Parenting after the death of an ex spouse.

My ex-wife, the woman I knew from our time in college and who I had 3 kids with, passed away three days ago, after a 14 year battle with breast cancer.

If you have read my other posts you will know that her almost 4 year affair ended our marriage, and the resulting fallout was complicated and full of conflict.

In the last 3 months I went from being a part-time single dad, to a partial full-time single dad (my daughter was told to leave the other house in April by my ex-mother-in-law and the affair partner), to a completely full-time single dad with my ex’s passing.

Over the last few days my thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. I don’t know if I am feeling some version of grief, or if I am just a witness to the grief my kids are feeling from her passing. The complicated nature of the last 4-7 years has made her passing complicated.

I decided to process the onslaught of feelings by listing the thoughts and questions that have been running through my head the last few days. For better or for worse, in no particular order: Continue reading “Parenting after the death of an ex spouse.”

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5 New Year Habits of Mind for the Divorced Dad

As divorced dads we have survived the holidays. Whether we were with family or trying to make it through on our own, we are now on the other side. The New Year has begun. Here are 5 things to consider when planning out our new beginnings. These are not resolutions. Resolutions tend to be broken. These are habits, frames of mind that can guide our choices in the new year.

One. We will be better about NOT reacting when triggered by our ex. Continue reading “5 New Year Habits of Mind for the Divorced Dad”

5 Thoughts on Boys and Fatherhood from a Dad’s Weekend at Camp.

This past weekend I visited my son at his camp for Dad’s Weekend. Two and a half days of fishing, singing, building, running, sock wars, and thunderstorms.

Father, Son

It was my 5th Dad’s Weekend. Each time I drive away amazed how connected my son and I can get in only 2.5 days, and wish that it was as easy the rest of the year. It is hard to describe how this camp, Becket YMCA in the Berkshires, creates a culture where boys and men are able to share feelings and experiences in very real ways. Being able to learn more about how my son thinks (through discussions with him and his counselors), sharing my experiences with him, and having a moment to relax together are the best parts of the experience.

Here are some lingering thoughts about the experience and fatherhood in general from this past weekend: Continue reading “5 Thoughts on Boys and Fatherhood from a Dad’s Weekend at Camp.”

Accepting the Liebster Award 2016

A few weeks ago I received a comment on one of my blog posts from Green Onions, AKA:

Your blogging superhero that has absolutely no powers.  Nerd of literature and other such expressive art.  Sensational partner, amazing father, spectacular ninja-like chef.

Green Onions nominated my blog for a 2016 Liebster Award and stated “Your blog can help a lot of fathers and I appreciate what you do. You deserve a little recognition, thank you.”

Wow. Thank you, Green Onions!

I started this blog in December 2015 after I had reached a point in my post-divorce journey where I felt comfortable enough to discuss my path, and my continued struggles. Continue reading “Accepting the Liebster Award 2016”

Surviving the end of the school year

Back. Back in the saddle again.

A month after my last post it is time to get going again. Writing requires habit, and when life decides to happen, writing can take a backseat. So although it is not the deepest, most meaningful post ever, it is my attempt at getting back into the habit.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from my ex, which I showed to a colleague who has followed my story for a few years. Her first reaction after reading it was, “You can’t seem to ever catch a break at the end of the school year. Can you?”

My colleague had brought voice to the exact thought I have had for many many years. Even before my divorce the end of the school year was a stress filled time.

My professional life in the last few weeks of the year is filled with helping students meet their graduation requirements, writing narrative progress reports for 60+ students, end of year celebration activities, and managing the emotional and behavioral need that students bring to school. Finishing off a school year is hard for teachers.

At home the emotional and behavioral issues also ramp up. Especially for my daughter. It isn’t clear why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that we got to know her during the month of May when she was 6, and she came to live with us at the end of June.

This year was no different for my daughter:

  • Police called to ex’s house in March and daughter began 2.5 month period of being full time at my house.
  • Daughter wanted to run track. It was 1.5 months before she admitted that she stopped going to practices and was at the computer in the library after school each day.
  • Three detentions for being late to class or not where she was supposed to be in school.
  • After returning to the regular custody schedule daughter ended up in an ambulance and the ER after a weekend at her mother’s house ended with her saying she wanted to kill herself.

At the same time my ex ramped up her own behaviors and demands:

  • Body-shamed daughter by telling her she would be raped if she wore a revealing dress to dinner and danced provocatively.
  • Threatened the school district with “reporting” their ineffectiveness at protecting daughter to the state, paper and police.
  • Accused me of being an alcoholic to the therapist (again) and demanded I get a summer job since, as a teacher, I am underemployed.

On top of that:

  • Eldest had graduation from high school and conservatory.
  • All three kids had numerous end of the year concerts.
  • Planning summer schedule for the kids.
  • New dog continues to use the house as her own personal lavatory (at least she is cute).
  • Oh…and my girlfriend and I had some serious relationship tending. Our relationship went from being on life support to urgent care to recovery.

And now here I am. On school vacation. “Underemployed”. In recovery mode.

 

15 Children’s Picture Books to Fight for when Divorcing

One of the joys of being a parent is sharing books we remember from our own childhood, as well as new ones we discover, with our kids. We build our collection, enjoying the pictures, characters and their stories. Then we separate from our spouse and we have to figure out how to agree on a division of marital property. When it came to splitting the children’s picture books I wish I had put my name in them years before, officially claiming them for my own with bold black ink.

The books listed in this blog post are a few of the picture books that I won custody of in the divorce. I read these with my children, over and over again. Some of these books I enjoy because of their illustrations. Others because of the characters. I hope you find some new finds in this list, and rediscover some treasured classics.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate marketer with Amazon. Although the books in this list actually do exist on my bookshelf, I will receive compensation if you click on the images or titles, and purchase the book from Amazon.

Owl Moon,  by Jane Yolen

This is a gorgeous book. The water color illustrations help set the mood for the story of a father who takes his daughter owling under a winter’s moon. The story is told by the daughter, now grown, recollecting her childhood trips into the snow with her Pa. My kids and I would “Whoo-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo” along with her and her dad, hoping for a site of an owl under the Owl Moon.

The Munschworks Grand Treasury,  by Robert Munsch

Robert Munsch is one of the funniest storytellers there is. He has written countless classics about Paperbag Princesses, Mortimers who won’t go to sleep, out of control ponytails, and pigs run amok.

We loved the stories so much we bought The Munschworks Grand Treasury, which brings 15 of his stories together in one place. Even my students, tough to please teenagers, have cracked up over the years as I read to them from this collection. Just wonderful.

Blueberries for Sal,  by Robert McCloskey

If you grew up in New England in the last 80 years or so, then you know Robert McCloskey. If you aren’t from here, then you might be forgiven for not knowing his books, but not after reading this blog. His book, Make Way for Ducklings, is probably better known, but my favorite has always been Blueberries for Sal. The simple black and white illustrations tell the story of Sal and her mother, picking blueberries in Maine. Sal’s tin bucket never gets quite full, and its “ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk” gets the attention of another larger, and furrier, mom on blueberry hill.

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business,  by Esphyr Slobodkina

This is a classic! The cap salesman’s refrain”Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!” was a favorite of mine many years ago. When reading to my kids, and the monkey business began, my kids held out their little fists and demanded that the salesman get his caps back.

 

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Purple Crayon Books), by Crockett Johnson

This is more than a book. It is a celebration of imagination. Based on a simple premise, a boy’s drawings come to life, this is the sort of story that kids can really connect with. Don’t we all wish our crayon dragons would come off the page and solve our problems for us?

Horton Hears a Who!, by Dr. Seuss

This is the book I brought with me when I was the surprise guest reader in each of my three kids’ kindergarten classrooms. The voices I used, whenever I read it out loud, were based off a wonderful audio version by Dustin Hoffman (check it out below), which I highly recommend. Horton was one of the first books that I put on my copy of the division of marital property list. Unfortunately the version that we had in our house my ex-wife had received on her third birthday. I didn’t get it in the divorce. If a kind elephant is not your cup of tea, then I would also recommend The Sneetches and Other Stories or The Lorax (Classic Seuss).

Horton Hears a Who and Other Sounds of Dr. Seuss: Horton Hears a Who; Horton Hatches the Egg; Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose  (audio: Dustin Hoffman)

 

 

The Monster at the End of This Book 

and

Another Monster at the End of This Book ,  by Jon Stone

Full Disclosure: My first paid job out of college was to work for Children’s Television Workshop. Fresh out of school with an undergraduate degree, I spent my days autographing character photos and sending them out to fans across the world. I moved on to teaching, but I have a special place in my heart for all things Sesame Street. My two favorite books are these two, written by Jon Stone, one of the first producers on the show. I used to read these books to my kids in full Elmo voice, but it is my Grover that I am especially proud of. Is your little one afraid of monsters? Well, so is Grover…the furry blue monster.

Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky

Growing up we would spend many summer weeks at a rental house on Cape Cod. The owners had a large collection of pre-1950 books. The ones I remember best were a large collection of Sad Sack cartoons and Little Toot. They don’t make illustrations like this anymore. There are newer editions on the market, with updated illustration that are flashier and brighter, but for me the color quality of the old color separation techniques is my childhood. The edition of the book I have on my shelf, that I happened to find at a yard sale, is from the 40s. The links I provided above are for a reprint of this older version.

Blackboard Bear, by Martha Alexander

This book, the first in a series, has few words. And that is what makes it a special reading opportunity for you and your child. This story expertly evokes the emotions of a little boy, who doesn’t want to be so little when the older boys tell him that he is too small to play with them. The illustrations do a wonderful job of helping you and your child talk through the common childhood feelings of being left out.

Home on the Bayou: A Cowboy’s Story, by G. Brian Karas

It is not easy for kids to move. They lose friends, family, and a sense of security of where they belong. This story does a good job of showing the range of emotions that a boy goes through when his single mom takes him across country to live with her parents. Living in the swamp is not so easy when a cowboy has to deal with a bully like Big Head Ed. Some of the topics this book addresses are loneliness, divorce, bullying, bravery, sadness, family, and manners.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and
Possum Magic, by Mem Fox
Have I said yet how much I love illustration as an art form? Julie Vivas’ colorful and gentle images in these two books are extraordinary. I couldn’t decide which book to choose for this list, so I picked both. The first is about Wilfrid, who lives next door to a nursing home. It is about his relationships with the residents of the home, but especially about his special relationship with Miss Nancy. Having grown up without grandparents, I feel jealous of Wilfrid every time I read it. The second book…possums, magic, Australia, vegemite…what more is there to say?

A Friend For Dragon, by Dav Pilkey

Dav Pilkey is better known for his series Captain Underpants, but this book from the Dragon series is the one that we liked best. It is a book for those of us who have ever been lonely. A trick leads Dragon on a path of friendship, love, loss, and rebirth. Sweet, sad, and wonderful.

 

Many Moons, by James Thurber

This is an old story. Thurber was a contemporary of E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan), a humorist know for his essays and cartoons about dogs and marital relations for the New Yorker Magazine. In my American literature class in high school I wrote a paper about Thurber’s book, Is Sex Necessary?  This story is a bit tamer. It is about a princess who demands the moon. A simple task for any good court wizard, mathematician, or Lord High Chamberlain, right? It isn’t until the court Jester finally listens to what the little girl is actually asking for that the true magic happens.

There’s my list of 15. What would you add to your Division of Marital Assets list?

Who Calls You on Your Bullshit?

Have you ever found yourself frustrated by someone else?

Continually?

Could it be that you are doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, and then ending up frustrated when the other person’s behavior is no different?

Who do you have to call you on your bullshit? Continue reading “Who Calls You on Your Bullshit?”

5 Scary “Girl Things” for Single Dads

When you get divorced you all of a sudden add new roles to your single parenting job. These are duties that you would probably not have had the opportunity to experience while still married. This is especially true for fathers of daughters.

When married the “girl things” were probably passed on to your wife to handle. Now, as the sensitive new aged single dad that you are, confusion, embarrassment, and often terror are a regular part of your day as your daughter’s increasingly feminine needs fall to you to figure out.

girl-sitting-posing-trees

No one properly prepared us to help our daughters with these girl things. They often pop up unexpectedly. My goal with this post is not to give you all the answers, but to give you some things to think about ahead of time. Warnings that will help you properly prepare your already frazzled emotions.

1. Boys (or girls) Let’s start with an easy one. Continue reading “5 Scary “Girl Things” for Single Dads”

Did Motown Know Anything About Adultery?

Cover Image: By Motown/Tamla Records-photographer-James Kriegsmann, New York (Billboard page 13) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Did the Motown artists that sang about infidelity ever actually get cheated on?

I get it. You break up with someone and you go through different levels of sadness. But with infidelity it isn’t just levels. There is an edge to that type of break-up.

A break-up caused by infidelity requires…stages.

This post describes 7: shock, denial, obsession, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

The Motown artists seem to have never gone through any of those…or maybe they just got stuck in denial.

Take “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James for example:

I would rather, I would rather go blind boy
Than to see you, walk away from me, child, oh, oooh
So you see I love you so much
That I don’t want to watch you leave me baby

Continue reading “Did Motown Know Anything About Adultery?”

8 Things that Single Dads Find Sexy in a Woman

Earlier today I came across, and retweeted, the article 10 Unusual Things Single Moms Find Sexy In a Man written by Lisa Bien on DivorcedMoms.com. After reading the post pexels-photo-59497I wondered what the male version of Lisa’s list might be. What is it that we single dads find most sexy in a woman?

So I ran right out, got a coffee, and sat right back down to think about it. Unlike Lisa’s list, these eight tips (Lisa’s also work in the opposite direction, so think of this list as 11 through 18) are not based on interviews with other single dads, and are definitely not peer reviewed. They can probably be viewed more as Divorced Dad 101’s list of things he was looking for in a woman when he began dating after almost 20 years of marriage. I did notice that talking about yourself in the third person did not make Lisa’s top 10 sexy man things. Damn!

So, dear reader, please take this list with a grain of salt. Divorced Dad 101 dated for a grand total of 2 months before finding his sexy girlfriend, who in two years has not yet dumped him despite his occasional use of the third person when talking about himself. Continue reading “8 Things that Single Dads Find Sexy in a Woman”