Category Archives: Parenting

“Why are you doing this to us?!” (part 1)

I don’t usually engage in conversation with my ex. Most of our communication is limited to text messages. Why? Because he is selling crazy and I am not buying.

In recent weeks his level of crazy has increased by alarming proportions. First there was the domestic violence arrest. He received felony charges, was jailed for 30 hours and then bemoaned the abuse he was suffering at the hands of his wife. He claimed that the charges were dismissed, that the judge had said he had done nothing wrong. He played the victim and blamed everything on his wife.

Sound familiar?

This is the game played by emotionally abusive men — and women. They destroy the self -confidence of those around them. They torment, degrade, and intimidate … and then they play the victim. In situations of divorce with children they manipulate the court system, deny any wrong doing, depict the other parent as crazy, neglectful and abusive … and they win.

Those of us who have experienced this recognize the common thread. We feel betrayed and are unfairly judged by others. When I meet people I know that they assume horrible things about me. I try to not let it bother me, but it does. Sometimes I can see in their eyes the thought, “What is she hiding? She must have done something horrible to lose her children.” Yes, I did. I chose a narcissistic bully to be their father.

Immediately following their father’s arrest … did I mention that his arrest was hidden from me? My oldest son was told not to tell me by his grandmother. As soon as I found out I packed my toddler into the van and we drove to their city to pick them all up from school. I was stunned by the reaction of my older daughter.

She loved her step mom. She even would write her step mom’s last name on her school papers — that stung a little. When I told the younger kids that their dad and his wife had been arrested for domestic violence my daughter responded with, “Well, she started it.” Whoa! I started to wonder what her father had been saying about his wife to cause such a drastic change of heart. Quite frankly, it made me sad. This was their second step mom in just 4 years and I had hoped that things would work out so they could feel secure.

Their father was charged with felony assault. I heard from my 8 year old son that this wasn’t the first time there had been a physical fight. He had seen them slap each other and he saw his dad stand on his step mom’s chest. I decided that there was no way I was sending them back. I hoped that their father would be detained in jail and sentenced to several months.

Beyond all comprehension, he was released.

This began a series of texts and phone calls wherein I insisted that my boys would stay with me because they didn’t feel safe. All the excuses and the displacement of blame were staggering. I called b.s. on so much of it. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of his claims, his distortion of facts and his declarations of enlightenment.

In the meantime, my kids had returned to his home. My older son and I talked about moving forward with the parenting plan modification.

(I cannot complete this right now. Too much to process.)

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Faith through the tough times

At church this past weekend, our pastor talked about crisis. How we get through it, how God works change within us, and our reactions to it. He quoted several verses about Jacob from Genesis.

One of the things he mentioned was that we each need to admit that we are the “problem.” Reality check? Yes, something like that. The talk was interspersed with scenes from the movie Fireproof. Dreadful acting aside, it’s a movie with a message worth noticing. Which reminded me, I have The Love Dare as an ebook from the library on my phone. And I hadn’t looked at it.

Hmm … Day 1 — say nothing negative to your spouse. I tried it. I almost made it through the whole day. I am trying again today. Our toddler woke up crying with a leaky diaper. While I was changing her on our bed my husband made grouchy, sarcastic remarks. I hissed, “Callate!” at him. Whoops! Let’s just put that one behind us and continue on …

I know that making God the central focus of my life makes my life better. Always. It is during the tough times when I get too introspective, too discouraged, and overly cynical that I struggle to stay close to Him. I don’t make time to read the Bible. I don’t focus on prayer. I get very caught up in the drama that is my life.

At this time I have an ex who is contentious and argumentative. My oldest stepdaughter isn’t talking to me because of something my younger stepdaughter told her. I have no idea what it is, but she unfriended me on facebook because of it. Trust me, this is a BIG deal. Before the end of her visit my younger stepdaughter got angry with me and told me that I am “just a stepmom!” Ouch. I sure cried over that one.

My husband is disappointed and angry with both of his older daughters. He carries a grudge against my older daughter. Blended family drama stinks! I honestly think we need to be in ongoing therapy with our children in order to navigate this life peacefully. (sigh)

These ARE tough times. I need to be more active in my pursuit of God. I need to replenish my faith, fill my glass. I don’t want to just muddle through life, I want to live it beautifully and joyfully.

 

Who’s with me?


At Long Last …

a breakthrough with my kids

This past weekend was amazing. My children came to visit and the most incredible turn of events unfolded.

When we met our kids in the parking lot my oldest son was visibly upset. It looked like he had been crying. I immediately asked him what was wrong. He fought back tears while saying that he would tell me later. We all got into the van with him in the front passenger seat and he immediately burst into tears. I could only imagine that this must have something to do with his father harassing him about his conversion to Judaism. He didn’t tell me right away, but that was part of it.

This is not the good part of my story. It turned out that their father had raged at them during their 30 minute drive to our exchange point. He did his usual song and dance: my wife does nothing, my kids do nothing, I didn’t watch tv as a kid, I rode my bike everywhere, blah, blah, blah. He growled and yelled, accused and ridiculed. This was the very reason why I left with the kids 5 years ago. My son was on the verge of tears, my daughter did cry. Remarkably, my youngest son said it didn’t bother him. My two oldest have those memories of being emotionally and verbally abused. Their father’s unleashed anger triggered their emotional memories. My youngest son was only 2.5 years old when we left. He didn’t retain the emotional memory.

After arriving home, when my son spilled all of this ugliness he confessed as well. He told me that his sister had mentioned something about my husband and a belt, that he had countered with, “that didn’t happen!” only to have his father turn on him. My son cried. I told him that I forgive him and that I understand. It was an incredible, tearful moment.

I soon went to check on my 10 year old daughter. She was moody and angry about not being allowed to play video games. I turned her towards me and hugged her. I told her I love her and I miss her. I apologized for anything I had done to hurt her, told her that it hurt me to see her so sad. It took awhile for her to raise her arms to embrace me, but when she did she collapsed into me, sobbing. She told me that everything was a mess, that there was too much fighting and she just wanted it to stop. We stood for a good 10 minutes in the kitchen, holding each other and talking.

She finally dropped her facade. We finally connected on a deep level.

The sad thing in all of this is that the events we had predicted would occur happened faster than we had thought. My ex is emotionally and verbally abusing my children again. They are living in fear, walking on eggshells. Their stepmom has distanced herself from them. She is not involved in their lives. They are not happy. They are barely getting through each day.

I am sending an email to the guardian ad litem in our case. She needs to know what her lack of concern has done to my children. For her they were a paycheck. For me, they are my heart and my life.


Finding My Parenting Niche ~ part two

The internet became central to my growth as a parent. I am most comfortable interacting with people via the printed word. When I was young my family moved a few times and I always had pen pals. That experience led naturally to my involvement in message boards. As soon as I discovered message boards I was inspired to start my own board for Stay at Home Moms. Discussing mothering with women online became my social outlet.

Following the birth of my second child, four years after my first, it soon became apparent to me that I needed to spend time with other like-minded moms. In real life. My insecurity has hindered my ability to socialize throughout my life. However, I mustered up my courage and attended my first La Leche League meeting. Going to the meeting was like stepping into a warm bath. So comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable. I had found my “peeps.”

Not everyone will feel comfortable hanging out with “granola” types. Not all mothers who are involved with LLL are of the crunchy variety. But all are breastfeeding moms. As a wise woman wrote, a breastfeeding mom is a breastfeeding mom. Aside from that, our parenting styles may be vastly different. To be a breastfeeding mom, there is no other requirement than having breasts that lactate and a child to latch onto them.

So there you have it. I am a crunchy, gentle, sleep sharing mom. I am one of “those women” who breastfeeds her children well beyond infancy. It is what I am comfortable with. It has worked well for my children. They are confident, healthy, bright individuals. The had years of cuddling and snuggling with me, both day and night.

Have the fathers of my children been onboard? Not always.

With my first three children, I argued frequently with their father about my parenting choices. I believe he was jealous of the attention I gave our children. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t let them cry. He would be angry when I put their needs before his. He did not like sleep sharing. He did not like co-sleeping. I insisted despite his protests.

Thankfully, my current husband is different. He does not like it when our daughter fusses, allowing her to cry is out of the question. He had not shared sleep with an infant in the past. He had reservations at first, but after our daughter was born he found that he felt better with her safely tucked into our bed beside me. It may turn out that he becomes uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding. If that hurdle appears, we will jump it.

Nearly 14 years elapsed between the birth of my first child and my fourth. Yes, my parenting style has changed a bit over the years. Mostly due to age. I simply do not have the stamina to carry my daughter in a sling all day. I was able to do that with two of her older siblings. I am over 40 and it has made a difference. I also no longer use cloth diapers, which I did with my first three children. One thing that has not changed is my philosophy of mothering.

I am an attachment parenting mom. Always have been. Always will be.


Putting it Back Together Again

My relationship with two of my children was fractured. After they refused to return from their visit with their father we didn’t see each other at all for more than three months. When visitation was enforced and I did finally see them, things did not go well. I felt like I barely knew them. They were sullen, argumentative, and withdrawn. I understood why they were behaving differently, but I still reacted poorly to it. I was hurt by their betrayal. I could have kept that to myself, but I didn’t.

It was so unbelievable to me that these children whom I was with every day of their lives – caring for them, nurturing them – could turn on me. I cried every day because I missed them. I was furious with them for lying about our lives, for accusing us of abuse, for leaving me. They were rebelling like crazy … they even rebelled against our faith.

Of course, our initial reunion was wonderful. They ran to me across the parking lot, hugged me and told me they missed me. I was so happy to see them that I cried. The remainder of the first day went well, but by the following afternoon things deteriorated and we all looked forward to them going home.

We alternated weekends with all three kids. This was my proposal. I thought that since the children weren’t all living together they should all be together every weekend. As a result, every weekend I drove 45 minutes each way to our exchange point. Twice. First and third weekends my youngest son left to see his dad. Second and fourth weekends all the kids were with me. I missed my youngest when he was gone. I dreaded the weekends when we brought my older two children home.

It has been a year and a half since these events shook up our lives. Our relationships have, for the most part, been healed. Someone told me that when children have a strong bond with one parent, but not with the other, they often run to the other parent out of desperation to feel loved.

My children didn’t have much of a relationship with their father. He was busy hanging out in bars or at the baseball field while we were all living together. After we split he often cancelled his visitation or had his mother look after them. It does seem logical to me that my kids craved a relationship with their dad. The idea that my loving care and the stability I created in their lives made them feel safe enough to leave my home does give me comfort.

They know that I will always be available for them. They are confident that I love them. I truly believe that they do love me, in spite of everything. We have had many enjoyable visits this past year. Sure, there are rough spots, just as there would be if we lived together full time. We are light years from where we were. The days of me worrying that my children would fabricate more allegations are behind me. I can finally relax and enjoy being a mom again.


Letting Go of my Kids

At one point in our premarital relationship, my current husband and I were both searching for employment. We extended our search to a neighboring state. My kids told their father that we were looking for jobs in an area about a two hour drive from where we currently lived. I received an angry phone call from him. He ranted for awhile and then finished with, “Over my dead body!” His rancor was wasted, we didn’t find employment out of state. I stuck with working as a substitute. My husband found another local maintenance job.

Fast forward … my ex remarried in June of ’09, shortly after my MIT graduation. In order to expediate bonding with their new stepmom I agreed to lengthier visits. They spent full weeks with she and their dad. I knew that she owned a house that was in a rural community — a two hour drive away. My ex also still owned the house we had lived in. Since I had custody of the kids I wasn’t concerned about the distance between our homes.

Unbeknownst to me, my ex had already put his plans into motion.

2009 was the worst summer of my life. I was without employment, having just graduated with my teaching certification. My current husband was looking for work. My ex had stopped paying child support several months earlier. We were renting a large, beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood and we had to leave it. Fast. Our only decent option was to go live at my mother’s house. Not what I wanted to do. I knew how difficult it would be. I cried and cried about it. Not only is my mother a very challenging person, but she lives 6 blocks from my ex. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I had lived with chaos and abuse. But go, we did.

My ex and I had a telephoned child support hearing during this transitional period. He was livid and put down the phone more than once to walk around and rant to his wife. He specifically told the attorney that if I got the support order he would make my life “shit” and would take the kids from me. Well, guess what?

I bawled my eyes out after that phone call. I knew what he was capable of. I knew how he was about money. Within a month he had brainwashed the kids by telling them that they would have more money and more things if they lived with him. He fabricated abuse and sent CPS to my home. But the worst of it was that he took my kids. I got my youngest son from him. He tried to take him back, but I was vigilant about not letting that happen.

I soon found out that I was powerless to get my children home. We didn’t have a parenting plan. Under our state’s laws there is nothing to protect one parent from taking the children from the other. You simply cannot “kidnap” your own children. There is nothing in the law that requires one parent to allow the children to see the other — in the absence of a parenting plan, that is.

Sigh …

I think it is time to make a long story a bit shorter.

At the time when my ex took my kids we were living only 6 blocks away from each other. It seemed like it could be ok. The kids would be nearby, I could see them after school. I had already enrolled them in school before their dad announced that they would not be returning to me. But he took them to live at his wife’s house. Two hours away. And I was powerless to stop him.

I had to let go of my children. Physically and emotionally. Far earlier than a mother should have to. My son was 13 and my daughter was 9. I didn’t see them or speak to them for more than 3 months. I was utterly heartbroken. I spent many of my days lying in bed, reading and watching tv. And sleeping. I did a lot of sleeping.

I found that the only way to get through it and go on living was to let them go. I had to stop worrying about them. I had to let go of my attachment to them. Part of me had to stop loving them.

I know that all of this seems farfetched and unreal. The sad fact is that it happens. It happens to good parents. It happens to loving moms. It is all too common.


Loneliness

If you have read my previous blog posts you know that although we have six children in our family only our infant daughter lives us. It’s been very disconcerting to go from having an active home, full of children, to the quiet home we have now. While I relish the quiet time, I am also very lonely.

Yes, my baby keeps me busy. So does housework, but I miss social interaction. My husband asked me if I am depressed, but I’m not really. I’m just lonely. It’s the occupational hazard of being an at-home mom. Especially one with an infant who does not enjoy riding in the van. She cries. I cannot subject her to such misery.

I chose this topic today, not only because it is a common problem for moms with young children, but also because of what I learned yesterday.

My oldest bonus daughter had lived with us for about a year and a half. She became pregnant last year and left in the Fall to stay with her mom in Texas. At first she was only going to be gone for a couple of months. Then she decided to stay there until after her baby was born. Now, instead of returning to live with us, she is only going to visit with us for a month. I started to cry immediately when my husband told me the news. I was really looking forward to her return.

In all honesty, I was nervous about having another baby in the house. Our home is small, just two bedrooms, and I wasn’t sure how things would go with two infants who are only 9 months apart. I was concerned about extra stress on my husband’s part, which could lead to moodiness and arguments. Even with those concerns, I am so sad that she isn’t going to be here. That’s when I realized that my loneliness has reached a crisis point.

So how does this tie into blended family issues? Well, the main issue at hand is the mess that is created when a parent decides to move several states away. The mother of my bonus daughters moved them away two years ago this month. The oldest daughter returned within a month and lived with us. The youngest we see only during the summer.

I hate their mother. Truly despise her. I think she is selfish. Selfish to the extreme. I think that she has many of the same qualities of my ex. I think that she is a neglectful mother who puts her children low on her priority list. I blame her for not helping her daughter to make better choices in life. The only good thing about her moving 6 states away is that I no longer have to see her every week.

I miss my bonus daughters. I miss my three older bio kids. I am blessed to have my infant daughter. I am looking forward to meeting our grandson.

**~*

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

(This is the verse I need to keep in mind)


Finding My Parenting Niche ~ part one

I am an attachment parenting mom. Always have been, always will be. I first stumbled upon the idea of attachment during my English 101 class when I had to choose a topic for a research paper. I don’t know how I found Attachment Behavior in Infants. This was back in the late 80s when the internet was in its infancy and I’m not sure if Windows existed. I consulted the enormous wooden cabinets with file drawers which contained thousands upon thousands of index cards. Research took forever!

Armed with my knowledge that baby monkeys thrive with a flesh mommy and fail to thrive with a robot mommy I made a vow to not give my future babies over to the robots.

No, not really. I did however go to a “bohemian” type college, volunteered at the domestic violence shelter and chose working with the children of abused women as my specialty area. I was introduced to baby slings during our play therapy group. There was a seasoned mom volunteering and she brought an extra sling in case there were any babies. When we were asked if we wanted to use it and carry a little baby, the other young volunteers looked at her like she had two heads. Not me! I thought the sling was the most amazing thing!

A few years later, I was thrilled to see baby slings at our local food co-op along with the reusable flannel pads. When my mom was shopping for a baby gift, I told her that she had to buy a sling for the mom. We picked out a lovely black Guatemalan style fabric. I thought it looked chic. The mom wasn’t sold. However, when I babysat her daughter I used it all the time!

When I was expecting my firstborn in 1996, the internet was a bit beyond its infancy. I searched online for baby slings. I was so thrilled about having one for my baby. It would be blissful. We would snuggle all day, breastfeed, my arthritis wouldn’t bother me … ┬ádreams die hard.

While my dreams didn’t pan out exactly as I had hoped, I was committed to attachment parenting (AP) and gentle discipline. I checked out all the books by Dr. Sears from my local library. I reread them, twice.

I had long been a subscriber to the Utne Reader. I visited their website and the early version of a message board. I posted in heated discussions about parenting. One that I remember fondly was about rushing our children towards independence. I don’t remember if I started the topic, but I sure relished the discussion.

 

part two will explore the addition of children through birth and remarriage