Category Archives: Personal Stories

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.

My First Book Review

LibraryThing Early ReviewersYou probably noticed that I haven’t been writing a whole lot lately.

It’s no coincidence, and yes, I’m still alive. I’ve just been busy. Besides doing some writing for Divorce 360 and my own blog, POW – The blog (although that’s been suffering recently – I need to go back to my roots), I’ve been hanging out with the four year old, working quite a bit, and now… reviewing books. As a member of the website LibraryThing, I signed up for the Early Reviewers program. It has its perks.

So, here’s my first review – that I’m going to put with my first freelance paycheck stub and my first volunteer freelance letter. Be kind, because God knows that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Yet.

But all is falling into place. I think.

To say that I fancy myself a poet is not exactly accurate; somewhere in a trunk at home there is a folder with Lord only knows how many pieces of poetry that I wrote in the 80’s and 90’s, when things for me were much bleaker and introspective. I even had some success writing a poem that was published a very long time ago.

Therefore, I looked forward to reading How To Write A Suicide Note by Sherry Quan Lee, a multicultural womanwriting about her grappling with suicide, growing up different, and finding herself. To say that I “liked” the series of “poems” (many of which read more like prose than poetry to me – that seems, in retrospect, apt) is not quite the correct word. This was a great series, but in some ways, was so emotional and passionate, that I actually had difficulty reading them. But then again, I’m often dramatic when it comes to topics of this nature.

This was a very good book that I would recommend to people interested in mental health issues, multiculturalism, self-help, poetry or real-life essays, and if you are a parent, read this and learn.

Let me know what you think. The curiosity is killing me.

Yet Another Of The Talks That I Hope To Give My Daughter

Hey, all! Yes, I know, it’s been quite a while.

I could probably type until my fingers were sore on what I’ve been doing lately, since I was such a regular blogger and all for such a long time, but I won’t. Not because it’s boring (it isn’t), but it’s late, and I’m a bit tired, a bit sick, and a bit blue. But only a bit.

The thing that I forgot, though, was that writing always helps, and so, lo, again I’m here to write to you all, apologizing for my long absence from blogging. Hope that you all are doing well!

Here we are, in the midst of the American Silly Season (others might call it Election Year), and I’ve been spending a lot of time with the 4 year old, Grace, to whom this blog is dedicated. It’s been a trying year, but one of change, and that is, I think, a good thing. But my thoughts turned to post that I wrote quite a while ago called One Of The Talks That I Hope To Give My Daughter and, by jove, I think I have another one.

That post was about drugs. This one is about a topic just as dangerous: relationships.

Being that I’m a single dad, one might surmise, correctly, that my luck with women has not been the best. But, as this man approaches 40, I’m beginning to catch a whiff of what might be a working theory. I’m pretty sure that it would work for women, too.

It would go something like this, I think:

“Grace, you’re getting older now, and I’m sure that you’ll want to date, if you haven’t already. Most of those you might not even tell me about. I hope that you do, but you might not. Before you do, though, let me give you a little advice from an old dad who has been dating for a while.”

“You’re going to meet a lot of people. Some of them will like you for who you are, and some, compulsively, will try to change you. Of those two types, realize that once you realize who you are, and you probably haven’t yet, you won’t change too much. You might pick up or lose a habit; you might gain or lose an interest. Fine. But the whole of you, the person that is you, won’t change, so finding someone that you have something important in common with might be…big.”

“But that isn’t the lesson.”

“The real lesson is to try to not be that person who tries to change the other. That path will not make you happy, and I doubt that it will make the other person happy. Be the best person that you can be, care about the one that you love, respect the relationship that you have, never be afraid to communicate with that person, but be ready to drop and run if you have to.”

“Grow together, improve together, encourage each other, and share everything. EVERYTHING. From the dash of your hairspray, to the bills in the mail, to the joys in your lives. Share it and relish it all. Because, Gracie, if you don’t share it all, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, you’ll have secrets, and you will not be a couple. You might be a relationship, but not a couple. In the end, that will probably not make you happy, when your being happy is the only wish that I will ever have for you.”

I think, think that is what I might say.

I don’t know, though. Seems a bit long winded. What do you think?

Think, Parents!

A cautionary tale for parents, divorced or otherwise.

Yesterday, I was at the park with my daughter, Grace, her half-sister Noelle, and their mother.  It was a gorgeous day, and the playground was relatively close to the kids’ school and two other schools, but when we arrived, there were no other children there.  We stuck close and let the kids play in the sand.

I scanned the area.  Nothing particular was out of whack; it was, quite simply, a very simple park, with playground, a port-a-potty (yuck!) and a large, fairly well restored plantation-looking house that I could only assume was some sort of neighborhood gathering place or clubhouse back in the day.

At about the time that I started explaining to Grace that the loud pecking that we heard on the house was simply a very loud woodpecker, I noticed one thing out of place.

One middle aged man in a lawn chair.  Sitting about a block away from us at the other edge of the park looking at nothing in particular.

My parental instincts made a loud buzzing sound.  It was very similar to the sound the inside of my head used to make when a good-looking woman was within some distance of my personal space, but I hadn’t seen her yet.  I used to call it a Spider Sense, after the character.

While watching and playing with the kids, out of the corner of my eye I kept looking at this pudgy, middle aged man.

After a while of only having one other kid come to the playground, my ex and I watched as two children, then three, of about third grade or so came from the public school nearby and start playing… with the parents nowhere in sight.

We made plans to leave.  However, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere with these kids on the playground, and some grown man across the park, who was still looking… wherever.

Finally, the man folded up his chair, after sitting in the park for what had to have been an hour and a half, packed it into his van (which I know sounds cliched, but it’s true, it was a van) and drive away… after circling the park for a block.

It wasn’t until the van was out of sight until we finally picked up the kids and left.

People.

You might be a single parent.  You might be a couple of parents that both work.  I don’t know what scenarios you might have.  However, the lesson here I think is a good one:  pick up your young children from school.  You never know who might be watching, and if that individual – who might have been no more than a person watching cars drive by in the park, mind you – had harmed your children because they were vulnerable and you were simply too busy to pick them up from school on a regular weekday… well, where would you be then?

Just a story with a happy ending.

Today.

One Thing Can Improve Your Co-Parenting Life… And I Have Evidence

A while ago, I wrote a post called A Fact And Forgiveness where I basically said that forgiveness is the key to being in a relationship with your children and your ex, and that accepting your ex as part of your family would eventually make your situation much better.

Well, I have a secret.

I didn’t know that for sure.

Sure, I can talk a good game, but in all honesty, I didn’t know for a fact that forgiveness was the key.  After all, I was in a situation where things were relatively contentious between myself and my daughter’s mother; we would argue or wouldn’t speak at all, and the relationship was strained, to say the least.

So.  It’s would great pleasure that I tell you that I was actually correct.  Tomorrow, with the blessing of the State of Colorado and Grace’s mother, my daughter will be having an extended, meaning weekend, stay over at my apartment.  I would jump for joy, but my legs are a bit sore from an rigorous workout today (ouch).

Sure, I’m quite sure that working hard, paying child support, providing health care, and participating in school events had something to do with it too.  But in the end, my head had to change – and once that it did, everything else fell into place.  And there it is – in the end, I did what needed to be done.

Forgiveness works, people.  Fight when (and if) you have to, but seriously, as the phrase goes, you catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

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.