Tag Archives: ex

Re-Entry Strategies After An Extended Visitation

My son returned after his annual 8-week visit with my ex this past week.  Watching him walk down the jet bridge, I could already tell he was taller and had gotten a healthy dose of sunshine.

I never quite know what to expect after such a long visit, but he greeted me with the usual smile and bear hug.

My boy was home.

After signing some papers for the airline, we were on our way.  He had his carryon suitcase and began telling stories of fishing and fun.

Over the years, we have had variations on the “re-entry” after a stay with his mom.  I suspect the same holds true for you.

NASA - NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

NASA – NASA http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/entry_br.html http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/artwork/hires/entry.jpg
atmosperic entry of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) aeroshell, artistic rendition

This time, my son declared he does not get to see his mom enough.  I told him I understood how he felt and reminded him he would be going back two more times this year…for fall break and for Christmas.

He thought a moment and smiled and said he was glad he would get to see her.  And as quickly as he raised the subject, he was on to the next.

Like years past, we have been able to take a short trip immediately upon his return.  Before I got remarried, we would typically go visit my family (including his two cousins – both boys one of whom is a year older and one a year younger).  This year, we went with the blended family to Disneyland and Universal Studios for my son’s first visit ever to either.

So far, the transition has gone smoothly and he has adapted well to the old surroundings, stepbrothers, puppies, and rules.  Here are some best guesses as to why it has gone relatively smoothly:

  • I have consistently reminded him to contact his mom.  While he needs to be reminded to call every once in a while, he also needs to know I believe it is important for him to maintain contact with her.  This helps him understand the importance of regular contact…not just visitations.
  • I do not ask 20 questions about his trip.  As much as i would like to know every detail of his summer and how things are going with his mom, I give him the freedom to share what he wants to share and only ask general questions.  When he wants to talk, I listen and ask normal follow up questions.  I have found letting him share his summer stories at his pace works much better than quizzing.
  • I try to keep everything normal.  Consistency and familiarity seem to work best for my son.  I suspect your kids would also respond well to coming home to normalcy.  A few years ago, my son came home to a new rental home when we were subject to a burglary/arson.  Trying to maintain normalcy when most of his toys, clothes and furniture were destroyed was a challenge and taught me the importance of routine and comfort in situations where things change.

What traditions or routines do you use when your kids return from an extended visitation with your ex?

Single Dad Burnout?

This past weekend my son went to his first camp with our church youth group.  So, in addition to the experience of loading him onto a bus and waving goodbye, I had the opportunity to rest a little and get some much-needed work done around the house.

He came back on Sunday evening and I could not have been more excited to see him.  I miss him when he is gone, even when it affords me the opportunity to rest.

Not long after I put him to bed, I sat down to catch up on some headlines and one teaser on the Drudge Report caught my eye: “Modern dads ‘burning out’…”.  I do not have my Strunk and White handy, so I apologize for any improper punctuation.

The first sentence of the article indicated modern dads experience as much burnout as moms.  The article went on to make broad statements about working parents – presumably married – experiencing high levels of stress related to juggling work and home responsibilities.

No where in the article did single parents receive explicit attention.

I immediately thought of my years as a single dad.

And I thought of you and the other readers who have extraordinary parental responsibility…often with no consistent support from a spouse or even an ex.

Do we experience burnout?

We certainly can feel exhausted, stressed, frustrated, and even overwhelmed, but I suspect we power through those feelings and get up every day and do it all over again.

If you do feel burnout, I would commend to you you last week’s post and a few others I have written to give some encouragement and ideas to combat burnout.

5 Steps To Build A Reliable Team For Help When You Need It

Finding Balance As A Single Dad

Thanks for being a dad and all it entails.

When have you experienced burnout as a parent?

When Custody Handoffs Go Wrong

My son was booked on a flight home from visitation with his mom this past Friday.

After a series of unrelated texts, I realized my son was not enroute and on a layover, but was instead still at his mom’s house.  Packed and ready to go.

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Frank Spee via Compfight cc

My ex apologized for the oversight (looking at the departure time from the layover city instead of origination city) and I started the rebooking process.

Fortunately, American Airlines quickly rebooked him for the following day and I did not have to pay any additional fees.  He arrived safely on Saturday evening.

How would you have reacted in this situation?  What would you have texted or emailed to your ex?

Within moments of finding out my son would not be home Friday evening, I cycled through several emotions, but once I caught my breath, the logical side of me kicked in and I went into problem-solving mode.  How do I explain this to the airline?  Will I need to use more miles/pay a fee?  What if he cannot get home until Sunday or Monday with all the holiday travel?

The emotional response quickly gave way to problem-solving.

Unless your ex habitually violates custody agreements (in which case you should reach out to your parenting coordinator, lawyer, therapist…whoever can help remedy the behavior), it is best to go through your emotional response before unloading on your ex.  Doing so would only add to the stress for you and your kid.

For the occasional hiccup, remember parenting (and co-parenting) is a marathon and showing some flexibility will diffuse a bad situation rather than escalate it.

Again, if your ex has a habit of doing this or does so with malice or no remorse, I would recommend seeking outside counsel to correct the behavior rather than go it alone and risking an emotional escalation with no custodial resolution.

Has your ex accidentally or deliberately violated your custody agreement?  What have you found to be the best way to approach these situations?

Buying Christmas Gifts For Your Ex

My son and I braved Toys R Us, Best Buy, Target, and PetSmart this past weekend.  Our mission…to buy presents for grandparents, cousins, stepbrothers, and pick up a few things for the puppies.

My son will spend Christmas with me this year.  He departs on December 26 to visit his mom for one week.  It occurred to me I should help him out with finding something for his mom…my ex.

Photo Credit: RagingWhisper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: RagingWhisper via Compfight cc

I asked my son if he wanted to shop for his mom so he would have a gift when he arrived.  He said he would think about it and he might just go with his grandparents to shop when he arrived.

Upon further reflection and discussion, he and I will go, probably today or tomorrow, to get something for her so he has a wrapped gift when he lands.  He may also get something for his half-sister so he can come bearing gifts.

Even though I have not bought a gift directly for my ex since 2008 (the year before we separated), it seems healthy to facilitate gifts for her with my son.

Granted, he will not buy her diamond earrings or an iWatch, but even something small lets him know I value the relationship between him and his mom.

Giving is greater than grudges.


To Tackle Or Not To Tackle

For three years my 11-year-old son has begged me to let him play tackle football.  For three years, I have said “no”.

For some reason, I have determined tackle rugby is much safer and he played his first match this past Saturday.

Photo Credit: KevinScott.Org via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: KevinScott.Org via Compfight cc

To my credit, he loves rugby and cannot wait to go to practice (especially when the fields are a little wet).  He plays hard and his Aussie coaches have been fantastic at teaching the basics of the game and of smart tacking.

So, why tackle rugby and not tackle football?

I have no rational answer to the question.  I just went with my gut instinct.

Having watched his rugby practice and game, the sport moves at a different pace than American football.  The pacing and play appears to protect from the brutal hits I loved to watch in those old NFL Film shows on VHS (which reminds me…I need to see if those are available on DVD or on-demand).

One of those shows was called “NFL Rocks” and I wore both volumes out on my VCR.  One segment from Vol. 2 focused on Junior Seau.  I had no idea what price Seau would eventually pay as a consequence of his years in football.  While more than concussions may have been at play, Seau’s story and those of many more provide a compelling warning.

Time will tell if my son will want to keep playing rugby or will want to play both rugby and tackle football.  Time will also tell if/when my ex and I decide to let him play tackle football.

In the meantime, he will go to get a baseline assessment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in case he ever does get a concussion from rugby, football, or any of another 1,000,000 ways it could happen.

Have you allowed your kids to participate in risky sports?  How did you make the decision?  How much does their desire to play affect your decision making?  

Why Isn’t My Son Excited About Moving?

My son expressed feelings somewhere between moderate interest and apathy regarding our move this week into a permanent home.  Just spitballing here, but maybe it is because he has already lived at five different addresses since my ex and I separated – and I am not counting the moves associated with my ex.

"They loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly..."

“They loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly…”

In all fairness, two of the addresses were our married home and the place I lived during our separation.  Then we lived in a rental for three years until we had a burglary/arson and had to move.  We had another rental for just over a year until I got remarried and we moved in with my wife and her kids.

Now, we finally have a home and do not have another move on the horizon.

So, why does my son express such ambivalence?  He is getting his own room and we are close to hiking trails…he should be overjoyed!!

I followed my own advice and asked him.  Here is what he said:

  • We’ve moved so many times, I just can’t get excited.  Honestly, I hear what he is saying – I am just as sick of packing up boxes, not being able to find things, and taking apart Ikea beds.  Before, we moved out of necessity, but now we actually have a permanent home and it still is not enough to get him super excited.  Ho
  • And I’ve moved with mom, too.  Makes sense to me.
  • But at least I’ll have my own room.  I know he and the youngest stepbrother enjoy their time together, but having his own room will make a difference.
  • Can I go now?  This just made me laugh.

As single dads, we may not have a choice but to move more than we want.  A landlord may decide to sell your place, you may move for a job, or some criminal may set your house of fire (I sincerely hope that never happens to you…it sucks).

But whatever the circumstance, give your kids an extra dose of empathy…even though they do not have to take apart and rebuild their Ikea bed.

The Other Man In Your Kid’s Life

I felt my chest tighten as my son kept telling stories about his new stepdad.

A mixture of panic and jealousy flooded my mind and I desperately wanted to remind my son how much I love him and how much cooler I am.

But I sat, listened, and did my best to affirm the relationship with the other man in his life.

Intellectually, we all know not to create unnecessary strife and tension between the two residences…especially when we know, as custodial parents, our kids will spend the majority of time with us.  But, man it is hard to do.

So what are some of my lessons learned?

  • Don’t freak out if stepdad’s job is “cooler” than yours.  My son has recently been talking about following in the other guy’s footsteps.  Nothing hits you in the gut quite like that.  My son is 11, and (in addition to stepdad’s occupation) he still kind of wants to be a lumberjack, baker, or Navy SEAL.  The best course of action I have found is to begin to ask questions about each of the possible occupations and give him the opportunity to learn more and inform his eventual choice.
  • Don’t try to control the situation when your kids are not in your custody.  You may want to try to dictate how much time your kids will spend with the other guy (and in some cases…depending on your particular legal situation…you might actually have some control), but if your custody decree is anything like mine, your ex is the one determining what happens during her visitation time.  I know…easier said than done…but my stress levels have noticeably dropped since letting go of stressing over something I cannot affect.
  • You are the parent figure in your kids’ lives.  You likely have your kids the majority of the time and, therefore, have more influence over them.  The less time you spend thinking about what you do not control, the more time you can spend investing time and energy with your kids when you do have them.

Do your kids spend time with a stepdad or significant other at their mom’s home?  If so, what have you learned about having another man in their lives?  What has been most challenging for you?

Do You Know How Much Your Kid Hurts?

Few people can make you laugh and think as much as Jon Acuff.

I have seen Jon speak live twice (once at Donald Miller’s Storyline conference and once at the ICON Conference), and both times I found myself writing down some hysterical lines and some incredible wisdom.

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

At the ICON Conference, he asked the adult crowd if they had celebrated the gift of not being a teen with social media.  He went on to explain he had shaved a stripe in his eyebrow to look more like Vanilla Ice when he was in high school.

Not long after, he reminded the audience empathy was not just understanding what someone needs, but acting on it.

Last week, Jon wrote a blog post and it took my breath away.  You can read it now or after you finish this short post, but do read it.  Especially if you have primary custody of your kids.

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

My son lives with me between 41 and 43 weeks of the year.  That means he lives away from his mom the same number of weeks.

When I read Jon’s post, I first wondered if he sat next to my son this summer and got the age wrong or altered it to protect privacy.

Then I wondered if my son cries on his flights between our two homes.  Next, I wondered if I showed him either empathy or sympathy for the pain he endures being split between two parents he loves.

He and I have a solid relationship, but I could always do more to make sure he knows I love him and do not want him to ever feel badly about missing his mom or wanting to be with her.

Jon spoke the truth – divorce causes extraordinary pain, and as dads we need the reminder…especially when we have custody.