What I wish I could say

Not too long ago I was perusing social media, reading everyone’s different posts quickly. One stuck out to me, where an acquaintance of mine had shared a photo of them with their ex. The caption said something about parents needing to be mature and put their differences aside for the good of the children. I could feel myself react, not because I felt it was directed at me but in a sense, the shoe sure as hell fits.

A few days later I see an article pop up on my feed on scarymommy.com. It was an almost love-letter penned by a mom to a step-mom thanking her for being her ally and maybe even her best friend. I’m going to be honest here, as I usually am. I skimmed it loosely. Not because the author’s words had no meaning to me, but because the letter didn’t apply to me. Yes, there are Bruce Willis’ and Demi Moore’s out there who can remain friends and co-parent successfully. They can do blended family dinners and respectfully shuttle the involved children back and forth like angels. I think that is beautiful and un-normal and amazing. For them.

That doesn’t work for me.

I refuse to allow people to make me feel bad for not harboring feelings of goodwill and grace for my ex-husband. Whether they do or say something that alludes to this in one way, shape, or form, I defend myself. Perhaps aggressively, perhaps coyly, but undoubtedly. In the past seven years since I left that abusive marriage, I have learned how important it is to set boundaries, remain steadfast in what I know is best for me and then best for the children (because I have to put my own oxygen mask on before I help them, just like those sweet flight attendants remind us every time we fly), and to disregard anyone’s idea of how I should behave if I know it isn’t healthy for my well-being. <–that’s my nice way of saying, Thank u, next, just like Ariana. That is okay.

I can be mature and not nice at the same time.

Lately I’ve done some leadership development at work with different groups of management and one thing I always stress is that we can say anything to our colleagues that we want, as long as we say it respectfully and with tact. I use this same advice in how I communicate with the boys’ father. I will use tact. I will be respectful. But I do not have to be nice. And if setting boundaries is a new concept to you, sometimes it can feel like you’re being mean. I don’t think so. I think it feels like you’re being clear and as my soon-to-be-bestie, Brene Brown likes to point out, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Boom. If that goddess believes it, then this goddess believes it. We are a society very used to sugarcoating words then calling people names if they say something straightforward and to-the-point to us. Say it anyway, if it needs to be. That is okay.

I get to decide who I trust.

Kulia often calls me a Mama Bear. I do my best to make INCREDULOUS face when she says it but she’s pretty accurate in calling me that. For a whole lot of reasons, I have  majority custody of my children. I think back to the letter from the mom to step-mom and how she says she trusts her wholeheartedly. That’s fantastic for them but unrealistic for so many of us. I cannot trust my counterparts and since I cannot trust them, every time we communicate or interact together, it is forced, strained, and awkward. That is okay.

Oil and water.

I spent the majority of my decade-long marriage hating the company (I don’t mean job-wise) I was with. His parents didn’t mesh with mine, his siblings didn’t jive with me, we didn’t share friendships. Every.single.aspect. of who we were together didn’t mix. It should be no surprise that apart we continue to be the same. Once Abraham asked if for his birthday he could have a dinner where we all joined together and without hesitation I let him know I couldn’t do that because I wouldn’t feel safe. When we share things with the boys, perhaps not with as many words or deep detail, I continue to tell them that I have to keep my safety at the forefront of anything I agree to. For a long time that meant I couldn’t be a part of pick-up and drop-off or even the communication to make that happen.  I have to say no sometimes but I am always honest. That is okay.

Parallel Parenting is not for the weak of heart.

Washington state (and I’m sure many others) have this bananas rule that when you file for divorce, if children are involved, both parents must attend a parenting class before the custody plan will be approved. I remember walking in to it thinking there wasn’t anything they would teach me in that class that I didn’t already know. I was pleasantly surprised. In that class I learned about co-parenting and parallel parenting, what ex-couples fight the most about, and the most important things your child(ren) need to hear right now. Co-parenting means parenting together, as implied in the name. Parallel parenting means each parent decides and does what they think is best while they have the child(ren). There isn’t any collaboration. To each his own. And the minute I heard it, I wrote it down and knew that is what I would be doing from here until eternity. That is okay.

**Side note, most parents fight over clothes. And children need to hear you give them verbal permission to love the other parent.**

I suppose that mother wrote that letter because ugly breakups are expected but not the only option. Just remember, if you find yourself reading something that gets you fired up, that it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person because you can’t emulate that same feeling or behavior. It isn’t apples to apples, no matter what some people would have you believe. Set your boundaries, live your life, and be safe, always, friends. That is okay.

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I couldn’t stop gushing over how handsome Sam was for Prom

 

Jackets and Ten Steps

beginningsThe other day (I really mean it this time, because more often than not it could mean two days ago or twenty years ago, and that is just how I roll) I was hanging up some laundry and my eyes lingered on our coats/jackets/hoodies section. I mean, everyone has one of these in their closet, right? Outerwear to the outer-max, just busting at the seams. And that is what my heart was doing. It was muffin-topping out of my chest, as silly as that seems.

Six years ago, when I moved back to the mainland without my main squeeze (that would be Ku, don’t get confused there) I was in an in-between phase. No job to dive into, no money, and only two-thirds of my children. <– Yeah, you read that right. I was about to begin the divorce process and my couldn’t-be-ex-soon-enough had flown back with my baby-Moose three weeks before me. He was convinced I would get off the plane and into his grasp again, promising not to use my little as leverage, except I wasn’t born yesterday and I am not naïve.

Leaving Ku behind, as I boarded a plane with my two oldest, two suitcases and a carry-on heavy with anxiety, was hard. Not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but definitely top ten. After almost two years on Oahu, we were coming back with less than what got us there. That’s practically zilch, friends. We went straight to my parents house and I tried to navigate how to file for divorce, how to draft a parenting plan, how to feel safe again, and how to keep the law on my side. I’m lucky in that I was Aria throughout so much of my decade-long marriage, going to sleep each night throughout those 3,650-ish days reciting the times he had hit me, remembering practically verbatim the times he made threats against my person, screenshotting as many texts as I could, especially in those last months. Not that I had to try hard because none of that is easy to forget. What I’m saying is I had no troubles establishing a case.

As I searched for a home for the five of us, this duplex in Lynden presented itself. I called and made an appointment to see it, being lucky in that the landlord had barely posted it on Craigslist five minutes before. I drove straight there with a gas tank full of hope. I told him the truth about starting over and not having much, that my deposit would come courtesy of my Mom, who also was the reason why Moose was back in my arms. I even pleaded with him. Said please over and over. I don’t know what made him say yes but all I know is Mercury was most definitely not in retrograde, all the planets were aligned and two plus two equaled four.

We got the place.

We moved in so fast, and I’m not trying to be funny here. I mean, how long does it take to pack up two suitcases and drive over to your new spot and then unload two suitcases? But it was ours and I was sitting there trying not to cry in front of my mini-men, because now I had a place I would never worry about moving out of again, unless I wanted to. I remember sitting on the floor that first day and just looking around. And then I recall the doorbell ringing and it was a furniture company with a surprise delivery of a set of bunk beds with mattresses and two couches, because my Mom is an angel and didn’t want us to sleep on the floor. I took the boys to Safeway and we got groceries for the new place, courtesy of food stamps (I’m never going to be ashamed of that, mmkay?) and I almost cried when Sam asked if we had enough to get cereal. I don’t care what anyone says, but when you talk about money for two months straight, it ends up giving your kids anxiety about food and that’s a sad place to be in, but we were and we worked through it. I’m 99% certain Sam doesn’t remember that moment like I do.

We loved in that home for almost three years. <–See, that is a feel good sentence, but it’s incomplete. We called that spot the “Ten Step” because it was T-I-N-Y. Anywhere you were in the house you could get anywhere else within ten steps. It was probably 700 square feet, which is INSANELY small for five bodies, three of which hadn’t figured out how to aim properly into the toilet. The one toilet. ONE.

Shortly after Ku moved in with us, and as we began rebuilding, together, she turned to me and said, “We need coats.” The closet in the living room, meant just for that, was so empty. We laughed about it and then promptly got to it, filling that closet to overflowing, and filling our home in general, but more importantly, filling our hearts. We stayed longer than we should have, mostly because it was never the right size for us, but also because we had plans and we aren’t above sacrificing. Now we have an abundance of jackets.

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Ten year old Sam, in the Ten Step kitchen

It is not lost upon me that Ten Steps sounds like a rehab program, but in a way, that little home was. For me, at least. I had to learn how to stop attending every argument my ex tried to invite me to, and how to stop self-sabotaging my love with Kulia. That’s all just honest truth. Sometimes it was too good for me and she saw right through (and still does) all the fights I tried to start with her for no reason. I had to learn to not expect certain things when we argued and that I could lean on her to support me in all things my life. It was the first time I had to handle the boys being away and me being at home without them. The ten step helped my heart grow back it’s feeling every day we were there.

Sometimes, when people talk about their circumstances, they look at my chapter 10 and compare it to their chapter three. “You have so much going for you, you wouldn’t understand.” Or, “Look at all you have! I need to get there before I can (insert whatever it is they are holding back from).” The thing is, I freaking get it. So hard. Change is hard and rewriting your shitty first draft is hard, but the thing is, you can’t change what you won’t change. And you most certainly can’t change anyone else. I can’t tell you how many times I held back from leaving him. I gave myself all the excuses, so don’t think there is judgement here from me. There most definitely is not one drop coming from me. I took a long time to get the courage up to leave and he said a lot of lies to me that I started to believe over time, but let me tell you this, and listen closely:

As long as there is air in your lungs and your heart pumps blood, you can do it. You can start over and have nothing but the clothes on your back and you can make it. Everything can be replaced. Everything, except for the air in your lungs and the blood pumping through your arteries.

I promise.

So if you are sitting there, single-momming it, wondering how you’ll all eat and not still feel hungry but also keep the lights on, or if you hate your job and don’t know how you’ll handle being back in school while working full-time, or if you are living in a hell-hole and have zero dollars to your name, LIFT YOUR CHIN UP. You can abhor your circumstances but you can also turn them around.

Mmmmkmay?

 

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Abraham, Sam and Moose reppin Hawaii in the Ten Step

What makes you Family?

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Looking fly at Waialae Country Club before Ka’eo and Denalee’s wedding 5/27/2017

In my 9-5, our team recently took a Strengths Finder assessment. It’s meant to aid in leveraging where people’s strengths lie, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. After answering a whole barrage of questions, a report was comprised, giving each of us our top five and explaining them. I wasn’t surprised by any of my list. In my last few years of self growth, mostly due to personal development and being honest with myself, I sort of already knew them.

The definitions of each strength were what really filled my cup. Knowing I love to learn is one thing, but an assessment stating that I probably collect books blew my mind! How could it know!? The best one, though? One of my strengths is connectedness. Just seeing the word made me nod my head in agreement. I thought it meant something about my ability to connect with others. How I reach out and force friends to stay in touch with me. It’s easier now, with everyone being cyber-connected. But guys, I used to send LETTERS to my friends. I thought I knew connected. And then I read the definition and was floored.

Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgements and in possession of our free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.

That wasn’t all of it, just a smidge. However, I loved all the words it entailed. I have always believed that life is not a string of coincidences. How could it be when epic changes could happen from seemingly minute happenings in the world?

When I was in my seventh year of my own personal hell, my ex-husband decided we needed a trip. For his own personal reasons, that he didn’t disclose right away, he chose Hawaii. It’s one of those places that most of the world, at least from where I’m standing, dreams of going. I wasn’t a big fan. We almost never had money, and even when we did, it wasn’t managed well. He had control of that and it stressed me out to think what was being shelled out on this trip, when back home the boys were being fed with food stamps. There just wasn’t changing his mind when he wanted something. I remember being on the island of Oahu, driving down roads and seeing beaches and landmarks, gazing at them in awe.

Somewhere along a winding highway towards the windward side, he told me he was thinking of moving us there. I read it as: this will soon be our new home. It was pretty enough and promising enough that I gave no fight to the discussion. I sighed, asked him when and succumbed to the inevitable. It didn’t take away from how breathtaking Hawaii can be. The water is colors you can pick out of a Crayon box but can never replicate. You can see the bottom of the ocean, you can gaze out and see the curve of the horizon. The sun warms your face and slivers of that make it into your heart. Hawaii called to me and I let it. I remember the rest of the few days we were present, I would think about where we would land when we got there. What roads would become more traveled by me? Who would become my friend? How would my life change? I thought up so much and could never have imagined what Hawaii would come to mean to the boys and I.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, hopefully it is the story of Ku and I and how we met. You see, meeting Ku was when Hawaii stopped being a place for me and became a feeling. My ex later described it as the biggest mistake he had made. For me, it was the biggest gift. Not only did I find who would captivate my soul and awaken my heart, but we found a second family. You see, I know the boys are loved by his family. They are his blood, too, and there is this fierce protectiveness and almost possessive feel they give to family get-togethers. It’s like the Lannisters incarnate, minus perhaps, the incest.

I won’t compare Ku’s family to Game of Thrones. A) they are human. They are kind and caring and I never feel like I’m about to be stabbed in the back. There’s no b. I do that, often.

Kulia’s family welcomed all of us with open arms. It has never felt forced or weird. There is this sincere love that you feel deep in your bone marrow that is so genuine. So pure. Hugs warm you like bowls of chicken noodle soup on a fall day and kisses on the cheek radiate rays of sunshine down to your toes. Her family and their love for the four of us was unimaginable and perfectly imperfect. I know that’s a hard level to achieve for most blended families so I cherish it and work to keep it seamless. I think it’s because I have seen weird and judge-y and mean (did you see how I compared my ex’s family to the LANNISTERS?) so I can be grateful for what we have been given.

The boys recently traveled to the East Coast with their Dad. When they came home yesterday, the meanager asked to speak with me. He told me about their trip and feelings he had while on it. He shared some stuff that was sad to listen to, about how they felt awkward around new family they met for the first time. It’s so alien to listen to because oftentimes I neglect thinking about the other side of what the boys deal with. The amount of time they are with us makes me think of us being their main family. It’s fair and yet unfair, right and yet not accurate. They have a whole other set of people that have come into their life in one way or another and I should have been preparing them for what might come.

My meanager reminded me of how treasured they feel in Hawaii. “Mom, you know how all of Ku’s family just loves us and never makes us feel weird?” he asked me. I struggled to find words because I just know it to be true. “It wasn’t like that in Virginia. We kept being reminded they aren’t our Aunts and Uncles and we couldn’t call them that. Her mom kept correcting us. We had to call them Mr. and Mrs. It was just awkward. Everything felt awkward.” This coming from the son who likes hugging the least. The thing is, our boys are lovers.

It was hard to hear and all I could do was tell him I was sorry to hear it. I told him I was so happy he was home because it’s never the same when they are gone. I hugged him and let him tell me how his feelings were hurt. I reminded him how sincerely and genuinely so many care for him and his brothers. That some people take time and maybe have a hard time accepting change, for lack of better reasoning.

I just really wonder what makes family, family. Ya know?

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Sam, AB and Moose at our wedding, melting our hearts and making everyone cry happy tears

In the throes of teen angst

I often share stories and insights from raising my meanager. People ask about it, reach out to me, thank me for it, you get the gist. Most times, I’m questioned if he really is mean and while the answer may vary depending on how he’s been the day I’m being asked, for the most part, he is not. He has teen moments, has begun his hand at trying to be sarcastic and witty, is becoming slightly moody, and sometimes is just downright pissy. More often than not, he is kind. He is caring. He is reserved.

Raising our meanager has not come with ups and downs, as I’m sure it is for anyone else in our shoes. Every time I was pregnant, I wished on everything and anything that I wouldn’t have any girls. I remember when I was in my adolescents and let me tell you, I could NOT handle myself if dealt the same cards. I was by no means the worst kid ever; I wasn’t a teen mom or became addicted to drugs, I didn’t have loose morals or party all night long at random houses, but I wasn’t an angel and I always thought I knew more than my parents. I had an attitude, I was miserable and made everyone else suffer along with me. No part of that made me want a daughter. Except, having boys hasn’t been balls easy (pun intended).

Having small men is constant energy. They are loving, curious, problem solvers (for the most part) but challenging. Raising boys has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Throw in the mix that we are raising them in a two female household, where neither of us has experienced wet dreams or random erections. Where we don’t understand the voice changing and giggle when the meanager speaks. We ask him questions in front of friends so they can hear the differences also, except he has caught on to that and is refusing to appease us. There’s the new fuzz above the upper lip and the increased body odor smells. We don’t physically and emotionally understand any of these things and yet we are balls deep in them, too.

For the most part, my meanager has been withdrawn. He spends most of his time in his room, where we let him escape the ridiculousness of his younger brothers because we understand he needs space. We ask pesky questions sometimes (read: I do) and from time to time we force him to engage in conversation or time spent with us. If he’s been particularly difficult, like failing a class and not getting his ish together, we might take him to Costco and make him hold our hands (read: me), gush over him and try to kiss him in public. Being a mom can be fun some days, friends. He almost always takes it in stride and knows we love him. We have each taken a role. He talks with Ku when he has girl questions or topics he feels I’ll blow out of proportion (as if that’s even possible). He comes to me when Ku isn’t around, because he’s convinced she’s more chill than I am.

I know, it’s damn frustrating.

And then there are times he sits down and asks me in his serious, sounds like he has a big loogie sitting in the back of his throat voice if he can ask me something. And I see a storm in his eyes that carries some emotional anguish. It could be something silly and yet it’s not for him so I take it serious and brace myself. I never know what’s coming but I know it has to happen.

“Mom, have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”

And there it is, a sucker punch to my side. I’m always on the fence with how real, how honest we should be with our kiddos. I mean Ku and I, because I fully understand every parent will have their own opinion of what is best. Sam is fourteen and I’m not so sure how in depth and raw I can be with him yet. Yes, I feel my chest tightening but I have to say something that makes him feel heard, understood, listened to. I decide to be real for a moment, because I don’t want to lie to my children, ever.

I tell him yes. That I remember being upset as a teenager, feeling like my parents didn’t understand me, didn’t care about me, that I was second to their business and their time. That I was fat and got made fun of, that I never got invited to sleep overs or parties. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t good at sports. I was miserable a lot of the time and sometimes I thought about ending it all. I didn’t tell him about how I turned to cutting to feel better and have scars that will never fade from it. I keep it short and simple and then I ask him if he ever has.

“Yeah, after you and Dad split. I was really sad and thought I would never see my Dad again,” he shared. That makes sense. I had a protection order against him, he didn’t know our new address or phone number because he had gone from crazy to psychotic in the blink of an eye when I left. He was only allowed to see the children with supervised visits, which he refused to submit himself to. He went a long time without seeing his children and it was all of out selfishness. He wanted to know what would happen to him and his brothers if I died, where they would go if both I and his dad died. Things were clearly weighing on his mind.

When I think back to my decade of abuse in a violent, toxic relationship with their Dad, I find myself at a crossroads. On the one hand, I’m grateful that he never hit me in front of the kids because I can’t imagine what that would have done to my children internally, except on the other I feel like they still don’t fully understand why the divorce happened. Sam continued with the hard questions last night, asking me if I was sad the whole time I was married to his dad, why I didn’t leave sooner, how bad his dad hit me, and why.

“Why would he need a reason, Sam? Wouldn’t that be justifying doing something horrible to someone when really, there is no excuse good enough for hitting someone you said you would love and honor?” I asked him. And his response was unexpected but reasonable. “I’m not saying a reason makes it okay. I just want to know why he did it.” Except, there’s not always a reason. Often times I think he felt out of control so he would pick fights with me and goad me into answering back to which he would explode. Or I wouldn’t meet his expectations and he would lash out. It was many reasons and yet none at all and so how can you fully understand that?

Sam asked me about his dad’s family and how they treated me, he shared what he witnesses of how they treat his stepmom. He asked what brought me to finally leave and I was careful to be honest without unnecessary details. The whole time we talked he had silent tears slipping down his face and I felt like something deeper was trying to surface. Every now and again Sam does this. Just asks me a question out of the blue, with no notice and I never feel like I answer correctly. I always feel blindsided and yet realize it’s an important moment for him. And I always wish there was a manual I could reference because unless you’re prepared for these things, they just leave you feeling inadequate.

Throw in talking with your child about these deep issues you are still working through. He wasn’t done, though. He had looked over our list of attendees on the kitchen table and had seen that my Dad was a no. “Why isn’t Tan (what they’ve always called him) coming?” And when I explained that he wasn’t okay with our marriage, he asked, “But doesn’t he love you?”

It was hard not to tear up with him. Not only was he asking me some of the hardest questions of my life, ones I’ve asked myself a million times in private, he was hitting on some pretty raw situations. Yes, I know my father loves me and I don’t want to judge him on his not coming to our big day. I’ve accepted he won’t be there. I asked him so many times, hoping he changes his mind. He doesn’t comprehend it and for him to attend, he would have to in his opinion, so he can’t bring himself to be there. I get it, because I choose to. And I love him because regardless of our differences in opinion, my ability to love him isn’t hinged on this one moment. Yes, it’s major to me. It’s monumental to both Ku and I. I am simply choosing to try to see things through his lens and agree to disagree.

Last night was tough. Yes, I found being honest pretty difficult, but I also wanted to answer his questions without projecting my own feelings into our talk because I don’t want him to feel how I do out of solidarity or obligation. I want him to hear me yet draw his own conclusions and thoughts without just being upset with his father or my dad. And just finding the bravery alone to initiate the whole thing with me, the one who is less chill, was pretty awesome, regardless of how much I struggled through it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be googling how to have difficult yet meaningful conversations with teenagers because shoot me before he surprises me again!

 

A Mother of a Day

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As we spent yesterday showering our Mother’s with a barrage of photo collages and lovey dovey sayings, I thought back on my time in this club, my very short almost fifteen years. One I used to think I wanted nothing to do with it, a membership that is wrought with judgements and finger pointing, defending, crying, feelings of absolute inadequacy and failure. A clandestine understanding of how to lose your shit, the million and one ways to ugly sob into your pillow, and the overwhelming love when you get handed a dandelion because the pretty flower had to go to you.

I was twenty when I found out I was pregnant with Sam. I spent the whole pregnancy in one dark spot or another, for so many reasons. Mostly, in utter disappointment with myself. I had imagined the trajectory of my life a completely different way and this felt like failure. Having grown up in a restaurant, many of the patrons felt close to me and had no qualms sharing their thoughts about my choices with my young self. More than a few shared their surprise. “You’re so smart, though!” some said when they heard. I was constantly defending myself and it was one hundred percent because I was right there with them. I get it. A small town girl saying she wasn’t going to be a mom or a wife right away and that is ALMOST EXACTLY what I did. One thing I was adamant about, though, was that becoming a mother didn’t make me any less smart.

Mother’s Day is a weird holiday. Yes, I love the concept behind it, but it gets so murky, so dirty and it takes away from what it’s trying to be. For me, the idea of what a mom is has changed numerous times in my first half of life. My parents divorced when I was two years old and I was lucky to get to stay with my dad. He met my mom (she’s mom in my book, no step-anything about it) in one of the best cute-meet stories I’ve ever heard. It isn’t mine to share, but let’s just say he was adamant he would get her number…

My mom chose to take on a role that wasn’t optional to her. I think there’s an inane amount of beauty in that, alone. I see the same majestic loyalty in Ku, just being a pivotal part of raising the boys with me. Being a step-parent seems like such a hard title, one that I cannot understand and it’s what I’ve been around since a young age. From the beginning, I was harmed by the ghost of my biological mom, although not because she died. She’s still very much alive, but she wasn’t in my life. She wasn’t around to see important milestones in my life and it was through no fault of anyone but herself. I want to judge her harshly most days and on good days I want to forgive her. Sometimes I think I have but I just never really know. She was battling her own addiction demons for most of my formative years and that kept her from being able to keep her word to me at any given time. When I think about it, I feel like she failed me. Because of her, I take it very personally when someone tells me yes, they’ll come to something with me and then they don’t follow through. If you say yes to me, I take it as a blood oath. If you don’t show up, I have a very hard time letting it go. It tears me up. I call her a ghost because she would call when she could, make impossible promises and then not show up. It haunted my soul. I always believed her.

“She said she would be here on my birthday,” I would tell my Mom as I peeked out the window on April 10. Then she would try to pick up my broken pieces and attempt to put me back together when she wouldn’t. She had to have known EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. that my BM (biological mom) wouldn’t follow through but she never let on, she never bad mouthed her. I was always so heartbroken and I never once stopped to think how it affected her, too.  How did she constantly soothe me as I was aching inside? Or when I would get mad at her for parenting me so I would say the easiest insult I could think of because I was young and children can be a-holes. How devastating must it have been to hear, “You’re not my mom!” from a kiddo that made you one? She is the unconditional mom.

When I was eleven, I moved to Mexico with an Aunt and Uncle for a year and a half. It was an incredible experience and helped me understand and learn my culture, proper Spanish, and family values. My Aunt became like a second mother to me, who taught me basic cooking skills, let me watch her put makeup on, told me about periods. She asked me questions about my BM, scolded me when I was getting too angry about it all, hugged me and held me tight when she could sense I needed it. She was tough love and deep love and gentle. She never trusted my ex-husband, took me aside and told me I deserved better. She adored meeting my Sam and told me I was an incredible mother full of love and she attributed it to all my heartache over feelings of inadequacy with my own experiences. “You are compassionate with Sam because you want him to know he’s loved, because it’s what you’ve been searching for,” she astutely told me one day. She was never more right about anything. We lost her to cancer a number of years ago and I think about the life lessons she taught me all the time. My aunt was a deep love Mom.

I remember hearing once that if you want to know what kind of a man someone is, to watch how they treat their mothers. It sounds legit, makes perfect sense but I am here today to tell you that is a CROCK OF SHIT sometimes. My ex-husband treats his mom like a queen and told me to my face that she came before me. He hit me in front of her once and she said to me, “You should have stopped arguing. He wouldn’t have hit you if you had stopped snapping back unnecessary comments.” Not all mothers are nice. Many are wearing blinders. It doesn’t even matter if your child is old and grown and pretending to be mature. Those blinders don’t always come off. She never liked me and the feeling was mutual and I’m so thankful every day that I don’t have to see or speak to her anymore. Her and her son hold no more power over me and it’s a beautiful feeling. She is the narcissistic mom. She’s not the only one I’ve known.

And then I met an absolute angel. Ku’s mom (and a lot of her family) are what I needed to see in terms of what a family can be. Even if it’s blended differently, even if there’s some divides, her mom has helped show me that amicability is absolutely possible, that motherhood doesn’t stop at any one age, that you will always worry about your littles, and that asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Sometimes you have to say things to yourself more than once so it sinks in. She teaches me how to be more thoughtful, how to love harder, how to let go when you need to, when trust is warranted, and how to talk about hard situations. I am so thankful she is in my life, all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. She is a thoughtful mom.

What I’ve been trying to say is that motherhood is a messy business. It isn’t always a happy feeling and one day a year doesn’t make it better. Sometimes motherhood is wished for, prayed for, pleaded for. Other times it happens when you weren’t expecting it, didn’t think you wanted it, don’t know how to do it. There’s the accidental mothers, the choose to be moms, the I’ll-be-what-you-need-me-to-be moms who fill voids and roles that you desperately seek. It’s a title with many sub-titles and those with the sub-titles, the prefixes, the add on, get inexcusably forgotten. It takes away from what they deserve and makes them feel less worthy. And almost every mom is a worthy mom.

A big I LOVE YOU to my Mom, my Aunt watching over me, and my Mother-in-Love. So much love. And to my Mom Friends, who inspire, motivate and encourage me to be better. Love to you, also.14264074_804611123011068_8170020838427018602_n

 

 

 

 

 

In the Corner of Co-parenting

Almost five years ago, when I was working on my divorce from my ex-husband, the most irritating thing (for me, at the time) was that Washington state obligates both parents to attend a six hour “Co-parenting” class. It behooves me that you can get married with no obligatory wait time or trial period, no education in the aspect. Nothing. You pay a fee and set an appointment and before you know it, you can say “I do,” in front of a judge.

But to get divorced. Now, there’s a feat. And if you have children together, it’s even more daunting. There is the mandatory Parenting Plan, that establishes so many rules and expectations, such as drop-off and pick-up times, who gets whom when, the ever exciting tax reporting rights, etc. And then this class. You need to devote a Saturday to listening to someone chat about co-parenting and receive an attendance certificate at the end before your divorce is signed off on. In Washington. By the time you get the seal of approval no less than half a calendar year has passed and you are more than ready to be checking single on your W-4. Hell, you might even have a party.

I showed up on my Saturday with a headache, tired eyes and no expectations. It was pretty full and I remember thinking that this was a lot of broken families and broken hearts in this room. Divorce is most definitely the right action for some but it doesn’t come without a lot of work, pains in your rear and tears from your children. I remember nothing about the person who facilitated the whole event. I do, however, remember many of the points.

First, I want to set something straight. I SINCERELY admire any parent duos who decide to call it quits on their marriage but can still remain civil and respectful to each other for the good of the kiddos. I absolutely think HANDS DOWN that those are amazing anomalies. They are not the norm but they should be acknowledged, cherished, celebrated and revered. I cannot say I envy it but I’m in a different position. I’m in an opposite ballpark, playing a different sport, where there are no rules and tons of restrictions, lots of aggravating circumstances and lacking in the breath of fresh air category.

I want to say that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between co-parenting and parallel parenting and sometimes it’s not such an easy choice, no matter how bad you want to do one or the other. This has been the case with me. I don’t have that sunshiney split that still brings everyone together. I don’t want it. For us, it will never work. I recognize that and I believe it to be healthy, because often times people tend to judge and want to put you down or make you feel bad for knowing what is right for your family. AND YOUR SANITY. I knew, once I heard the speaker differentiate the two, which group I would be in until my kids were grown.

Parallel parenting, which I’m a queen at, is where each guardian is doing the parenting on their own. They don’t communicate with each other, mostly because they can’t. Whether it’s because they don’t know how to in a healthy way, or because there is a danger in them trying to work things out, or there’s no respect in at least one of them. Any shadow of a doubt for one of those criteria puts you in PP. The adults are disengaged, with limited contact regardless of where the kiddos are. While there can be circumstances of trust being rebuilt to lower hostility, I don’t see that in our future.

One of the points of the speaker, on that obligatory Saturday, was to understand common triggers that make arguments. Oddly enough, the number one reason exes fight when exchanging the kids is clothing. Hearing that, I made a mental note to try my damnedest to let articles of clothing roll off my back. I do. Try my hardest. It has been a hard promise not to break to myself. Sometimes I want that stupid effin jacket to come back home! Or, on the flip side, I still don’t like the style of clothing he buys them. But at least he does and I try to remind myself that even though he likes douchey clothes, they aren’t going to grow up to be douches. Silver lining, right?

The other was to verbally allow them to continue to love their other parent. This was a big one for me to hear and understand, because one of the stipulations of the parenting plan was that neither parent nor anyone around the kiddos could verbally bash or speak ill of the other parent. I put that in there for a reason. I know him and his family. They live on rather high pedestals that most common folk can’t ever reach the heights of. It was no secret that they never liked me and they often spoke ish about me when I was in the room. I didn’t expect for one second that they would honor it but it gave me a basis in the event my boys ever came home and shared things with me. I was lucky enough to be granted almost full custody of my mini-men, which meant the most time with me, so I wanted them to know that them loving their dad was okay. Kids never want to choose a parent, unless of course they are meanagers and pissed off at you for not being their friend, so telling them they are allowed to love their other parent gives them permission they want but won’t ask for.

One of the biggest benefits is that it removes the children from being witness to toxic parental conflict, which is probably why the divorce is happening. It removes unrealistic mutual cooperation expectations and allows both parents to be equal contributors to the development of their little humans. I don’t know about you guys, but whoever can do that isn’t gonna hear any flack from me! No judgement! Not from me!

Whether it’s you or your friends or maybe some acquaintance of yours that are going through some type of broken parenting, don’t be that a-hole that wants to say that one way or the other is a choice. I’ve found that to be untrue for most people. Even in my case, I didn’t have that ability to say I was going to be the bigger person and put my differences aside, for so many reasons. Whatever option works for you, embrace it and continue to do what is best for your babies and will teach them love and respect. Isn’t that the ultimate goal, anyway?

Everything in love and respect.