some snacks.” My mouth dropped open due to my immediate embarrassment and my unexpected pride at the boys’ initiative. He then hit me with, “I mean, what were we SUPPOSED to do mom???”

Joe and I laughed so hard thinking about what my friend Jamie must have thought when the boys called and said I would no longer feed them… I explained to my boy that I meant they could not eat the pre-packaged snack foods, but if they wanted to have Spagettios or Hot Pockets or Easy Mac, then that was fine. He seemed to feel much better about them being allowed to eat SOMETHING at least.

The thing is that we love being the home where all the kids want to be. At least when the kids are congregated at our house we know they are being supervised and we have more control over what they are doing. At this age, the boys especially can really get into trouble when left unattended, so I love that the boys all like to come over and go fishing at the neighbor’s pond or walk down to play basketball at the elementary school down the street. I love that our house is their home base.

I guess if I want to continue to be the home that the kids like to hang out in then I better start going to Costco more often to have better snack foods. I would hate to lose them over some Cheez-its (or lack thereof)………