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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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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My friend Molly pointed me to this great blog written by psychologist Kelly Flanagan and I felt like it most definitely deserved a spot here on My Ideal Woman.  Not only because it perfectly expresses what I’d want to tell my daughter once she gets a little bit older and interested in boys (and I might just print out a copy to give to her), but because the message is a powerful one not just to little girls but all the former little girls out there who find themselves tangled up with unappreciative guys.  I get angry when I hear about this sort of thing too, because it shouldn’t be a woman’s — or either person’s — job to keep your partner interested.  Trust in yourself that you are interesting, and that there are people out there who will find you endlessly interesting… and that you deserve nothing less.

Below is what he so beautifully wrote:

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A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl
(About Her Future Husband)

Dear Cutie-Pie,

Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”

It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior.

And I got angry.

Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep him interested.” (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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Being a Chill Co-Parent

I feel fortunate in a lot of ways.  I’m of an age where I see a fair number of friends and acquaintances going through breakups and divorces and most of them seem to be incredibly messy and full of hurt feelings and anger.  Thankfully, I don’t have that in my life.

Not to say my divorce isn’t laced with hurt feelings and anger, but those emotions are just a by-product of two people who came to realize that they no longer wanted to be married.  Those emotions aren’t driving our actions or consuming our thoughts like I see so many others going through.  They mostly flare up and annoy, if they need venting I’ll vent, but then I just let them go and move on.

Of course, we have two children that we keep forefront in our mind, and our number one concern is raising them to be happy and well-adjusted people.  Having two parents at war with each other isn’t going to help with that plan, and when I see a couple that’s split and has children and they constantly inject drama and high negative emotion into their lives, I just flinch and feel bad for their kids.

It made me feel a little better the other day, when I was talking with a co-worker and come to find out he was a single father.  I asked him how often he got to see his son (assuming as is usually the case that the child lived with his mom), and he smiled and said he rented a room from his ex-wife, so  he got to see his son all the time.  While I don’t think I could ever live with my ex again, we did share a hotel room for a couple days at the beach with the kids for vacation the summer after we split, and I spend the night on Christmas Eve so we can all get up and do Santa Claus together with our children.  We’re not a couple and not really friends, but we’re friendly enough and we share a love for our two little ones that gives us common ground and common interest in the way we interact through everyday and holidays.

I wonder how that dynamic might change when one or the other of us brings a significant other into the mix.  I’ve not dated and I don’t think she’s dated since we split… on my side, it’s not been because I’ve not wanted to date, but mostly because it’s so difficult to find time.  I’d likely make a really terrible boyfriend right now unless I find a gal who wouldn’t mind keeping odd h0urs with me until I find a roommate and can cut back on my insane work schedule.  I’m not even sure how I’d go about finding such a woman!

But one day it’s going to happen.   One of us will fall for someone and that person will become a part of the relationship dynamic.  And it makes me wonder how he or she might react to the fact that my ex and I aren’t at war, and we try to both share in our children’s lives as much as we can.  Will they find it awesome, will they find it tolerable, will they freak out about it?

What do you think?  Have you covered this territory before?  It’s uncharted waters for me, so any tips or tales ahead of time would certainly help.

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