Category Archives: Parenting

Parenting Stuff

Watching The Wheels

Another evening, another great night.

Tuesday night, my daughter is safely in bed, stuffed puppy curled in an arm, one pillow under her head, one to the side, a pink elephant by her side.  She’s six years old now, she’s with me quite a bit, and I couldn’t be happier.  Actually, that’s a lie; I could be happier, probably, but… right now, how?

Funny.  It doesn’t seem like it was long ago that I worried about when she would start reading, when she’d show interest in things besides eating, hiding behind a pant leg, and watching cartoons.  Now she’s concerned about overeating, taking ballet and making new friends, and watching Disney “tween” shows.   Now I worry about things like her spelling, if she has enough kid friends in the summer, and where we’ll go on vacations that would have some practical value.

A few months ago, someone told me that these I’m reaching the point of my life, as a parent, where time will move impossibly fast, and that it would seem as though one day I’d wake up and years would have gone by in my daughter’s life, and I need to pay special attention to what I do, what we do, and now I have no doubt.  My daughter remembers everything now.  Working days slip by, and I barely know where they went… but go they did.  Culture has changed; Britney Spears became Lady Gaga, Harry Potter begat Twilight.  So I stepped up, too.  Insurance has been bought, college funds are growing, major project established, plans have been made.

Yet, still, I walk by my daughter’s room, as often when she’s here as when she’s not, wondering if I’m succeeding.  Wondering if she really minds the dresser that could use a fresh coat of paint.  Wondering if she really liked what I had to throw together for dinner at the last minute.  Wondering if she’s always like those Dora brand yogurt that can be so hard to find.  Wondering if she really still appreciates the fact that I still make sure that every night before she goes to bed, the last words that she hears from me are, “I love you, Gracie.”  And wondering if she still does appreciate it now, will she always?

My every night is filled with questions with no answers.  None yet, anyway.

Only time will tell the tale.

It’s an amazing journey, this one of being a single parent, and it’s one that I’m still learning as I go.  I suspect that I still have so much to learn.

But I’m not just watching the wheels turn.

Maybe what I’m attempting to say today is that perhaps none of us should.

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A Parent Looks At 40

This post is overdue, because 40 started last year.  Try not to hold it against me; my brain really only became 40 in the last few months, so bear with me.

I began Single Dads for a couple of reasons.  One was to serve as a constant reminder what it was like to be a single dad with daughter, from the beginning, and the other was to have a first hand source of the thoughts, emotions, and trials of a single parent available for my daughter to read when she became old enough to view it.  For quite a while now, it’s done exactly that.  I believe, however, that this blog enters a new age, as tonight, I came to some realizations that I’m finally able to share is some intelligent way.

A long time ago I wrote a post called The Empty Room, about how I felt walking by my daughter’s empty room when she was away with her mother.  Grace’s room isn’t empty any more.   As I write, her room is filled with stuffed animals, music boxes given to her as gifts from me and her grandparents, Barbie dolls used and unused, woodland fairy and princess outfits, and the best children’s books (she loves Kitten’s First Full Moon – seems like I read it 3 times a week).  These aren’t the signs of an empty room, but a room filled with memories and love.

So finally I have realized, it wasn’t the room that was empty, it was, in fact, a metaphor for my emptiness.

Now, here I am: a self-aware, semi-actualized single dad, who, between running his daughter to dance class and movies, still hasn’t figured out how to find and spend quality time with other people with whom I have parenting in common.  Still having single friends without children who have to be tired of attempting to relate to my personal struggles, still woefully lacking in age appropriate play dates, still trying desperately to figure out what’s next for me.  That all is getting ready to change.

Now I know.  Now I know why that woman with the two young boys was so nice to me in line to see that kid’s movie.  Now I know why the singular mother is always so nice on the playground when we go.

I understand why I miss going to single “social events” less and less, and why like the Disney Channels more and more.

I get it.

I think it might be time to start filling up my own room.

Where’s Daddy?

The great thing about having a little time off from Single Dads and my other blog is that I have no shortage of things to write about.  However, some things are timelier than others.  This article from the Buffalo News, however, made me just a little upset.

Dante Brown is a playful, rambunctious toddler growing up on the city’s West Side.

TraJanae Sanders is the same kind of kid, growing up on the East Side.

A lot separates these 2-year-olds, but in some important ways, their young lives already echo with similarity. Both are poor.

Both are being raised by young women who bore them as teenagers.

And neither child has a dad at home. Dante and TraJanae are two faces of a change that’s deeply affecting many neighborhoods in Buffalo — where today 43 percent of children live below the poverty line.

These two children, and at least 18,450 others in the city, are growing up in low-income homes headed by women alone. This is fatherless Buffalo.

Nifty.  Nice job out there in Buffalo, guys.

Look, men as a whole are dumb enough; I don’t think that I know one person that wouldn’t agree with me, and I do know a lot of people.  However, there’s no reason to make us look MORE dumb by not sticking by your kids.  YOUR KIDS, GENTLEMEN.

I’m not with my daughter’s mother, but I’m definitely with my daughter, Grace, and by God, she knows it, and will know it, for the rest of her life.  I’m not going ANYWHERE.  Shoot, it’s hard enough to not see her for a weekend.

I have a million stories to prove that.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, on behalf of the millions of men out there that love their kids and would never abandon them, mothers of the world, I apologize.

A Fact And Forgiveness

I would expect that one of the things that lots of divorcees with kids grapple with is relationships with the ex. Speaking from experience, I can say equivocally that this happens… everywhere. You broke up with your ex for a reason, be it infidelity, finances, emotional abuse, or whatever it is… and if you have kids, there is some sort of split relationship, most likely, involving them.

People. People. Let me enlighten you on one irrevocable fact.

You WILL be dealing with your ex for the rest of your life, unless you are in one of the extreme cases where it’s unsafe for you, or your children, to be near the ex. You can’t avoid, ignore, or otherwise shut them out. You may think that there is, but there is not, because the kids are involved, and will be forever.

What does this mean for you, the traumatized, or on the other hand, insufferable other parent?

It means that you will have to get over it. Deal with the other parent. When you have to, converse with the other parent. In fact, consider the other parent, as distasteful as it might be for you or them, part of your family, because when it comes down to it, that is exactly what they are. Not a conventional family in the way that you might like, but a family, nonetheless. Existing children will guarantee this fact. Surely, you will still recall what it is that made you so unhappy with them, fine. You can remember that if you like.

But the key emotion, and the hardest to learn, is this, with all apologies to Don Henely:

Forgiveness.

Even if you don’t love them anymore.

Use Child Time Wisely

I love Saturdays.

Lately, my daughter has been spending a lot of weekends here, which, I have to admit, is wonderful for me. In the past, I’ve heard of a lot of other co-parenting fathers taking their time with their toddler kids to do the fun things, like go on trips, go to playgrounds, and just simply play. The very first excursion that I took Grace and her sister on together when I was still with their mom was to the Art Museum – and Grace was still a little, little baby at that time.

I like to do “fun” things with Grace but I love to plan activities that count towards her future development.

Our most recent weekend adventures involve the “learning” Leapfrog videos. If you’re not familiar and have a toddler, I can’t recommend them enough. Right now our family is a little obsessed with the Letter and Word Factory DVDs, which are fun for me and for her no matter how many times we see them. Better still, the DVDs come equipped with learning games that teach your kids skills, like recognizing words that rhyme, or letters. She gets to acquire skills that she will be able to use for the rest of her life; I get to swell with pride at her increasing ability to communicate like a big kid.

You can’t get a better win/win situation.

Being that I have no idea what she’s learning when she’s with Mom, I figure that exposing her to as many opportunities to learn while she’s with me is the best thing that I can do for both of us.

But we also went to the playground.

Ah, the wonders of the toddler attention span.

Protect Your Name And Your Reputation

Something that you need to definitely have to do when you divorce is watch yourself, and watch your name. Google it if you have to. I have personal experience with this phenomenon.

My present girlfriend had the wonderful experience of being stalked by her ex. He started a website solely for the purposes of trying to make my girlfriend look bad, put her down, and talk about personal information. He would put pictures on his site and allude negatively towards her work habits, personal experiences, and et cetera. Absolutely a prince, you might say. Eventually, it took a threat from the FBI, local law enforcement, and various websites being pulled from free sites for violations of terms of service to make him cease and desist.

My ex is similar, but does a different kind of stalking. On her MySpace page, (a page that which I read regularly) she describes how miserable she is and attempts to slam me as having a drinking problem and being an irresponsible and deadbeat dad… despite my regular OVER payments for child support – never missing a payment, regular visits, and general overall support. The reason that I am not with her is that we don’t get along. I DO want to be with my child 24/7. It’s a huge difference, and an emotionally and legally expensive one.

Solutions? I’m not sure that I have one, and if anyone has any great ideas, then I’m all ears. I’m already considering legal action.  However, if your breakup with your ex was acrimonious, then learn to use Google. Be your best private detective. Keep a journal It can be a little annoying and perhaps may cause you fume a bit, but make sure that you have all the possible information. At least that way, if you decide to follow through, then you’ll have all the information. Over at WiredSafety.org, they have a lot of great information about cyberstalking and a number of other Internet crimes.

Here’s one that you can write down; despite any odd thing that I might see in her behavior, actions, or choices, you will never see me slam her in print. That’s no better than gossip, and despite the fact that our relationship didn’t work out, she does have good qualities for someone else. That won’t stop me from being the dad of a three year old.

Remember as well; self improvement is the best form of revenge.

Back From The Holidays

Hello everyone!  Back from the holidays.   They were busy.

I certainly didn’t get a whole lot of everything, but come to think of it, I don’t really need that much.  The real highlight of my holiday was spending time with my daughter.  Now, SHE cleaned up.  Is it a popular vice of co-parents that they completely and totally overspend for the holidays?  I think that Grace has every Princess toy known to mankind now.  Yet, I still am finding that I need to get her more.  She really needs a tent.  Also some new clothes, even though she already has quite a few.  but the temptation to keep buying clothes (she’ll be four in a few months, and she’s always growing) is ridiculous.  I’m never sure that her mother is going to buy her clothes.

Anyway, I’m back.