Archive for October, 2009

Child’s Play; Adult Necessity

Have you ever sat and watched children get to know one another? Have you heard the types of conversations that come about while they innocently engage in play? Do you remember just how easy it was to make friends when you were little? It was as simple as asking another child of choice, “will you be my new best friend?” If only it were that easy now-at 35.

When Super-girl and I were in our play dating phase I had an eye opening opportunity to witness the natural development of a childhood relationship involving her and a local neighbourhood boy. It was interesting, while simultaneously both admirable and alarming just how candid, bold, and uninhibited children really are.  To me it was a painful revelation of how it must feel to be a child of a divorce. Although, how the encounter panned out it would seem I was the only one feeling this way. Children truly are fascinating souls, mature beyond what we give them credit for and perhaps even a model we should consider learning from.

My neighbourhood was a little low on kids Super-girl’s age. There was one local child, he was an older boy of 8 years-whom I have known since he was about four. Initially I was a little leery about whether or not Super-girl would want to play-because he was a boy. Then after about 3 seconds I realized that with kids it doesn’t matter whether they are boy or girl, to them it is just someone to play with. Being a single gal at the time I was not privy to such schoolyard etiquette.  My job allows me to see and work with children but it is more about medicine time than play time. So I was quite surprised by how much children are like mini-adults. They met, I introduced them (they even shook hands), they sized each other up, offered up what they would like to do, then compromised on a game of tag and off they went to play-We had a great time. When we were all exhausted from running around the yard playing; a simple conversation began over lemonade.

The boy from next-door inquired when he would be able to play with Super-girl again. When she explained that it would be on the next week that she with her father the boy said quite frankly, “Oh, your one of those divorced kids!” Super-girl placed her hands on her hips, and if looks could kill-from a 5 year old, that boy would have burned up before my eyes. My initial instinct was to intervene and say the boy was out of line; I didn’t. I let the chips fall where they may, so to speak, and the fall out was truly amazing.

In the blink of an eye the boy from next-door realized that he had said something wrong and hurtful, he immediately said that he was sorry. He elaborated that he didn’t mean anything by it, he knew because of a divorce he would only get to see her every couple of weeks. Super-girl said, “Yeah you are right. Next week I am with my Mom and then the week after that I will be with my Papa and Ella again-I will see you then!” We said our goodbyes and went home. As we were walking she said to me, “I don’t usually play with boys but he was nice, and I can’t wait to play tag with him again!”

If only as adults we could learn not to take things personally and notice when something said needed compassion, clarification or an apology. If only as adults we weren’t so jaded and quick to pull from sour memories with our reactions to the things people say or do. In that precise moment I felt like Super-girl and the boy next-door were mature beyond their years, more mature than many of the people I encounter on a daily basis, more mature than I have been in similar situations-I have held on to this, because I strive to learn from it.

There is a phenomenal book I read about six years ago by Miguel Ruiz called The Four Agreements. It speaks of how we should learn to live and love from the best of our souls. “Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible.” I think that many of us can benefit by setting our ego’s aside and learning from this exposé. I believe that if we listen to the innocence of childhood friendships, learn from the way children handle conflict, process and deal with hurt feelings, and make decisions with unwavering confidence we will have better success with our adult relationships and the relationships we have with our children.

For me, I hope that by adopting these principles I will struggle less with the adults in my life which I have conflicts, I will stay on the (not always pleasant) higher road, be more cognizant of my words, more genuine with my actions and maintain a clearer perception of my reality.  You never know, these kids may have already figured it all out.  I should learn by their example, grab some courage and make an attempt at finding a friend in my new world-Hey you!  Will you be my new best friend?

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2009/10/22 at 12:49 PM 2 comments

Out With the Old, In With the New!

The first few weeks after moving in with Mi hombre I spent quite a bit of time unpacking my things and de-bachelorizing the cozy craftsman.  Blending possessions from both of our pasts proved to be a tricky adventure.  It had us overwhelmed with a mountain of duplicity and unwanted things. For one reason or another most of it just simply had to go. Not because we had no use for it or that either of us had tastes that were so far apart- mostly because it became apparent that we had no use for bad Juju, We realized that many of the possessions we had were just that–tainted with bad Karma. Something neither of us wanted in our home.  So together we decided, out with the old! And in with the new!

Several truckloads to Good Will had Mi Hombre and I discussing visions for our future. Since the holidays were quickly approaching, Christmas etiquette became one of our first major riffs.  As we shared our thoughts on the spirit of gift giving, holiday traditions and what we would like to adopt for our new family unit; it was revealed that Mi Hombre had been sharing the holidays with his ex.  Instinctively, in that moment I wanted to scream, Hold up!  Put on the brakes! I am going back to Good Will to buy back my stuff! In my disbelief I  muttered about 20 questions at him while he was driving. Things like: Seriously? Are you kidding me? Why did you get divorced in the first place if you want to pretend that you are still a quasi-family? Do you still want to be married to her? Are you still in love with her? If you think that I am going to support this…think again!  Once I finished blow torching Mi Hombre for the idiocy that I felt the whole situation was, I shut my mouth and listened to what really had been happening.

When Mi Hombre was told by his ex that the marriage was over he was not only in shock but was overwhelmed with the heartbreak that Super-girl was going to endure.  He himself had gone through divorce as a child. The flash back of his life experience motivated him to do things differently for Super-girl. He wanted her transition through divorce to be easier than his had been.  So naturally, he did not question when the ex suggested that they continue doing things together-as Super-girl’s parents. Things like: back to school shopping, school picnics, weekly meetings at the coffee shop, celebrating birthdays and holidays etc.  For Christmas in particular, they had agreed that they would jointly purchase the gifts for Super-girl and on Christmas morning when Mi Hombre was dropping her off they would open their presents; together.

My first and foremost concern was for Super-girl.  What effect is this having on her? Does it falsely keep the illusion of their “family” alive? In the spirit of Christmas-do you buy gifts with and for the ex? Is this something that I can agree to? What if Mi Hombre and I have a child of our own; are we all going to go over to the ex’s house on Christmas morning to open our gifts? Would my name be included on the shared gifts for Super-girl or would it remain from “ Papa and Mama?” My thoughts were rampant; the questions endless-I was shocked, annoyed, and suspicious of unresolved emotional attachments.  Not to mention that I couldn’t ever fathom spending one of the most festive and enjoyable holidays with Mi Hombre’s ex-for the rest of my life.  Nor was there enough alcohol to help me endure it.  I thought this situation to not only be absurd, but I felt that it was confusing Super-girl.  Surely, in her little mind it must seem that her Papa and Mama were still married…only they lived in separate houses.

After many hours and a lot of wine, Mi Hombre and I explored all of our feelings as it pertained to holidays and gift giving. I was relieved, exuberant even, when Mi Hombre confided that he detested sharing any time or any thing with his ex, and with certainty there were no unresolved emotional attachments on his part. He admitted that from the minute he had agreed to participate in shared holidays and gift-giving something inside of him felt sick, like his decision was completely wrong. Still, he convinced himself that if Super-girl was happy then that was all that mattered. Of course she would be happy, she had her parents together! I felt sadness over the whole thing.  That is, until Super-girl was sent to a child psychologist at her mother’s request-our relationship was causing Super-girl to want a boyfriend in Kindergarten. Really-no joke!

Mi Hombre and I seized the opportunity to ask a professional about sharing birthdays and holidays. Karma came a knocking! Instead of telling us that Super-girl was boy-crazy because of our relationship, the psychologist felt she was a normal child mimicking normal things in life.  She agreed whole-heartedly that divorced parents who are too friendly send mixed messages and confuse the child.  Children need a clear understanding of what divorce means, concrete boundaries of having two homes, and that sharing birthdays and holidays has not proved to be beneficial for children of divorce.  In her experience as a child psychologist, she felt that those friendly co-mingling behaviours only perpetuate the illusion that the parents are still together/living apart or foster the child’s wish that they will rekindle their relationship. At this point imagine me jumping for joy inside…and childishly flipping the bird at the ex!

Continuing with the Mantra, “Out with the old! And in with the new!” Mi Hombre began setting boundaries with the ex.  He and I chose to create and celebrate our own new holiday traditions.  We adopted the practice my brother uses with his ex. Where he buys what he wants his daughter to have at his house, and his ex buys what she wants her to have at her house. There are no more gift list exchanges, no joint ventures to sit on Santa’s knee, no shared presents, no transporting of items to and fro, and certainly no celebrations of opening gifts at “mom’s” house on Christmas morning. From that moment forward, on Christmas mornings you can find us under the Chamiso, with Café con leché, celebrating a tradition that is completely and uniquely OURS!

2009/10/01 at 3:03 PM 4 comments

It’s all Ella Mental!

If you asked me 3 years ago would I consider becoming a stepmother I would have choked emphatically NO! Probably not just no, but HELL NO! I would never entertain the thought of trying to raise someone else’s kid(s) or be married to a man with an enormous load of shh...Shall I just say, B-A-G-G-A-G-E (Pronounced: OMG!) I have seen enough drama on the colourful trails of adventure in my life, enough to know that I would simply not ever knowingly plop myself down amidst the chaos of a stepfamily.

Well, in 2006 I ate my words…

I am a 35-year-old career woman, wife to the most dashingly authentic man on this planet…sorry ladies…and gents! I am a “Mother” ( I quote this b/c I don’t believe that you have to pass a spirited life through your Va-Jay-Jay to be one.) …of 4 wild-hearted four-legged children, and the stepmother to a wickedly brilliant 7-year-old stepdaughter.

Feel free to accompany me as I write about my vastly changing life, my kids; both four-legged and two, my (step) Family (I place this in parenthesis b/c I don’t consider anyone under my roof with the term step, they are simply FAMILY to me!) … and the trials and tribulations of transitioning from a single woman into a stepmother (not always) with grace.

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