Posts from the ‘parenting’ category

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I’m not quiet and shy. You won’t find me sitting in the corner at a party watching all of the action from the sidelines. It’s not in my nature. I’m a strong, athletic woman who at 5 foot10 inches tall can walk into a room and intimidate people. Ask one of my best friends about her first impressions of me and she’ll tell you about seeing me in the hallway of our kids’ school and thinking Look at her all tall and blonde. She’s got it goin on!

At that time in my life, I was just entering the world of frazzled single momhood and drifting like a lost ship at sea in the dark just trying to find solid ground to land on. My life had been tossed up in the air like a bowl of confetti. It was sprinkled everywhere for everyone to see and falling all around me at a fast rate. I hardly felt “put together” but I was on a journey to find myself again and the glow must have shown on my face.

After being with someone for nearly 20 years who didn’t seem to appreciate the “true” me, I had turned into a quiet, unsure human being. I’ve spent lots of time doubting myself, my looks, my worth. I lived in that zip code for waaaaaaay too long! Near the end of that relationship I began my metamorphosis into the strong, happy person I am now and I’m not apologizing one bit for my strength and confidence. (Damn, that sounds cocky and outright snobbish–but it’s not meant that way at all!)

It wasn’t a very long road back to confidence and true-happiness, because starting my new life was like freeing my soul to live its true purpose. Most important to note: I got to this place on my own. I didn’t jump into one relationship after another to fix myself. A man didn’t help me feel beautiful. Money didn’t make me feel successful. It all started within myself.

Yes, there were (and are) days filled with self-doubt. But not many. I catch myself when I’m putting myself down in my head. Those crappy self-talks you have in your head about how dumb or crazy a mistake you made was or how your stomach isn’t as flat as it used to be? Those aren’t allowed! So stop that right now. Think of all the wonderful things you are and how far you’ve come.

Today, I am one week away from turning 44. I’ve raised 4 kids, sacrificed a lot for a marriage that failed, paid lawyers fees, moved my kids, embraced the opportunity to grow, and moved on with my life. I am more loving, confident, sexual, outgoing, fulfilled, happy and positive than I ever have been in my entire life. And people notice.

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There’s a certain energy that surrounds you when you enjoy the person you’ve become. You will walk taller. You smile more. Your owning it and feeling like the sexiest woman on the planet will have people feeling drawn to you and you will soon be booking long weekends in bed with your spouse or significant other. If people can’t embrace that or want you to change because their insecure or can’t handle your confidence, don’t change who you are for them. You will only end up unhappy and broken. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!

I challenge you today to quiet that critical voice in your head. Practice smiling. A lot. Laugh. Flirt even. Hell, take your clothes off and stand naked in front of the mirror and name, out loud, 10 beautiful things about your body. You can do this! Stop comparing yourself to an image in your head and get your sexy on! Up your energy and own who you are. There is no one else out there like you so show people the best you. You’ll be happier, and they’ll be happy you showed them who the best you really is!

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Over the past few years of my life, I’ve learned to maneuver and grow post-divorce. Some days have been easy. Other days, not so much. Writing, reading, and focusing on myself has given me strength and opened doors for me that I never imagined possible. I’ve met wonderful people, received strength and support, and share my thoughts and life with others as inspiration or simply for an “I’ve been there.”

I did the work. I spoke to a counselor and was sure to look inside so I didn’t repeat the same mistakes moving forward that I did in my childhood and during my first marriage. I’ve read tons about narcissism and NPD personalities, and I’ve now learned how to stand up for myself.

As a child, I tried to please everyone around me. One of those people was my mother. As I grew, I noticed that she eventually began attaching herself to my life more and more. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I had the guts to let her know that I needed her to work on her own life rather than depend so deeply on me for happiness. I wasted many, many years trying to please her and do what I thought she wanted me to do. Dumb.

The concept of the parent who lives through his or her child is familiar to anyone who has stood on the sidelines of a youth soccer or baseball game. The narcissist’s reaction to her child’s life is qualitatively different. It’s not just annexation; it’s the redrawing of the borders to completely absorb the other life into her own. (Huffington Post)

This article from Psychology Today speaks volumes about narcissists and their victims. Sometimes you cannot even try to understand where their brains are, because it’s just not possible. How can a parent try to control her child so much that her child would rather be over at a friends’ house than be at home with her? Why is it that a narcissist tries to take-over and control everyone around them and squashes the real, deep development of the individual?

But, enter the condition of narcissism. What if you married a narcissist who is all about what is good for him or her, rather than what is in the best interest of the children? The narcissist makes unrealistic demands, is not emotionally connected to the children, may be emotionally abusive or worse, but will fight to the end to gain revenge or fight in the interest of his/her own needs. The fight may be economically based, or more likely what is known as a narcissistic injury. That person will never get over or forget that you filed for divorce or abandoned them, and will continue to make life difficult for you and the children. What do you do?

To reiterate, if you marry a narcissist and then divorce that person, the narcissist will not forgive and forget. They do not move on easily. They cling to “how could you abandon me or do this to me” and the anger lingers for long periods of time, sometimes years and years. To imagine that one could process through an amicable divorce with a narcissist and stay friends and co-parent in a reasonable manner is not realistic with narcissists. They do things such as excessively disparage the other parent, resort to making up unfair and untrue allegations, and do not want to financially support the children because that somehow means to them that they are giving money to their ex-spouse. Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the child or children. They think about what is best for them! “It is my parenting time!” “You cannot have sporting events on my time!” “Your mother (or father) is taking all my money.” (Psychology Today)

If you are dealing with a high conflict individual in your life, don’t try to understand them. You won’t. But you can get educated! Spend time reading. Spend time learning. Surround yourself with support. Most of all, understand the disease. Because, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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During the first 3-or-so years post divorce, I found myself trying to keep everyone happy. My kids had issues with their dad, their dad would get mad at me and blame me if they were rude to him or voiced how they didn’t want to go to his house, the list goes on. He’d say I was turning them against him.

I found myself more in the position of mediator than mother/ex. I’d try to help my kids understand that their father wanted to see them, but they would reply with a, “That’s not fair! So-and-so invited me over tonight!” And so the battle would begin.

I took on the negotiator role–trying to make it a win-win for all parties. All that caused was more stress, more pain, and more problems for me. All of them were being heard, but I dreaded any time an argument would come up between one of them and their dad. I was stuck in the middle and a pawn in a vicious, frustrating game.

I learned a lot of lessons along the way. When my kids were younger, I supported more. I stepped in more to help with the communications with their father when he was being demanding in his “my way or the highway” style. They wanted me to back them and he wanted me to jump every time he said to. (Please note that when a decree says something, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it exactly HIS way. You just have to do what the decree says.)

The day has come where I’ve turned the kids’ relationship with their father over to them. I can’t force a 17 year old who is bigger than me to get in my car and go see his dad during the specific court ordered days. Hell, I’m lucky if he has time to squeeze me into his schedule!  But I always allow him to go when he gets an idea to spend the night up there, out of the blue. And if my 11 year old is broken hearted because she realized her dad has lied to her, I don’t defend him any longer and make up excuses for him. I simply tell her, “I’m sorry” and that she needs to reach out to her dad.

Just because some of us were once married to a narcissist and did everything his way, when and how he said, does not mean we have to continue to do it his way. Nor do we have to make his kids do it exactly his way. Now, try getting the NPD personality to accept that–that’s like moving the great pyramids of Egypt. Ain’t likely!

I know it may be difficult as a mother with young children to step back and not get caught up in the game your ex plays when he throws the kids smack dab in the middle of his manipulation. And your role now is important–first and foremost to look out for them and be an advocate for them. But as they grow, remember, you are a mother, not a mediator. Give your kids the confidence to speak their true feelings and not be afraid of people. Remind them that sharing how they feel about something is justified and human. They don’t have to put up with put downs, and it’s okay to tell a parent how they feel.

if a parent can’t respect that in them, that’s their problem.

 

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I was thinking about my first marriage the other day. I remembered at one time telling my then-husband, “I could never marry someone who was divorced. Especially with kids.” I was young at the time, twenty-three, and it was hard to wrap my head around the idea of caring for someone else’s kids when I didn’t have any of my own.

My judgement came from watching my older brother leave for weeks at a time during the summer to go spend time with his father in Las Vegas. To me, my brother was part of MY family. My family only. He called my dad “dad” and he was my brother–not “half-brother,” brother! I wasn’t born when his father was married to my mother, and his dad never came to visit him (I don’t remember one visit). So to be told that he was going to see his dad for a few weeks was a strange thing for me and hard to watch.

Fast forward 20 years and here I am, married to a man who’s been divorced. And he has 4 kids…3 by one ex and 1 by another. The math and the logistical issues can sometimes be hard to swallow for some people. But we make it work. It takes some creative scheduling, but we do it.

When Brandon and I were first dating, my heart ached for Brandon’s youngest son. He was only a year old, and drop offs and pick ups broke my heart. You could tell he was so confused and saddened to leave his mom when we picked him up, then sad to leave his dad when we dropped him off. It wasn’t easy. I just wanted to fix things for him so he wouldn’t have to be so confused.

I remember on a few occasions I told Brandon he should try to work it out with his ex–for the baby’s sake. He needed both parents, and in a strange way I felt like I was in the way (even though they had broken up months before we got together). Brandon would grab my hand and remind me that the water under that bridge was too deep and there would be no chance of reconciling.

As a step-mom, seeing those tears has been one of the most difficult things for me.

I have loved Brandon’s kids as my own for quite awhile now. I respect their mothers and the relationships they had with Brandon, and I hope they know I care for the kids. I’m right there in the trenches through broken teenaged hearts, potty training and other issues that the kids face. I may not know what it’s like to have my parents broken up, but I do know the hurt that kids go through during the back and forth.

The shuffling from one house to the other is something they’ve known since they were all small. Unlike my kids who ranged from 12 to 6 when I was divorced, they’re quite used to this arrangement. That doesn’t mean one way is better/easier than another. It’s all hard. And it’s hard as a parent to watch. I’ve learned to empathize with the kids, and let them know that I know it’s hard. And I’ve also reminded them that even though we don’t see them all that much, we still love them and are their parents who are here for them just like the parents they live with.

Being a step-parent has brought me blessings I cherish and I’m happy I can play a part in Brandon’s kid’s lives. It’s taken some time for me to understand my role, but I’m feeling like I’m settling in.

Today, Brandon’s youngest (who just turned 3) heard me telling my daughter that Brandon and I may go out tomorrow for our anniversary and said, “And me too!”

I laughed and asked, “You want to come too? How come?”

He looked up and said, “Cause I love ya…I love you, and my mama, too.”

“I love you too, buddy,” I told him.

The back and forth may be hard, and it may be hard for me to watch, but he knows I love him and I know he loves me. I’m a pretty lucky girl.

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The last few weeks have brought so much reward to me and hopefully to my kids as well. Now that I’m working from home, we’ve spent time together. We’ve talked. We’ve been busy with sports and other things, but we’ve also had some downtime, which has been great for all of us. Last night, my oldest son had a softball game and he asked me if I would go watch him. Last year, he played on a team with Brandon and I and we all had a great time. Brandon and I are much too busy this year to play, but his dad asked him to play on a team he’s played on for a couple years and my son wanted our whole family to go and watch.

“Sure,” I told him. There was only a small part of me that didn’t want to go, and that’s because my ex has been pretty difficult with me (again) lately. But I’m not one to let my ex separate me from what my kids want, so of course we went. Our family sat out on the grass, and I was respectful to give my ex and his wife their space. My son wanted us to sit closer, but I was fine out on the grass having a picnic with Brandon and the kids.

My son had a great game, and it was so great to see him out playing ball again. And ya know, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all watching my ex husband play in the same game my son was playing in. Some people would think I’m crazy to go and sit there watching my ex play–with all of the drama that man has brought to my life–but I was really there only to support my son, so it wasn’t strange at all. If anything, I watched with an appreciation that he and my son could play ball together. Now, I’m sure it could have been strange for my ex and his wife to have me on “their turf” but again, I wasn’t there for them.

The sun was setting just as the game was ending, and Brandon and I piled all the kids into the car to drive home. We all sang Flo Rida songs at the top of our lungs while we were all squished into the car, and it really was a memorable night.

The emotions started rolling in for me once we got home–after I replayed the evening in my mind. My heart began to break as I thought about how my son has to live his life with a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon right down the middle. Dad on one side. Mom on the other. Why does it have to be like that? I really don’t understand why it needs to be that way. Brandon and his ex’s are friendly with each other when they’re at the kids things. Why can’t my kids have the same?

I have longed for a “normal” co-parenting situation for so long. One where my son’s family goes to his games and support him and parents can be friendly and the animosity is void. But I know that will never happen for my kids. I’ve tried to be friendly with my ex. I’ve tried to speak to him as a respectful adult. He insists on acting childish and still won’t make eye contact–4 years later he still refuses to make eye contact with me. It’s almost as if he’s on a pedastal and he can’t bring himself to “stoop so low” to even look at me, the mother of his 4 children.

A few weeks ago, my daughter played ball on a Friday night during our “drop off time.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pick up our older daughter from soccer that night or if he was going to so I walked over to her father to ask if he would be picking her up. He and his wife sat there staring off into the distance and wouldn’t acknowledge me standing next to their seats. He continued to stare off into the distance and replied, “it’s my parent time–I’ll handle it.” My response was calm and clear, “I just need you to communicate that with me so I know what’s going on.” His eyes rolled and he formed his hand into a puppet mouth pointed at my face and opened and closed his fingers and thumb to mimic my talking, and he didn’t respond again to me. This man is so mature.

I don’t want “normal” co-parenting as much for myself (but Jesus, that would be nice) as much as I want it for my kids. Imagine the love my son could have felt last night if BOTH of his parents were talking and communicating and cheering for him at his game. Imagine how safe he would feel if his mother could walk up to him and his team after the game and speak to his father about how well he played. Imagine if we acted as if we were two old friends who shared a child and the anger and insecurity was gone. Imagine if the two of us could stand with our son and tell him how amazing we thought he was–together–as his parents. But then I remember that my ex is a narcissist, and he cannot put the needs of his 4 kids above himself. And his insecurities, anger, and immaturity will always take center stage.

My ex’s lack of compassion and respect towards me doesn’t really affect me, but it DOES affect his children. They feel the discomfort. They have been told that during “his time” they sit with him and he has drawn the line in the sand. He has painted parameters and boundaries around their relationships with each parent and they are expected to stay within each boundary, seperately. My heart breaks for the way he has changed their lives. They are four innocent people who are trying to love and repair, and they won’t ever be able to fully heal until their father does. And I’m not sure that will ever happen.

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