Archive for the 'Divorce' Category

Another Reason Divorce Sucks for Kids

Every time my kids go to their dad’s they ask me to take care of their Webkinz gardens. At xmas time they ask me to loot the NeoPets advent calendar for them. I do my best but times three kids it can add up to a considerable amount of time.

I try hard to get my kids comfortable on the computer, whether it’s through gaming, making their own levels on kGoldrunner, designing title pages and drawing pictures, writing stories, blogging, accessing the home network, troubleshooting, researching, and programming. I know how lucky they will be if they can understand and maintain their own computers and how important technology mastery will be as they grow up.

webkinz garden under snow title=

It doesn’t help the developing computer-love if they come home from their dad’s and their Neopets are dead and their Webkinz gardens have all withered and the food is rotten before it can be harvested. In this case the computer is just another thing that makes them sad. They see their investment as wasted time. They don’t have Internet access at their dad’s and we won’t get into what hardware he must have but there was this project my daughter brought home on a floppy disk. She’s saving for her own laptop but it’s going to be awhile still and that won’t help with the dying frogs and ponies.

Given that after school time is busy with homework and chores these online games should have an option for kids who only really have access to them every-other-weekend. (And that goes for games that offer a paid membership like Runescape). Neopets does have hotels and such where you can park your animals when you’ll be away but the cost adds up. As more and more kids face a double life with often a discrepancy in access to technology how will the technology adapt?

flickr photo by polar bots member mascott girl

Some Keys to Blended Family Happiness

These may be obvious to others but I’ve recently discovered a few things that are making life a lot easier. Rob and I blended families last fall and it hasn’t all been a picnic. Some of it’s because of the craziness of our own particular situations but some of it is just because it’s hard when one family moves in with another.

Here’s what’s working right now:

  • I signed my kids up for swimming lessons on Wednesday nights. Every Wednesday we go out and Rob’s got the house to himself. I hadn’t realized how rare an occurrence this was until we started a few weeks ago. I have time here alone during the day because I mostly work from home but when he’s home usually I’m home and/or there’s some combination of our kids here. Given that it’s his house we live in it’s been a big change from it being usually quiet to now, usually loud. I also went away to Toronto for a long weekend while my kids were at their dad’s and it gave Rob some time alone here with his daughter. For years it was just the two of them on the weekends and I think it’s been hard on both of them having me around all the time. They need their space and the chance to be together without a third wheel hanging about.
  • Video game time for chore time. For the past month, every Tuesday night Rob and I go out for coffee/chai at a local independent coffee shop. We play World of Warcraft for a few hours and it’s lots of fun. I make time for this with him and on Saturday mornings we do housework together (specifically cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the stairs). These are the two biggest things that get me down when they’re dirty. If the bathrooms and stairs are clean I can mostly keep up (or overlook) the rest of the house. It’s become a great routine and the date night is wonderful. We’re actually having fun together. ;) Having fun is important for making a blended family work. If we’re not happy, then what was the point?
  • A grocery list on the side of the fridge. There are way too many people here for me to keep track of who is out of what favourite food. Each kid is responsible for adding to the list if they finish off a food. If it’s not on the list it doesn’t come home from the grocery store. This goes for the grownups too.
  • Rules that apply to everyone. This is something we’re still working on and will probably continue to struggle with. One of these rules is that school bags and other gear needs to go into bedrooms and cannot be left in the entranceway. For the size of the house I’ve always been frustrated with how tiny the entrance area is. Bags that get abandoned become tripping hazards and it looks awful. Unfortunately we’re all guilty of coming in and getting distracted. One reason is that the kitchen and computers are upstairs and the kids bedrooms are downstairs. Usually the habit is to come in, come upstairs. Later, when they’re ready to go down, they walk right on past the bags. My excuse is that usually I’m carrying in more than one load so it takes me a couple of trips to get everything where I’m going and I get distracted before I’m done putting everything away. Hopefully now that winter is over I can put the boots away and that will clear up a bit of space.

I hope I keep finding more things that I can add to this list.

When Someone You Know is Really, Really Sad

When you live with someone and they’re sad and not talking I guess it’s natural to think it’s your fault. But if the person is sad to the point that they’re not talking, not acting like they usually do, are withdrawn, sleeping a lot, maybe crying for no reason that you can see, it’s most likely not you. It’s probably something or many things in the person’s life that are crushing them. Their depression is not your fault.

Just like they say on the airlines, “Put your own mask on first.” You have to take care of yourself before you can help the person who is sad. There is a helpful page here from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that might give you some ideas on relating to a depressed person. The highlights:

  • Try to be as supportive, understanding and patient as possible.
  • Speak in a calm, quiet voice.
  • sad woman on couch
    Mariana originally uploaded by ?ad

  • Stay focused on one subject at a time. It may be difficult for your relative to concentrate.
  • If the person is quiet and withdrawn, break the ice with neutral, non-threatening statements, such as “It seems a bit warm in here.”
  • Be patient and wait. It may take a while for your loved one to respond.
  • Your ability to listen is a valuable resource to your relative or friend. Depression causes people to talk at length about how bad they feel, yet they may not be ready to discuss solutions to their problems. Listening and letting the person know, in a neutral manner, that you have heard what he or she has said, is a valuable and supportive contribution. You do not have to offer immediate solutions.
  • If your relative or friend is irritable, you probably need to slow down, lower your expectations and use a very neutral approach. Neutral comments about the weather, what you are making for dinner or other routine subjects are the safest way to develop a dialogue. Listen for opportunities to acknowledge or add to your relative’s responses. At these times, conversations about important decisions or issues are unlikely to be productive. You may need to plan to discuss important issues at a later date.
  • Whenever someone suffers from a serious illness, it is natural for family members to feel worried and stressed. In an effort to spend time comforting or helping their loved ones, family members may give up their own activities….Preserve your interests outside of the family and apart from your ill relative.

Beyond this I don’t know what else is helpful. If I figure it out I’ll be sure to post something. Sometimes when a person is depressed they feel awfully guilty about disturbing the lives of the people around them, which only contributes to their sense of worthlessness, causing them to further isolate themselves so as not to disturb others even more which leads to sadness over loneliness and rejection — which makes them feel even more worthless, etc etc etc. I don’t know that a fitness class or even a housekeeper can help at this stage. Maybe a counsellor?

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World

My daughter came home last night. I have to wonder if maybe I’ve saved her life.

I know too many kids whose families are divorced. They found living with one parent too difficult and either left or got thrown out and sent to live with the other parent. Of course it was only ever a matter of time before things got rough there and the kid is faced with going back to the first parent (if they’ll even have them back) and the alternative of setting out on their own, running away, moving in with someone they shouldn’t, or the unknown. The kids who bounced from one parent to another to a grandparent always described feeling alone, lost, like no one cared. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel that way.

So even though we’re in a tough place now, my daughter knows I love her. She knows I want her. I haven’t given up on her, sent her to live with her father, put her in foster care, or chosen one of the many other options I was presented with over the past week. I want her here.

I’m sad that she’s so unhappy, but with the team of professionals that is assembling, we’re going to do our best to see that she doesn’t slip into an unsalvageable disaster of a life. It’s hard when you see someone with so many talents, so much potential, just throwing it away.

I’m looking at the longterm, and I guess that’s both the joy and the burden of parenting. I have to think about what’s best for her longterm, what will give her the best opportunities in life, and not just what will make her smile today, in the short term. Parenting is more than ice cream and Lego. It’s also about hard and unpopular decisions, like moving to a better school district, toothbrushing, and dark green leafy vegetables. As her parent, I have to consider her future, and not to dragged down by her teen angst.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

My daughter should be home by 4:30 p.m. today. Today the judge ordered her father to return her to me. He was found in contempt of court and read the riot act.

What a relief. It’s been a week and a half since he took her.

I’ll buy you a pony

Every divorced parent’s nightmare is probably that their child goes for visitation with the other parent and never comes back again.

I never thought it would happen to me. But it did.

My daughter went for the weekend with her dad, didn’t go to her aikido class, hasn’t been to school all week, and didn’t come home again.

The police say it’s not a criminal act, to contact my lawyer, to get to court. If there’s nothing criminal they don’t get involved.

I cannot believe that violating a court order is not a criminal act. Isn’t this kidnapping? My middle son cried in bed last night missing his sister. Thankfully the boys are safe here with me.

The school is recording her absences and will contact the attendance counsellor sooner or later — but how long does she have to miss school before someone will do something?

He’s been served, told to return her immediately…an urgent motion for civil contempt is being brought before the court… but still my kid is not at home.

How can he think that this is a responsible parenting choice? A week of school, sneaking around, hiding at her grandparents’ house? Is this what he calls good parenting?

What good is a court order if it cannot be enforced?

I’m boggled by the system.

It must be some pony.

Bucking the System

When you decide that things aren’t quite right and that you have the power to make changes in the world, however large or small those changes might be, you leave the path. You can no longer follow the map of your youth, the instruction book your parents gave you, or mimic the decisions made by those around you. Breaking new ground is just that — you’re on your own.

If you’re lucky you’ll find like-minded people along the way and together you can chart this new territory, consult before making brave new choices of your own, or stumble along, helping each other pick up broken pieces from the mistakes that come from any learning experience.

Love and relationships are a site of potential change as gender roles and relationship power dynamics are being navigated and changed by more and more couples. Heteronormativity is no longer the only relationship model, but what’s an individual to do when they are conscious of historical imbalances and there is a desire to leave hegemonic power differentials behind, but yet there really isn’t a clear cut working model to follow?

Start with divorce. In North America right now anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of marriages end in divorce. So many people are divorced which means their fantasy picture of the happy nuclear family with white picket fence, etc. is not their lived reality. I’m divorced but most of the people I know who are divorced are close to my age. I don’t have a whole lot of elders to look to for help navigating the fallout of divorce (like co-parenting with someone when we’d rather never see or speak to each other again). It’s not possible to just walk away from that person forever, in a way that it once was. Where is my role model? Someone to tell me that “one day this will be ancient history and here’s what worked for me”?

And single parenting. Where are the supports for parents who are doing it on their own? Shouldn’t this be worked out by now? If so many families in Canada are managed by single parent head of household and most of the families headed by single mothers are living in poverty why hasn’t it been dealt with? We’re doing things differently than our parents’ generation and there is no one to drive the soccer team around, bring cupcakes to school, or even attend PTA meetings. Time for basic family maintenance and survival is precious. There are no extras.

Regarding fathers, many today are more than breadwinners. Divorced or not, how many of them are following their own father’s parenting style? The supports and guidance for these men are minimal and those that are around are underutilized. Whether for lack of time or anxiety/inexperience with the support structures that do exist, there are lots of dads who are winging it.

Next, more and more adult students are turning up in university classes. Many of the ones I’ve encountered are women post-divorce who hope post-secondary education will be a way out of poverty for themselves and their families. The supports for us, the roadmap for how to study and parent and juggle work (sometimes more than one job) has yet to be drawn.

People are redefining what a relationship entails. Sex in a culture of AIDS and STIs (on top of the fear of an unwanted pregnancy) has to be negotiated. Rape and sexual harrassment are real things that could happen to you and could come from the people around you. It really could (or really has) happened to you.

Dating can now include all kinds of technology: emails and text messages and messenger clients. Profiles on myspace, facebook, and other social sites can lead you to potentials as well as the older sites specifically for finding a match. Some people still think it’s wrong to look for a date through a matchmaker site, others wouldn’t dream of going out with someone until they’ve sussed out their language skills and interests via the distance and safety (perceived or real) of online communication. Each person has to navigate this themself; there is no consensus as of yet.

More re: dating: the question of who pays for what on a date is no longer such a big deal — for some people. There are still traditions in place about who drives, who opens doors, who sits first. For some couples, these things are reciprocated but for others old habits die hard. For those in the new water, it can feel good to know your relationship is on equal footing and that a gift of kindness is just that: a gift, given and accepted altruistically, not in order to create debt.

Couples use language to show they are part of this new movement: descriptors like “partner” and S.O.for a significant other show real effort to reflect how we feel about another person. Gender-neutral language is a big part of this. Calling someone your partner reflects that they are truly an equal: equally responsible, equally knowledgeable, equally capable for maintaining the relationship and all it entails. It shows that a couple is committed to working together and is helpful in preventing one part from blaming the other for any difficulties. You are partners.

It can also be a way to reject the traditional marriage model of husband who rules and wife who is chattel and obeys. Rewriting the language helps us to reflect the true nature of our relationships. The term partner is also useful for describing same sex relationships since there is no implied gender in the word. The term partner opens up minds as to what a relationship can be, in an attempt to breakdown heterosexist culture.

Language isn’t the only changing thing in relationships today. Choosing cohabitation or longterm dating with each partner maintaining their own residence are practical alternatives to marriage for a lot of couples. Having children or not are greater options as methods to control fertility and prevent pregnancy are further developed. If a couple does decide to marry for legal or religious reasons there are a greater number of choices for language used in a ceremony to reflect equality between the individuals and the diversity of couples marrying. It’s no longer assumed that a woman will change her name when marrying a man — many couples choose a hyphenated name for all or a hybrid name.

We are an individualistic society. We have a lot of choices to make and there aren’t a whole lot of examples to follow. We do the best we can, with the information we have at the time, but are we really making informed choices? Do we just rationalize when we make a choice that follows a tradition?

If we were truly lazy we wouldn’t do anything differently. Because we do endeavour to make changes, to reconstruct our families, our language, our ideologies we mustn’t t be lazy. Doing things differently takes effort, but it’s worth it: for us, our families, other people breaking ground along side us, and those who will follow.

How many rainbows does it take?

Happy Birthday to me. I have a bit of a cold but I’m dosing with mega-Vitamin C and echinacea-goldenseal tincture. I wrote my last exam today, I proctored the exam for the last class as TA for the semester and I’m about halfway through the marking. Later Rob is taking me for dinner and there will be Buffy the Vampire Slayer before the night is through. My father called and sang me the hb song — at a wrong number unfortunately, but still, cute story.

All these good things — so why does one shitty thing bring it all crashing down?

Dropping off the lunch bags for my kids at their dad’s, I’m on the porch, the kids are in the doorway saying hi and happy birthday to me. My youngest tells me that I can come to the school tonight and see his art, that there’s an open house of sorts. As he’s telling me, dad grabs a note, hands it to me and shuts the door saying “the note just came today”. Boom goes the door. No goodbyes, nothing.

Doesn’t matter that it’s my birthday, doesn’t matter that I have so many great things in my life. It doesn’t seem like there’s ever enough sunshine to make a rainbow when I leave there.

If you feel the urge to wish me an hb in the comments, I’ve turned off the captcha because I heard it was giving people a rough time. I’m going to try and forget about this and enjoy my night — goddess knows I’ve let that man make me miserable enough for one lifetime.

My kids come home tomorrow and we’ll have a good time. I just hate that I let him get me down and that the kids watch people get treated this way.

Stupid. Custody. Orders.

Their father picked them up this morning for his every-other-weekend and started to pull away from the curb. He paused a few feet up the street and my daughter (12) opened her window and said the youngest (5) forgot to hug me. I could hear him in the back seat saying “Mama – I didn’t get to hug you – - ” And then his dad drove away.

Totally, totally fucked up way to live. I feel it in my stomach, my arms, my eyes, my throat.

Cleaning, Purging, Finding, Remembering

I have been trying to make the house more functional. When we first moved here years ago the house was gross – a real fixer-upper but all we could afford: fillled with mouse poo, dog pee in every room, angry holes had been smashed in the walls, graffiti was everywhere and these were just the cosmetic details. Every carpet had to be torn up, new plywood put down on all the floors, the pipes literally scraped out. There was never any real plan to ‘decorate’ or ‘set things up’, it was more of a “we have stuff, get the boxes in and shut the door fast.” The walls got painted white and the boxes got piled in the first room we finished but that was as far as it ever got.

It was about a year and a half later that the kids’ dad left. The place was still a disaster. I needed to do something to clean the air and make start making a home. The entranceway had wood on the lower half of the walls making this the smallest project and so I painted the upper half with paint I got from the Habitat Re-Store for $5. I used garbage bags to apply the paint and created a truly “faux” frottage finish. I put my rocking chair in that space and spent many days there nursing the newborn with the other kids on my lap and looking for designs in the paint. It was my first glimpse into making a house into a home, not just a shell for hiding stuff.

I got some hand-me-down furniture and slowly the house developed some character. There’s no theme since most of the paint was whatever colour the Re-Store had the day I could get a ride there, but I’ve enjoyed doing what I have been able to do. The attic has been the hardest. The kids’ rooms moved up there a few years ago and it’s finally starting to get homey. This was their dad’s space, where he locked himself for days at a time. I wasn’t allowed in there and it never occured to me that this was screwed up. Really bad marriage. I’ve just about managed to whiddle the junk down to the stuff I really really really want to keep – some high school artwork, my first ballet shoes, a special box of baby clothes, including some that I made for the kids. Through doing all of this I am finding lots of things: little notebooks from high school where I wrote down random thoughts or when I was at university the first time before I dropped out to move back home and get married. I’ve found clipping from magazines and papers, of theatre reviews from shows I did or saw. And I found things copied out of books – things I took the time to write by hand in a notebook or on scraps of paper. I found the ones below during the nursing days when I wanted to build an element of celebration into the hard days I had with the kids when we were first getting the hang of family restructuring:

from A Child’s Book of Blessings compiled by Sabrina Dearborn

We used this one regularly at dinner time for awhile while lighting a candle. We used it again at the end of the meal. The kids got to take turns blowing it out which helped them stay in their seats longer too.

Blessing to Start an Activity – Steiner
Candle Fairy burning bright
Come and share with us your light.
May we always learn to share
With the Children everywhere.
Candle Fairy burning bright
Come and share with us your light.

I never learned this one probably because the ‘Goddess’/deity language isn’t my thing but I like the last line about meeting, parting and meeting again. It looks to the future like the French “à bientôt” – until next time. Maybe this is why I prefer “See you later” to “Goodbye”. And all the merry’s remind me of the traditional East Coast tunes I love.

Blessing to End an Activity – Starhawk

May the circle be open, but unbroken.
May the love of the Goddess be ever in our hearts.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.

This one I don’t even remember but I think I will try to find some way to work it into my life. I’d really like some peaceful comings and goings, I think that’s my goal for the year: to look at things but not let them overwhelm me, to pace myself so that I can enjoy what I’m doing instead of always looking at all that needs to be done, whether that’s in my own life, in my family, in my house, my neighbourhood, on campus, in the city, or the world. Goodness knows we need social change but is me jumping up and down at the people around me and not sleeping because I’m trying to fix everything really the way a person should live their life?

I wish this to you as well:

New Year Blessing – Chinese
May you have success in all endeavours.
May you have peace and health in the four seasons.
May your happiness be as wide as the sea.
May all your comings and goings be peaceful.

Next Page »