Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016: Get Over Yourself

A week ago I met with an attorney friend of mine. We were discussing a recent case he was working on involving a divorce. As he talked about the family, it was clear that the mother had no respect for the father or the father's role as one of the children's parents. She saw herself as the savior. The only. No plural in parenting in their case. It was an 'either - or'.

As we conversed, the attorney who was both married and a father, looked at me and asked me a very pointed question.

"Sandy, what do you think about this as a mom? Did you feel like you were the better parent and that your kids only needed you?"

Taken off guard by his candidness, I initially wanted to spotlight my ways of being a great co-parent and my ex and I being outside the norm of divorced parents. A pat on the back lingered in my mind.

But instead I spoke the truth.

"Initially I definitely thought I was the better parent. That my kids couldn't survive without me. And then I decided not to call them on one of the early weekends that they were with their dad. And an amazing thing happened. My phone never rang."

I found that once I gave the kids their space and didn't project my thoughts on them, they were perfectly fine. They adapted. And frankly, I found that they adapted on both sides. Life wasn't perfect with me, their mama bear, as I originally thought. They needed their dad as much as me. Although our parenting styles were different, I had to come to grips understanding that our kids needed the love and support of both their parents.

It did sting at first, but I slowly became acclimated to our new life as divorced co-parents.

Basically what I told my attorney friend was that I had to get over myself. Not an easy task as a messy human. But climbing that seemingly insurmountable mountain has given me and my family unbelievable peace.

Divorce is not easy. I would argue that it is a top contributor to many problems we as humans encounter in life; financial stress, many self-made issues with the 'next generation', lack of commitment, struggles with trust, lack of faith. The list goes on and on and seems to be in direct correlation with the rising divorce rate.

Being a person high on positivity, my focus post-divorce quickly moved from 'woe is me' to my attempt to make lemonade. The benefits have been abundant. Taking it one day at a time, we have collectively smiled and done the best we can. We have worked together to make the best out of a bad situation.

I eventually got used to not being by my kids' sides 24/7. I eventually appreciated that they found much joy in life that didn't necessarily involve me (part of getting over myself). I appreciated their own lens of life and happiness coming from many places. And we often aren't together for these moments.

Last weekend, post attorney conversation, was a great example. I didn't see or spend time with any of my children. They were doing their own thing with their dad and others on a weekend that was not meant to be with me. Their life from their eyes was wonderful, as was mine. And we didn't need to be together to experience this joy....

Zach (Picture he sent from the backyard view from his new place in Fort Collins):

Ben (Picture he sent from my home base in Omaha. As the newly minted 'man of the house' when I am out of town, he basks in the importance of this role and proves that all is well 550 miles away from me):

Grant (Oh, to be 16 again. This was his view from one of four College World Series games he attended through the weekend):

Sandy (And then there is me. I miss my Omaha peeps when I'm gone, but make sure to enjoy the Colorado scenery when I find myself 550 miles away):

Our Father's Day hike on Sunday was in Colorado with Garrett's kids. My kids spent a fun day with their dad playing golf and then enjoying a family dinner.

For me, Sunday night bedtime didn't come soon enough. I was wiped out from the activities of the day. Dead asleep, I still awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. A typical occurrence for my middle-aged self.

Waking up, I found myself groggy and unaware of my surroundings.

Was I in Denver? Was I in Omaha? Confused, I found my way to the bathroom without incident. But laid back in bed feeling a bit sorry for myself. Why did we have to travel so much? Would life ever feel normal and would I ever remember where I was at?

The next morning I awoke remembering these feelings from the night before. And then suddenly I thought of my own kids. This is what they must have felt for the last 8+ years, moving back and forth from the homes of their divorced parents.

Whose house am I at? Where is the bathroom? Temporary confusion must have been a common occurrence for them.

Life hasn't been easy for them, but they have adapted. As parents, it's our job to not make their lives even harder for our own agendas. I had never thought of it from this perspective. Divorce is often too focused on the parents and not the kids. Many times the parents argue that their focus is the kids, but when peeled back to reality, it is not...

"I am 100% committed to what's best for my children."
 <assumes and implies the other parent is not>

"I am doing all of this because only I know what is best for my kids."
<assumes the other parent doesn't care what's best for the kids, even if they demonstrate it in different ways>

Humans are gooey. No doubt. And I am no exception. Parenting is hard. I have made many, many mistakes along the way. Throw in parenting from separate homes and things have escalated to a whole new level of complicated.

Although I would never wish divorce on anyone, I would offer my own advice to all going through this as you adapt to parenting on your own...

It really is all about getting over your own feelings of self-preservation and truly letting the relationships of your kids nurture outside your own cocoon. Your kids will not only be fine, but will be better kids and well-adjusted because of it.

As I look at the weekend pictures from my kids, I know in my heart that everyone is going to be okay within our own definitions of happiness...

Another random picture received this weekend.
The 'man of the house' enjoys CWS fun as well (3rd from left...big bad Ben)

Monday, June 6, 2016

June 6, 2016: The Power of Nine

Airport selfie by the fab four aunt/niece/cousin combo
We had a little girls weekend/mini family reunion in Denver this last weekend. Our foursome included my cousins, Angela and Angelina. And my aunt, Kathy. Who is also Angelina's mother.

Kathy is always easy for me to explain. Most of my friends just see her as my friend. Which she is and is evident by our frequent excursions and togetherness over the years. I was fortunate enough to have Kathy live in Omaha again for a few years recently. My son, Ben, described Kathy as my 'go-to friend'.

After asking Ben to join me for a play (I had an extra ticket that was going to go unused), he politely declined and then made a keen observation.

"I bet you miss Aunt Kathy. She was your go-to friend for extra tickets and random events, wasn't she?"

Yes, Ben, I do miss my go-to friend.

Kathy now lives in Boise. Although our random adventure are fewer, we make up for it with our many smiles and laughs when we do get together.

To those who don't know my Aunt Kathy, I introduce her as my friend. But then I add that she is also my aunt.

"My mom is the oldest of nine and Kathy is the youngest."

This explanation is easily accepted, as the person I am introducing has already quickly moved on to Kathy and her warm and welcoming personality. She has never met a stranger.

Kathy's daughter, Angelina, has always been like a daughter to me. Growing up in Remsen, she would stay with me over summers to both spend time and to nanny my toddler boys. She and her brothers were an extension of my own little family. As she grew older, we began running half marathons together across the country. It was as much an excuse to meet and catch up as it was to run.

Now our little Angelina is all grown up and living in Richland, Washington.

Angela, the fourth of our foursome, is my cousin and daughter to the middle Pick daughter, Connie. She lives in Sioux City, Iowa.

Over our backyard fire pit in Denver, I began reminiscing how much I loved Baby Angela as a young girl. She was my first 'baby' experience and the next Pick granddaughter born after me. I was thrilled when she was born. A tiny little peanut who let me hold her on my hip and carry her around my grandparents' house as though she was my own.

I was nine years old when Angela was born.

As I gushed over this fact, Kathy made a similar comment.

"Sandy, I think I was about that same age when you were born. You were the first granddaughter. And I loved you like my own baby doll. I am pretty sure I was nine years old then too."

We began doing the math on the span of age difference between the rest of us.

Nine years. Each of us were exactly nine years apart and we each had the same gushing little girl experience in loving and bonding with the next newest little pink bundle of joy in the family. Angela quickly commented on Angelina being her little baby to hold when she was nine.

Many have asked me how it became the four of us in Denver on this visit. I really didn't have an answer, other than it just being a random trip. But it was intentional and now it makes much more sense. The bond was always there between each of us, but never described other than the fact that we were family.

There is a power in nine. A very impressionable age to have a little being to love as your own. And the family farm was a perfect place to do just that. That special bond then carries forward to the parents who felt the love of their child with their mini-caretaker. Kathy to Angela. Sandy to Angelina.

Although being part of a family is a given, relationships are nurtured. I am hopeful that our own kids and younger cousins will continue paying it forward with the next generations.