Parental Major / Parental Minor

During the initial stages of divorce you are forced to break down parenting duties into very impersonal numbers; “child 1 and child 2 are henceforth declared to be in the custody of parent 1 65% of the time and parent 2 35% of the time”. When you’re married you are simply a parent. There is no real break down in time or responsibility. Even if I have to work from 9 to 5 to pay the bills with only evenings and weekends to hit the park scene or build a Lego death star, I’m still considered an equal parent to the stay at home mom that suffers through multiple mealtimes and pickup patrol throughout the day.  I am the dad, with the sacred privileges and duties that come along with that. No matter if I’m bread winner or caregiver, my parental role is unique.

Once those impersonal legal numbers of are defined though everything starts to change. The distinction now is painfully evident to my kids. I can no longer emerge from my office to scoop them up for an adventure in the backyard or crash a tea party already in progress. Now, just as they are getting settled into whatever is keeping them entertained at mom’s house they are told to stop suddenly, pack up a few precious possessions and prepare for the trip to dad’s house. Their attitude for this transition I’m sure is mixed; sometimes they may really look forward to the change and sometimes not so much (I gauge this only from my experience on the other side). For my older son he can vocalize either reaction, but also we had enough experience together under the same roof that out relationship is pretty well established. My younger daughter though probably does not remember much before the divorce, so daddy is someone who lives outside her home. In her mind mommy is the main parent. Not only does she spend the majority of her time with mommy but there’s also the obvious bit about younger ones just needing that mommy-bond. Ok fine, mommies are always number one at that age right?! But again it’s different when the distinction is made so evident. When you’re under the same roof, the little ones may be thinking, “Who is this other person who gets me stuff and lets me drool all over him. He’s not my mommy but mommy seems to like him, and we’re ok with anything mommy’s like”.

Things start to get even more interesting once we introduce more parents into the mix; step parents. A title already made prickly by so much bad press, becomes more pokey when viewed from both sides of the split. In our household, we try to embrace the title for each others’ kids. We want to give them some label to attach to our new partners without stepping (pun intended) on any toes. I don’t want them simply calling me by my first name, but I also want to keep sacred the name and title of “daddy” for their biological dad. That all seems perfectly rational when I’m the one making the distinction but any mention from my kids of their “step-dad” makes me break out in hives,… and by hives I mean an irrational juvenile anger that spawns competing desires to either kick him in the balls or deeply embarrass him with a well-timed pantsing.

They say a child benefits from every additional person that loves them. That’s all well and good, and I guess on the surface I really have no problem with that part. For me it’s more about my ever diminishing role as dad for my own kids. How is my youngest supposed to understand the distinction now? It’s one thing for me to be their only dad, and just living outside their home, but accepting that the role of dad, in any degree, is now being played by someone else when they are not with me just grates on my happiness.

Really though it’s not his fault; No matter how appealing the groin shot or the public humiliation I need to consider that he’s doing nothing wrong. As far as I know he’s not actively trying to diminish my role or steal my title. I need to keep this in mind and be empathetic on both sides, understanding how hard it must be for the father of Nicole’s kids being away from his kids and understanding that the step-dad to my kids is doing the best he can. It’s my own damaged ego that’s really at play here anyway. I am mad that my ex, through her actions, has forever altered the relationship that I will have with my kids.   It’s different now and I just need to accept that.

Back here on the home front I am the minor parent with my kids but share the major parent role with the other kids and so I’m the minor parent to the major parent (or in Office terms my title is not “assistant major parent” but rather “assistant TO the major parent”). My authority and jurisdiction are bestowed on a case by case basis. Often times I’m no better than the 7 year old “informant” who just tattles on the other kids and suggests, in a passive-aggressive way, that they get severely busted. Granted I never envision myself as the “Father Knows Best” head of the family type who sits behind his desk in the study and dispenses justice to his wobbly kneed offspring who have been sent in after repeated threats of “just wait until your father gets home!” I don’t want to be the “bad cop” in this scenario. I’m fine with “passive-aggressive, tattling cop”.  And I guess underneath all the ego/anger issues I’m really ok with all of the parental roles I’ve been given. I just need to focus less on the numbers that label me a lesser parent and instead focus on how much I can give to all the kids in my life with whatever time I share with them.

Share

Start Anew

The packing tap screams out across the final box. And then the silence returns. It is the calm before the storm.  My final moments in the house that I made into a home after the divorce.  When I first moved in to this renovated house it was stark and empty. All the walls were white, all the surfaces new.  There weren’t even mirrors or shower doors in the bathrooms.  It was a blank canvas, which was oddly appropriate coming from my home of 10 years which had been so stuffed with memories and emotions.  That house had the rhythms of life that I had grown accustom to.  My family and the only life I had come to know all evolved in the house I left behind.  And then into this blank canvas. No wife, no kids, no cats, no dogs.  An empty house.  A quiet house. A quiet that was once overwhelming.  A quiet that I would banish with the TV on all day just to hear another voice from outside my office.  I was lost in the silence and emptiness.

As time went on the new routines became a part of me.  The walls eventually filled with pictures of new memories and the house filled with a new life with the kids.  “Daddy’s house” was a new concept for all of us, but we made it work, and learned to love it.

Then eight months ago another change for the better.  A new love and a new family awaits. Nicole and I have found a house to share.  A new home in which to combine our families into one.  One dad with two kids now becomes a full couple with six kids total. As much as I look forward to the new chapter in our life and the incredible memories and traditions we will share as a family, I reflect now on the silence and the quiet house that had once haunted me.  And in a few months from now, when kids are arguing, kids are screaming, dogs are barking and TV is blaring, I’ll look back and think, “what the hell was so bad about silence??!!”

Share

My Day

How was my day, you ask?  Why how very thoughtful of you?  I would love to tell you about my day.  I would love to describe in vivid detail my heroic actions this morning at the Starbucks drive thru where I helped bring a new life into this world before the paramedics arrived and before my venti vanilla latte was fully whipped.  Or maybe I should start with the ongoing drama I’ve been having at work where our biggest client is involved in a sex scandal with Jim down in the mail-room (along with the back-story of how he used to be Jill 6 months and 3 surgeries ago).  And then there is that hilarious incident with the leftover sandwich and the homeless man that kept petting it like a cat, and nibbling on its face.

Yeah, I would love to tell you all of this and impress you with just how much life I fill my life with.  Like there is just so much that happens to me in a single day that I struggle to edit it down to the juiciest highlights.  Unfortunately though, none of that crap happens to me,… ever.  My commute is a flight of stairs.  My coffee comes from my kitchen.  My co-workers are in another time zone (and lacking both a mail-room and a transsexual). Even the homeless have more interesting neighborhoods to hang out in then my slice of suburbia.

“Wow”, you say “you should get out more”.  And before I can defend myself or fill in the gap with the more mundane details of my actual day, you dive into a colorful account of your day instead.  At that point it finally dawns on me that the original question was rhetorical.

Share

Tales from the Mid-point