The Teenager Challenge

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!


Jaded After Divorce?

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!

Joint Custody (IE: Sharing the Children)

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.

I’m not being romantic…I’m kissing you good-bye!

I’m not being romantic…I’m kissing you good-bye!

As a single mother or father, the most comical and challenging part of dating is actually finding the time to date…between custody schedules, self-care, juggling work, homework and self-work – where do we begin in finding a date — or soul mate? I say we begin with the end in mind…what do we want in a date/mate and how do we go about manifesting it in the real world? And how long do we give a relationship once we see the writing on the wall? Hey and what about if our kids are dating, and we’re not? Now, that’s a real single parenting issue – when our children have a stronger social life than we do. I’ve been there, I’ve seen my son talking on the phone while IM-ing his entourage of male and ‘female friends’.

I think we’ve gotten lost along the way within the maze of the new dating paradigm; especially for ex-husbands and men who have been out of the dating market for a while. Sometimes you guys are the most romantic daters – old fashioned and sweet…just looking for a recipient who can appreciate and acknowledge your uniqueness. But alas, in a perfect world that would be so and I wish we could get back to the times when daters courted more frequently. Please don’t ever tell me that is a lost or forsaken art form that our children will one day read about in history books. These are the things I want to pass down to my son – how to court and be creative in his romanticism. (But that is another subject for another time.)

Before we dip our toe in the relationship waters, I believe that first we need to do our homework – and that is to evaluate our must haves in another person, I call them our 5 essentials. I need a strong sense of humor, generosity of spirit and self, good family values, playfulness and adoration for moi. (I desire to feel appreciated). After years of being known as “Mommy Slave” in my own house, I feel I have earned the honor of being respected and even being adored. And don’t we all know by experience (from our own youth and now from our kids) that respect and adoration is not something we can expect our kids or teenagers to give us (although earned, one hopes for respect). My son affectionately refers to himself at times as “my karma”, now that he is in his teen years.

When it comes to beginning a new relationship, I feel it’s important to look at why past relationships didn’t work out and what the lessons are, so we don’t repeat them. (I call it the the EX factor.) A girlfriend of mine names her relationship lessons and says after a breakup “The name of that lesson was________”. Whether it’s jealousy, lack of trust, insecurity – she calls it as she sees it and works on the issues before engaging in the next relationship or dating experience. That way, for her it’s not a never-ending Greek tragedy or just-out-of-reach-myth when the next hopeful comes around. And how many of us have learned that rebounding should only be done on a trampoline? I have a rule that I don’t date anyone just out of a relationship or out of a marriage for under a year. I’ve been on both ends, and most times it doesn’t end up being a very pretty sight or worthy of our memorable dating scrapbook.

I am a big believer in writing things down on paper; somehow I have come to understand that making a list or writing things down brings the things we want into our lives easier and faster. Until we define what it is we want, we cannot bring it in. When we state what is so for us – we can call it in, not unlike placing an order in a restaurant and waiting for the waitress to bring it to us. We have to be sure we don’t change our order after we have placed it – otherwise it gets confusing and we may not get what we ordered. I would hate to get pizza when I’ve ordered salmon!

If we don’t do the work on ourselves, the past gets in the way and we bring in what already has shown up as not working for us; and we repeat old patterns with the same old personality types (the names are changed to protect the ignorant – US). We can see it happening to others, but we can’t necessarily see it when it shows up in our own lives (that’s what friends are for). It occurs famously when we do not do the work to transcend the past’s broken dreams and aching disappointments. We really need to recreate, and not create the ‘same old relationship’ again, we need to break our patterns (even when they have become endearing or familiar to us) and get ready to attract a new kind of relationship to support our new growth.

In Los Angeles, land of the BBD (bigger, better deal), some of us choose to be a little more cautious and move a little more slowly after a series of stop-and-go-and go-then-stop ‘relationships. And when we want a certain relationship to walk in the door and it doesn’t, or someone we are dating decides to be “just friends”, I have learned a little motto that I carry with me in just those times of sadness or defeat. It applies to all areas in life when we don’t get or have what we want. “Rejection is God’s protection” is one of my favorites. And, I have a million of them!

Now, let’s take a look at the differences between men and women when it comes to sex and relationships….

The differences between the sexes!

What about that Cinderella Story??

How did I get to be an ‘old person’, and why can’t I shop in the juvenile department (hey, I’m petite); I still think like a teen hottie at times. The trick is not to let our children see or overhear that little teenager in us; keep it sacred or only share it with our ‘bestest’ friends when we go out for a glass of merlot or a Chopin martini with olives.

As scary as it may be, we are our children’s role models for healthy relationships. If we have been divorced, it makes it a little more challenging to be that strong and healthy role model – so we may need mentors or role models ourselves to support bringing in the right date or mate.

My Judge Had A Bad Day

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.