August 25, 2009

The steps to recovery

Now, this posting is not particularly related to our kids, but it does deal with something that is very much part of our lives - the dreaded. oh-so-menacing-dude, a.k.a. the kids’ father.

If you are like me, that subject we rather not talk about (except when we need to vent), think about, nor have in our lives... but for worse or for worse, he is part of our lives because of the sharing of a common blessing, our children.

I know there are situations when ex-couples don’t have any problems at all! For example, my neighbors ex-husband comes to her house, greets the whole family, picks the little kid, stays for dinner - I thought that only happened in movies!, but honestly, good for them, and if that is you - good for you! But if you find yourself in the midsts of a custody battle, that may not be the case. I know that is gets very rocky while papers are served, judge visits, etc, etc, afterwards it may decrease, hopefully, if our hearts are in the right place, I think - into seeking the well being of the children only.

But, how to ride that exhausting roller coaster in the mean time?

While in court battle (2 years) I had to see the dude practically everyday - arg! I don’t know how it goes for you, but I got nauseated as his visitation time approached, disgusted any time we had to talk and in anger with every approach. I often wondered how I went from a good stable relationship to such ugly feelings and utter disgust - every part of me screamed, “you are right for feeling this way, after all he had done and said” maybe so (we’ll get to that later) but fakeness was only taking me so far...

To the now, has been very hard, but it has gotten manageable. I still feel the anger, but now I “reason” through it, and surrender it.

Hello, I am a single mother and I dread my kid’s father...

STEP 1: BASE. I have a base. A custody settlement has been drawned. Hopefully this means court is over - people in my same situation tell me to keep wishing... But at least we have a base we draw from. He has a set time, I have a set time. No matter how much you fight it an dislike it, it is there and by order of the judge we got to respect the agreement, because that is why we went to court, to seek outside settlement due to the lack of communication. You could modify it yourselves, but remember, everything in writing.

STEP 2: LOOK. I look at my kid’s face and I have peace and strength of mind. I want to do what is best for him, and he needs time with his father - “but my kid doesn’t know him as I do, he’s a jerk!” I say to myself from time to time :) and yes, it is a good thing out kids don’t know the type of man we were involved with. They see the daddy side of the dude, and that should be all they see. Most dads work hard for their kids to only see the better side to them, specially if they find themselves in this situation, and that is good. out kids are very lucky to have a set of parents that love them and “fight” for more time with them (hopefully that is your case, if the opposite is the case, then you will supply and overflow, trust me, mother’s can :) )

When I pick up my child, or he gets picked up by his dad, I only focus on my kid’s face. Rarely I look up at his dad’s face when he is informs me about something (we got to be polite right?) and I am amazed at the changes that has happened with that person since last time - time certainly flies.

STEP 3: PREDICT. You know the type of person you are dealing with. You know his reactions and his most predictable actions, his yes’s and no’s, so, apply your knowledge to take advantage of the situation, not to manipulate, but to be prepared. Although, at the same time acknowledge that parenthood changes people, but let’s not be naive ;)

Also predict your reactions, there are little things that will annoy you and be magnified, and your reactions will be magnified. I am not saying let bad things slide, but put them in perspective and be solution minded, not increasing the problem. For example:

He is late to pick up the child and you are in a hurry for a meeting. If the meeting can’t wait, tell him to pick him up half way of at your meeting place. Give a 30-minute grace, don’t schedule anything for those 30 minutes, therefore you are in the safe. Most agreements allow 1 hour (with notification) tardiness before the visitation is forfeited. If the situation continues suggest a new pick-up time.

He is not as careful as you are in rearing the kids. Hmmm - yes, I have over-reacted to this one also. First, breathe... deeply... then remember that there are two styles of parenting here, the right one and the wrong one - kidding! - he is a guy after all, pizza for breakfast and candy for dinner won’t kill our kids, they need that sometimes :) they will survive, and we can have a bag full of veggies for when they come back :) But when the kid a certain medical condition, in which doctor’s orders need to be follow, I do suggest to be on the top of that, a failure for a parent to follow medical orders is considered neglect and is investigated by Child Protection Services.

The dad talks badly about you in front of the child. This is usually a biggie on any custody agreement, we cannot really regulate it, but we can talk to our kids about how to react and what to really listen to. Encourage your kids to leave a situation they are not comfortable with, meaning if dad and company are talking badly about you, they can leave the room or ask dad not to talk talk way about their mother. Explain your kids that that type of “adult talk” is unacceptable and we all make mistakes in that area sometimes. That also should work for us, not matter how upset we are, never to talk bad about the kid’s father in front of them - it chatters the image they have of both parents.

Dad tends to “forget” previous agreements. GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!! if you guys are agreeing to major changes in the schedule, then have it notarized, and with the judge’s signature if possible. “Forgetfulness” is very common if the agreement doesn’t longer benefit the opposing party. If the dad’s lack of memory makes you miss an important engagement with your kids, no matter how mad we get, it is done - he may even have done it to bother you - don’t let it. A holiday is a holiday, what you make it to be with your family is what matters. Days and events will come and go - plan for when you have the kids with you, therefore you don’t surrender control, that is the father of pride :)

STEP 4: VENT. Talk to a friend, write a journal or blog :), exercise, let it out! Don’t let frustrations eat you up or take the best of you. Don’t give the dude any power over you, he may be doing things on purpose or be truly clueless - give the benefit of the doubt. Important NOTE: NEVER EVER VENT ON YOUR CHILDREN.

STEP 5: ENJOY your time with your kids and your time off your kids, the second part may be difficult to do. My kid and I suffer from separation anxiety when he goes for the weekend, it is natural, but it is healthy and necessary to re-charge and be ready for the next few days ahead. Interact with adults, get things done, invest in you :)

STEP 6: FORGIVE - what?! that is a hard one, I know. A tip, when you are at the point of forgiveness, all things come to mind, the list of reasons why dude is so dreading, rage for past actions, the hurt and anger that makes us so comfortable and gives us reasons to be bitter and cry for justice. That’s when we should give it, even more.

Forgiveness is necessary, it is not a magic wand, it doesn’t happen in a card nor e-mail, it doesn’t happen in a day, it doesn’t give you a happy face all the sudden, and it doesn’t mean you have to be friends afterwards. it takes time, effort (maybe only yours), thought, reason and surrender. Forgiveness is good for you, the kids and the situation.

But, what is forgiveness anyway? Whatever bad stuff that happened, it sucks. It change us in a way, it gave us the anger we are convinced is our right to have, it makes us want to seek our own justice - it doesn’t let us think, move, interpret, perceive things in no other terms than in ours. That is an ugly thing to live with.

We may also have had something to do with the situation, have we thought about that? As we want to let go of the guilt, it is important to release all the ones involved and see the situations as a situations that happened, that sucked, but it happenED. I am not owned by the situation, by the dude nor by my anger. It is time to live a new life without any holds to the past one. Forgive means to release. Allows us to see our kids in a new light, a little person who comes of two parents who love him/her - not just a product of you and that guy. Giving the best to out kids is hard, and we may have to start with this one :)

STEP 7: FORGET - double what?! Forget doesn’t mean we put the situation under the rug to never re-visit it again - IT will re-visit you, trust me. I love the saying: “you cannot not stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest on your head”. The situation we will not forget, but we can stop it from hurting us as it did before, you have the power to do that.

Why do we want to forget? because it will take the focus off out hurt and place it on the kids and their needs. I also cry for justice for what the jerk did, but I will trade “my justice” for my child’s well being any day :)

STEP 8: SURRENDER - I don’t know if you believe in God, but He is real and He wants to comfort you, He wants to help you deal with all this stuff, He wants to make you whole again and He wants to parent with you.

I come from a broken house also, and I did see God covering us kids and my parents as we went through the brokeness. Surrender means: bad stuff will happen and God has a plan for it, for everything. God doesn’t take sides, not even our kids, but He knows what He is doing and will carry us through. I don’t believe He intended divorce, but He intended forgiveness. He did not intend for pre-marital sex, but He intended repentance, He didn’t intend for the heaviness of sin, But He intended restoration. We don’t know were we are going, God does. He is in absolute control and He loves our children more than we would ever do, He made them, and He made us their parents, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

God has a plan, trust and bring all those bad situations to His feet and say “Well, this sucks, but I give this to you. You are in control, do whatever your plan is Lord, but prepare my kids’ and my heart for what you have planned”

STEP 9: THE NEW YOU - Yes, there is room to be you. Not as to show something to someone, but for you. Enjoy your kids, be strong with them. Let them see you smile from the inside out. be honest with your feelings and acknowledge having them. We are women and we are emotional, yay! we are mothers and we protect, yay! we are single and we have excitement coming our way, yay! we are gorgeous and we know it! your kids tell you that all the time, and children are the ones who are honest.

Live the fabulous live you are meant to live and receive the freedom of heart God has for you!

Our kids matter, we matter - end of quote.

Love your kids today! and Blessings!

August 19, 2009

mamma's boy

On my quest to become an American mom :) I came across the notation "mamma's boy".

Now, where I come from (Peru) that is a compliment. Little by little I came to find out that in America is very close to an insult.
It makes sense now, and it is kind of funny, the looks I got when some people asked me "is your boy a mamma's boy?" and I answer "I hope so...".

Peru, being a matriarchal society, puts a lot of emphasis on respecting your mother, not by an educational institute or the government, but by your family. You ought to not to talk back to your parents, respect the adults, aid the family in whatever way possible and other ways of that kind, and because the raising of the children is mostly done by the mothers (dad's work a lot or not often in town) - so, your pillar is your mother. And I haven't seen anything wrong with that to tell you the truth. Boys don't turn out to be weaker, or less independent, or self-conscious. Even in adulthood they just want to be in contact with their families, mothers, fathers - there is just no other road to follow - even as I am writing this any contraction sounds...weird...

When I asked a friend about the term "mamma's boy" here in America, he said (he was raised by a single mother as well) he even got in a fight in order to prove he wasn't - then what should I expect and do with my little boy!
I want him to grow respectful of his mother as that teaches him how to respect other women (I have seen the lack of that teaching, not pretty at all!). I want him to value his family and not use the situation he is in as an excuse for poor behaviour.

My boy and I are very attached. We do enjoy playing, reading, outing, movies (he is such a performer), relaxing, learning, etc. The mere concept of trying to cut on that so he will become independent is so foreign to me and don't know how to accept that.

I even look at my aunts and uncles - 12 from my mother's side. My grandmother was a single mother, raising all those kids. Up until the day she died, she had at least 1 of her kids by her side. My uncles would call her weekly, the ones in the US would visit her in Peru at twice a year - and she was in no way controlling.
My mom, a single mom most of the time - we cannot go 2 days without calling her, even when we are out of the country - she is not controlling, we just love to talk to her - a mother is suppose to be a place of comfort. The most familiar person in a world we are yet discovering (even as adults) - I think "mamma's boy" should be defined as: a boy who thinks about his mother and respects her.

In many countries around the world, mainly the ones that are not very affluent - the emphasis in family is great, these are matriarchal societies for the most part: Latin America, Thailand, Philippines, Africa, etc. Countries where progress is the main issue - family closeness is a bit difficult to achieve - many times comes as a have to rather than a want to - Japan comes to my mind, most of Europe...

You and I are single mothers, we juggle kids, work, personal life (whenever possible), chores, etc. our kids are a driving force and their well being is a priority to us. Whatever the situation was to bring you to this place of single parenting, has not been pretty - and you made every thing possible for your children not to "see" it as ugly as it was.
Your child is watching you be strong, your child is drawing comfort and stability from you - if custody has been drawn, you probably have a higher percentage of time with the children - so, it is you, regardless if you have a boy or a girl - who will give most of the influence to your kids.
it is not the time to play detachment, I think - it is the time to be there - even when you are exhausted, you will draw strength - you are a mom - trust me, you can.
Your kids will be forever thankful for your efforts (maybe not when they are teenagers - but after college, guaranteed ;) )

Mamma's boys are not less independent than the rest, they not less developed, they are not a statistic number that screams single parent home - they are boys that draw their strength from the closest person to them - you.

A male figure, if the father is not involved, is essential, don't get me wrong - boys and girls needs a GOOD male influence for many, many reasons I will not get into today - but you or your kids are NOT a statistic number if a dad is not present. Don't give up before battling - our kids will adapt, without any excuses I hope - but they need to be taught to overcome their circumstances.
They need to be taught to respect their caregivers, to give to their families, to love back, to be present even when independent.
Teach your kids to see you and to see how hard you press to make things work, that will teach them to value what is important - that is better to just let them fend for themselves.

Love your kids!!!!


August 4, 2009

logic vs. facts 2

On the previous posting, I talked about fathers' rights and the issues for what they stand.
I was reading and re-reading what I posted trying to give a fair information, as fair as I can be from the side I am standing on - a single mother who is involved in a custody battle.

I re-visited the sites where lawyers advertise about fathers' rights to look for some changes in their policies, and no. talks about how to get to pay less child support, win a custody case and slip through allegations.

One thing should be clear though, when approaching a custody battle, honesty is key. When we went to mediation, I requested the mediator my son's dad and I visited a family counselor, because out communication problems were major, and if they were not addressed, they would come back to haunt us. The mediator said they cannot force us to go, but she recommended it - I agree, we needed to go for the sake of our child. Recognize your short comings and the areas you as individual need some help.
The desire to work things out needs to be mutual, not for the parents sake, but for the child's sake.
- a child needs time with both parents
- a child needs a place he/she calls home, which means that child spends more time at one particular parent's residence)

can there be a compromise? YES if both parents work together and pride if off the table. The most natural thing is for home to be with the mother (because of how nature is arranged, kids first connection with the mother, etc.); court considers many factors, how feasible the mother makes it for the child to communicate with the other parent, if the mother has the time to give to the child, family connections, etc.
- ALLOW communication with the other parent, remember the deal between you and the other parent is not the issue, but the child's relationship with his/her other parent is.
if you can negotiate for the child to spend more time with the other parent in certain occasions, then go for it - it can be on the record, off the record, as you wish, but respect the other parent's time and relationship with your child.
I cannot emphasize this enough - if you suspect abuse, act accordingly and present the facts to court. Protect your child at all times.

- both parents want to be present on the kids lives.

- many are the words few are the actions.

if the other parent requests to be part of the other kids lives, such as school meetings, doctor's visits, etc, allow it. There you will see how much was bluff and how much was from the heart.
Time will proof how much the other parent wanted this. But don't be the one who forces retreat, encourage the involvement; unfortunately you also have to be there when there is a lack of it to pick up the pieces. In this case, write everything down, explain the other parent the importance of his commitment, and if he is still leaving your children hanging, maybe it is time for another arrangement that will be beneficial for the child. Keep a log.

- a child's life should continue UN-interrupted.

- a split schedule will not allow for that.

This is what bedazzles me about the 50/50 situation fathers' rights endorses. How would the life of a child develop functionally having to jump from house to house half the time of their lives.
Picture school, one week on one school, another week on another, even 5 months at one school, 5 at another. Picture yourself at work on that situation, an adult cannot handle that situation, how can a kid be expected to handle this?
Some "friends" suggested this so my kid can enjoy his father half the time. My suggestion would be, subject your kids through that, and see how it goes. The following response "well, you got yourself on that situation, now deal with it". My response "I did yes, and I am paying for it, my kid shouldn't and doesn't have to."
Please put your child first, not other's people's comments.

A child's life cannot develop as you have desired with a split home situation, we were not designed for that, but that doesn't mean you cannot seek stability (for your child) with the schedule you have.

Schedule activities for your child around his/her schedule, if something special is going on during the other parent's time, ask, negotiate, the worst could happen is hearing a "no". Yes, we get mad, curse the unfair situation, arg! then the event is gone and back to business as usual.
But ask, it is ok, maybe the other parent also wants to exchange a date or a time slot. Be fair, offer the same time you are asking for - talk the situation and hope for the best, be ready for the "no".
There is always next time and next year.

I remember the time my grandmother was dying and wanted to see me (she was all the way in Peru) I could not leave my 6 month baby with his dad (I was breast feeding, my son's dad was working and UN-able to take care of the child, I knew) I pleaded, the dude said no, his reasons were unfounded. My grandmother died when I was on court fighting the issue for the first time.
Do I hate the moment? Absolutely. Would I do the same if the situation happens on his side? I pray that pride and bitterness don't take a hold of my heart, and I pray that I have my son's best interests at heart only.
But the situation came and went, I was angry and hurt and furious! but that gave me a drive to fight that situation in court, so I can take my baby out of the country to visit Peru if needed - it happened! regardless of the opposition, it happened - my son is going to Peru for the second time this year!
I wish my grandmother had met my baby, but it didn't work out that way. It happened, dismiss it, because it we act on what the other parent did to us, the only losers will be the children.

Logic: divorce was for the "best"
Fact: then let's make that best possible for the kids - you may have to work harder, but they deserve it, don't they?

Kids will gravitate to their fathers at one point and to the mother at others, talk to them, allow the time if possible (don't sacrifice school!) - beat the statistics ;)
No, children from broken homes don't end up messed up, don't give into that. Fight for your kids, even against your own pride.

Love your kids!