Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

The Mall Walkers

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Christian life, God, Love, Midlife
Not them and not the mall, but close enough.

Not them and not the mall, but close enough.

I am newly married and I find that being divorced it seems to make me a little jaded to the whole romantic wedded bliss environment that is pushed on us by the movie industry and others.  On the other hand, being divorced I learned a thing or two about what causes problems in a marriage both through my own experience and through helping with a divorce ministry and through my faith.  I’d like to think this ultimately makes me a better husband, though as I admitted above I have a little tarnish to my sparkly view.

I recently popped over to the mall during lunch.  It was a nice spring day and I was very surprised that just getting out into the sunshine on one of our first really nice days this year after a long, long grey winter was amazingly invigorating, inspiring even.  I was full of energy, had a dozen ideas fly through my head about all kinds of things and was really pumped up about my life.  After all I’ve been blessed by God with a wonderful wife, a great job, terrific kids, a beautiful place to live, material resources that comfortably meet our needs and provide a little extra for fun once in a while; in short I’ve got nothing to complain about.  As I was walking through the mall in this euphoric state, I came upon them; I’ll call them The Mall Walkers.

The mall was fairly deserted at that point of the midday Monday when I chose to visit and so it was certainly easy to see anyone who was there.  I saw them approaching, an elderly couple, leisurely walking.  Now when I said mall walkers, you were probably thinking that these were those power walking folks with weights in their hands, but this couple in no way represented that frenzied, hectic lot.  No, they were just the opposite, the other bookend to that alternative mall walker.  They  were as carefree as could be, I would guess both retired, simply enjoying the here and now and strolling through the mall before it will most likely tonight transform into the teenager, child-in-stroller, parent at wit’s end place that many of understand a mall to be.  Just as I know all the things I mentioned above as examples of my life were provided by God, I know this couple being there at that time was the provided by Him for my education just as well.

The moment I saw them, I went from the life I have now to what I hope God allows my life to end like.  I want to be The Mall Walkers.  I know nothing about them except what I witnessed in those brief moments and then what my mind has added, but again I feel it was an inspiration to make me be the best I can be.  The Mall Walkers were holding hands, smiling and just casually speaking to each other.  About what, I have no idea, as I certainly did not overhear anything, but it was certainly entertaining them both as they walked and smiled.  Were they reminiscing about a past experience, talking about their grandchildren or simply discussing what they had just eaten at the food court which they may have just left?  I’ll never know but in that moment their sheer bliss of life transported me from my happy state to an even happier one where I envisioned my wife and I doing just that many years down the road and being just as happy.  The Mall Walkers were obviously in love and totally content with just each other’s company on this sunny Monday afternoon at the mall.   My wife and I sometimes talk about how we are “old” yet newly married and how we missed the chance to have met decades ago and been one of those couples who get to their 60th or 70th wedding anniversary.  My wife always chides me for harping on the negative of that and points me to the correct focus; we can still have decades together and grow old together, even though we might not get to those astronomical numbers.  She’s right and in The Mall Walkers, I was given that glimpse.  After all, what if one of the things I did not know about them was that they were both divorced and had had similar conversations decades ago when God brought them together, and look at them now?!  God’s plan for our lives is what it is, just as it is for The Mall Walkers.

The gift God provided that afternoon was to instantly through The Mall Walkers take me what I hope will be at least 40 years in the future and to just imagine.  What will all our kids have grown up and done?  How many grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren will we have?  How will the challenges we face today be looked at by our 40-year-plus-in- the-future  selves?  Will they be something we laugh at, as perhaps The Mall Walkers were doing with one of their old challenges, or will they have consumed us in some way, removing a piece of our essence, our identity?  I felt an immense understanding in that moment that worrying about the moment is such a waste.  God teaches us that everything works for His glory and so if we follow His ways we will get to experience some wonderful things on the way.  Where will we have traveled?  How many people’s lives will have been made better because of our influence in them?  How many new souls will God have in His Kingdom because they ran across us just walking in the mall thanking God for the wonderful life He allowed us to live?  Is that what was meant to happen today?  I know God only knows but I am thankful for the experience and for the moment in time I came across The Mall Walkers.  I pray God blesses them with many more years and strolls together so they can continue to provide that impact to others and I can only hope we do the same in some small way.

All the petty things my wife and I argue about, all the dumb things we get upset about our kids about fall away when you change your perspective.  God teaches us to look at the eternal impact of things.  How we model life for our kids will impact how they model it for theirs and so on down the generations.  The Mall Walkers are not bitter and petty people, just happy and comfortable in their place in the world.  I believe they are God fearing souls who are an happy as they are because they are at peace that they have eternal life and a loving Father awaiting them and that in the meanwhile they are doing the right things here to those ends.  That’s all I can pray for with my wife and I.  She is wonderful and she makes me more wonderful because I am with her and we support each other.  Our trials are not her trials or my trials, but our trials.  I know The Mall Walkers spent their time the same way, lifting each other and other’s up just by their presence.  I love my wife so much I can’t wait for what we can do together to make the world a better place.  All we may ever do is point our kids in the right direction and watch them grow, but if that’s God’s plan then that’s OK.  If he has a bigger plan, I’m sure he will show us the way and give us what we need to accomplish that.

Life is good.  And God is great.


“What is love Oh baby, don’t hurt me” — Haddaway

It is that time of year, Valentine’s Day, when the thoughts of many turn to love.  As I reflect back over the last few days it’s really astounding how many interactions had some portion of this “what is love” piece in it , but only if you bothered to look.

When I speak with Marcia, I run into this situation a lot.  For the last few years, no matter what the topic our conversation seems to have one gear; confrontation.  Even a conversation this week about trying to not have confrontation in our conversations quickly turned into confrontation.  I write it off in many cases to a bit of teenage angst, however that would be to give too much credit or excuse to a simple answer.  Another part of it with Marcia is personal struggles and her trying to find herself.  Because I love her, I help with guidance, with a counselor and I continue to engage in what I invariably know will be confrontation because I love her.  I make a choice to love.

Love for me is reflected in caring, in genuine interest in how another’s life progresses.  This is why I do what I do with Marcia, and why I do what I do with anyone else in my life that I have love for.  I struggle with all this societal focus on how one “feels” when in love and that if you don’t “feel” something then you are not in love or not loving someone.  If there is one thing I have learned in going through divorce and a rocky marriage prior to that it is that giving into that belief is the shortest road to making sure you are not in love.  Why?  Because love takes conscious decisions each and every day to sacrifice, to think differently, to work.  In my years of working through my own divorce and then supporting others through theirs, I find that God, as always, made it very simple for us.  There are two reasons given in the Bible for divorce and after that there are none.  The myriad of reasons people give for divorce, many of which involve, “but I don’t love them anymore” are not supported by God, and what I have come to realize, is that is because all the rest involve understanding what is love.

Disney and eHarmony, The Bachelor and most romantic movies have it wrong.  It’s not a spark, a feeling in your gut, a slowing down of time and space.  All those things can happen when you love, but they are a result of the love not an indicator that love has happened.  I feel deep in my bones the love for my wife, but it was not what occurred the moment I met her and showed me that I loved her.  This is the fallacy and the fantasy that we are asked to buy into and that results in so many people feeling that are not in love.  No what I’ve been talking about here is certainly romantic love as a husband feels for their wife, but there are other loves that are just as critical; those for our children and friends and others we choose to keep close to us.  All this love must be nurtured by a constant set of choices to not let Satan intervene and drive our selfish desires to convince ourselves that we are not loving this individual.

There are things one does for love and if you understand love you do them not for a reciprocation but just because you love that person.  When I made certain I shoveled the walkway of the tiny bit of snow we had before Peter when off to school this morning it was an act of love.  When I understood that when we returned from Toys R Us last night at Peter’s bedtime and to let him stay up for a bit to play with the toys he was so excited about and would not be able to play with because he goes back to Bert’s the next day, that’s an act of love.  I’m not doing them to get praise or notice; I’m doing them because I care about Peter and love him.  Is it the same way I love my wife?  Certainly not, but love drives the caring actions.

I’ve said time and again, that my first marriage failed because as I understand now we were never really in love.   We were in the world’s view of love.  We had fun, had sex, and shared space.  What we did not have was a genuine caring for each other’s desires, to work through troubles.  I for certain also did not understand what is love.  I had bought into the world’s version and paid the price for it in a broken marriage for I had not chosen a mate with God’s eyes but with man’s eyes.  I learned those lessons as only God can teach them, straight forward and direct.  People get confused and say God is not clear, but what can be more clear than Deuteronomy 11:26-28a:

26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse : 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today ; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today

To love is to work through those challenges and use them to strengthen your relationships and not drive you apart.  In the love we focus on today, romantic love, God makes clear in Genesis about marriage and the leaving of the father and mother and cleaving together as one.  Nowhere in the Bible does it state that we are to get upset when our spouse does not want to let us watch the ball game or when we leave the toilet seat up or when a word is said in selfish anger.  We are to love as God loved and to show mercy and forgiveness and work to reconcile the hurt that may have been done.  Follow the commandments of the Lord and we are blessed; listen not and we are cursed.  Open your Bibles and begin at the start.  Satan first attacked marriage with Adam and Eve and then he attacked the home with Cain and Abel.  From these roots flow all the problems in our world today.  By not understanding what is love and instead engaging in the selfish desires of the flesh we make poor decisions.  Love requires effort and choice.  Eve did not show love by not thinking about the impact on her husband and on her God by what she chose to do to further a selfish desire to know.  Cain did not show love to Abel by giving in to the selfish fallacy that God would not love both him and his brother.  Adam did not love his family by choosing to make the choice to follow Eve’s false path instead of leading and correcting the direction and so his family suffered.  By not understanding what is love, roots of problems grow into mighty oaks.

My last example is a gentleman I work with.  He has been dating a woman and it appears to me that while she is hoping for marriage, this man is not working to love in a way that will make that possible or successful.  This woman is not first in his thoughts nor even mentioned in conversations about family and friends.  He has said hurtful words to her accusing her of selfish behavior that seem to have no bearing in fact but instead seem to be a selfish way of distancing himself from her and removing responsibility for the failure of the relationship.  He is doing what I have seen countless men do in their life, choose their selfish desires of doing it his way and not making sacrifices and living for the service of others, and in the process not understanding what love is.  I do not know enough about this man’s relationship with this woman to really determine much, but what I do know if the fruit of what I heard from him in the last few days would make me seriously question if love is understood outside of the context of self.

God has taught me a lot of hard lessons about love.  He has done the same for my wife.  He has brought us together and we are doing our best to teach what we know to our children.  On this Valentine’s Day lets all do our part to make the world a better place by making sure we first learn what love is, and more importantly what it is not.  It is not selfish, focused on passions and passing things.  It grows every day, but only through conscious effort and work.  It is so easy to fall into focus on negatives of those around us and to internalize them and make them what we think of when we see them in our mind’s eye.  It clouds our actual vision by placing a filter over what we see.  We miss the little things they are doing to love.  After I have a confrontation with Marcia, she usually will show love by doing something I suggested.  Even if she does it in a snotty, teenage way she still does it.  I could let the bad behavior, the language and the rebelliousness be the definition of what I feel for her and how I treat her, but in my trials God has shown me what is love.  I provide gracious forgiveness and continue to guide her in the commandments of our Lord.  I support my wife in the trials of her life and make decisions to avoid creating more stress.  If I look through God’s eye and not man’s eye the choices are clear.  They are not always easy, but they are clear.  I may want to purchase some material thing but understand that the right choice is to make the sacrifice and wait until later as making the choice now would add stress.   If you want to know you are rich, do not count your money, count your blessings.  Count those you love and learn and decide to love them more and you will never be wasting your resources.

Sometimes I feel like being in a blended family makes you feel like you are living a bipolar existence.  This is more so when some of the other parties, namely Bert, try to turn things into something they are not.  It is this I believe that is the source of our most recent saga.

First, sorry I’ve been away for a while.  As we approached the holidays life was just crazy busy and no topics hit me with that “you can share something useful”  kick in the pants that makes me feel like what I have to say might be worthy to inspire, educate or get someone else to think differently about their situation.

So now on to what kicked me out of my writer’s block.  It relates back to the ongoing counseling of some of the kids from challenges we had this summer (“Expected Chaos” and “Dangers of Ineptness“).  In the interest of open disclosure I will say I am like a lot of men in that I feel that counseling is a tool not an ongoing service.  Like a man, I approach things in the world with “identify the problem, find some solutions, implement the solutions, move on”.  As I’ve talked with my friends it seems this is a universal guy view of counselors and over the last few months the overriding question I get from them is “when are they going to give you guys something to use so you guys can move forward normally?”

Sadly we are still trying to get there and a step in that process is what pushed me to get out what I feel and understand in this post.  Peter was initially working with a counselor for about three to four months who ultimately did very little if anything for him.  God has blessed us with a solution that makes the counseling of Peter and his sisters free of charge due mainly to the fact that Bert is on assistance and so fees are picked up.  If we were paying per session, my “man view” of counseling would have been pushing for a resolution much sooner.  In any event this woman eventually decided she was not equipped to help Peter (glad she wasted three months to get there, but herein lies a pet peeve of mine with counseling in that when they can have no goal, than means the counseling can go on forever providing said counselor with a steady stream of income) and she referred him to a place we wanted to go initially but had instead deferred to Bert’s desire to try this other counseling center.  It worked out because Bert went along without grumbling because it was not his ex who had suggested it but a third party.  Peter has basically had a handful of sessions with his new counselor but he seems to be opening up to this one where he would not really talk to the other one.  I get it, it happens.  Just wish the other bozo had not taken so long to understand that if your client is not talking and you’ve got no plan to get them to talk that’s not really a recipe for good counseling.

So feedback to my dear wife this week is what took what was pretty good holiday season with a good cheer and such as you can have with a house full of teenagers and in the course of 24 hours took her to state of frustration and worry.  At this point Greg and Peter’s counselors have not spoken to each other even after we asked them to.  This is the source of my wife’s frustration.  Completely warranted and it frustrates me to, because perhaps if they had talked a month ago like we asked she would not have gotten the comment she did that seems to have sent her into a tailspin.  There are two issues here, but let me stick with the one here which was actually the second issue.  Hope to not confuse you.

Since they had not talked and Peter’s counselor has no information on Greg and the assessment of the other counselor when asked what she recommended what we do to monitor the boys she made the ludicrous statement that we should never have the two of them together unless they are in “eyeshot”.  My friend said it best when he said that along with all the door monitors etc. is really a Fascist state and that this counselor should use her head and realize how unrealistic and stupid that recommendation is.  I understand she is just taking the ultra conservative route and not wanting to have something occur because she said we could use a more relaxed approach since she has no input on Greg.  My frustration on this is I feel what the counselor did was very unprofessional and borders on misconduct.  It is along the line of asking a movie reviewer, “Did you like Movie A or Movie B more?”

“I liked Movie A.”


“Because I didn’t see Movie B.”

What?  If you do not have enough information to make a recommendation then the responsible thing to do is to say that, not make some asinine statement that has no professional basis.  A more appropriate response would have been to say “I can answer that after I speak with Greg’s counselor which I will make every effort to do as quickly as possible.”  Instead what she did was launch a domino effect that sent my wife into a tailspin that was not necessary at all.  Pisses me off to no end.  I have to go in and meet with this counselor in a couple weeks in another one of her ill advised brainstorms, and I just hope I am past her incompetence enough to handle the circus appropriately.

My assessment, and I can’t read anyone’s mind last I checked, so it’s just what I have put together in my head, is that because of my wife’s fear or worry about Bert turning everything into a made up fallacy she has placed more power on this counselor that is really there.  We are not in some court mandated assessment.  This is personal counseling entered into voluntarily and therefore protected by all that is HIPAA.  At this point the counselor has Peter working through understanding that the first steps to inappropriate action by someone is usually talking about it.  This does not mean that if someone talks about it they will do it.  It’s the old version of I saw a bird.  I saw the bird fly.  Therefore all birds fly.  Yet we all know an ostrich does not fly but is a bird.  His action does not automatically cause the event.  The counselor explained that Peter is having a hard time making that distinction and that is making him hypersensitive to comments by others.  First thing this counselor has said that I agree with.  However I believe because of this worry about Bert taking the fact that natural youngster and teenage banter about sexuality and such occurs in a household somehow makes the household a problem.  Think back to when you were a kid.  Did you talk about inappropriate things?  How often?  As often as possible, right?  That’s the nature of childhood.  When I discuss with dispassionate folks they all agree.  It is when adults create meaning that is not there that it creates the crazy train.  Greg’s counselor has pointed this out to us, and for some reason it seems my wife feels that this counselor has jumped the fence and is somehow calling something what it is not.  I’m only seeing a overprotective counselor who spoke out of turn ad should have waited to say ANYTHING until she had enough info to speak with a grain of intelligence.  Instead she created propaganda that has taken on a life of its own in my wife’s head.

You see one of the other issues that has now expanded beyond reason is that because this counselor might be worried about Greg, what would in most cases be passed off as normal behavior is viewed with a lens of adult added angst.  From time to time when Greg and Bobbi watch TV they will share a seat and hang over each other.  They will toss legs over each other or Greg will lean on Bobbi’s arm.  When I discuss this with my friend he says his son and daughter so this stuff all the time.  My brother did it with me.  I think Greg likes the fact that he has a sister, even a stepsister, who’s first reaction to him sitting within five feet of her is not “get away from me, I hate you” which is what Greg has gotten from his two sisters his whole life.  Bobbi does not get upset when Greg leans on her in fact they are usually giggling and talking.  It’s just normal human interaction.  Yet because this counselor has raised the specter of not knowing Greg because she spoke out of turn this has turned a knob in my wife’s head that what if Greg is overly affectionate?  As long as he’s not groping people etc. what parent would not be happy to have their pre-teens not be happy in each other’s presence rather than loathsome?   Yet this is what our over-sensitized counselor-fueled existence has become, and all I can think is “STOP THE MADNESS!!!!”

I certainly do not want to stick my head in the sand, so I have sought other opinions.  As I said, friends are saying their kids do this all the time and we are being ridiculous and are being driven to this stupid view by all these counselors.  Again, I have a lot of guy friends so their solution is simple.  Tell the counselor we need to get to a point where we can go forward as normal because we have crossed the line into the territory of counseling doing more harm than good.  Given the tailspin this is moving us into I find it hard to argue.  Do we want to be dumb and unobservant no, but do we want to react to everything with the result that we eventually have every child in the house walking around in an inflated bubble and my wife and I never sleep or go anywhere because we have to watch everyone?  Hell no!  Peter is already expressing his frustration with the fact that his life is not as he would like because he is basically under house arrest and constant surveillance, yet if we listen to crazy counselor we are not being Gestapo enough!   How is that going to raise a healthy child?  You see Peter and Greg were upset because on New Year’s Eve while all their siblings got to party all night they had to go to their rooms behind their door alarms because the adult’s were going to bed and they could not be watched.  Think about that statement for a bit.  In hindsight it was perhaps ill advised for me to voice it out loud as the reason for their having to go to bed while the other’s did not, but it was the reality of our existence.  It was at this moment that I realized this has gone on long enough and something needed to change and then all hell broke loose with mouthy counselor not using her supposedly educated head.

You see we are in a never ending stream of counseling on this event.  Why? Because the counselors have no set goal.  Is that our fault?  Perhaps, but because of my regular lack of relying on others to handle my problems for me I have not had to deal with counselors a lot until I started marriage counseling before my divorce.  I went to a marriage counselor, who I felt was very good.  What was the result?  I got divorced.  Now I have this situation.  Excuse me for not being too upbeat on the success of counseling.  I think we need to get the counselors to set a goal for the two remaining kids in counseling and that goal is simple.  We want them both to understand how to interact with others appropriately and to live a normal life.  The counselors should then be able to articulate a plan on how we will get there.  Peter’s counselor at least has a semblance of that, but Bobbi’s counselor is continuing her clueless trek down “let me talk with Bobbi and bill the state” land.  I have been content to just leave it be because it was not costing anything but now there is a cost.   Our family’s sanity.  Am I going to demand a change?  No not right away.  I realize I’m really upset and venting, but I do think we are being stupid ad doing our whole family a disservice by not demanding some professional responsibility from the counselors.  After all if I went to anyone else for a service would I just tell them, “Hey I’ll just pay you every week without any end in sight and you just take my money and do whatever you want, OK?” you’d call me an idiot.  And you’d be right.  I want to have a discussion with my wife on what our family’s goal with this is and get off the incorrect assumption that we must just let it go on forever because of the source.  Sure the events of the summer need to be dealt with and they have been, are and will be.  If your kids used drugs would we send them to rehab forever?  No.  Would they perhaps do something again that made the go back?  Perhaps, but all we can do is give the tools to make a good decision and the guidance to know what that is and then let them get back to life.  Yet in this case we are not.  My wife and I have discussed the imposition of the door alarms and so have the rest of the kids so we acknowledge the problem, yet we have taken no action to solve it.  Who’s fault is that?  We need two big fingers pointing right back at us.  Will the door alarms ever be off, honestly because of Bert’s meddling, probably not, but we did tone them back from shrieking sirens to simply loud obnoxious ear splitting beeps a while back.  This is making all of us edgy and so is it a wonder that when we get a little shove from a stupid counselor who speaks out of turn that one of us falls off the edge?  No!

This leads me to the counselor’s first recommendation and what started the discussion that led to her dumb second recommendation that I have just beat like a dead horse.  They have been pushing for about a month to get the adults from the households with the three boys involved with this summer’s activities into a room together.  When I told my friend about this his first response was “I hope you said no way in hell!”  His reasoning?  Bert is totally incapable and unwilling to be anything but productive in that meeting.  He will monopolize that meeting.  My reaction.  He is 100% accurate.  With what just happened with my wife because of the other comment this week I am frankly terrified about how she will handle this session.  I understand the counselors are doing what people in that field try to do.  They think they are being helpful, yet this is the same counselor who when my wife said she did not want to be interviewed with Bert in the same room insisted that “this was the process” and then my wife went through it, Bert used his manipulation over her to make her feel hideous and she had to talk it over with her counselor over multiple sessions and was not her wonderful self for weeks.  Yet here we go into this again.  Are we stupid?  I’m beginning to think so.  Yet I do not know another option, because I am also willing to give it a shot but the only way we succeed in there is if Bert talks we all shut up and let him go.  He will lie, say things that are untrue, but we cannot react.  If we do he wins.  My concern is I will blow up in there and call the counselor the bumbling fool she is for calling this meeting in the first place.  She witnessed what happened with Bert and my wife, and she knows the other mom has similar issues with Bert.  The only one who can deal with Bert’s shit is me.  But what I can’t deal with and I am having a real time sucking up is some “professional” placing my wife into a situation that she is not at all comfortable with and demanding she do it with a smile.  God made it clear that a man is supposed to protect his wife.  I am prepared to do that to the death someday if needed.  My wife is the most important person in the world to me and the fact that she deals with this shit on a regular basis tears me up.  Even though I know it is un-Christian I pray for God to remove Bert from this world often and vehemently.  I then pray for forgiveness that I did that.  I do not understand God’s point in these trials and testing, but I worry that I am not doing what I should.  Should I be saying “hell no!” to this meeting?  If you were to ask me today, the answer I would shout from the mountain tops would be a resounding yes.  I need to pray on it and see.  I have almost no confidence; no I do have zero confidence, that this meeting will do anything of value.  My wife had basically said the same thing.  It would seem that then we are not very smart for proceeding.  Maybe we talk with the other mom and decide that way.

Because Bert takes wicked advantage of everything with his sociopathy I believe my wife has added a lot of weight to this that is not there.  We recently read some excerpts from a book where the author said stop worrying about the worst that can happen because the worst rarely does, yet that is basically what is happening here.  I feel that we are letting some fear of what Bert could spin things into drive us into not demanding more from the counselors and instead taking a very passive attitude and into walking into situations that are set up for bad outcomes.

At this point however we sit at a point that my wife feels “there is a counselor with power for the county” which I feel is utterly false but she is so worried from this woman’s inappropriate statement without any of the facts she needed to make it that she will not move from that.  If we continue this way for the next few days I know my resolve will grow much stronger to say we are not participating in that joint waste of time.  The counselors have this hope that the changes they want Bert to make will be made through these types of meetings.  That is what is driving my wife and this other mom to agree though every ounce of their being does not want to do this.  They are being driven for their kids just as I am being driven for my wife.  Should I be the voice of reason?   The most dispassionate one in the bunch?  Should I stand up and say this has no chance of success?  The counselors will be disappointed but the carnage that I anticipate Bert wreaking in that room will not have a chance to take place.  If I felt one iota of possibility that he could be reasoned with and the counselors could get him to listen I would feel some hope.  As my friend said, “This better be the best fucking counselor the world has ever seen, or you are just headed into a nightmare.”  I think I’ve already established on a much smaller point that we are not dealing with that type of counselor here.  I’d really like some thoughtful comments on this one.  We’ve got a couple weeks before this meeting is to take place.  I understand that everything I’ve written says stop the madness.  Sadly that’s not always so easy.

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.

Name calling

Posted: November 28, 2012 in Blending, Christian, Family, God, Love, Parenting

I recently came across a story of a man who made it into the big leagues.  When he was a child some of his greatest supporters were his grandparents.  They came to many of his game, encouraged him when he was down and worked with him to get better.  Over the years his baseball skills increased and as I mentioned above he finally got promoted to the Majors.  Of course, to thank them he told his grandparents he would leave them some tickets for his first game, just show up at the box office and ask for them.

The big day arrived and the grandparents had driven several hours to get to the city where the game was at.  They went up to the box office and asked for tickets for Mr. and Mrs. Hart.  The ticket agent looked through the stack and came back and said she could not find them.  The excitement of seeing their grandson in his first big league game began to turn to despair.  The agent saw their sadness and said she’d check again just to be sure.  She came back with the same sad news.  No tickets.  The grandparents looked at each other and started talking about how unlike their grandson it would be to not follow through on a promise he had made.  As they talked the wife suddenly came to a realization.  “Can you please check under Grammie and Grampie”?  The agent went off and returned smiling with a pair of tickets in hand. 

As parents we have a similar situation.  We will forever be known, even as our children grow into adults, as Mom and Dad.  In a blended family there is another dynamic and we went through the process around or wedding of trying to determine what we would be called by our kids.  They already had a mom and dad, and we knew some families choose to have the new step parents be hung with that same moniker, but for various reasons we felt we wanted something else.  My wife came up with a great solution when she asked my parents what another word for mom and dad was in Polish, which is one of the major nationalities my side of the family is from.  We ended up with Mamusia and Tatush and that has been the names we have used in our new family unit.  All of the kids have taken to it including each of our kids now not calling us Mom or Dad but the new names. 

As Christians we have a similar model to work from.  God told us that his name is “I AM” yet we also call him by many others: God, Jesus, Lord etc.  Just as we as loving parents understand to respond when we hear “Mamusia” or “Tatush”, a loving God also respond to other names.  We respond to the names that those we love call us.  That’s an important lesson to learn.  As we get older and relationships morph those names will not always change, as shown in the example I opened with.  To that grown man, those two people were still Grammie and Grampie.  If they had forgotten that they would have not just lost tickets, they would have lost a connection with their grandson.  Our exes both think the names we have created are stupid, dumb or whatever.  Because we understand they are names for us used by those who love us, to us those names are precious, special and wonderful.  So if you pass me on the street and call out my actual name, I might not realize you are talking about me and might just keep on walking, but if you happen to yell out “Tatush!”, you can bet I’ll turn around with an expectant look knowing I’ll see someone who knows and loves me well.

Let’s play a round of Jeopardy.  “I need to hear it every day.”  In my house a proper question to win this Jeopardy round with my wife is “How often do you need to hear praise from me?” 

I struggle with this, not from the perspective that my wife is not praiseworthy, but from the perspective than I am a man.  When my wife is feeling needy from the perspective of hearing that I love her or that she did something well, my response tends to be, “Oh!  You know I love you!” or “You know you do a good job!”  OK, all you women stop rolling your eyes and saying, “Typical man!”  Her response is listed above.

It is no secret that men and women communicate, perceive, hear and OK, basically do nearly everything differently.  It’s a wonder that somehow we all fall in love and choose to work through that quagmire, but in God’s infinite wisdom this is how he built us.  If you want to get into the psychology of the male and female mind there is no shortage of resources to satisfy your appetite and I’ll let you do that on your own.  In our house we work to make this a priority, but the fact that this exchange happens shows that we are far from perfect.

I do love my wife dearly.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.  I tend to be more talkative than your typical man, yet I still find it unnatural to say this out loud.  I’m not sure why.  In the Love & Respect book it talks about men wanting “shoulder-to-shoulder” friendship with their spouse rather than women wanting “face-to-face” friendship.  Honestly, I read this chapter and could relate, but it sounded foreign to me.  As I explained to my wife here, “I guess I’m a woman in this area”.  I like to talk more than my wife, just ask her.  Not just a little bit, a LOT more.  Yet even with this, I somehow drop the ball and become a typical man when it comes to supporting my wife’s need to hear I love her and love what she does for me and the family.

One of the reasons I love this Love & Respect book so much (yes, I just readily said I love a BOOK while I’m writing about how I struggle to verbally tell my wife I love her enough) is that it explains very simply the basic drives of both women and men.  I keep working on this every day and I know I will get better, in part because I want to badly to get better.  I know that if I give her more of what she needs, she will give me more of what I need.  For a woman that is feeling loved all the time. 

A typical male response is to bemoan how much work this is.  Really?  We love baseball, cars, and a myriad of other things.  I understand those things do not need to be told we love them, but should it really be that hard?  Like anything, I think it is just a matter of focus.  I used to forget to give my wife a kiss in the morning before I left.  She’d let me know about it.  In the beginning it was new to me.  If I had tried to kiss my ex before I left I would get slapped and told to go away because she was trying to sleep.  I can understand that and since my wife sleeps longer than I do, I figured I was being nice by just leaving her alone.  What I did not understand was that her need to be loved outweighed anything she might feel about being disturbed from her sleep and she let me know how stupid that idea was.  She wanted her kiss in the morning.  She could easily fall back asleep.  After about a month I got pretty good at it, but I still forget once in a while or have to come back upstairs or even turn around and come back to the house.  Yes, you heard me right.  I turn around and come back to the house, to give my wife her morning goodbye kiss. 

As a guy we’re also trained to not give out a lot of praise.  When was the last time you told another guy at the office, “Hey Joe, I love the way you format those columns in your reports.”  I know, every guy reading this just shook from a case of the willies.  It just feels wrong.  Yet we need to understand that our wives lap this stuff up and in her case I do think “This dinner is yummy!  She got a lot of the boxes unpacked out of her office today.  She helped me a lot by picking up my daughter from band practice.”  so why do I think it but don’t say it?  It just takes focus.  So just like my successful campaign to get better at the goodbye kiss I just need to apply the same effort to actually saying what I’m thinking (when it’s good.  I’ve got the flip side of that down). 

It does come more naturally to me, and I think most men, so focus on what needs to be fixed.  After all that’s what men do; we fix things.  I’m really good at telling my wife what she needs to improve.  That may be important, but it is unloving.  Not that those things are not to be discussed because that leads to other issues, but it should not be the majority of my input into her contribution to our lives.  I have been measured and found wanting.  Guilty as charged. 

The goofy thing is I love my wife and have no issue with her knowing it.  I just make the dumb mental leap that she knows it.  Needing to hear it often does not make her needy, it makes her a woman.  If only every man understood that, there would be so many fewer problems in relationships than there are now.  Can I get an Amen from the ladies!?  J

So I’ve just about got the goodbye kiss thing licked (I only had to circle back once this week), so my next focus will be on making sure she hears something great every day.    I know it will feel strange, but I think it will be better over time.  I know she will be getting more of what she wants and I love to see her happy.  Finally, it’s not like I’m making it up, she really is awesome (now if I could only remember to say it).

To function as adults in a confident and conducive way, we need to learn to work through doubt.  At a minimum we have a pretty good laboratory to hone our skills in:  school.  Friends and enemies alike constantly tell us how stupid we look, how stupid we are, what we are incapable of doing, what we should be doing (usually not a good list when provided by someone negatively).   People who are supposed to help do not always do so.  Too many teachers are not there to teach, but to do a job and ignore the kids.  They take little interest in our issues and help as little as they can or not at all.  They criticize and offer little help, just suggesting we suck it up.  We’ve all had those experiences, some more than others, and at time more frequent.  Sadly, many people reach adulthood and still let the doubts reign.  They never got past the low self-esteem self-doubt can cause.  They never learned how to press through an unknown situation against the doubt that the result would be good or even necessary.

As our families come together, an additional set of sources is piled onto our new family.  Luckily I do not see any serious issues with either of the adults in the mix, but we have children who are not old enough in some case, or just not as fully equipped as we are.  The single source is the blending of the family, but the originations of these doubts are many and varied.

The internal fear of the unknown is a big one.  What will it mean to share a room with someone?  I already do it at mom’s and I hate it and now I need to do it with someone I’m not even related to.  I will have no privacy.  Why do we need a TV in our room, it will just distract from being a quiet place?  Why do the boys get a bunk bed and we do not?  After all my room’s not that much bigger than theirs.  These are just some of the questions fueled by doubt caused by the unknown.  As they see the day of reckoning coming the questions are becoming more rapid fire.  This is what I am dealing with.  My fiancée is dealing with questions of her own.  Why do we have to move to their house?  What will the new school be like?  I’m sure I’ll hate it.  What will it mean to share a room with someone?

My process of dealing with this is no different than I do at work.  When people do not have information, they create it.  My worldview is not theirs.  I need to address both simultaneously if possible.  If sales are down, doubt about the long term viability of the business creeps in.  As management we can have all the plans in the world to make changes, but if they are not communicated, people create their own scenarios, and they are usually ugly.  For some reason, God wired us to dread.  I guess we know the world is troubled, and so expecting trouble to follow flows most easily. 

With the kids the process is to focus on first teaching them to think constructively.  With the amount of rooms in the house, sharing them is not really an option.  They are not the only people in the world to have shared space, and they may also be doing it when they leave the house, in college, with roommates because they can’t afford rent on their own, etc.  I also can empathize that while I am also sharing a room, the situation is very different.  I can’t use that chain of logic with them as the worldview is different.  I am sharing a room with my wife.  They are sharing rooms with “strangers” or with their siblings, neither of which they have the same relationship with that I do with my wife.  I could argue that they should suck it up, and that works about as well in a family as it does in a workplace.  Also, since a family loves each other, we should be supportive where possible and not just nasty about it.  There is a loving way to coach them rather than the easy way of “that’s the way it is” and let them make the best of it.  So I look for teachable moments to explain.  I understand it is a challenge and I can appreciate that they feel weird about it.  We watch shows like “The Middle” where kids share a room.  I explain that when the one brother needs some time he lets the other person know to stay out of the room for a while.  Fear of the unknown is causing the doubt.  I had this argument with my ex all the time.  We cannot expect kids to learn by osmosis or cosmic energy.  If they have not dealt with a situation, they do not always have the capacity to see that there is a way to get there without a fight.  When it comes down to it, must arguments are based on differing viewpoints, and a lot of those can be quickly resolved by filling in the missing information.  As I explained this option to the doubt about privacy, I could see the wheels turning.  Sometimes it’s easy.  Sometimes it’s not. 

So that addresses the doubt from within.  The land we inhabit has these creatures called exes, and the kids do have friends and other smaller humans who hang out with them that are acquaintances, enemies, or as an adult faced with the barrage of “knowledge” these teens and pre-teens impart, “opportunities for teachable moments”.  On my bad days I have nasty names for them, but I try to keep those to a minimum.  On the ex front, I do struggle with if this is a good thing or not, since I’ve heard the stories of many other divorces.  After all, without the involvement of exes we would not get time without the children without paying another adult to be with them, which certainly is nice and cost effective.  However, we would also not have one of the biggest sources of doubt from without.  After all, I find it is easier to discredit the advice of another youngster, but the other parent carries magical value.  You see our children still live in the land of their youth where just being their parent somehow makes you the smartest person in the world.  I hold a little bit of happiness in the fact that I know when they become teenagers; they back up the U-Haul and move to the land of their parents are the dumbest people they, their friends, strangers and everyone on earth know.  The problem is they will feel that way about me and my wife at the same time they feel it about our exes, but there is still going to be relief of a sort.

My approach?  Similar to addressing the doubt within, but a lot more calculated.  The within points are more manageable because they do not talk back.  The pesky exes have a habit of answering questions when they are asked, especially when they know they can provide an answer that can cause discord.  Tell dad you’re worried about moving into the new house, and you can tell a grade schooler all kinds of things to freak them out.   They already think you are the smartest person in the world.  Tell mom you hate sharing a room and she can promise you can live all by yourself in the basement when you’re 18 whether she plans to do it or not.  Even when your sister is saying that mom always promises things and that’s still years away so it will change, you cling to the hope and let the doubt fester and seethe.  After all, if at 18, maybe she’ll fight for it sooner if you grumble to her enough.  It’s worked before.  When kids have a parent they can manipulate, it adds a whole new level of fun.

So the process does become like psychological warfare.  The problem is it’s a lot like trying to convince your horny teenage son that the “high class” hooker can still give him an STD.  Things can be pretty enticing even if you’re being told a completely truthful and well thought out alternative.  In our current situation, my fiancée’s ex is the bigger doubt planter, as that is his life.  The difference however, is I have nothing to lose with him.  I’m not looking to be his buddy or maintain a relationship nor do I have any history of a relationship with him.  Just as my relationship with my ex places blinders on me to certain options that others see, I feel the same happens with my fiancée.  I do not see how it could not, after all, we are the sum of our experiences.  I know the lines to not cross, like telling his kids their dad is an idiot, or in some way directly undermining him so he could try to convince an impartial third party (a judge) that the household is talking negatively about him, but I’m really, really good at getting the same points across with fact and examples.  I’m not trying to convince the kids to become criminals, or take up some other bad habits; I’m setting examples on how life should be lived and how choices should be made.  At some point they will be old enough to understand that living with multiple women is not a marriage or a family. Having friends “give” you free stuff all the time is going to come out as not the norm.  Answering questions to a doctor incorrectly showing total lack of caring about your child’s lifelong medical condition will eventually be understood for what it is, a narcissistic focus on caring only for himself and having little regard for the actual well being of the child.  I see it is my kids already.  They know mom lies, fails to keep promises and lets them down in myriad ways.  They knew that when we were married.  In my exes situation, they were too young when the divorce happened to have developed any real understanding of their dad.  Everything was created in the play land of shared parenting, when you have time in between to exercise your deviant tendencies and prepare a place for your visiting guests and stage the environment.  The downside of divorce when parents like this are involved, is that the kids get much less exposure to a 24/7/365 environment that a family would have and it provides the manipulative parent ample opportunity to window dress.  They can tell the kids about conversations that were never had, events that never happened, people that don’t exist that corroborate stories all under the guise of them happening “while you were at moms”.  This is where is becomes psychological warfare and I think only by approaching it this way do we have any real hope of guiding these kids to a really solid outcome.  Allowing things to play out and “hoping” they figure it out is fine if this was all going on when they were in their late teens and equipped to judge our exes for what they really are.  Doing that with grade and middle schoolers is naïve.

No one looking in cannot view this as hard.  In this land of doubt I see two clear, opposing options.  We can leave things to chance and stay out of the way and not be responsible, loving, involved parents and get the result we see all over society of kids who have poor morals, decision making skills and ability to function in the world, or we can approach this with the intensity it requires and be ever vigilant on assaults on our kids with doubt which leads to unwarranted worry and fear.  Information obviously needs to be kept age appropriate, but we have no toddlers running around the house anymore.  We have maturing girls and boys who sadly have been provided one stable parent each.  For quite some time they will live in the world that the unstable parent somehow is stable, either because that parent is a master manipulator and uses everything he can to make is seem so, or because they desperately want her to be regardless of the evidence they see repeatedly to the contrary and that tears their little hearts apart every time they experience it.  It is my job as a father to equip my children, all of them, with what they need to be successful.  That includes the ability to see through the smoke screen on the one hand and to provide guidance at another disappointment on the other.  Providing a loving and consistent household will handle the doubts from within, but only aggressive action will handle the doubts from without.  I see it as a form of martial arts, responding with a like amount of force to the aggressor.  My ex is not very direct or manipulative and as I already relayed, my kids have a healthy understanding of what the reality is though they are still kids and want to believe it might change.  Her ex is a conniving, crafty, take-every-advantage-in-anything waste of space whose seeds of doubt need to be met with equally strong seeds of encouragement until the kids get to the point that they have enough life experience to understand the strange things their dad does in how he lives his life.  It will be tough.  He has a stage to perform on and he enjoys it and he’s good at it.  God will show us the way.  As I explained in my post about lying, the liar needs to keep all the threads of their lies tied together and that takes more and more of a toll on them over time.  The truth teller does not bear that burden.  Because we are the truth tellers we will prevail.  It is just a matter of time.  I am savvy enough to understand I walk a fine line.  I am the “new guy” that he can use to inject doubt, and anything I do to play into that will be something he can use. But I’m also not stupid and I understand that and can play that game, so it will take hard work and effort on my part.  The same lack of understanding they have of their dad, is the same lack they have with me.  If he’s as good as my fiancée claims he is (and I still am withholding judgment because I have not seen one inkling of brilliance) he will use the same argument with his kids that I put forth as his modus operandi.  He will be telling them I seem nice and wonderful and kind because they only see me every other weekend usually and I can “play for the cameras” but my true self will come out when they live with me.  He will be planting the seeds of doubt to make them on guard.  I see possible indicators of it already with how the kids are still not reaching out to engage as mine are to my fiancée.  They do not start conversations with me or ask to do things, they hold back and wait for me to initiate and even then there is awkwardness.  It can be the difference in the kids temperament, but I do not think that is all of it.  If this guy is the master manipulator he is using his power of all-knowing and fully trusted dad to worry the kids sick about what living with me will really be like. 

The fight against doubt, especially in our family’s case, is warfare.  Like it or not succeeding in business is similar, and I’ve done a pretty good job on that front, so I’ve got a good track record against manipulators.  It is therefore completely apropos to close with two very great practitioners of what we need here, Machiavelli and Sun-Tzu.  I fully understand Machiavelli’s concept of keeping “my enemies closer”.  More importantly I understand and know how to act out the scenarios from Sun-Tzu to “know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious”.  I’d like to add a third truth I know, and that is from the greatest teacher of all, God, of whom it is written in Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

If I take out my crystal ball, I think a lot of the doubt within will be gone shortly after the houses are combined as long as we talk a LOT and provide the information and tools our kids may not yet be aware of and do not leave it to chance.  You should have a clear picture of what I see about the doubt without.