Tag Archives: Advice

The Best Job I Ever Had

Sitting in my apartment, watching HBO, with my almost six year old daughter sleeping peacefully in the room next to this one, it occurred to me that I haven’t written in a while, and I have decided to start writing again.

Certainly it isn’t because I have more time than I’ve had in the last several months, I’m not bored,  not depressed, nor morose.  I’m happy.  Why?  Not because Grace has begun to really show aspects of her personality, and I’m sure over the years, I’ll see things that I don’t like, although I haven’t yet.  It isn’t because I’m satisfied, because I’m neither that nor overly comfortable.  Life is still a challenge; I still have many, many goals to fulfill.  So why the quick change?

I’d like to think that I’ve embraced my life and that is the reason for my attitude.

I am a parent.  Like many of you, I’ve faced roadblocks and problems.  All single parents do.  I suspect, also, that there will be many, many more to come.  However, I am a parent; a single male parent, with a ex, with a girlfriend, with a home, with a job, with responsibilities that often times seem to be more than I can keep track of at one time, but I’ve learned, managed, and will continue to get even better at being the best parent that I can be.

Better yet, I have embraced my destiny, and for parents, non parents, and people, I truly believe that there may be no lesson more important than this.

I might only have my daughter half the time or sometimes a little less.  Bills will continue to grow.  School problem might loom.  Anything could happen.  But right now, my daughter’s room is not empty, and my skills will continue to grow, and I might not be totally prepared for the future, but I am working on it.

Some people are forever changed by a religious conversion, or a marriage, some other life changing event.  I, however, believe that at this moment, the path that began when I first saw my daughter’s face six years ago in the hospital was the ultimate jumpstart to realizing exactly who I was, who I could be, and how I could get there.

I am a father.  And I am working towards exactly what I need to do, which is to bring a wonderful contribution to our world in the form of my daughter, who I hope becomes a truly remarkable young woman.

It’s the ultimate job, and it’s the most difficult vocation that I’ve had yet.

But I think that I like it very much.

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?

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.

The Empty Room

One of the most accepted reasons that a lot of people stay in miserable, abusive, or otherwise ridiculous relationships is to keep the family together. He’s staying with her because of the kids, people whisper. Once the kids leave, they’re donethey’ve been done for a long time. I’ve heard it among friends. I’ve said it about others. For a while, I thought that I would be one of those people.

So, with some shock, at present, I respectfully disagree with those assessments.

I submit that while some may believe that they stay in terrible relationships and marriages because of their children, it’s actually due to a much more subtle reason that I can only describe to you now, after some time removed from the situation.

When I first broke up with my ex, naturally, I hated being away from my daughter and her half-sister. But after spending a good part of three years with a family unit, and changing diapers, reading stories, going to parent/teacher meetings, brushing hair in the mornings, I was a little surprised to notice after a short time that not seeing the kids on a continual basis was not the thing that bothered me most.

Nope. After the ex, I went out and got an nice apartment that had a lot of room and a spare bedroom for my daughter, grabbed some furniture, and almost immediately started having Grace over, which was great. Also, I had a chance to meet and spend time with other people, which eventually led to my present relationship. But I would notice that when I walked by my daughter’s room , filled with her playpen, some clothes, some blankets, toys and books, when neither of the kids were at the house, I would get a chill. Even seeing her door from my master bedroom was bothersome.

As time went on, I noticed myself closing the door to her room when she wasn’t at home. This didn’t help. Still I could feel that empty room calling out to me. I tried sleeping in her room on the floor, and found that didn’t help either. I even tried moving the bed around didn’t work. The couch in the living room was even less comfortable.

It occurs to me now that it wasn’t just being away from my daughter that was painful, it was that haunted, empty room, and I submit that is the dark secret for many parents, men and women, that keeps us from that necessary divorce or split: fear of that empty room.

As time as gone on, I no longer fear the empty room. My daughter shares a room with her half-sister at her mother’s house; here, she has a room all to herself. Within that room I have pictures, a bookcase, two beds and a dresser. All match. All of her toys are exactly where she leaves them when she leaves our home; her dolly is in her crib and covered with her blanky, gloves are in the wrong drawer, birthday balloon still in the closet, Elmo in my daughter’s bed, piggy bank (with change), still sitting on the bookcase, and puzzles strewn all about, and the scribbled picture she drew me in crayon as a present… and I can look at all with a smile.

Don’t be afraid of the empty room.

Happiness can still follow. Believe it.

A Few Tips On How To Avoid Divorce… By Marrying Well

It’s the holidays, and ’tis the season to tell your honey that you love them and want to marry them. An awful lot of people of the marrying type have seen movies like When Harry Met Sally, where the big proposal takes place on New Year’s Eve, and I’m sure that there are countless other films like that one that I just can’t recall at the moment.

Well, hold that thought. Perhaps before you pop the question (or accept a question that is popped), consider the future, and do it carefully, because the last thing that you want to do in the long run is end up in a situation where you’ll think about divorcing your spouse, because divorce is not fun and you want to avoid forever if possible. Here are some guidelines to help you find your mate, and keep them.

On Compatibility

Here your question is this: do they like what you like? Are they a geek? Do they like to write? Is your prospective mate a hard worker, or lazy? Do they like wine, beer, or milk? If you and your prospective spouse are employed professionals, would you hire your spouse, given their personality? Your best bet is that the person that you want is into what you’re into. In the famous words of Chris Rock, whatever they’re into, you’ve got to be into too. If your hobbies, work ethic, and activities jibe, you’ve got a much better chance.

On Finances

Is your mate a well organized financial person? Are finances important to them? This is interesting, because in many families, one person or the other picks up the other person’s financial slack. In that case, is the person who is the “slacker” willing to make an effort? Is money something you discuss, not scream about? What is your combined debt situation, and is that a deal breaker?

In most of the successful marriages that I know, the man is the one that needs the organizational help the most. Make of that what you will.

On Emotion

Are you in love? Meaning, can you look into the future and envision yourself with this person for the next ten years? Do you trust this person’s opinion and cherish their advice and support? In short, are you committed?

If not, you’ve got trouble. If so, there’s a shot.

On Children

If either of you wants children and the other doesn’t, then you’re going to have a problem. If you’re a woman and want kids when he doesn’t, won’t, and isn’t ready, resentment will set in. If you’re a man and you want kids and she doesn’t, you’ve got a similar situation… and she will have a lot of competition from co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers. Neither position is at ALL positive for future of your relationship.

If one or both of you already has children, how does your future spouse treat their existing children or your existing children?

On Family

Not a lot of people remember that if you’re marrying someone, you’re marrying their family as well. Not only that, but the way that your prospective partner treats their existing family is a window into how they might treat you down the line. Look at your partner’s relationship with their mother, father, brothers and sisters. Do they have a good relationship? Beyond that, keeping in mind that every family is just a little crazy to begin with by definition, how crazy is your partner’s family? Is it something that you can live with?

On Filling The Gaps

One of the most attractive things relationships in general is the ability to fill the gaps: those things that people aren’t good at, but are activities where their partners excel. Did you want to me a stay at home dad, and your prospective spouse the breadwinner? Do you hate to cook while your spouse loves to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday?

These are great examples of filling the gaps. If you’re aware of your gaps, vaguely aware of your partners, and are comfortable with those differences and are willing to accept those without trying to change their personality to be like your own, then you have a darn good thing going.

The biggest reason for divorce is not cheating, money, or domestic abuse; it’s MARRIAGE. Therefore it’s reasonable to consider carefully your situation with your significant other before you take the plunge, because divorce is a cause of poverty, suffering, and heartache. Think, if just for a minute.

What I’ve Learned About Divorce From Writer’s Block

On occasion I suffer from writer’s block, that bane of bloggers, journalists, authors, musicians and poets everywhere, and after reading an article from someone that I read regularly on the pratfalls of writing, it occurred to me that the waffling over the decision to get a divorce and the affliction known romantically as writer’s block have something in common: both can be partially explained by the emotion of fear.

This writer mentioned a few fears: failure, success, rejection, mediocrity, and risk. Think about the possibility of a divorce that looms. What are your fears with divorce?

There is the fear of success, meaning that you won’t have to deal with a painful relationship any longer, which also means that you won’t have the certainty of knowing who you’re coming home to at night.

There is the fear of failure, meaning that you broach the divorce solution with your spouse and they reject that, which could mean, if you weren’t resolute in your feelings for a divorce prior to the conversation, that you might change your mind and be stuck in terrible relationship.

There is the fear of separation of family, meaning that if you have kids, you might not be able to see your children whenever you might like.

There is the fear of rejection, meaning that after your successful divorce, other people might find you to be a poor relationship risk.

There is the fear of the unknown, meaning that you might have been together with your ex for so long that you have no idea what it’s like out in the single world again, and that you have to start your search for your true love all over again, and you might fail at that.

If those fears aren’t enough to terrify you, there are others: fear that the ex will sully your reputation, fear that you’ll lose mutual friends, or fear that your ex will leave with your money or possessions that can also come into play.

If you are truly ready to get a divorce, seriously consider your fears. Only after serious contemplation will you be able to conquer those emotions that hold you back.

1 Positive Sign That I Might Be Becoming A Good Father

I grew up watching television relatively infrequently, but as often as I could steal a look. So, not shockingly, whatever I didn’t learn about manhood and being a father from my own dad (who is a fantastic father), I unfortunately picked up from a variety of analog sources. From Ward Cleaver to Mike Brady to Cliff Huxtable, subconsciously I studied, sticking little bits of knowledge away that I’d hopefully be able to apply much later. Fathers had an office in their house. They had important jobs. They were tough, but fair. And they wore sweaters. Very stylish ones, as well.

You can imagine, then, the horror that confronted me when I became a father, and realized that I was nothing like any of those fathers at all. There was no office in my house, where I could look important and mete out important insights. I certainly didn’t feel like I had an important job. In the face of a crying or morose child, I’d fold like a warm tortilla, so tough be fair was not a strong suit. Worst of all, my sweater collection was, and still is… lacking. Television parenting can be rough on real world self-confidence.

I might as well have had the word FAIL stenciled on my forehead.

Last weekend, though, something interesting happened.

My daughter’s 9 year old half-sister asked me, “Do you ever want to be somebody else?”

I told her not really, and she said that she wanted to be like my daughter’s godmother (we’ll call her R) and said that she wished that wished she was R.

Imagine my surprise when I told her that she shouldn’t wish that she was anyone else, that she should be her, that she was unique and special, and she was young, and had an awful lot to do before she could forget about what SHE could do. “You might not realize it now, but this is very important,” I told her, “you have a lot things to do. You have a lot that you can accomplish. Perhaps one day you’ll thank me for telling you that, but you certainly don’t have to.”

Then I turned to her and said one thing that rendered her completely speechless, and shocked me as well, since at this point, I was simply free thinking and had no concept what was going to come out of my mouth next.

“Honey, don’t think you have to be anybody else, even if you admire that person. You are wonderful all on your own. Just try to concentrate on being the best girl that YOU can be.”

“Now, you watch your little sister, and I’ll see you soon.”

Then I left, realizing with pride, and surprise, that this fatherhood thing might not turn out so badly after all. Here was yet another positive step in my parental development. With practice, I think that I can get this parenting thing right yet.

If only I had some fashion sense.