The holidays are tough in my family. Some of you already realize that I’m a divorced dad of four girls, but some may be unaware. For those that are unaware, let me explain my schedule to you.
My two oldest daughters, I had with my ex-wife. We have joint custody of said daughters, which basically means neither one of us gets to see (have) the kids near as much as we both would like. Everyone’s divorce agreement is different, and I’m sure that most divorced parties would agree that what they ended up with was not what their ideal arrangement would be.
Usually, during a non-holiday week, I have my two oldest daughters Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and the first half of Thursdays. I’m not an “every other weekend” type of guy, and I insisted on seeing them at least three days a week during our negotiations. At the time of my divorce decree, I was working at the post office. My days off fell on those particular days, so they worked out very well. Unfortunately, I have changed jobs since then, but I’ve had to keep those particular days as my days to see them. As you can imagine, the school year kind of sucks. Technically, I have my children Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays still, but they spend most of that time in school or in bed sleeping.
Back in the day (we’ve been divorced for almost seven years now), the whole going to school thing during my time to have them wasn’t even thought of. I was 24-years-old, thought I was doing everything right, and did it all without a lawyer. She got what she wanted ($), and I got what I wanted (time with them).
The holidays used to be a nightmare. We’re supposed to alternate holidays with the girls each year. That sounds fair, right? Well, yeah, if you’re the one that gets them that year, I suppose it does. Sometimes, one of us has prior plans that needs tending to (like work), so we try to work with each other to ensure that we still get adequate time with the girls.
I have a pretty horrible memory for certain things. For instance, I don’t remember what we got for Ella for her 1st birthday. I remember where we held her party, I remember who came, I even remember that it was too cold for the dress she was wearing so we had to put jeans on underneath it. However, I don’t remember what gifts we (her own parents bought her). If it makes you feel any better (or worse, for that matter), I don’t remember what gifts we gave her older sisters this year either. That, is a true story.
As you can imagine, if I can’t even remember what toys we bought them two months ago, then I may get my holiday schedule mixed up occasionally. My ex-wife is extremely organized however, and she likes to email me ideas about what she thinks it should be this particular holiday. Usually, I’m pretty lenient and go with whatever she suggests. I don’t do that because I’m a pushover, I do it because usually the holiday plan has been pretty well thought out, and actually makes sense.
I am pretty certain we don’t abide by the “every other holiday” thing most of the time, but I think we both get a pretty solid amount of time to spend with them in general. Halloween this year, was the first time I actually became upset about how we were going to split up time with the girls. Like I said, I’m usually pretty lenient. This year though, I wanted them on Halloween because it was Audrey’s first one, I had taken time off of work that day, and I had made plans for the whole day.
Of course I wasn’t too surprised at her response when I texted my ex and asked if I have the girls this Halloween. I honestly wasn’t expecting a “Sure! That sounds great! Would you like me to drop them off the night before?” However, I wasn’t expecting to hear “I want them too. How about you take them during the day, and you can bring them back to me in the afternoon. I’d rather spend that evening with them.”
Really? She wanted them for the “trick-or-treating” part of Halloween? Why did she think I wanted to spend time with them that day?
After asking my wife what year it was the last time we had the girls on Halloween and she responded 2007, of course I got a little angry. I texted my ex back and reminded her that the last time I had them on Halloween was in 2007, and she replied that she would think about it and let me know in a few days. A couple of days later she texted me to tell me she had found something to do with the girls the night before Halloween in downtown that involved trick-or-treating, so it wouldn’t be a problem for me to have them all day on Halloween.
Of course I’m glad our quality time was figured out in a timely fashion and we both still got to spend a little part of that holiday together with our children.
If you’ve read some of my older blogs you may recall that one of my daughters seems to me a real “mommy’s girl.” She is not always OK with decisions my ex and I have made in regards to her whereabouts on certain holidays, and Halloween was one of them. When I informed them of the good news of where they were spending Halloween, she actually started crying. She had already picked out her costume with her mom, and she wanted to spend that day with her. I informed her that she would be spending the day before at a festival downtown (in costume WITH her mom), and only then did the tears stop flowing. She seemed to be OK with the idea of going to “Boo at the Zoo” with all her sisters, and then to the mall to do some more trick-or-treating, and then back home to do some door-to-door trick-or-treating, and everything seemed to be fine.
She goes through these spells sometimes where she just seems to be as happy as can be to spend time with her “this side” of her family. Other times, though, her emotions, her body language, and her behavior suggest otherwise.
That leads me to this week. Thanksgiving is today. It happens to fall on a Thursday every year. Ordinarily, had it not been Thanksgiving today, I would have taken her to school this morning, and she wouldn’t see her mom until late this afternoon. However, this week was a fairly troublesome one for her, and for me.
Kids don’t always realize the magnitude of what they say and how they act around their parents. It’s difficult being a divorced parent. I would never suggest to anyone that this is the route to go. Being divorced sucks. It almost always hurts all parties involved, and it is never, and I do mean never easy on your children.
For whatever reason, my daughter did not want to be here this Thanksgiving with me this year. (Typing that last sentence just made me a little bit teary-eyed. Seriously). It hurts to talk about it, it hurts to write about it, and it hurts to just think about it.
When people try to make me feel better about this subject they always say things like “Oh, she’s just a kid, and one day she won’t be a kid and you guys will be best friends…” I appreciate my friends, and I know they’re just trying to help, because they know I’m not a bad person. They know that nothing goes on in my household that would make them not want to be here, and they know that my children are being raised in a loving environment. I have not once drank alcohol in front of my older children (with the exception of my champagne toast on my wedding day), and I do not curse in front of them either. That is not a stab at those parents who do, that is just how I am choosing, for now, to raise mine. I don’t expect them to never drink, nor do I expect that they will never utter a curse word.
I have lofty expectations for my children, not only because I’m their father, but because I truly do believe that they will succeed in what they put their minds to. This week, one of my daughters made her mind up to be as disruptive to the family holiday as she could. She pretty much succeeded in making it a fairly uncomfortable Thanksgiving for me at least. Luckily, we didn’t have any out-of-town guests for Thanksgiving, so her behavior wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary for those of us that are around her a lot.
There has been some serious tension between my oldest two daughters recently, and I can sense a state of urgency to get it resolved. I know they are siblings, and they will have fights, squabbles, and disagreements. However, it is almost downright troublesome to see how one in particular tries to sabotage the other’s time with her family. I feel as if I’m wasting an exorbitant amount of time with my children either arguing with one of them, or arguing with the other because of something the other one did.
That is not how I want to spend my time with my children. I don’t have near as much time with them, as I originally set out to get by signing that damn divorce decree. In fact, during the school year, I spend around ten to twelve hours of “awake” time with them a week. Ten to twelve hours a week and that’s it! That is not only dispiriting, but also pretty unacceptable. However, I have no choice but to accept it, and make it work.
Today, the biggest argument ensued over my daughter’s refusal to brush her hair before she went back to her mother’s house. I mean, it was a ridiculous spat that should have never happened. Somehow, it just spiraled out of control to the point of her having to be picked up and carried to the bathroom to get her hair brushed. Promptly after getting in the car she reached up with both hands and messed it up.
I know there are more important things in this world, than having perfectly combed, parted, brushed hair. However, if you had seen it in person, you’d know why I wanted it brushed before we left. She told me “You just take care of you, and I’ll take care of me!
I know, huh? Out of the mouth of babes, is what they say?
Earlier this afternoon and yesterday she was accused of throwing things at my oldest daughter and her cousins. As she snapped at them to “Shut up!” I quickly started to believe them. I’m not going to go into every little detail of her actions since Tuesday, but many of them put me on high alert to the fact that one of my kids is turning into someone I don’t want her to be.
I try to be a peaceful parent. I try to show my children nothing but love and encouragement. For some reason, it’s just not enough. I feel as if I give my daughters every single bit of me that I can, yet it’s still never enough. When I’m supposed to be enjoying fellowship with my family and friends on this Thanksgiving Day, all I can do is think about what the hell am I doing wrong? What am I doing right? I feel as if this issue is not going to get solved anytime soon, and I wonder just how much more tension the family can take.
I wish I could explain to her how I was there the second she made it into this crazy world. I’ve watched her crawl, sit up, walk, talk, tie her shoes, read, sing, do math, and I’ve loved every single second of it. I would never change having her in my life. She’s a part of my existence, and she always will be. I love her just as much as her mommy does, and no matter how I try to express it to her, it’s like I’m talking to a wall.
Anyways, this probably wasn’t the wittiest blog I could think to write tonight, but it’s definitely something that’s been tearing at my mind recently. I know you can do math in your head but writing down the problems to solve them is sometimes a little easier, right? Well, that’s all I’m doing…