The Best Interest of the Children

You have a choice right now. I will give you a fun little tidbit a girlfriend shared about her three-year old and Christmas day. You can choose to read that and stop. Or, you can read on. Now, if you choose to continue, this post will not be funny. It will be heart wrenching. I’m likely to cry while writing it. You may cry while reading it.

Here’s the fun tidbit:

My friend’s three-year old daughter got a rocket ship from her grandpa this Christmas. It had everything a rocket ship would need, including a latrine. She put some little toy people in it, along with baby Jesus from the nativity scene. As she was about to blast that thing to outer space she screams: “Stop the rocket! Jesus has to go potty!”

There was your fun. Here comes the heart ache. Again, feel free not to read.

Today was my court hearing for my dissolution. For the last few days, weeks, months, we’ve been hammering out details over who gets the kids when and for how long. It’s always been about “What’s in the best interests of the children.”

These last two weeks have been incredibly stressful. In addition to it being the first Christmas my children won’t wake up to Mommy and Daddy, I’ve had the stress of changing paperwork and coming to last-minute agreements on custody. At the beginning of all this, I was a stay at home mom. The prospect of not spending even a single day around my children was sickening. It still is. However, I’ve done my research and I know the importance of making sure children have the love and attention of both parents. I have no desire to deny them of that. But, then it goes right back to what’s in their best interests. Do you know?

If you had to, right now, decide what is in the best interests for your kids if you and your spouse divorced today, would you be able to make that decision? If you decide it’s better for them to be with you most of the time, are you resigning your children to spend a few of their adult years sitting on the couch of a counselor’s office talking about why their life sucked because they didn’t get enough time with their other parent? Are you okay with denying the other parent time with their children?

Whatever you decide in this instant isn’t just a today matter. This is “what’s in the best interest of the children” until they graduate high school. No pressure. Just decide. Right now.

Do you remember when you first brought your newborn home from the hospital and you would just sit there, staring in amazement, watching your baby sleep? How about a few months or years later, when you went back to work and you would creep in and gaze at them in their crib because you’d been away from them all day long? Or when you get home from a long day at the office and they charge at you, giddy to see you and you wrap them up in your arms and squeeze them just a little longer because you’ve missed their sweet little face? Now imagine that slipping away from you.

Just a hug gone here. A kiss gone there. One by one, they melt away.

I pondered, agonized over what was in “the best interest of my children” for the last several months. I’m not sure I even have an answer now. I just want what’s best for them. God only knows.

I’ve been told it’s selfish to want them more than half of the time. I’ve been told I’m not trying hard enough to get them longer than half the time. I’ve been told it’s my decision and to pray on it. I’ve been told a lot of things and yet here I am, still wondering if what I signed in court today was in the best interest of my kids.

It turns my stomach to do the math and think of all the days, weeks, months and years I’ll miss from their lives. Tonight, I tried to turn a stressful day into something fun. My daughter put a face mask on me. Chocolate and honey were involved. The baby wanted some on his face, too. My kindergartener wanted to play “The Wiggles” game, which we did until he got pissed that he wasn’t winning and stormed downstairs. He’s since told me I’m not allowed in his room anymore. Then he apologized. Then he demanded to know why he was the only one in the house to have to do chores. Now he’s flopping angrily in his bed. My daughter went to bed with the classic “But, MOM!” words spilling out of her mouth, over the injustice of having to go to sleep. My toddler is grumpily laying in his bed shouting “NO!” repeatedly. It’s his new favorite word.

Even these frustrating memories are ones I cherish. Now more than ever. Moms and Dads out there- all I can tell you is hug your babies. You never really know how much those hours count.

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Free Time and Potty Words

It’s too quiet. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten the children somewhere. Earlier, I sat in my car, trying to be quiet as to not wake the baby. The only problem? The baby wasn’t with me. The kids are with their dad this weekend.

I started thinking about this post back in June. I wrote only the words “Free Time: what do I do with it?” and hit save. Every time I considered writing on the subject, I was actually busy and lacking free time. But, today? Today, it hit me in the face like the smell of an old dog bed drenched in urine. (Yes, this actually happened. Don’t ask. It was gross!)

The morning was busy. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more. Without the kids here, I actually got things accomplished! Who knew? But, then it was afternoon. I ate a sandwich. (On the couch! Don’t tell the kids…) I watched some crap TV. I read. I drank coffee. I realized two things: I was bored and I was lonely.

When I first separated from my husband, my brother (who had just gotten remarried) told me I needed to use this time to “find myself.” I should try new things, meet new people. Much like the mantra we tell our kids when they go to kindergarten. I did that. I tried some new stuff. I’ve met some new people. But, then there are days like today. I’m only made busy by looking for a job and watching “The Bone Collector” on TV.  At least it’s not Jersey Shore. (Alright, you got me. I watched it for a second while looking to see what else was on.)

While talking to a friend today about the struggle of free time, I got a little emotional. She asked if I was sad. I’m not sure how to explain what I was feeling. Loss?

It’s crazy, I know. I bitch about wanting just a moment to myself to pee and then when I get several uninterrupted hours, I’m not sure what to do with myself! Go ahead. Yell at your computer screen. I can take it. Now that you’ve gotten the rage out… what do you do with your free time? Are you done laughing? Okay, seriously. When you get free time (once a century) what do you do with it?

Lastly, a friend is having a real problem with her daughters. They are about to turn four and seven. The issue is potty talk. My friend asked for advice getting her girls to stop. She says they say “Poop, pee and butt, over and over and over again. And they make the peeing sound (hissing) all the time.”

She wants to know “Will punishment make it more intense? Or, should I ignore it?”

“Miranda Rights” Mommying

“Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law.” This line from the Miranda Rights we have all seen or heard nine billion times, thanks to shows like Law and Order, came to my mind several times over the last couple of days.

The “Hot Sauce Mom” knows all to well that what you do in a public domain can and will get you in trouble. Jessica Beagley was found guilty yesterday of the misdemeanor charge of child abuse, after sending a tape to the Dr. Phil show, recording her disciplining her son over his behavior. The lawyers on both sides said she likely would never had been brought to trial, had it not been for that recording. Beagley’s lawyers say she was reaching out for help. The prosecution says she wanted the publicity. Either way, it was the going public part that seemed to damn her.

This blog is public. What I write here is open for all to see, including my soon to be ex husband. Last month, I posted about how I’m currently going through a divorce. Since then, I’ve been careful about what I write. I started this blog because I wanted to provide a place to share my honest thoughts, feelings, concerns and fears about being a stay at home mom. Being a parent, in general, is pretty tough! I hadn’t expected that, a year later, I’d be filing for divorce as a single, stay at home mother of three.

While I write about the kids’ crazy antics and the struggles of getting out the door every morning, I wonder… is this being held against me? Could this be held against me in the court of law? Holding a Starbucks cup while my son pees, while standing up, on a highway outside of Chicago could be breaking some sort of traffic law, I’m sure. Letting my nine year old watch a movie about a surfer girl who gets her arm torn off, may have been poorly thought out, but not illegal. (It’s a PG film, by the way.) And, there’s the time I left poop in a highchair while on vacation so I could deal with my toddler and the sudden appearance of Aunt Flo. Also, not illegal. Gross, but not illegal.

One of the things I like to keep in mind at all times is would I behave this same way if someone else was watching? You could insert anyone else in the situation and decide if your behavior is unacceptable. If Jesus were literally standing in front of you, would you tell your kid to “shut it”? Would you spank your child out of anger for stealing the last Oreo if your favorite teacher from high school were right there? Of course, this is all after the fact, when you have time to compose yourself, versus the spur of the moment “Crazy Mom” take over.

Ideally, we’d all expect the most from ourselves and others. But, we don’t always walk the talk. Is everyone’s public behavior up for scrutiny? Or, is it just those who send video tapes to talk shows or the other kind that write crazy blogs?

“Oh My Nuts,” Divorce and Football: The Vacation Chronicles

Nine kids. Nine kids now. My oldest niece, the one my five-year old calls “that teenage girl,” returned from Debate Camp this morning. Now, there are nine. Nine kids plus four adults equals lucky 13. That explains a lot.

When we go anywhere as a group on this vacation, as you might expect, we have to take two cars. Sometimes three. This always seems to lead to a fight. The kids have some sort of hierarchy as to who can sit where and at what time. Sometimes, the kids fight over who gets to sit by the baby. Sometimes, they fight over who has to sit by another relative. (They are currently fighting over who gets to ride the four wheelers.) Yesterday, my nine-year old daughter was subjected to the very last row of the vehicle. When we got home from our outing (where one kid got stung by a bee and another kid stubbed his toe and made it bleed) she was attempting to climb over the seat where she managed to get herself stuck. She lets out a little whimper and says “Oh! My nuts!” I tell her “Honey, you don’t have nuts.” She responds “Oh! My vagina!” I reply “Okay, right terminology, but not appropriate.”

Speaking of nuts… boy I’m glad I don’t have any. The baby was down for a nap, the nine-year old preoccupied with her cousins, so my five-year old and I ran outside for a quick game of football. I think that might be called “Catch”… but I’m not sure since I’m so totally uncoordinated. (One of my nieces suffers from this same fate and it makes my heart smile knowing she and I are so alike.) Anyway… I throw the ball at him and it hits him smack in the chest, knocking the wind out of him. I hold him and try to calm him down. He catches his breath, grabs the ball and regains his stance. Then, he starts rushing toward me, ball in hand. He gets this look on his face and chucks the ball right at my crotch. If I had balls, they’d still be hurting.

I mentioned my oldest niece came home this morning. That means she missed our family meeting where I explained her Uncle and I are getting a divorce. I tell her what’s going on. She doesn’t even blink, just says “That’s pretty normal these days.” That hurts my heart so much. It shouldn’t be normal. I pray it’s not normal for our kids.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I haven’t written in a few days. That’s because I’ve been thinking. Thinking about how to word this post. I guess the title says it all: breaking up is hard to do. It is. Especially when there are kids involved.

My husband and I decided a couple of months ago that after a decade of being together, it was time to go our separate ways. This post is not about who is to blame or who did what. If you’re looking for that kind of drama, look elsewhere. Believe me, you’ll find it. I’ve read way too many blogs about man-hate than I’d like to remember.

I’m writing this post to tell you about how we told our children. I’m hoping that by doing so one of three things will happen: I’ll feel better by writing about it, you’ll feel better by reading it and be better able to explain this kind of situation to your children, or you’ll post some tips or advice to me about how to navigate these icy waters.

We told our three children on Sunday after church. He’s been living outside of the house for a couple of months now, but always comes home to see the kids on the weekend. We figured they’d have already assumed something was up, especially our nine-year old. It was her we were concerned this news would hit the hardest. We started by calling a family meeting. We explained the situation and asked if they knew what “divorce” meant. I cautiously watched my nine-year old. She was completely unfazed. She asked if I meant like her friend’s parents who are divorced. Yes, I answered. She seemed fine with that response. I’m sure on the inside she’s working through these emotions. It was then that my five-year old fell apart. He put his head on the table and sobbed. He begged us not to get divorced. At this moment, I was so happy we had waited to tell them. Had this been a month earlier, I would have sobbed with him. It was hard not to, but I did my best to conceal my sadness. He asked again for us please to not get divorced. He did that several times that day. We looked toward the highlights: two rooms with two loads of toys, two Christmas celebrations, two birthday parties and all that. He said he wanted to go live with his Dad. Then, moments later, he cried, saying he would miss me. We explained it wouldn’t be all or nothing. The kids would get to see both of us. But, the news was just too much. My son was devastated. He’d flash between excitement over helping Daddy find a new home to utter despair over losing his parents as a married couple. The baby, obviously, couldn’t understand what was happening.

Sunday night, as I said prayers with my kids, I got to the part we always say after I pray for them, “God bless Mommies and Daddies…” and that’s where my son stopped me. He interrupted the prayer, to interject his own: “Please God! Please don’t let my parents get divorced! Please help them stay married!” It was heart wrenching to listen to.

When my husband and I decided to get married, we vowed we’d never get divorced like both of our parents had. We vowed not to become another statistic. No one prepares you for how hard marriage can be. You promise to have and to hold, to cherish and honor, and then one day you don’t.

Every day since we broke the news, the children have come up with new questions. Yesterday, they wanted to know if Daddy was going on vacation with us next month. No, I explained. My son burst out with “But Daddy deserves to have fun too!” This morning, while still in bed, my kids asked about our Christmas tree. Who would get it? What would happen to the other house without a tree? My five-year old offered an idea, saying we’ll get another tree and we’ll help Daddy put up his and then they’ll help me put up mine.

I suppose my life will be chock full of questions by my little ones. I’m astonished by the things they say about it. While watching Super Nanny, the kids saw a separated couple and asked why they were getting a divorce. Who knows, I said. It’s an adult decision. They ask if it’s because “Daddy doesn’t love you anymore?” No, we love each other. We just can’t make it work.

There are books, I’m sure, about how to help your children cope with divorce. We’ve read up quite a bit already, but I’m eager to know what you suggest. What books, children and adult, do you think are helpful in explaining this kind of situation? What else works? We are doing everything we can to make this as easy for them as possible. But, coming from divorced parents myself, I know that’s not likely going to be reality.

If you can offer no advice, I ask this one thing: please say a prayer for my children today to help heal their heartache. I know they are resilient, but like any parent, I hate to see them in pain.