Hindsight Parenting: Anger, Quarrels & Love

Anger: The Unvarnished Truth

We had the blowout of the century last week, my husband and I.  The blowout of the century.  The topic isn’t as important as the pure seething vitriol that came from both our mouths, flung at each other with all the might we could muster.  It was a horrific display of the worst of our humanness.  I had had it.  He had had it.  For weeks the blood boiled in both of us and reached the point where the pressure cooker burst–burst wide open.  It was late at night.  The dog was sleeping.  The cat was sleeping.   Ila was sleeping…or so I thought.

The next morning, we both did our best to paste a shiny smile on our faces so that she wouldn’t suspect that our feelings for each other at that moment were less than fond (to put it mildly).  Although I didn’t notice then (shame on me) looking back now, Ila was very quiet that morning. She moved through the routine as if she was walking through molasses.  The car ride to school wasn’t full of top-of-her-lungs “Frozen” songs and she was shy and clingy when it was time for me to leave her in her classroom.  That afternoon, after picking her up, her tiny voice cut through the silence and pulled me from my very busy mind.  “Mommy, why aren’t you married to Aidan’s daddy anymore?” Read the rest of this entry »

6 Golden Rules for Divorced Parents

A List of Golden Rules for Divorced Parents

A high school acquaintance of mine recently contacted me. I knew from Facebook statuses and through our small town gossip grapevine (of which 1/1000 of what you hear is truth) that he’d recently gone through a divorce. He wondered if there was a blog like mine, Muddled Mother, for fathers who were… well… muddled as well. Specifically he was looking for advice on how to parent two children who would now be products of divorce. It was an interesting phenomenon that happened at the moment he asked the question. I had this steel-bending urgency to fill this man’s very open, intelligent and kind mind with ALL that I had learned the HARD WAY raising two boys as a divorced mom. It felt utterly essential that he know the what-not-to-do’s and what-to-do’s. As we continued “chatting” I plied him with sound bites, little tid bits that came from crystal clear hindsight; the most important advice I could give him. Throughout the conversation, the dad interjected things like, “That should be the topic of your next column.” Or “A blog post should deal with that.” And of course, it got me thinking. Since this column is supposed to be about parenting using the wisdom of hindsight, and since the most indelible lessons I have learned have to do parenting as a divorcee, I decided to write a list of Hindsight’s Golden Rules to follow when raising children as a divorced parent… Read the rest of this entry »

12 Tips for Live-Away Dads

12 Tips for Live-Away Dads
By Joe Kelly

Whether through divorce, deployment or frequent travel, some dads live away from their children for long periods. Despite what we may think (or others may tell us) living away does NOT prevent a vibrant, loving and lasting relationship. Here are some ideas for how to keep the connection strong (as usual, pronouns alternate between daughter and son).

  1. HANG IN THERE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Living away is tough. So is raising a child from two different homes. My involvement in my child’s life may be different than my dreams for the two of us when he was little, but it is no less important. I meet my responsibilities, including child support, without resentment. Both his mom and I remain tremendous influences in his life. I stay calm, committed, loving and loyal toward him-and do what I can to help his mom do the same. If abuse or abandonment happen, my child needs me to protect him, but he also needs to make peace in his life with that relationship.
  2. ENCOURAGE HER BOND WITH MOM. My child’s relationship with her mom is different than her relationship with me. My child needs to participate fully in it, even when that’s hard for me (or her). I encourage communication between her and her mom, recognizing that I’m not responsible for their relationship. If my child is more comfortable talking about certain things with her mom than me, I respect and encourage that.
  3. DEVELOP HEALTHY SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS FOR MYSELF. It’s normal to struggle sometimes with anger, loneliness and other difficult emotions. But I’m careful not to work those feelings out through my child. I meet my adult emotional and social needs maturely with healthy adults.
  4. REMEMBER THAT MY CHILD LIVES IN TWO HOMES. The hours before he leaves my home and after he returns are a time of adjustment (and sometimes grieving) for him. I respect that he may or may not want to talk right away about his time with his mom; I let him take the lead. I don’t pry for information or play down his feelings. He may sometimes be upset or moody when he leaves my home or his mom’s, sad that he has to leave either of us “behind.”
  5. FATHER THE BEST I CAN WHEN MY CHILD IS WITH ME. I can’t change how her other parents raise her or make up for what they do or don’t do, so I focus on what I can control: my own actions. I’m not judgmental about their parenting because no one (including me) is a perfect parent. I trust that her mother and I are each trying our best. I parent her calmly; give her choices; have clear expectations; show affection, patience, love and trust–without demanding perfection. I encourage her to communicate with and trust both of her parents, even (maybe especially) when she makes mistakes. I give her healthy attention when she’s with me and when she’s away (using phone, internet, mail, etc.).
  6. DON’T TRASH MOM. In word and gesture, I speak well about my child’s mother even when I’m angry at her — and even if she speaks poorly about me. If I have trouble speaking well, I will wisely say little. Negative talk about my child’s mom is a little wound to my child, causing him to think less of himself, his mom and me. Trashing his mom or step-parents through words or gestures (in public or at home) humiliates my child and damages my family. No matter the circumstances of our divorce, I respect that his mother’s new family is now part of my child’s family. I’ll keep my child out of the middle, even if others don’t, and I’ll resolve adult conflicts away from him so he can be the child.  Read the rest of this entry »

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