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Posts Tagged ‘children’

The most difficult thing about going from being a married dad to a single dad was not sleeping under the same roof as my children every day. Getting them up in the morning, feeding them breakfast, getting them ready for school… and then at night, asking about their day, checking the schoolwork, and finally tucking them in and getting a goodnight kiss… the daily connection with your children is such a blessing, so rejuvenating to the mind and spirit. And most important of all—having access to a hug from someone who loves you whenever you need it is the greatest gift. There are days when the world is beating you down, and you desperately need the balm of a loved one’s arms wrapped around you to let you know it’s okay. When you’re a single dad who’s children don’t live with you, when you have those sorts of days, most of the time you come home to an empty house and just have to deal with being beaten down alone, and hold on for the next visitation when you can finally get the hugs and kisses that you need. My ex often laments about how difficult and busy it is being a single mom, but I would trade places with her in a heartbeat.

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So another great season of Mad Men is in the books.  This season has been an interesting ride, with some rather strange twists and turns, and some stuff that almost feels hallucinogenic – which, given the time frame (1968) is apropos.  I’m not going to go into details too deeply here, and the spoilers will be light… however, I’ll put the rest under the cut just in case you want to remain spoiler free.  But I think the questions raised in this season of Mad Men deserve some consideration and thought, so I’m doing that here.  And how is that relevant to the theme of My Ideal Woman?  Well, for starters, My Ideal Woman would watch great television like Mad Men and enjoy pondering the meaning, the issues raised, and engage in discussion about what they thought about the episodes.  Also, I think this season of Mad Men in particular reflects on a flawed man trying to connect to people – especially his children – and while I’m certainly not nearly as fucked up as Don Draper, I can relate to some extent not only as a father trying to raise his children well but also as the son of a fucked up father.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve written here before how having children so dramatically changes your perspective, not least of which has to do with regrets you may have had in life.  The steps you took in life, even the steps you may have regretted, ultimately led you to the path that brought your children into your life… and every day I see these wonderful little souls, these amazing lives that are growing and becoming more and more independent and curious, with dreams and hopes for their futures, I realize that even a slight deviation in my path to them might have prevented them from even existing.  It takes my breath away when I think back and contemplate how easy it could have been to take a different path, and so how can I regret the things I used to think of as mistakes and lost opportunities if they ultimately led me to these beautiful kids?

In the universe of previously-regrettable moments, there are two that are tied to one particular individual, an old friend I’ll call Mike.  Mike and I knew each other for years, but got quite close in high school and our early college years.  We had similar interests in nerdy stuff, were both smart and creative, and both rather big guys.  But while I tended to be more shy and introspective, Mike was outgoing and boisterous, which of course let him be much more successful with girls than I.

At one point in high school I went over to the house of a different friend of mine and met his sister for the first time, and I totally flipped for her.  I don’t even remember what I had gone over there for, all I recall was that his sister and I hit it off like long-lost soulmates.  We had a ton in common, we had a similar dark sense of humor and constantly laughed at each other.  While I tended to get extremely bashful around girls, something about her put me totally at ease, we kept constant eye contact, shared smiles, and by the time I had to leave she gave me a wonderfully long, lingering hug.  She was tall, long dark hair, a dazzling smile… I never wanted to let go.

I remember driving away in a daze, totally smitten… and in a quandry.  This was my friend’s sister!  In my circle of friends there were sisters who had gotten involved with friends and it usually didn’t end so well, and it tended to muck up the friend dynamic, often evoking the “protective big brother” response, which trumps friendship every time.

But… but… she was perfect! (more…)

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A couple months ago, Subtlekate had a great post on non-conventional parenting, which had me thinking about what sort of parent I am.  Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and it is totally transformational– once you put on the parent hat, it’s something you wear forever.  Most of us want to be the best possible parent we can be.  So reading Kate’s post had me thinking about the choices I made as a parent, and if I could figure out how to describe my parental “style.”  This is what I wrote in reply:

I dunno what sort of label I have as a parent, I haven’t really checked in on that sort of thing. My ex and I didn’t get a book on parenting, we just let instinct, common sense and tips from family and friends guide us. I do know the one thing I made a conscious effort on was to make sure that I showered them with affection from the get-go. Lots of hugs and kisses, snuggling, holding hands, running fingers through hair. Even now at their ages of 11 and 9. Pretty easy since I’m very affectionate by nature, but I’m aware that there is cultural pressure for men to not necessarily be that way and I just didn’t want my kids to imprint on that. I want my son to grow up being a very affectionate man, and I want my daughter to grow up expecting the men in her life to be affectionate.

I’ve thought a lot about those last two sentences over the months since I wrote it, and on this Father’s Day I thought it was good to reflect on it a bit and put up a blog post about it.  I spent a lot of time with the kids this weekend, and just really basked in fatherhood, listening to what my kids wanted to talk about, asking them lots of questions on what they were up to, what they thought about stuff.  But what touched me the most as we walked to and from various places throughout the weekend, how each of them would periodically reach out and put their hand in mine, even if it was just for a minute or two.  My daughter, six months to 12 and my son, just a month shy of being 10, holding their old man’s hand.  Giving that affection right back to me in spades.

Affection is so affirming, it fills you with love, warmth, happiness, security.  My ex was so non-affectionate to me for much of our marriage that I was terrified the kids would somehow become imprinted with the idea that that was what they would expect in their adult relationships.  Thankfully, their mom is very affectionate with them so between the both of us being very affectionate parents it’s my hope that they will grow up and find affectionate people to pair up with.  Love, looks, sexual chemistry– all that stuff is great when it comes along, but it can also ebb and flow or be fleeting.  Affection though… affection is the bedrock of happiness in a healthy relationship.  If you can reach out and hold hands with your partner, no matter how old you are or who’s around, then you know you’re home.

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Today is one of those awkward dates in a recently separated/divorced person’s life.  You know…

The Wedding Anniversary.

14 years ago today, my ex and I said our vows in front of God, family and friends.  It was a lovely ceremony; we’d rolled the dice and crossed our fingers, picking an outdoor wedding at Maymont Park, and the weather was gorgeous.  The humidity was low, a nice breeze in the air, warm but not too warm.  Birds were chirping.  The very next day, the weather turned cold and rainy, but by then we were in the air flying to Cancun.

It’s certainly a bit sad now for me to think back to the man I was then, filled with all the hopes and dreams for our future together, and then ponder where we end up.  For many people, there’s probably a lot more emotion tied up in the Wedding Anniversary than a little bit of sadness, but that’s all there really is for me.

I recently had a nice conversation with Cdn Stormweather — who writes the awesome Life in the Dash Lane blog — regarding my previous post on a Reverse Bucket List, and she asked me if I died tomorrow, would I go feeling fulfilled and happy?  Certainly an interesting notion to ponder.  Yes, it would be easy to get caught up in regrets and other negative emotions regarding how the marriage turned out, but I have to say that I think I’d be fine on that front.

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