Mom’s House, Dad’s House – When Back and Forth Doesn’t Work for Back to School

Today I have a post up at Huffington Post. You might want to check it out by clicking here.

But, put on your earmuffs if you don’t want to hear a lot of divorce bashing from the commenters. I am tempted to respond to all the ruckus, but honestly, I agree, a little. Divorce can hurt kids. It’s difficult, for everyone. Staying married in an unhealthy situation can hurt kids too. It’s difficult, for everyone. I used to think I would never get divorced, but here I am. And I am doing the best I can, as I think we all try to do with our kids, and our families. So, read the post if you want, and leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Mommy Melt-Down and a Teachable Moment

One of the most important jobs I face as a mother of two boys is to help them become men. Independent, strong, sensitive, caring men, who are good, capable citizens, and can cook, clean, and do their own laundry.  One of the jobs I face as a parent in a blended family, and co-parenting with the other parents is completing and communicating the hot lunch order.

Let me explain.  Our shared full-custody with the Nico’s dad and Erica and Olivia’s mother has evolved to a week on/week off arrangement. When the kids were younger we would split the week between the two houses. Now that they are older, the kids want to stay longer periods of time at each house. Nico’s hot lunch order form is submitted to the school on my off-week. I never know if his dad has ordered it during my week. The hot lunch order for Erica falls on my week. I order it for her, and if I can remember, I email the order to Erica’s mom.  I am pretty organized but, it can sometimes feel like a Herculean task to keep the lunch orders straight.  So, on days like today when the lunch order slips through the cracks, and I am frantically trying to make breakfast, and I am making last-minute alterations on Nico’s too tight uniform pants, because he left his other ones at his Dad’s house, the atmosphere is ripe for a melt-down. A Mommy Melt-down.

Nico is a wonderful 12 year-old boy. He is loving, kind, smart and funny. He moves at his own pace, but sometimes that pace is not fast enough for me.  When, 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave the house, I realized he hadn’t gotten himself dressed, we couldn’t figure out the hot lunch order and he came back empty-handed when I asked him to get the bread out of the refrigerator, I lost it. I reverted to parenting from the 1960’s. Humiliation as a motivational tool. When Nico’s eyes filled with tears, I dug deeper. “Why are YOU crying?” Ugh. Not one of my finer parenting moments.

How many times did I hear that as a child and know that no matter how hard I tried to keep from crying, those words only turned on the water works even more. Here I was parenting in the same style I had grown up with. My parents are loving, good people. But parenting as I was growing up was  different from today. I don’t even think they used “parenting” as a verb. I think it was called disciplining. Haven’t you seen Mad Men? So, in this New Year, where I try to have more compassion, faulting him for his tears, not living up to my expectations, isn’t exactly compassionate is it? How can I expect him to always remember the hot lunch order or his uniform, when I  have trouble in the shifting between two households? If he can’t find his way around the kitchen, and assert some self-sufficiency, whose fault is that? Mine. (Well, his Dad’s too.)

I need to do a better job.  When I am in the kitchen cooking, he can help.  And if the uniform pants don’t come back from his Dad’s or the hot lunch order isn’t communicated, I need to help Nico figure out what to do to fix it. Sure I can take it on myself, but then I am not doing my job either because I fail to teach him to do things for himself.  I will be setting myself up for another mommy melt-down when he doesn’t behave like the self-sufficient, independent young man I expect him to be but have failed to help him become.

Tonight, I will sit down with Nico and tell him I’m sorry for this morning’s meltdown. I will tell him I love him and what I expect of him.  I don’t think this would have been part of the 60’s era parenting style, but it’s a new era, and for me personally it’s a new year, a year in which I try to live out compassion in all that I do.

Date Night Without My Husband

Yesterday, I told you that my husband Juan took our son Diego to a sleepover at a local museum.  The girls, my step-daughters, were with their mother for the night. This is one of the challenges of having a blended family–keeping a master calendar on who’s where and which parent are they with. We have been at it for nearly 8 years now so we have our routine worked out, but it can become quite hectic when the other parents travel and we get off schedule, which happened this weekend. And which is why I happened to find myself alone with my 12 year-old son Nico on a Friday night.

One of the things I struggled with in my decision to remarry, was how it was going to affect my son. Nico was barely 2 years old when his dad and I divorced. For the next three years it was just Nico and I. And while the divorce was painful, and I struggled to make it as a single working mom and, Nico was the brightest spot in my life.  We did everything together. I got to a point where I felt really comfortable in my role as a single mom. Nico was my best date.

And then I met Juan. We dated, fell in love and decided to get married. Nico got two sisters in the deal and later his brother.  With each change to our family we talked about it. He is such a low-key kid, I have always been concerned that as our family grew and life became more hectic, Nico would fall off the radar.  When Nico was 6 years-old Diego was born. He was concerned that Diego would not be his brother. Erica had explained to him that because he and Diego did not have the same father, they would only be half-brothers. I assured him that yes, would be brothers. Today, they are not only brothers, but wonderful friends. Nico and his sisters also have a special bond, especially with Erica, since they are in the same grade, at the same school. So in this Brady Bunch type household, it’s rare that I can carve out an opportunity to recreate one-on-one time for Nico and I.

Nico noticed it too. A few days before he learned that we would be alone on Friday night. He told me, “Wow Mommy! (I love that he still calls me that.) We haven’t been alone since Juan took the girls to the Father/Daughter Dance, before Diego was born. What are we going to do?”  This night called for something special. We talked about what we wanted to do and of course, ice cream was at the top of his list. And a movie. We had a wonderful time.  He is a pre-teen, so I don’t know how much longer he’ll want to  go out with his mom for a movie and ice cream.  But for now, I’m happy to be his best date.

Nico and I on wedding day.

Much Ado about (Almost) Nothing

After reading yesterday’s post on this blog, Juan made the comment that I am the Jerry Seinfeld of blogging. I asked him to explain, and he said that Seinfeld was an amusing show about nothing. He thought my post about Silly String was like that.

Well, I guess Juan is somewhat correct.  But, it is my blog so I can write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s something as silly as Silly String. I read quite a few blogs and many of them are about nothing profound, just the stuff that makes up life. One of the blogs which I enjoy reading is Pioneer Woman, by Ree Drummund.  Ree is an amazing blogger. If you haven’t heard of her then you should check her blog out. It will make you feel like you are an under-achiever.  Some days her posts are quite touching,  like when she writes about her developmentally disabled brother Mike. Other days her posts are just about as innocuous as Silly String. I am new to this blogging thing, but writing about the stuff that makes up my well blended life, is kind of the point of my blog. 

Last night, Juan and I tricked Diego and told him we were going to visit grandma, but instead we treated him to the Mickey’s Halloween party at Disneyland. Diego is all ours.  By that I mean  because we have a “blended family” Juan and I share Olivia and Erica with their mom, and we share Nico with his dad. Many times the other kids get to do things with the other parents that Diego doesn’t get to do. Juan and I occasionally try to do something special with Diego on our own. It’s difficult because when it’s just the three of us, the house is quieter and it’s tempting to just stay home and chill. But last night we made the effort, and I’m glad we did. There were no crowds or lines. Disneyland was decorated for Halloween, entire families were dressed in costume…Peter Pan and company, Incredible families, grown men dressed as Star Wars heroes accompanied by a Princess Leah wife and Yoda babies. We had a great time. In case you think Juan is not supportive of me and my blog, Juan took pictures for my blog all night. I told him I wasn’t sure what I’d write about and then he said, “Are you kidding? This night is full of good material. You could write about Silly String, but not this?”  I told him to get his own blog! Still, he was right. It was a night of good material. I am just not sure I want to write about it. So, instead I’ll post his pictures and close this post with photos from an evening that was special, even though it may not have been profound.

By the way, if you would like me to write about something in particular on this blog, leave a comment and let me know.