Archive for March, 2013

Well it was only a matter of time until I got sick of discussing the kids without some kind of names.  Given that every time we introduce ourselves to anyone and mention we are a blended family with six kids we get “Oh!  The Brady Bunch!”,  I figured I was as likely to get another naming convention to stick as Congress is to pass useful legislation, so I give up (hmm, that also sounds like Congress, but this isn’t a political post, so I digress).

As you are aware, we do not fit the mold quite right as we have four girls and two boys, so I have to take a little creative license with the names.  I am just going to use the names in order of age, so the boys will be Greg and Peter, and the girls will be Marcia, Jan, Cindy, and Bobbi (my creative license).  All four girls in our case are older than any of the boys, so that should clarify the sequence for you if you care to follow along at that level.  No need to give my wife and I names as it’s easy enough to keep track of us in any narrative.  Our exes have been named long ago, so for now all the characters in the saga as it continues have been identified.

Today’s episode of the modified Brady’s will feature Greg.  While Greg is going to turn ten this year, he’s always been a challenge in that he is quite intelligent and uses those skills as you might expect, sometimes to amaze, sometimes to confuse and as any parent of a boy will tell you many times to frustrate. 

Last night my kids were back after their regularly scheduled weekend with Nan.  My wife has noticed that Greg is more difficult to deal with the first day or two after they return from Nan, and Greg was always the one that Nan would ignore most, and this has really affected Greg’s personality and how he deals with things.  Lately he has returned to his place of solace, playing on the computer, where he is in charge and he can control what happens, rather than being at the mercy of everyone and everything.  As I was picking Cindy up after school yesterday, so informed me that “Greg was on the computer for like, 52 hours, at Mom’s house!”  I made a mental note that this would likely not be a good thing.  This means, if nothing else that Greg was ignored while at Nan’s.

Now I can only speculate, but my guess is that since Marcia and Cindy have always had the typical “I hate my brother because he’s my brother” thought process and Nan does nothing to encourage they stop that since she seems to dislike Greg most of all of the children, that this weekend involved much activity that excluded Greg and that no one but Greg cared.  Not Nan, not her fiancé, not Marcia or Cindy, not their dog nor their new baby.  If I was to speculate, since the new baby is now crawling for the first time since they have visited, everyone was focused on her.  That’s fine, but since Nan  makes no effort to try to engage Greg he, even when Nan and I were married, tends to simply avoid getting involved in things to avoid getting yelled at or disappointed.  So he stays on the computer.  Normally if you ask him to stop and come do something he might grumble a little, and even when I got home with Cindy and told him that I heard he was on the computer a lot at Nan’s and that he should do something else, he said OK and was off in a couple minutes without really any whining, so I do not as yet picture that the computer is a problem as such.  I view it more as his security blanket, for possibly many of the reasons I mentioned above.  He has full control and he will not be surprised by anything or be rejected by something that should support him. 

In counseling with Greg this was discussed and due to his intelligence I was told he seems to get the fact that Nan is just not interested and he has made what peace he can with that.  I understand that to a degree, but I do not think there is any area of peace that a nine year old or younger boy can have when his Mom really could care less about him.  Nan had made the effort to pick him up from school Thursday because as she told us she felt Greg could use some alone time with her since she mostly does that with the girls.  Then whatever happened resulted in the rest of the weekend being without Greg, and Greg sat on the computer.  In Nan’s form, she spent a couple hours with him alone, and then he probably did something boys do, made some stupid comment or acted out since he always looked for negative attention from her because it was still attention or something else.  Rather than realize parenting takes work, because Nan can’t handle that, kids should just be your puppets after all and do exactly what you want at all times, at the first sign of stress, Nan most likely disengaged, which is what I would witness her do all the time.  And Greg’s time with Mom was over.  And Greg in all his brilliance and intellect has no idea what he has done again because this piece of his life has never made sense.  So Greg sat at the computer.

So now that Greg was back at our house, we just happened to have a concert for Marcia that required us to run out almost immediately.  I got home from work, said hello., noticed he was sad which usually means time at Nan’s has not gone well, asked him how he was and received the normal “Absolutely great!” and had to eat dinner and leave.  Cindy and Greg were no interested in the concert and so they stayed home like they have done many times.  When we returned we found that it appeared Greg had cut some of his hair as we found some hair and there were scissors next to the bathroom sink.  Greg had also done this a few months back while at Nan’s during a really crazy weekend there.  Talking to our counselor, she had indicated that this type of behavior usually is the result of a child not knowing how to deal with stresses they are facing, so they lash out in physical behavior.  Greg denied it was his hair this morning before school however Cindy explained later when she arose that Greg had asked to play the computer again that night and when she told him we had told him he should do something else, she believes he got upset and went an did the hair cutting, which she found later.  So as I assess it now, with all my past history with Greg, he had a terrible weekend at Nan, came home where it normally is better and was basically ignored again because of the prior commitment we had for Marcia, was unable to use his security blanket (computer) and lashed out.  We will speak with him tonight and certainly spend some time with him that we could not yesterday.  Tomorrow we have another concert for Bobbi, so I want to make sure Greg is in a good place.  Normally he’s fine and these episodes are infrequent, but something is changing for him and we need to figure out what that is and determine what the appropriate actions are.  Maybe he needs to go and see a counselor again to discuss things.  Maybe he just needs to vent.  Maybe he just needs to be reassured that he is not overlooked.  We had told them we would be watching a show they like tonight, so spending that time together will help, but we will need to see if it is enough for now. 

I’ve had to help him work through this before.  The key is to not let it fester and that is certainly not the goal.  The problem I have right now is that all our other commitments with our other kids do not always make us as available as we might need to be.  Normally I would have walked with him to the bus stop today, and I had to drop out of that because Marcia needed an early ride to school for an extra credit project she is doing.  He was frustrated with the questions about the hair this morning.  I know he will not be able to verbalize why he did it when I mention that Cindy verified he had.  If he stays true to form he might weakly deny it again, before he admits it.  Also, the next thing that happens is he just needs some time with me or my wife to understand he is not forgotten.  This usually starts the healing process.  Some weeks with Nan are better than others.  This just seems to be one that was not and our schedule this week does not help.  It sucks that the kids need to deal with this, but as any divorced parent knows you cannot force the other parent to step up no matter how clear you make it. 

I pray to God for guidance.  I pray to God for healing.  I pray to God for strength.  I pray to God that He can help Nan see the effect she has and care.  These are prayers I’ve had before and will certainly have again.  I try to guide and assist and intervene.  There is never enough time.  I want to help my son.  I believe Nan is just happy he’s gone and back by me.  So far he seems to still be OK, but it is my job as his father to keep a diligent eye on if he is not.  Perhaps when I speak with him today I will find that is the case.  I pray every time that it is not.  That Nan has not hardened his heart to caring in such a way that he has also shut off to me.  I fear that one day that will be the case and that this little guy who can be so fun and full of life will just shut down and never care.  That he will one day embrace the feeling that I do everything I can to help him avoid; “If my own Mom won’t love me, why should anyone else, or why should I?”  When I was married to Nan I would see Greg get so defiant and so angry and mean, and in discussing it during counseling it was explained that this was a way for him to avoid getting hurt.  Keep Nan away and if he never asks for her love he won’t be heartbroken when it is not given.  There is a battle he wages inside himself every time this goes on and I an only lend aid from the outside.  Ultimately Greg and God control the outcome.  I only pray that his little heart is strong enough to keep loving others while Nan continues to push him away.  Two Sundays ago he was baptized, something he asked for a few weeks back.  Greg did not specifically mention Jesus’ love for him, but I look to that love to help Greg as well.  I know when Greg gets older he will be able to more easily cope with this terrible thing he has to deal with from time to time with Nan.  Every time I seem him struggle it just tears me up because there is only so much I can do.  I can love him and guide him and know that God will support him.  And I have to trust that is enough.

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OK, so I’ve been silent for quite some time.  Certainly life has not been event free, however, every time something happens, it just has not felt like something worthy of expounding upon, or it would be more of the same old, same old.  Even though life is that way, I don’t know, I just feel like if I’m asking you to come to the blog and see what I have to say that it should be worthy of your time.  I wrestle with the reality of that though, because if it is just musing from a divorced dad, then I should just muse, right?  Even if it is what has happened before, or a continuation or a variant, just as I talk to my family and friends, maybe I should just lower the standards, so to speak, or this medium and just let you know what is in my head on a regular basis rather than waiting for some new nugget of wisdom to share.

After all, when I first started, I had shared nothing, so I had all this pent up material.  It was like meeting someone for the first time.  You knew nothing about my journey, so anything I could share was new.  I was obviously very prolific then, since I felt I had so much to share to get you up to speed.  Now, however, you know the critical things about my journey and are up to speed enough to follow along without a lot of work.  Just like everyone else, thank goodness, I do not have monumental events happening all the time; otherwise I might just have a nervous breakdown or something.  I’m like a lot of other divorced dads out there.  I went through the cycle of divorce, recovery and finding a new love.  I’ve had issues taking care of my kids, disagreeing with my ex, and other work and life events that we all have.  So now it has just settled down and this blog, will I guess need to move a little differently, similar in fact to all the other ones from similar authors who have traveled the same road.

So lately, I’ve still been dealing with my legal troubles that should not be about the old house I had.  I’ve been doing my job to the best of my ability and juggling family and work responsibilities as best I can.  I guess the biggest problem has just been trying to stay as unchanged as possible through what is happening.  If I think about it, it’s almost the same process as going through the divorce with some key modifications.

I am trying to make certain that the financial strain of the legal issues has as little impact as possible on my family, very similar to how things went in the divorce.  While adjustments needed to be made I took great pains never to tell the kids we could not do something because I had no money because I was divorced.  In many cases they would not understand, as even my fifteen year old still lives in the blissful nirvana of having no real clue how much it costs to live.  Sure they see purchases as the store, but all those hidden adult expenses like utility bills, insurance, mortgage and now legal bills are not something that they can easily comprehend.  It’s my job as a parent to cover their needs of food, shelter and clothing.  When we go to the store, they should not have to use their allowance to purchase their jeans, underwear, etc.  That’s our job as parents.  Sure if they want to go over the top they can always augment what I am willing to spend, but it should not become the default.  I think both my wife and I are in danger of falling into that mindset more easily with the current situation and I push back strongly to avoid it.  It has not really caused any fights yet, but I can feel it may, and I am trying to get her to understand my point of view while understanding that her point of view of how she grew up, the struggles she had to go through as a single mom after bankruptcy and other things make her look at things on the financial front more conservatively than even my rather conservative self. 

As a man, God has made it my responsibility to provide for my family and lead them.  In today’s culture we have pushed this aside and said women can do some things and I’m certainly OK with assistance, but at the end of the day, God has ingrained in me the need to make it all work out and to shelter those I love from the tribulations of the world. So while my wife is OK with telling the kids they can buy something on their own, I am not.  So far we’ve worked this tap dance during the last few months well, but if it is through just briefly discussing or agreeing to disagree, I’m not always sure.  If the kids want to go to the mall, I’m OK with giving them a little money to use.  If they do it every week, that amount goes down a lot, but I see no reason they have to fund every trip to the mall on their own.  God has blessed me with the ability to support them in that way and I feel that is right.  There is always the danger of spoiling them or of being taken “advantage” of by begging children, but I do my best to keep that in check.  For the most part my wife and I are on the same page, however, as I said earlier, the implication the kids can do something carries with it a lot more of the self-funding variety than it did before the legal bills started coming. 

I am very upset about the fact that they are coming.  I have talked to my pastors, and many people I know about what I should be doing, seeking wise and godly counsel as Scripture instructs me.  They all are confused why this lawsuit is even occurring as I had done everything I was required to do and no one can see any issue other than unfortunate circumstances for the new owners of the home. While they may want someone to blame, it does not make it right.  For now we have a way to handle the extra expense through the grace of God and His grace to allow me a healthy bonus from work this year, so I view it as handled for now and trust that God will continue to provide and allow me to continue to manage my family and their finances as I did before the situation began.  I am being prudent about the reality and certainly there has been some cutting back, but I have done it more where I normally do, on things that impact the adults, rather than the children at this time as it has nothing to do with them.  So we go out to eat less often on our kidless weekends than we did and that saves us a few hundred dollars a month, as an example.

I certainly have been honest with the older kids that some expenses are being avoided right now because of the situation.  There are activities they would like to attend that just are not in the budget right now.  They understand and are saddened but they get it. 

So all this is what has been weighing on my heart since I last wrote and it keep me from getting too excited about other topics because it would only serve to further irritate me about the situation as it is and the drain of our funds when I can certainly do much more productive things for my family with them.