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Some of us remember very clearly what it was like to be a teenager; the hormones, the penetrating fears and desires, the need to be accepted by our peers and the growing pains. Add to the equation – being raised by a single parent and the divorce phenomenon and all that entails.
As single parents we are drawn to feeling our teenager’s pain and being ever aware of our lack of control and ability to share our wisdom without a gut-wrenching sigh or their famous eye-rolling techniques. We really have to draw from our memory of what it was like to be a hormone-sensitive teenager when we parent through these years. We no longer have a child to mold or a child to ‘boss around’.
We have our parent karma inherited from our parents…those words daunt us “may YOU have a child that treats YOU the way you treat me”. Those words have always created panic in us; it’s the curse that is passed down from parent child.
I love the idea of passing down my knowledge and state of being to my son, even though he isn’t quite wise enough yet to know it is his gift to the world. These teenage years are tough for parents – yet alone SINGLE parents. There is NO “wait till your father gets home” or “Your mother will deal with you about this”. All we have is the male and female within US…
What a hormonal challenge the life of a teenager is – and as parents — oh my god – give us strength. We’ve been there but the world is SO different now than it was when we were teens and there we are without a compass or a map! All I know to do is be there for our kids to make sure their wrong turns aren’t dangerous and that we don’t squash their creativity or dreams in the meantime.
We’re all teenagers at heart, some of us never grow out of it and others can’t wait to jump into adulthood and all the details therein. I believe it’s a time of growth, compassion, unconditional love and bonding if we can keep the lines of communication open so that our teenagers know they can come to us even in their dark night of the soul. And, it IS a lesson in patience, believe me!
I over hear conversations in the nail salon, at happy hour and at the gym about how jaded some people get after a divorce. I gave it a lot of thought and queried my friends to hear what their feelings about it were. Are we really jaded after a break-up – and do we broadcast that without even knowing it? WOW. Have I become jaded? Untrusting? Nonchalant? Waiting for the other shoe to drop and therefore not moving forward?
I know from raising my son from Kindergarten through High School that most of the kids in his classes are from divorced homes. And I know that a lot of the men I have dated post-divorce should have come with warning labels, when they are newly divorced. It is so painful to hear about the ex or their attorney or the poor kids on a first date, although I understand how hard it is to move through the death of a marriage, or relationship. We all have wounds and memories; we are all children somewhere inside.
I always wondered if my own son will grow up with certain issues that actually stem from the loss of living with his mom and dad in a home together. Kids have a way of getting away with things when they move from one house to another. And we all know OUR parents ‘did the best they could with what they were given’…however, how many hours of therapy did THAT take to really get it.
There are no shortcuts, but there is a get real time we all have to go through, facing who we are and taking our own inventory. Am I kind? Am I honest? Am I carrying the pain of someone else’s lies with me? We certainly don’t want to be punished for someone else’s mistakes and neither do we want to project onto a new date or partner what happened to us in the past. Therefore, it is important to make sure we have gone through a healing, however we do it (with friends, a trusted counsellor, anyone you feel safe with). It is important not just for us and our future, but also for our children’s future relationships. Remember, we are role models. Gulp…..YES, our children’s eyes are upon us!
The hardest thing about divorce can boil down to sharing your child with the ex. It can feel like a part of you is missing an arm, a leg — a piece (peace) of your heart. It’s a challenge for your child as well, and all we can do is love our child and ourselves enough to move through the feelings of loss and create a new way of being. It’s called “independence” from our old way of being, a restructuring and redesigning of the framework we held dear in marriage (if that’s where we came from).
What we can do, as single parents sharing custody, is be the best we can be while we have our children with us, and be the best we can be for ourselves when we’re sans children. In other words, learn to take care of our own selves once again. How do we do this? Are the methods stored somewhere in our cells? Can we actually learn to be women and men outside of our mother and father roles? Yes, I know we can and once we get the hang of it — we can start enjoying it too! And, so can our children. Children don’t want to feel guilty or sad when they leave us to go to the other parent’s house (that sad look on our faces doesn’t help their separation process either).
So, as we get used to and acquainted with, the new lifestyle we have, our children will also adapt and adopt new ways of living with the two parents they have. For those single parents who say goodbye to their children every other weekend, this may be less traumatic — but still an issue in letting go and an opportunity to create a life for oneself (whether it means a time to date, take up a hobby, travel, or read a good book).
Being a single parent is defined as being a multi-tasking responsible parent in today’s world and being a single adult in this new millennium, neither of which are no small feat. Don’t forget to get all the emotional support you can get by joining groups, networking with other parents, learning who is a single parent in your neighborhood or school district.
Remember, you were single before, try and tap into that memory (ouch) and recall where the solace was. Did you write, did you go out with other friends in your situation, did you exercise more, did you join a dating service? It’s important to treat yourself like you would your child when she is in need, take good care of YOU when you have the free time to do it. Your child will thank you for it when she sees how much happier you are.
The experts say it takes half the time you’ve been in a relationship to recover and heal and be ready to move on. It takes a significant period of time to find peace and learn to re-invent your life and love life. SO…depending upon how long and what the circumstances were, it could take at least as long as half the years you were in your marriage to let it go.
Rusty Weber is a single dad and financial advisor by trade and in his business, he has a general rule, that a portfolio of stocks and bonds should be portioned approximately by age. For example, he states if you are 60 years old, you should have approximately 60 percent of your portfolio in bonds, the rest in stocks (equities). However, the key to this is that it is only a starting point and needs to be changed by the individual circumstances. For example, Rusty says that if you want to be more conservative, you could be invested in 80 percent bonds. I love the analogies so much because sometimes you really need to see your life as a portfolio so you know when you’re out of balance and need to move things around.
In the relationship and marriage worlds, there is also a general rule that it takes about half the length of your marriage, to “get over” it or move on – when it comes to an end. You’ve probably heard it before… if you were married for 10 years and then divorced, figure about 5 years to be ready to then “move on” with memories and maybe some ‘baggage’ in hand. It takes a good time out to review what may have gone wrong, heal enough not to make the same mistakes again or bring in a similar relationship, like the one that didn’t work out. This time period also can fluctuate by the circumstance of the divorce and the experiences gained (or lost, depending upon if you see your glass half empty or half full).
It’s best to work with the HALF FULL scenario. There is a lot of be grateful for within each experience, whether it feels good or bad. Even painful experiences and a loss of a dream makes us grow. It’s like the growth spurts our kids go through…we are going through a growth spurt through the pain or confusion…and once we get to the other side we can see more clearly how we have grown! BRAVO!
POETRY -by Jodi Seidler
My judge had a bad day
when I went to court
I had my documents in hand
all I wanted was child support!
Perhaps the judge was hungry,
or else fought with his wife…
now his gavel’s final blow
brings more challenge to my life.
Perhaps his back was aching,
with the hardness of his chair…
Or his Honor’s parking spot
that morning wasn’t there.
Did his children misbehave
sass back or not eat their dinner…
did he play the lottery
and not come up a winner?
Did he have indigestion,
and not had much relief
did his neighbors keep him up
so he couldn’t get to sleep?
Was there no milk for his cereal
or clean socks for him to wear..
did he want to blow his nose
but had no kleenex anywhere?
Could there have been a fly
that he simply couldn’t swat…
or perhaps he had a hot meal
that wasn’t even hot.
It seems my judge was struggling
with the bad day that he had..
and I became the brunt of it
which is really very sad.
I don’t understand this system of ours
where women from Venus…
can’t get through to men from Mars.
What of the all parents
who struggle every day…
with family and work
and ex’s who don’t pay?
It’s the children who suffer
with the decisions handed down…
playing god with a gavel
just doesn’t seem sound.