Archive for category Child-raising

What is right, and who is wrong?
Set as Favorite

As a young boy, I grew up as part of a large Greek family, my father being one of six siblings.  Like most people, I imprinted from my surroundings.  I noticed that all the members of my extended family married around the age of eighteen.  Each appeared genuinely happy and, to me, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do:  make it to high school, meet a young lady, fall in love, and start your life together.

The story of how my parents met didn’t help either.  They knew each other since elementary school—my father would shoot spit balls into my mother’s hair.  He pined for her in ninth-grade, though she was uninterested and took retribution by causing him to fail French (story for another time).   Junior year of high school, she’s walking home with a friend who happens to like my father, when he pulls up in his car, offering a ride.  Naturally the friend wants to accept and convinces my mom to do so as well.  Funny enough, my dad goes out of his way to drop the friend off first so he can ask my mom out… and the rest, as they say, is history.

In high school, I never considered myself a “looker”, and by no means was I popular.  Being a bit of a loner, I focused on academics and did some sports in the latter years.  There was no high school sweetheart, although I pined after my fair share of ladies.  No girlfriends, no prom dates… in fact, it wasn’t until my early twenties that I brought my first girlfriend around family, to which my grandmother exclaimed, “Thank God, we thought you were gay.” 

I guess you could say I was a late bloomer, or at least I felt like one.  When I looked at my relatives and heard everyone’s “story”, I just didn’t fit the mold… but I wanted to, and felt like I should.  The only solace I took was in my Uncle Dave.  More of an older brother than an Uncle (we’re seven years apart), he didn’t marry until his thirties.  But, then again, he was something of a ladies’ man; so it wasn’t from a lack of prospects.

The Blink 182 song “What’s My Age Again?” came out as I was turning twenty-three and it became my theme.  As I struck out on love in the work-place (high school for your twenties), I kept repeating to myself its lyrics:  nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three.  So it was probably natural, being relatively new to intimacy with women, that I found it rewarding to sleep with those few who actually were interested in me, even though I lacked much interest in them as a person.  But the trap I laid for myself was not to be that guy—the one-night-stand.  So many relationships would drag along as I deceived myself that there was some sort of emotional attachment when, in fact, it was purely physical.

Like most men, I loved the sex.  But, more importantly, I loved the intimacy; and the way it made me feel.  Somehow I felt that, by being with someone, I was that much closer to being married, and therefore closer to being like the rest of my family.  Then along came my first wife (never thought I’d hear myself say those words).

I always knew I wanted to be married.  And I felt like I missed the mark considerably when eighteen came, then went, and I wasn’t… not even close.  I know many women think about their age, when they’ll be married, and having kids (Sex in the City has to be accurate, right?).  I mean sure, their biological clock is ticking, there is an expiration date on their eggs, and they only have so many.  But here I am, a man, and I’m worried about similar things.  I wanted to be married, I wanted kids, and I didn’t want to be too old to enjoy their grand-kids.  And, for the record, let me say that I always thought I’d marry once, and would never be divorced; I believed in commitment.  But let’s face it, my track record with women leading up to this point has sucked.  I was a nice, well-meaning guy who (at the time; and probably still to a degree) was also a bit naïve.

My first wife (referred to from here on out as “the ex”) started working at my job.  The girl there who I was actually pining after, being uninterested, finally left work (or was she fired?), so my friends and coworkers thought it would be cute to try and set me up with “the ex”.  I was told the new-hire liked me (so juvenile).  When she was pointed out, I truthfully didn’t mind much of what I saw, but there was no “moment”… you know, where time slows, music plays, and everything else melts away letting you know that she’s the one (I mentioned I was naïve, right?).  What can I say, I was a hopeless romantic, had my fair share of crushes, and so I thought I knew what love was.  So how did we end up together you ask?  Essentially, I’m a glutton for punishment; that, and I later realized my perspective on love was kind of adolescent, and I convinced myself that being happy was being in love.

Over a period of a year or so she continually made her intentions known while I tried not to be rude and inevitably led her on… as she said (years later), “I look back at our courtship and I see where I forced myself into your life.”  To be honest though, I too had my fair share of blame.  Knowing my own past, I let things get physical and, although I tried to break it off a couple times, I never completely severed ties (men are horn-dogs).   After a couple years, I felt I owed it to both of us to give the relationship serious consideration.  And there was a point that I was happy, and felt that I could continue to be happy, seeing a future together.  Let me clarify, you can be in love and therefore be happy; but being happy does not necessarily mean you are in love.  I know that now, but not then since I didn’t have any personal experience I could base it off of.

To make a long story short (and not steal any thunder from my other writings), we were married for four years, had a son during the last year, and she must have realized what I’ve now learned, because she took our six-month-old son and left me.  We divorced almost a year later.

But what is right, and who is wrong in that kind of situation?  I mean, I was blind to the fact that there were issues in our relationship.  I missed the signs.  I guess I should’ve known when she wanted to take Dr. Phil surveys to inspect our relationship.  I figured he was a “quack” who couldn’t make it as a proper therapist and used his connections to get a daytime show—another Jerry Springer.  Now he’s a household name.  It took her getting verbally abusive and antagonistic, trying to provoke me physically, and then finally the “D” word (Divorce) before I realized we had problems.  We practically separated around our third year of marriage and were seeing a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.  The writing should’ve been on the wall, and yet we stayed together and decided to bring a child into the mix.  I felt the issue with our relationship was in our dynamic.  She came from a previous marriage that ended due to her man’s multiple indiscretions, so she naturally had trust issues and became insecure.  When I couldn’t comprehend her concerns, it was as though she needed to become independent and therefore leave or force me to.  I, being inexperienced with marriage, felt I couldn’t live up to her extreme expectations of me and would shutdown when she exploded.  When we were apart, I would be confident and in control, and she would come to trust me again.  In this way we lulled ourselves into a false sense of security, thinking the relationship was salvageable.

Now I believe it is always the best approach to stay the course and work at being together as a family unit; but not just because you hope it’ll benefit the children.  It must also take into consideration the parents and their interaction.  A healthy relationship is a healthy environment for the children.  In my opinion, an unhealthy relationship can many times do more damage to our children in the long run.  And sometimes it requires work to make a relationship healthy again.  Could we have tried more to make it work and stay together?  Possibly.  Would we have been happy, and would it have been a healthy environment?  I think not.  We teach our children by example, which includes our relationships.  That also means in the way that a relationship is dissolved.   There is a “right way” and a “wrong way” for a relationship to end.  I’ll go even further by saying that my circumstance would probably lend more towards a “right way”.  We went through mediation and sought the expertise of a Licensed Psychologist who specialized in divorces with children.  We tried not to involve our own lawyers; but I believe, although costly, we both could have benefited more from their involvement towards the end.  In contrast, I believe that deliberately destructing one’s relationship by being physically abusive, emotionally abusive, viciously attacking one another through lawyers, cheating on one’s spouse, or worse; are prime examples of the “wrong way” to end a relationship.  There were definitely minor “wrong way” elements in the dissolution of my previous marriage.  And some tend to still occur through interactions I have with “the ex”.  But those are stories for another time.

So I have since remarried and have been with my current wife for almost three years.  We have a beautiful three-month-old baby girl.  I am truly in love, and therefore very happy.  I do have joint custody of my son, Iain, from my previous marriage to “the ex”.   And when we finally did separate, I tried to reconcile and do whatever it took, but by that time it had become too late; which was for the better in the end.  Although, I must say, I didn’t think so at the time.  She had already determined to be apart, and knew that to be the best course of action for our son.   It has been a difficult situation, but I honestly think it has been for the best and therefore the healthiest approach for Iain.

So what is right, and who is wrong?  Well I’m right in the end, for doing everything I could to try and save my marriage.  And, then again, so is she for knowing we would never really be happy.  So who is wrong?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To Spank or Not To Spank
Unset as Favorite

As of late, the topic of spanking a toddler as a disciplining measure has begun to weigh heavily on my mind. A common phrase we’ve all grown up around is, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” But what constitutes a rod in this modern age? Have we progressed so far as humans that we should be capable to discipline purely by intellect alone, using psychological methods such as time-out, reward/praise, selective ignoring, providing consequences, or withdrawing privileges? Is using Pavlov’s theory of association with a loud clap or slight sting of the hand on a child’s thigh antiquated for toddler discipline? What if all the psychological methods don’t seem to be enough for a resolute tantrum?

In my own practice, I’ve determined to keep my hand out of the discipline—literally. Not to say I won’t spank, but I want to save that as a last resort upon the failing of all other practices. Although I fear that the time is drawing near; especially with my son’s most recent unyielding bursts of dissatisfaction from being disciplined. He seemed to almost work his self into hysteria with practically-hyperventilated cries of, “I want to get up.” I was able to sooth him by continuing the time-out punishment in my bed where I laid quietly holding him until he was calm and responsive. Of course, his requests still continued, but then in a normal, soft speaking voice. I then reasoned with him that his need for discipline was due to his own behavior and that he had to stay a few calm minutes in time-out before he could get up. But was this the best course of action, or could a slight sting have facilitated a similar result?

I believe it’s true that a toddler needs rigid boundaries and consistent discipline. I’ve even discussed in previous posts how I can see in my own son’s development his need to communicate and express his self. They naturally need limited choices and routine schedules to give them a sense of independence and structure. Not to say they won’t test those boundaries. I think sometimes they crave a parent’s attention so much, that they’ll even look for it in discipline; if that’s what it takes. We all want to be recognized and feel important, or at least know that someone is willing to make some kind of fuss over us—even if it’s negative.

In time I may find a need to squelch inappropriate behavior with a spank. I’ve spoken to other parents who have successfully curved similar behavior with a slight sting to the thigh; of course, never in anger. It’s apparent that their toddler still loves them and there is no shying away from the parents hand—their disciplining tool. Since each child is their own person and does react differently to the various disciplining methods, I’d have to determine how my son responds and if it is the appropriate method to use in extreme conditions. I think we can all agree we don’t want to spoil our children.

Whichever method you choose to use, I think the important thing to remember is to never do it out of anger. Every kid can frustrate the most patient of parents. When disciplining, may have to give yourself and your child time. Maybe take five minutes to cool down. Tag in another parent or trusted friend to allow you time to get in the right frame of mind. They’re only trying to communicate and want attention to get their point across any way they know how. Use your praise to show them which ways are acceptable, and your discipline to show which are inappropriate.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A glimpse into the other half
Set as Favorite

An interesting thing occurred today. I had a bit of an epiphany—a glimpse into how the other half may live. And by other half, I mean my previous wife. I can’t take full credit for it. I was lead there by my future wife. That’s right; I’m engaged now, and planning to marry early next year. I tend to stay guarded about these aspects of my personal life, so this may come as a surprise for some. I’m about to head off on a tangent though, so I’ll have to write about my engagement another time… for now, back to my epiphany.

Being divorced with a child means shared custody. Two households, two different parents, being raised two different ways. Those who may have read previous posts might realize that communication is the key in a circumstance such as this. But it doesn’t always mean there is a united front. Let’s be real, there are two households for a reason.

Of course, there is history, and in many cases harbored animosity (I’m sure I’m alone here *wink*). So that distance allows for misinterpretation. I know I love to speculate how things may be with his mother and her household, especially when I can allow for it to explain the new behavior in my 2 ½ year old. I’d mention this new behavior to his mother and hear her describe how she tries to counteract it, dismayed as it mirrors my own actions. She can’t be doing it right, I tell myself, Certainly she’s done something that caused or warrants this new behavior.

And that’s when my future wife brought something to my attention—the epiphany. I was drained, having just dropped off my son. The last several hours of our time together had been very trying. As we drove home, I pointed out to her how he was acting once he knew we were taking him to his other home. And she simply said, “I’m sure his mom has difficulty disciplining him when he comes home from our house.”

Then it hit me… He is difficult for me during the transitions. But as they get closer, I always receive calls from his mom where he’s been acting up. It was like the curtains were momentarily pulled back so I could actually see into this other household. She does experience the same thing we do. As I marinated in this thought, another one hit me just as hard. These different new behaviors he exhibits as he gets older are just that, new things he’s learning and tries; new to me and new to his mom.

Perhaps this seems simple and obvious, but for many parents in separate households, it becomes easy to blame the other parent for your child’s behavior. It’s important to remember your child is a person too. Look at how to guide your child appropriately and seek the help of the other parent. Remember, they’re seeing this too, and while you may think it came from their house, they may be thinking it came from yours.

Tags: , , ,

Changes as Colby is getting older!
Unset as Favorite

Changes as Colby is getting older!

Colby is now approximately nine weeks old. At times, it seems like just yesterday that we were at the hospital expecting his arrival, and eventually having him in our arms. And other times, it seems like he has been here forever! It’s a weird adjustment between the two. In one aspect, we have things totally under control, knowing exactly what to do, and have everything in order for him, and all is going perfectly. On the other aspect, we are limited in the things that we can do. For example, we are no longer able to just jump in the car and go somewhere. But, then again, if we are able to make preparations, we can still do things. It’s an interesting feeling. And more changes are coming.

Colby’s mom, Shellie, is just about three short weeks away from going back to work. Things are definitely going to be changing as Colby is getting older! He’ll be going to the homes of his two grandmothers while we’re both at work. This becomes more interesting as he’s in such a developmental stage and we don’t want to miss anything. He’ll also be transitioning more from breast milk to bottled baby formula. We are glad and very pleased that we’re able to leave Colby with his grandmothers. But at the same time, we know that we will be missing out on things as he continues to develop and get older. While my wife has been able to stay with him for her 12 weeks of maternity leave, she has essentially been able to be with him all the time. The exception being a few times in which we were able to leave him with the grandmothers, and the few times I was on Colby duty so that she could go out to do things. It will likely be a bigger change for my wife, than for myself. But I can still relate, as I had to go back to work after my five days off, and I knew at that moment, I wanted to stay home with him too. There are many changes that are going to be taking place here in the next few weeks, and as Colby continues to develop and get older.

Swing forward, but not to much please…
Set as Favorite

Well, for all of my fantastic families out there, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, I have a baby swing dilemma I’d like to discuss… Upon learning the news, that we were expecting, I like I am sure many others, went out and bought a plethora of baby items and equipment. The items, from swings, to bouncy seats, to almost everything listed on the standard guide of baby items needed, we bought it! Our first swing, was a larger type of device, and looked wonderful. But this swing was not conducive to newborns, as we soon found out. The problem you ask? Well, since he was so small, he could not hold his head up just yet, allowing it to fall forward, and we deemed it problematic. It just looked funny, and we didn’t want him to hurt himself. It will be good, once he gets a little bit older. Next, we borrowed another swing, fisher price, and it looked great in its packaging. It was a swing, and a glider, how exciting! But again, it too allowed his head to swing forward, looking quite uncomfortable, and we didn’t like his head flying forward like this. Nonetheless, we were just about done with the whole swing concept, when we came across a smaller version, travel-like type of swing. Fearing that it would be the same as the others, we were hesitant. But, this time we were able to see one put together at Babies’ R Us, and we could see in person, that this is what we needed. The swing, made by a company called Boppy, laid back just enough that his head would not go too far forward. It is compact, easy to put together, and we definitely are at ease now with the swing concept. Finally! Weigh in….